The role of language in the formation and maintenance of social difference has received relatively little academic scrutiny from geographers. Contemporary theorising over language, identity and place-making has analysed processes of globalisation and the intensification of international migration leading to the formation of hybrid peoples, cultures and spaces through the experiences of immigrant groups (e.g. Valentine et al., 2008). In this paper we respond to calls to explore micro-level studies of complex multilingual contexts ‘on the ground’ (Wise, 2007) through an empirical study of a language group which is historically and contemporarily attached to place. Drawing on in-depth interviews with Gaelic-English bilinguals employed in the ‘Gaelic language industries’ in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, this paper explores how the labour market demand for Gaelic language skills is offering new material, social and discursive spaces through which multilingual identities can be negotiated. The workers’ on whose accounts we draw (working in three contrasting locations and in various employment sectors) demonstrate how inter- and intra- group boundaries are negotiated, formed and contested and therefore shape the local geographies of minority language use at work. It is suggested that the concept of ‘tolerability’ (May, 2000) is critical to understanding the socio-spatial outcomes of language encounters in contemporary contexts and that future insights into the relationships between language and space could be strengthened by understanding the perspectives of people who hold different language competences and identities, monolingual and multilingual.
|Publication status||Published - Aug 2009|
|Event||Annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (2009) - Manchester, United Kingdom|
Duration: 24 Jul 2007 → 28 Aug 2009
|Conference||Annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (2009)|
|Period||24/07/07 → 28/08/09|