Erin McNulty



Research title: Language Ideologies and Morphosyntactic Variation in New Speakers of Manx Gaelic

Research Summary

Research Title: Life after 'Death': The Impact of Sociolinguistic Factors on the Structure of Revitalised Manx

I am interested in endangered and minority languages, especially those that are undergoing revitalisation. In particular, I am looking at how the specific sociolinguistic environments within which these languages exist impacts on their structure, specifically in the speech of so-called New Speakers of minority languages. My research examines these issues in the Manx Gaelic speech community in the Isle of Man.

I would like to explore how New Speakers in this community use language to negotiate identity, express solidarity, and/or differentiate themselves, and how this use of language affects its structure. Similarly, I am interested in examining the language attitudes and ideologies present in the Manx community and how this is reflected in its developing linguistic norms.

Research impact is also important to me, namely how researchers can collaborate with minority language communities and use research to aid revitalisation, e.g. by increasing public engagement, informing language policy and planning, and helping to create educational materials. 

I am interested in hearing about work in linguistic communities facing similar challenges e.g. Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, Channel Island Norman French varieties, as well as any community negotiating linguistic decolonisation.

My PhD project (“Life after ‘Death’: The Impact of Sociolinguistic Factors on the Structure of Revitalised Manx”) investigates the impact of social, ethnographic, and identity factors on the linguistic structure of New Speakers of minority languages, using Manx to inform wider research on endangered languages.

I will collect and analyse data on the structure of the language of New Speakers of revitalised Manx, exploring the morphosyntactic features that define this variety, and what differences or similarities revitalised Manx shows compared to other revitalised varieties. In addition, I will assess to what extent structural variation exists within this community, and whether this can be linked to demographic and ethnographic factors such as age, gender, amount of exposure to the language, and level of community involvement.

I will also investigate how speakers of revitalised Manx feel about their language and place in the community by collecting data on the language attitudes and ideologies present in the community, as well as exploring how these relate to the construction of a ‘Manx’ identity. My project will link these sociolinguistic findings with the aforementioned structural data, exploring how different attitudes and ideologies are reflected in language use, e.g. through processes such as linguistic iconisation, as well as how revitalised Manx speakers use their language to construct their own identities as New Speakers and as Manx.


2020-24 Doctoral Training Partnership, Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (ESRC)

2018-19 Postgraduate Studentship, Peterhouse (University of Cambridge)