12.00 The Irish Language: Shifting from an Identity Marker to a Part of Cultural Heritage
As Laurajane Smith (2006) noticed, heritage is a cultural and social phenomenon, just like language, which is considered to be one of the essential elements (markers) of ethnicity, later nationality. But we know, that at present, when languages are increasingly threatened by extinction risk, more than birds or mammals, they are not any more recognized as the essential identity markers, at least not in all cases. An example of such a case is the Irish language. Studying the Irish history, especially the period of colonization, then the period starting with coming into existence of the Irish Free State (in 1922) until now, scrutinizing the policy of subsequent Irish governments carefully, and finally analyzing the present situation of the Irish language, including opinions of Irish people (written and heard), I have noticed a shift in the position and role of the Irish language—from an identity marker to a part of cultural heritage. In this paper I will discuss that mechanism of shifting, paying special attention to the role of governments and institutions. I will refer to appropriate legal acts, particularly those that have had a great impact on education. The influence of globalization processes will be also discussed. Before presenting that mechanism, I intend to indicate the symptoms that have led to such conclusions.