, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 21-46
Date: 19 Sep 2007

An overcoat wrapped around an invisible man? Language legislation and language revitalisation in Ireland and Scotland

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Abstract

New legislation in Ireland and Scotland is expected to stimulate a significant increase in the provision of public services in Irish and Gaelic in coming years. This article considers the implications of these enactments for language revitalisation, by examining the measures which public bodies are expected to implement in order to increase their bilingual service provision. Drawing on Strubell’s ‹Catherine Wheel’ language planning framework, it identifies weaknesses in the measures and suggests way of overcoming them. It is argued that, for this legislation to have a significant linguistic impact, careful strategies are needed to equip speakers of Irish and Gaelic to use their languages in relation to public services, given the dominance of English in these domains. In particular, strategies are needed to recruit and deploy bilingual staff in an effective manner. Without careful planning, there is a risk that these enactments will not bring about meaningful changes in language practice and may become largely symbolic rather than functional.