Ideologies and Urban Welsh

Catrin Bethan Williams (King’s College London, U.K.)
Topic: Language Ideologies
COMELA 2021 Poster


The presentation focuses on speakers’ everyday negotiations around language ideologies and Welsh in the urban South East of Wales. Like many minority languages which have experienced revitalisation, Welsh in Wales (and particularly in the traditionally Anglicised capital city) is a site for conflicting ideologies and discursive tensions. Historically, the value of the language, constructed in the face of state-driven marginalisation, was founded on solidarity and authenticity. These ideologies maintain relevance for Welsh speakers today, however, revitalisation efforts and the institutionalisation of the language mean that it now has an economic value. It has been drawn into new spheres and ‘new speakers’ have been created (see Smith-Christmas et al. eds. 2018). The research considers everyday interactions of Welsh speakers in these new circumstances to examine whether and how they negotiate and orient to these perhaps contradictory ideologies and how new ideologies and language practices emerge. By examining speakers’ situated use of language across a range of sites (focusing on reflexive stylisation), I am seeking to examine processes of enregisterment, remaining sensitive to differing contexts, scales and polycentricity (Blommaert 2007) and grounding my analysis in indeterminacy (Jaffe 2009).

The analysis takes a post-structuralist and social constructionist view of identity (see for example Martin-Jones 2012: 63), making the contingency of talk a central principle. Using linguistic ethnography and interactional analysis, I examine the relevance of articulated identity categories and tropes to Welsh speakers, while also considering emergent, partial and ephemeral identities. In particular, I examine what the notion of ‘community’ means to speakers living outside of what are considered to be the ‘traditional communities’ of Welsh speakers and issues of legitimacy in the face of multiple and conflicting value centres. In sum, I am exploring the unbinding of the Welsh language by examining language in terms of practices and processes, with a focus on emergent registers and emergent ideologies.

Blommaert, Jan. 2007. Sociolinguistics and Discourse Analysis: Orders of Indexicality and Polycentricity. Journal of Multicultural Discourse, 2 (2), 115-30
Jaffe, Alexandra. 2009. Indeterminacy and regularization: a process-based approach to the study of sociolinguistic variation and language ideologies. Sociolinguistic Studies, 3 (2), 229-517
Martin-Jones, Marilyn. 2012. Multilingualism, Discourse, and Ethnography. London: Routledge
Smith-Christmas, Cassie. et al. (eds.). 2018. New Speakers of Minority Languages: Linguistic Ideologies and Practices. London: Palgrave MacMillan

Keywords: Welsh, Minority languages, Ideologies, Linguistic ethnography, Community