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Use of the census of population to discern trends in the Welsh language: an aggregate analysis

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The aim of this paper is to present a preliminary analysis of unitary authority level data from the 2001 census of population on the spatial (and, where available, temporal) patterns in proportions of Welsh speakers in Wales. In so doing we draw attention to the advantages (and limitations) of the census as a source of information on the state of the Welsh language. Although a 2 per cent increase in the percentage of Welsh speakers between 1991 and 2001 has been welcomed, several commentators have drawn attention to the change in the nature of the question asked at the 2001 census which may account for some of this increase. In this paper, we assess what is, and is not, possible to discern from the census, draw attention to other potential sources of information on the language and make some preliminary recommendations for those agencies concerned with monitoring trends in the future, both with regard to the need for more detailed language use surveys and the nature of the question included in subsequent censuses that would permit a more useful comparison of spatial and temporal trends.

Keywords: 2001 census; aggregate analysis; factors influencing trends; future of Welsh language monitoring; potential and limitations; spatial and temporal trends in the Welsh language

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: GIS Research Centre, School of Computing, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd CF37 1DL, Email: 2: Department of Welsh, Cardiff University, PO Box 910, Cardiff CF10 3XW 3: Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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