1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar

The Linguistic Anthropology Seminar is an informal, interdisciplinary venue for presentations of work by faculty, students, and visiting scholars in linguistic anthropology, linguistics, and related fields.

Current Seminar Schedule

Seminars are usually held on Friday afternoons in the Second Floor Conference Room of Brooks Hall. Note that this room is up a long flight of stairs. If you would like to come but would find the stairs prohibitive, please contact the organizer so that alternative arrangements can be made.

To volunteer a talk or propose a discussion topic, contact Lise Dobrin.

Tuesday, February 27, 7:30 pm (Brooks Hall Commons)

Kevin Petit Cahill, Ph.D. candidate, Université Lyon 2, laboratoire ICAR

The revitalisation of Irish in the 21st century:  Is the language turning into a tourism product?

Every summer, more than 20,000 Irish teenagers travel to the west of Ireland to learn Irish for a few weeks in language camps called 'summer colleges'. This popular activity actually dates back from the beginning of the 20th century, when the Gaelic League, an organisation for the promotion of the Irish language and culture, created immersion courses for Irish language learners in 'Irish speaking-districts' where communities of native speakers could be found. 

While the original objective of summer colleges was to bring back Irish as the vernacular of the Irish nation, some contemporary participants conceived their summer college experiences as a tribute to their national cultural heritage even though it did not lead to an improvement in their Irish language proficiency. This mode of engagement with the language is defined as post-vernacular by Jeffrey Shandler, which, he argues, "can be a liberating concept, prompting possibilities of language use other than the vernacular model of full fluency in an indigenous mother tongue" (2006:23).

In this presentation, I will analyse how and why the summer college experience is discursively constructed as a tourism product by camp directors, local children, professional marketing consultants, and governmental agencies. This case illuminates the economic and political aspects of the Irish language and helps us rethink revitalisation projects not just as vernacularisation endeavours in the name of cultural preservation, but as complex social movements made out of people with competing agendas.