Irish as an endangered language

7 July 2009 at 8:47 am 1 comment


Russ Wilson writes:

I wrote a post last year on the attempts to promote the use of Gaelic across Ireland, so it’s interesting to note the closure of two Irish language newspapers in the last year, one in the last few days. Foinse closed down at the end of June, following the demise of La Nua at the turn of the year, despite the existence of Foras na Gaeilge, which is responsible for promoting Irish throughout the whole island of Ireland.

This raises interesting questions about reasons why ‘endangered’ languages are promoted and protected.  The Endangered Languages Project, based at SOAS, argues that every lost language or word is a lost insight into how people view their environment and that ‘every last word means another lost world’.  The Irish Government may be attempting to promote a view of Irish history and heritage that is, in part, dependent on the notion of a thriving national language.  With language forming such a strong part of concepts of identity, it is easy to see how they reach this conclusion. The Irish Government might not appreciate Irish being called an endangered language, but according to the UNESCO taxonomy, it is.

Those close to the newspapers say that more could have been done at a higher level to support them and blame Foras na Gaeilge.  There have been protests. However, the closure of these two Irish language papers suggests that even with strong political support, languages need to embedded in everyday life and culture if they are to survive in the long term.

The photograph, from the Foinse website, shows the paper’s newsroom after its closure was announced.

Entry filed under: identity, language. Tags: , , , .

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