A Geographical Study of Language Borders in Wales and Brittany

Ambrose, John Edward (1978) A Geographical Study of Language Borders in Wales and Brittany. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Making particular use of cartographic methods, the study analyses the process of language-shift in two localities, one near Oswestry in the Welsh Borderland and the other near Chatelaudren in Cotes-du-Nord, Brittany. Both areas are situated on the line of linguistic divides, as traditionally recognised. The assumption is made that the geographer's methods may realistically be applied in the analysis of the abstract characteristics of language, so long as a distance-scale and a time-scale commensurate with the scale of the process are selected. This necessitates the discarding of census data on Welsh speaking, and no official statistics on the speaking of Breton are available. Instead, a 100% sample of "households with one or more members able to speak Welsh or Breton" is obtained, providing detailed information on the potential for the speaking of these languages in different parts of the study areas. The distribution of speakers is related to the influence of a series of variables, including topography, accessibility, settlement and communications patterns, employment and demographic characteristics. Against the potential are set two measures of the actual use of the two languages. Two pieces of information on actual use are obtained by questionnaire sample: first, the frequency of Welsh or Breton use by individuals; secondly, the variety of speaking situations (for example, home, workplace) where these languages are spoken. Cartographic comparison reveals areas showing anomalies between potential and actual use, and raises the question whether critical threshold numbers and proportions of speakers are necessary to promote or prevent language shifts. Particular attention is given to aspects of migration as an influence on thresholds and patterns of language use. A further stage of the survey examines opinion on the state of survival of Welsh and Breton in the two areas and the influence which opinion may have on the continued use of either language as the shift progresses. The two areas produce many contrasting results. Differences in attitudes to language use in the two areas are attributed partly to historical influences and partly to the differing status of the two languages, both within the study areas and in the national context. The Breton area appears to be at a more advanced stage of shift than the Welsh one. In both cases, knowledge of the state of decay of the two languages is found to be only slight, and is inaccurate except in the most general terms. Extraneous factors such as communications or employment patterns seem to exert a greater influence on language change than do local opinions on language survival. The linguistic divide is seen to be a complex zone within which speaking groups maintain or forfeit their language according to the degree of group communication which they can maintain. It is concluded that even at the most local of scales, language areas exhibit spatial features such as cores and fringes of intensity of language use, and that geographical and cartographic methods may make a significant contribution to the analysis of linguistic processes if an appropriate scale is employed for the collection and analysis of information.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Geography, Sociolinguistics
Date of Award: 1978
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1978-78807
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 14:52
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 14:52
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/78807

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