Contemporary Language Situation In Wales Essay

1673 words - 7 pages

This essay will explore the contemporary language situation in Wales. Welsh had declined to a minority language status in Wales at the beginning of the 20th century but recent efforts carried out by the Welsh Government saw the language experience signs of revitalisation. I will consider the level of success of a possible revitalisation and the ways in which the country attempts to encourage it. I will refer to statistical data to support my arguments and apply the works of language theorists such as Joshua Fishman and David Crystal. I will explore the Welsh language as an endangered, minority language and the attitudes and behaviour of it's speakers. I will then go on to investigate it's recent decline and discuss the actions of the Welsh State and how they have affected the current circumstance in Wales.

The 20th century saw Welsh removed from official use while English was vested in it's place. This relation between language and prestige saw Welsh garner erroneous negative connotations, becoming associated with social delinquency and the underclasses. The language began on a path of steady decline to a point where only an astonishing 500,000 identified as being 'Welsh speakers' whilst 250,000,000 stated they could not speak it proficiently (Wales Population Consensus 1971). This triggered a campaign spearheaded by Welsh nationalist parties in the later part of the century, which resulted in several pieces of important legislation that are now considered as defining steps in the revitalisation of the Welsh language. These actions saw the advocation of the active use, exposure and prominence of Welsh throughout the country. The 2001 consensus provided the first set of records to show an incline in speakers in over a century; this is why many consider that Welsh is an argument of successful language revitalisation. However, despite the promising show of a 'rejuvenated Welsh', the most recent polls and population consensus has exposed not only a failure of growth in Welsh speakers, but instead a drop in numbers. While the 2001 consensus announced 21% of people spoke fluent Welsh, the 2011 report disclosed a two-percent drop (2001 and 2011 Welsh Population Consensus). This provokes questions to why the language is failing, particularly when Welsh education has hightened and many more encouraging motives are in place to inspire the Welsh language to prosper.

Language attitude encourages a language's prominence and life within a speaking community; a focal point early in the Welsh language policy was to instill the value of the language in the country's younger generations. Garrett (2010) reaffirms the vital role of positive language attitudes 'Language attitudes can drive change, both in the way that languages themselves may change over time' (p224). The 21st century saw radical change in the unfavourable attitudes towards Welsh; the previously mentioned pieces of legislation introduced Welsh in education as part of the school...

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