Advocating commodification: an ethnographic look at the policing of Irish as a commercial asset

Sara Catherine Brennan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
60 Downloads (Pure)


Based on ethnographic fieldwork in two towns in the Republic of Ireland, this article explores the local negotiation, endorsement, and contestation of two community-level Irish language advocacy organizations’ attempts to regulate the use of Irish in business by mobilizing discourses of language commodification to position Irish as a commercial asset. I focus in particular on how local merchants’ positioning in relation to the promoted commodification of Irish articulates with the interplay of these policing efforts with the legacy of national language policy in Ireland. In the two towns, the State’s revitalization policy concerning the compulsory teaching of Irish in the national education system seemed to generate opportunities for encouraging merchant participation: the organizations’ emphasis on a mostly visual form of commercial Irish helped local merchants with bad memories of learning the language to circumvent them and those with more positive recollections to capitalize on them. In relation to the State’s language maintenance policy based on geographically demarcating Ireland’s traditionally Irish-speaking areas, each town’s distance from these regions seemed to influence local merchants’ endorsement of or resistance to the organizations’ attempts to promote the commodification of Irish. This discussion of the localized mobilization of widely circulating commodification discourses to convince business owners and managers of the added value of Irish thus highlights both the opportunities and challenges involved in situated efforts to police language for commodification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalLanguage Policy
Early online date3 May 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 May 2017


  • Commodification
  • Irish language
  • Language policing
  • Minority language advocacy
  • Private sector

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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