Symbols and Symptoms: Adult Learners in Welsh Language Revitalization

Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2009

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



For two years (2005-2007), I was enrolled as a learner myself in WfA classrooms in Cardiff. During that time, I documented the classroom discourse and normative signals (explicit and implicit commentary on different varieties of Welsh and the values ascribed to them) that prepared learners for the complexities they would face as new speakers of the language. Through interactions in these classrooms and encounters with Welsh speakers, learners came to see their own language as both ‘more Welsh’ and ‘less Welsh’ than native speech. In the chapters that follow, I trace the tensions, contradictions, silences, and statuses generated by this opposition. In Chapter 1, I describe the forces behind the Welsh language’s decline and revitalization, as well as the various social meanings attached to Welsh speakers and English speakers in Wales. In Chapter 2, I define the contours of classroom Welsh, and discuss teachers’ conflicted feelings about teaching it. This lays the groundwork for Chapters 3 and 4, in which I consider the ways that learners are constructed as both more Welsh and less Welsh than native speakers. The topics covered here include language purity, grammaticality, aesthetic performances, relationships to place, and the readings of class issues attached to classroom Welsh. In Chapter 5, I examine the boundary work and misunderstandings that can occur when learners and Welsh speakers interact. In Chapter 6, I look at how learners construct a role for themselves in Welsh language revitalization, and more broadly, in the Welsh-speaking world. Finally, I offer a concluding statement about the methodological contribution this research makes to the body of work on language ideology.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

John Bowen

Committee Members

Peter Benson, Cindy Brantmeier, Bret Gustafson, Mona Lena Krook, James Wertsch


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