The importance of being Irish: National identity, cultural authenticity, and linguistic authority in an Irish language class in the United States

Jennifer N. Garland


This paper examines how orientation to cultural identities in an Irish language class in the United States is used to negotiate issues of authenticity and linguistic and cultural authority. The data were recorded in a beginning level Irish language class in Southern Califomia, in which the teacher and all but one student were American. The Irish identity of the remaining student was highly salient to the other students and to the teacher, conferring authenticity and linguistic authority on him. The teacher’s evaluations of the students ascribe authenticity and linguistic authority to the Irish student based on perceptions about his identity, in spite of his rejection of such authority. Thus, even when participants do not claim identity based statuses, they may be imposed by others in a way that is consequential for interaction.

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