Is once-maligned Irish language the marker of a new Ireland elite?
A new study finds the Irish language, once seen as the tongue of the poorer and less-educated even in Ireland, is a marker of an economic elite.
Visitors to Ireland have long been greeted with the words "céad míle fáilte," an Irish language phrase meaning "a hundred thousand welcomes." But should this old tourism slogan be changed to "céad míle dollars?"
A recent study by researchers at the University of Ulster and University of Limerick found that contrary to its image as the quaint, dying language of Ireland's poor, speakers of Irish enjoy significant economic and social benefits – and form an elite in Irish society.
Key findings include that 42 percent of Irish-speakers were employed in senior professional, managerial, or technical jobs, compared with 27 percent among nonspeakers, and that Irish-speakers enjoyed a larger social network – even though they rarely spoke the language.
The paper, "Language and Occupational Status: Linguistic Elitism in the Irish Labour Market," published in Ireland's Economic and Social Review journal, found a "structural advantage of Irish-speaking, relative to non-speaking, workers" in Ireland’s labor market, and compared use of Irish to historical examples of linguistic elitism in czarist Russia and in Vietnam, where the elite spoke French
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