Breizh atao? : The Macrosociolinguistics of Word Choice, Language Ideology and Regional Identity in Contemporary Brittany
"Breizh atao" means "Brittany forever" in Breton and is often used by activists to reference the longevity of the region and its culture. Brittany's history is not dissimilar to that of other regions whose linguistic heritage suffered under pressures to suppress regional languages as a result of emerging nationalist ideals. What is unique about Brittany, though, is that the region actually has two unrelated traditional languages (Breton and Gallo), which have developed a seemingly competitive relationship over limited resources for their preservation and promotion. This would suggest that despite centuries of coexistence, the region may no longer be able to sustain its two traditional languages.The traditional view of language variation analysis is based on different ways of saying the same thing. In addition, using the same word to mean different things may also be telling when looking at the weight of particular words in a given society. My study looks at both. Using survey and interview data, I focus on a set of nuanced terms and expressions referring to Breton culture (`Bretonness') and language(s) in Brittany to examine the interrelation between lexical variation, language choice and people's sense of Breton identity. Surveys were conducted via social media while interviews were conducted on site in Brittany.My primary research questions include, what role, if any, do Bretons assign to their traditional languages within the context of being Breton? Do Bretons feel that one needs to know one of the languages to be able to be considered to be Breton? To what extent have today's Bretons internalized the `one nation, one language' philosophy that so many western `nations' have come to espouse, and, if so, do they seek to apply this when conceptualizing a contemporary Breton identity, or even constructing a Breton nation, in the 21st century and beyond? Finally, must Breton identity be linked to only one of its two traditional languages, or can it be more inclusive, with members of both language communities having equal access to being Breton?
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