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Vanishing Languages in Context

Ideological, Attitudinal and Social Identity Perspectives


Edited By Martin Pütz and Neele Mundt

This volume grew out of the 36 th International LAUD Symposium, which was held in March 2014 at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Landau, Germany. There is general consensus among language experts that slightly more than half of today’s 7,000 languages are under severe threat of extinction even within fifty to one hundred years. The 13 papers contained in this volume explore the dramatic loss of linguistic diversity, why this matters, and what can be done and achieved to document and support endangered languages especially in the context of an ever increasing globalized world. The issue of vanishing languages is discussed from a variety of methodologies and perspectives: sociolinguistics, language ecology, language contact, language policy/planning, attitudes and linguistic inequalities.
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Maria Rieder - The case of Cant: The Irish Travellers and their linguistic repertoire in the context of a changing cultural identity


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Maria Rieder

Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

The case of Cant: The Irish Travellers and their linguistic repertoire in the context of a changing cultural identity

Abstract The Irish Traveller community is a minority group that has very much held on to their traditional lifestyle, customs, and values in the mid of mainstream settled Irish society. Nevertheless, the community had to go through substantial cultural, economic, and social changes in the course of the last century. These changes have naturally had an impact on language use: Their heritage language Cant, a combination of the Travellers’ own lexical items with Irish English morphosyntax, has, since our earliest records dating from the late 19th century, traditionally fulfilled clear functional purposes in Traveller-related situations. In the course of the last century, a slow decrease in functions and use could be observed, with English taking over in more and more contexts. This contribution explores the interrelationship between the Travellers’ social stance and individual identity, and their use of and attitudes towards Cant.

Keywords: attitudes; Cant; cultural identity; ethnic minority; heritage language; Irish Travellers; minority group

1. Introduction

An indigenous and in their heart nomadic Irish minority community, the Irish Travellers occupy a very special position in Irish society as they share a lot of history with settled Irish people on the one hand, but on the other are set apart from wider Irish society by a distinct cultural and linguistic...

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