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Academic Paper


Title: Linguistic science and nationalist revolution: Expert knowledge and the making of sameness in pre-independence Ireland
Author: Brigittine M. French
Institution: Grinnell College
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Abstract: This article examines the linguistic ideological work entailed in the analyses of Irish by the “revolutionary scholar” and cofounder of the Gaelic League, Eoin MacNeill. It does so to discern one central way in which the essentialized link between the Irish language and a unified Irish people became an efficacious political construction during the armed struggle for independence in the early 20th century. It shows how MacNeill used authoritative linguistic science to engender nationalist sentiment around Irish through semiotic processes even as he challenged a dominant conception of language prevalent in European nationalist movements and social thought. The essay argues that MacNeill wrote against the unilateral valorization of codified linguistic homogeneity and embraced the heterogeneous variation of spoken discourse even as he sought to consolidate Irish national identity through sameness claims. This critical examination suggests that scholars of nationalism reconsider the taken-for-granted homogenizing efforts of nationalist endeavors that are ubiquitously presumed to negatively sanction linguistic variation. (Nationalism, linguistic ideology, Ireland, semiotics, heterogeneity, Eoin MacNeill, Gaelic League, Europe, scientific knowledge)

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This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 38, Issue 5, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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