New Speakers of Minority Languages

Authored by: Bernadette O’Rourke

The Routledge Handbook of Language Revitalization

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138674493
eBook ISBN: 9781315561271
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter focuses on “new speakers” of minority languages and examines the new speaker label as an analytical and descriptive category. The origins of the term lie within minority language sociolinguistics, but its use has extended to critical sociolinguistics more broadly. The concept is used as a lens through which to engage with overarching debates around language, nativeness, nationalism, and legitimacy. Research on new speakers of minority languages has emerged in contexts when this profile of speaker has become more widespread, as traditional communities of speakers are eroded as a result of modernization and globalization. In many minority language communities, particularly in the context of European minority languages, there are now significant numbers of new speakers who acquire the language outside of the home or community, as a second or third language. The new speaker concept thus offers a paradigmatic shift in the way in which we understand language revitalization in minority language contexts more broadly.

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