School of Humanities, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ UNITED KINGDOM.
Recent interest in the ‘disappearance’ of languages has been accompanied by increased revitalisation efforts in many minority language settings, often considered to be experiencing obsolescence due to pressures of globalisation and modernity. Many of these revival movements aim to ‘recreate’ an idealised (or ‘authentic’) form of the language in question, through reference to traditional or standardised language practices. Simultaneously, however, ‘unanticipated results of language management’ (Spolsky 2006: 87) have produced non‐traditional and hybrid linguistic forms which are very often contested by the community in which the language revival is taking place.
Taking Breton as a case study, this thesis examines the phenomenon of ‘new’ or ‘neo’ speakers in Brittany at the start of the twenty‐first century and the implications their appearance has for the survival of the only Celtic language still extant in continental Europe. The tensions between traditional and neo‐speakers are examined in the context of the theoretical framework of critical sociolinguistics (Heller 2002). Current language practices in Brittany are analysed through the anthropological linguistic concept of language ideology, which is used to explain and critique seemingly contradictory linguistic behaviour in this particular setting of linguistic minoritisation. Parallels are also drawn with neo‐speakers of other minority languages, most particularly Scottish Gaelic. While both languages show increasing transformation and hybridisation due to the non‐traditional nature of their methods of transmission, they are not, of course, alone in the changes they are experiencing; indeed, they can act as good indicators of what the future holds for many minority languages over the course of the twenty‐first century.