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Research Seminar: Dr Christopher Lewin

The persistence of native speaker models in the revival of Manx

Wednesday 27 March 2024 | 13:00
Seòmar Shomhairle, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
Livestream will also be available

The Manx language revival, which has seen the emergence of a vibrant community of hundreds of fluent speakers despite the complete absence of traditional native speakers, can be seen as a trailblazer in this respect, with a predominant ideological tendency within the community since at least the 1970s emphasizing contemporary revival speakers as legitimate successors of the traditional native speakers. These speakers’ linguistic innovations are framed as naturalized language change, and language use is valued more highly than accuracy.

Despite this, a countervailing stance has emerged in the last decade or so, prompted in part by the greater availability of traditional texts and native speaker recordings in accessible digital formats. This ‘authenticist’ stance seeks greater adherence to native norms in phonology, grammar, phraseology and lexical choice, as well as greater acceptance of English loanwords in contrast to previously unquestioned Gaelic purism.

This paper will analyse data from a corpus of semi-structured sociolinguistic interviews with contemporary Manx speakers to examine the motivations and implications of these ideological shifts, and the extent to which they challenge or confirm generalizations about ‘new speaker’ varieties in other contexts.

Dr Christopher Lewin

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