The ‘Chip Shop Welsh’: Aspects of ‘Welsh Speaking’ Identity in Contemporary Wales

Authors

  • Iolo Madoc-Jones,

    1. Glyndŵr University
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    • Dr Iolo Madoc-Jones is Principal Lecturer in Social Welfare and Community Justice at Glyndŵr University. A fluent Welsh speaker with a professional background in probation, he moved to an academic post in 1999 and obtained his Ph.D. investigating minority language use in the criminal justice system at the University of Wales. He has published widely on language and criminal justice-related issues in The British Journal of Social Work, Social Work Education, British Journal of Community Justice, Journal of Social Work, Probation Journal, and has presented papers at the British Criminology Conference and the Howard League for Penal Reform Conference.
  • Odette Parry,

    1. Glyndŵr University
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    • Professor Odette Parry is research professor and director of the Social Inclusion Research Unit at Glyndŵr University, and has a substantive experience in health and social care research. She has attracted funding from a range of sources including the ESRC, Department of Health, Scottish Office, and SCIE. Parry was previously based at the University of the West Indies (1993–1996) where she headed a UNICEF-funded, school-based action research project focusing on the educational performances of Caribbean schoolchildren. She was later appointed to the University of Edinburgh where she headed a qualitative research programme on health-related risk behaviours.
  • Dawn Jones

    1. Glyndŵr University
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    • Dr Dawn Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at Glyndŵr University. She gained her degree in Sociology from the University of North Wales, Bangor, and her Ph.D. from Lancaster University before joining Glyndŵr University in 2007, having previously been a Senior Lecturer at Liverpool Hope University for twelve years. Dr Jones’ teaching specialisms are critical social policy, political sociology, and research methodologies. She is an active researcher and has published widely in the fields of political sociology, ‘risk’ and health, and the politics of identity.

Abstract

Considerable research has explored the relationship between majority and minority language speaking communities in bilingual contexts. Comparatively little research, however, has explored relations within as opposed to between a language group in these contexts. Antecedent to a new order of social and cultural life in Wales, this article explores how two groups of Welsh speakers, one relatively privileged and one relatively marginalized, positioned themselves as they talked about ‘being Welsh speaking’. For all respondents the ability to speak Welsh was understood to confer sameness beyond linguistic competence on Welsh speakers. Claims to a strong Welsh-speaking identity, however, were legitimized by drawing on different resources. Whilst the relatively privileged group identified themselves as ‘traditionally Welsh’ based on their linguistic and social practices, members of the more marginalized group were unable to define their own linguistic and social practices as ‘traditional’ for a Welsh speaker. In response they forged a distinctive social space for themselves by developing a class-based communal Welsh identity. With reference to Bourdieu's work on the process of boundary construction and maintenance, this article makes a contribution to understanding ethnolinguistic diversity and how discourses about being Welsh speaking might be reproduced and negotiated in contemporary post-diglossic Wales. It suggests that ethnolinguistic identity may become implicated in the process of classificatory struggle, with social groups emerging through a social space of hierarchical difference.

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