University of Limerick
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The interaction of language policy, minority languages and new media: a study of the Facebook translations application

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posted on 2022-10-12, 09:53 authored by Aoife Lenihan
The site of this research is new media, primarily the WWW. Language policy has traditionally been seen as the work of governments and their institutions and not related to domains such as Web 2.0. The primary research question of this thesis is to consider: what impact do new media have on language policy, in particular with regard to minority languages? It focuses on both the ‘top-down’ language policy and the increasingly ‘bottom-up’ language practices in new media. It is situated within the field of ‘new media sociolinguistics’ and aspires to move the focus of this area from the issue of linguistic diversity to the issue of language policy. What differentiates it from previous work is its attempt to link practice on the WWW with language policy. The method of investigation is virtual ethnography, which involves looking at computer-mediated communication (CMC) in online networks and communities, analysing the language content and observing the online interactions at the level of the users. It is used here to observe and investigate the de facto language policies on Facebook. It was the potential use of the community driven Facebook Translations app as a mechanism of language policy by ‘bottom-up’ interests, which first drew the researcher’s attention. In terms of language policy, Facebook, the Irish language community and their members act in both a ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ sense depending on the context of the situation, and thus the current research demonstrates that the assumed dichotomy of ‘bottom-up’ forces opposed to ‘top-down’ forces is not always in evidence. It conceptualises language policy as a process, ongoing and fluid, developed discursively and via the practices of commercial entities and language speakers. Furthermore, it finds that language ideologies play a primary role in language policy processes. Finally, it considers if the future of language policy in the current convergence culture era (Jenkins, 2006) will be driven by non-official language policy actors.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Kelly-Holmes, Helen



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Department or School

  • School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics

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