An Empirical Study of Acceptance in Irish Terminology Planning

Ní Ghearáin, Helena

Ollscoil Luimnigh / University of Limerick, Ireland (Republic of)


This paper explores the issue of acceptance in terminology planning, drawing on a discussion of acceptance and evaluation in language planning more generally, and using data from an empirical study on Irish terminology planning to illustrate how acceptance may be investigated and how the data from this investigation may be used to inform future terminology planning.

Irish language planning is well-known for its status planning initiatives, in the pursuit of both language maintenance and revival. Understandably, the corpus planning effort has been overshadowed by the priority afforded status planning. Corpus planning, however, can facilitate status planning initiatives and in some instances, even achieve status planning aims (Fishman 2000). Corpus planning played an important role in the language planning effort in Ireland throughout the twentieth century. Examples include the efforts of early language revivalists who collected and coined new terms in order to prepare the language for its new uses and later, the governmental interventions in orthographical simplification, grammatical standardisation and terminological elaboration. Terminological elaboration was carried out by various terminology committees established by the government from the 1920s onwards; an official permanent committee was established in 1968. However, despite the long tradition of official terminology planning, there is a dearth of research in this area. This is detrimental to terminology planning in two principal ways: 1. the terminology committee must function in the absence of essential data on the terminological practices and ideologies of the community and 2. there is no evaluation of the terminology planning carried out and therefore little possibility for improvement. The empirical study which I carried out in 2007 aims to address these gaps in the research.

Success in terminology planning, and in language planning more generally, implies acceptance on the part of the language community. To evaluate language planning, one must engage with the concept of acceptance, a concept which is difficult to define and therefore difficult to measure. My understanding of acceptance in language planning encompasses three components: 1. the acceptance of the language planning products, e.g. planned terminology, 2. the acceptance of the authority of the language planning agents and 3. the acceptance of the need to engage in language planning in the first place. This understanding of acceptance underpins the design of the study. The study provides data on the terminological practices and ideologies of habitual Irish speakers living and working in traditionally Irish-speaking areas. This data comprises quantitative data on the terms known/used and qualitative data on attitudes towards the importance of new terminology in Irish, the official planning of such, and the authorities involved in this work. Such data may be used to further inform future efforts in Irish terminology planning.

Fishman, Joshua A., 2000. ‘The Status Agenda in Corpus Planning’. In: Richard D. Lambert and Elana Shohamy (eds.), Language Policy and Pedagogy. Essays in Honor of A. Ronald Watson. Philadelphia/Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 43-51.

Session: Paper session
Planning/policy 8 (Ideology)
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 09:00-10:30
room: 14