BILINGUALISM IN Gaeltacht areas is “destroying the Irish language from the inside out”, according to a leading NUI Galway academic.
“Delayed bilingualism”, whereby there is greater focus on raising young children solely through Irish, may counteract the threat to the language’s survival, Dr Conchúr Ó Giollagáin has said.
He is joint editor of a book published during Seachtain na Gaeilge this week on the impact of the “pervasive” majority language in Irish-speaking communities.
The book, An Chonair Chaoch: An Mionteangachas sa Dátheangachas, in which work debated at NUIG's Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge is collated, cites research to back its key argument.
Joint editor Brian Ó Curnáin noted interjections such as “yeah”, “no”, “like”, “really” and “My God” are used eight out of 10 times by young women and six out of 10 times by young men in Irish speech in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht area of Co Kerry.
He found a reduced use of interjections such as “ara”, “is dócha”, and “in aon chor”, to a frequency level of between 20 per cent and 40 per cent in Irish speech.
Dr Ó Giollagáin argued young speakers of Irish were “under-users” of the language, reflecting the fact that social bilingualism was “actually undermining linguistic diversity rather than supporting minority languages”.
“The intrusion of English in the remaining Irish-speaking Gaeltacht communities is being endured as a linguistically colonial experience,” he said.
Editor Ciarán LeNoach found that among four teenagers in An Cheathrú Rua, Co Galway, three of whom were native speakers, there was a reduced Irish vocabulary compared to a “complete acquisition and ability” in their second language, English.
A study of a group of primary school children found “yeah” rather than “sea” was used unanimously when giving the affirmative in Irish.