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The language barrier? Context, identity, and support for political goals in minority ethnolinguistic groups


Dr Andrew G. Livingstone, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Tower Building, Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK (e-mail:


In two studies, we tested the hypothesis that not having a potentially group-defining attribute (e.g., in-group language) can affect social identification and support for group goals (e.g., national autonomy). Focusing on the Welsh minority in the UK, Study 1 provided evidence that Welsh language fluency predicted Welsh identification and support for national autonomy, and that identification accounted for the language–autonomy association. Study 2 extended this by (1) examining British and English as well as Welsh identification; and (2) quasi-manipulating the surrounding context (Welsh speaking vs. non-Welsh speaking). As predicted, low Welsh language fluency predicted stronger British and English identification, but only where language was criterial (Welsh-speaking regions). British identification, in turn, predicted lower support for national autonomy. Implications and prospects for future research are discussed.