The New Speakers Blog

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From Madrid to Barcelona

From Madrid to Barcelona

How a small visit can have a big impact on your PhD research

The PhD research I am currently undertaking under the supervision of Bernie O’Rourke and Máiréad Nic Craith at Heriot-Watt University looks at the role of a ‘local’ language such as Galician, in the construction of identity for a ‘non-local’ immigrant population.

My research links up with an important strand of the COST Action, specifically the exploration of the concept of the ‘new speaker’ in migrant contexts as part of Working Group 2. My research focuses on immigrant ‘new speakers’ of Galician in a small fishing town in northern Galicia.

The purpose of this STSM was to discuss approaches to analysing ethnographic data that I collected in summer 2014.

Furthermore, the aim was to present my findings to both undergraduate and postgraduate students and have the opportunity to collaborate with PhD students whose research interests line up with the aims of this COST Action on New Speakers.

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The 'new speaker' label

The 'new speaker' label

The ‘new speaker’ label focuses on the experience of multilingual individuals who adopt and use a language of which they are not native speakers. It is a relatively recent construct.

The term originated in minority language sociolinguistics but has now come to be used in critical sociolinguistics more generally to engage with debates around ‘nativeness’.

In the context of minority languages and revitalization projects such as BasqueBretonCatalan, CorsicanGalician,Irish, ManxOccitan, etc., this discussion has been more recent. In the past, the focus was to a large extent concerned with native speaker communities.

The new speaker category emerged in the context of minority language research and discussions amongst a small group of European-based researchers concerned with overlapping issues of legitimacy, linguistic authority and language ownership in post-revitalization situations, specifically in the context of Catalan and comparative work on Galician and Irish.

The specific use of the term ‘new speaker’ in fact drew inspiration from the Galician category of neofalante (literally neo or new speaker).

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Researching Bottom-Up Language Policies in Galicia

Researching Bottom-Up Language Policies in Galicia

My research seeks to investigate the role of individual agency (such as individual parents) in the interpretation and implementation of language policy at the grassroots level.

This is studied in relation to Galician new-speaker parents who through their individual linguistic behaviour play a prominent role in the revitalisation and maintenance of Galician at the home domain, particularly in the context of framing bottom-up language policies on the ground.

I have been working on this topic for the past two and half years with my supervisors Bernie O’Rourke and Máiréad Nic Craith at Heriot-Watt University’s Intercultural Research Centre.

I applied for a Short Term Scientific Mission fund (STSM) to collect discussion data from two focus groups and carry out a family language audit to understand the language practices of Galician new-speaker parents at home.

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