New speaker language and identity: Practices and perceptions around Breton as a regional language of France

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


For the past thirty years, much work on Breton has highlighted various apparent differences between two groups of speakers, roughly equivalent to the categories of new speakers and traditional speakers used more universally in more recent work. In the case of Breton, the conceptualisation of these two categories entails a number of stereotypes; one of the most salient concerns the lexicon, specifically issues around newer and more technical vocabulary. Traditional speakers are said to use French borrowings in such cases, influenced by the dominance of French in the wider environment, while new speakers are portrayed as eschewing these in favour of a “purer” form of Breton, involving in particular the use of neologisms based on existing Breton roots. This thesis interrogates this stereotypical divide by examining language used in the media, a context where new speakers are likely to be highly represented. The bulk of the analysis presented in this work refers to a corpus of Breton gathered from media sources, comprising radio broadcasts, social media and print publications. Insights are also provided from interviews that were carried out with employees of Breton-language media to gain additional information on speakers' individual practices and beliefs. The findings show that in these contexts, speakers often avoid some of the more extreme features associated with the new speaker stereotype, and that medium and register can be relevant factors in what sort of lexicon is used; also, notably, the traditional dialects of Breton to a certain extent serve as target varieties for many new speakers, showing that the two groups are not as separate from each other has some research has implied. New speakers, and others with new speaker characteristics, do not form a homogeneous community, but instead have diverse ways of speaking and engaging with Breton and the rest of its speaker population.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorJanice Carruthers (Supervisor) & Micheal O Mainnin (Supervisor)

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