Language and identity amongst Irish migrants in London, Philadelphia and San Francisco, 1850-1920
Embargo end date26/06/2021
This thesis examines the Irish language in London, Philadelphia and San Francisco in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Exploring the ways in which Irish speakers used and maintained their language in the diaspora between the years 1850 and 1920, this thesis argues that the language transformed from being a component of a private, personal identity to a public expression of an Irish diasporic identity. While the imperial context of London and the republican contexts of Philadelphia and San Francisco presented specific circumstances and opportunities for the use and maintenance of the Irish language, the sociolinguistic situation in Ireland directly impacted the language’s development overseas. The focus of this thesis is on the continued use of the Irish language as a vernacular in the period 1850-1880 and the structures which allowed this, however, this thesis also examines the impact of the Gaelic Revival movement on the language and its role in Irish cultural identity. It explores the ways in which different urban environments affected the survival of the language, as well as the genesis, development and outcomes of the revival. Using comparison, this thesis locates the Irish language in three cities which have previously been overlooked in the history of the Irish language abroad and identifies the transnational links between Ireland, London, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Examining these Irish communities over a seventy-year period and incorporating both the pre-revival and revival periods allows for the exploration of this minority language over time, addressing the changing role of the language within each city.
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