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Sex, lies and thematising Irish

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Thematising Irish in the media reflects the complex and contradictory sociolinguistic and language-ideological situation in Ireland. This article explores some of that complexity by investigating a thread on an online discussion forum on the subject of the first ever party leaders’ debate in Irish that took place during the 2011 general election in Ireland. In the discussion thread, three particular discourses emerge: a “discourse of truth” about Irish as lacking both authority as a national language and authenticity as a minority language of a recognizable ethnic group; a discourse of “them and us”; involving a differentiation between “Irish speakers” and “non-Irish speakers”, largely based on notions of competence; and, finally, a newly emerging discourse of “sexy Irish”, which signals a commodification of Irish speakers as young, beautiful and mediatisable. The features of the forum and the online, real-time evolution of the discussion thread impact in a number of ways upon these discourses and ideologies. However, despite the possibilities afforded by the forum, which are utilized by posters for performing Irish in different ways, these everyday practices are effectively erased and invalidated by the prevailing discourses, which rely strongly on the notion of bilingualism as parallel and discrete monolingualisms.
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Keywords: Irish; language ideologies; minority languages; new media; parallel monolingualism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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