More on ISSEI2014

I gave a second paper in another Workshop, entitled “The Celtic Languages in the Age of Globalisation”. Not a research paper, more of a hobbyhorse. Anyone interested can get a full draft paper from me.


What I wish to concentrate on in this short paper – after a brief historical introduction – is the effect in the insular Celtic languages of recent changes in the UK Celtic areas, particularly the influence of devolution and modern communications. This is something which should be seen – in particular in the context of a potentially independent Scotland – in a wider international context, informed not only by globalization issues but also by socio-political developments in the national / regional areas. Interestingly, Welsh gained by far the most from UK devolution, even though the Welsh Assembly has significantly weaker powers than the Scottish Parliament. In a nation with around 19% Welsh speakers, the recent laws on language equality (which enforce bilingualism on many public facing functions) have radically changed the status and the acceptance of the Welsh language. Similar, but less intense, pressures have come to bear both in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The latter is a particularly interesting case, since the Irish language there has strong political and ideological connotations. But in all the insular Celtic regions over the last few decades there have been extraordinary pressures to recognise the Celtic languages in schools, regional parliaments and assemblies, and the media. The latter element is particularly important, since only recently have Celtic language news channels reported on global, rather than very local – even parochial – events. The introduction of the Welsh language channel S4C in 1982 was particularly important: for the first time, international news was presented daily in Welsh, and the profile of the Welsh language benefited enormously. Modern information technologies have also enabled an increasing presence of the Celtic languages in an international arena.

Chris Bissell

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