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7 Defining the Speech Community to Include its Working Margins (1982)

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Chapter Summary

Although the shift to English in East Sutherland has been slow, it is now almost complete. Since all Gaelic-speaking fisherfolk descendants are bilingual, they belong simultaneously to two speech communities, whereas their monolingual fellow villagers belong only to one. Semi-speakers are individuals who have failed to develop full fluency and normal adult proficiency in East Sutherland Gaelic, as measured by their deviations from the fluent-speaker norms within the community. It is the low-proficiency semi-speakers who speak very little Gaelic. Fishman's definition of the speech community, like Gumperz's, includes this notion: "A speech community is one, all of whose members share at least a single speech variety and the norms for its appropriate use". The behaviour of fluent speakers towards low-proficiency semi-speakers and near-passive bilinguals indicates that the East Sutherland Gaelic speech community needs to be defined so as to include the marginal speakers.

Keywords: bilinguals; East Sutherland; English; fluent speakers; Gaelic-speaking fisherfolk; semi-speakers; speech community



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