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10 Linguistic Lag as an Ethnic Marker (1980)

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Chapter Summary

It is commonplace in the body of literature on ethnicity to find language identified as one of the chief markers of ethnic identity. There are even cases reported in which language seems to be almost the sole marker of ethnic identity. It would seem that the fisherfolk of coastal East Sutherland, in the far north of the Highland Scottish mainland, are simply one more case of people preserving their ethnicity largely through the use of a distinctive language. Before World War I, marriages between fisherfolk and other groups in the population were almost unheard of. The case of the East Sutherland fisherfolk is noteworthy as an extension of the concept of the language component of ethnic identity. A marked linguistic lag can operate as a perfectly adequate marker of in-group membership even when the language spoken is not peculiar to the group in question.

Keywords: coastal East Sutherland; ethnic marker; fisherfolk; language component; linguistic lag



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