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Welsh History Review

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Vol. 14, nos. 1-4 1988-89

The sociology of Welsh. international journal of the sociology of language, No.66. Book review.

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including those of Welsh-speaking Wales in recent times. Earlier sections include a
brief but fascinating re-working of the social history of Welsh, re-interpreted from
within the cultural-division-of-labour paradigm. Williams draws on the 1981 census
to demonstrate that significant occupational and status differences exist between 'in-
comers' and the native-born Welsh. Only in agriculture do we find an overwhelming
dominance of the Welsh. On the other hand, in south-east Wales, where considerable
benefits have derived from the decentralisation of public sector activities, the
indigenous Welsh and the 'non-Welsh born' are more or less balanced numerically
amongst the 'bourgeoisie' (pp. 88-89). This, Williams concludes, points to the crucial
role that the public sector can play in providing opportunities for Welshmen,
compared with private commerce and industry where the ownership of capital and
investment decisions tend to be dominated by English people. In relation to the
'reproduction' of language, Williams concludes that today, as in the past, striking
regional variations can be found throughout Wales. In substantial measure, these can
be linked directly to the prestige that Welsh enjoys locally, the provision of Welsh-
medium schools and local class configurations.
The second key paper is by Dr. Colin H. Williams. This looks more closely at
processes of language reproduction/production from the viewpoint of the geographer.
After a critical review of the various explanatory spatial models, he argues
convincingly that continued emphasis on the plight of the Welsh language within the
so-called 'core' or 'heartland' areas leads to a pessimistic view because the focus
remains on specific locations, particular functions for the language and traditional
domains of usage. Instead, it is suggested, researchers should direct much more
attention to the populous urban and industrial districts where significant developments
are being shaped. Yet, as Colin Williams himself is careful to point out, 'place is still
a crucial variable in the analysis of language because it sets the limits of possibilities
for social reaction' (p. 80).
The remaining four chapters are devoted to a range of complementary themes.
E. Glyn Lewis reviews changing attitudes and formal plans for the promotion of the
Welsh language, neatly highlighting internal dynamics, especially in so far as
vocabulary is concerned. As he points out, if no adequate planning is undertaken the
language withers; whenever a traditional craft dies, or an occupation disappears, then
part of the language dies with it (p. 17). Similarly, in his second contribution, Glyn
Williams draws on what he refers to as 'discourse analysis' (that is, working out the
manner in which meaning is constituted) to review the specific background and
context that brought into being the Welsh Language Act of 1967. In contrast, but
continuing with the theme of Lewis's paper, Professor Alan R. Thomas contributes
the closing paper to the volume. Thomas recognizes that today there exists a diversity
of norms for adjusting the standards of spoken Welsh, both in private and in public
usage. Although Cymraeg Byw was devised originally to lead to a wider and more
generally accepted standard of speech (especially for learners), today it is clear, he
maintains, that the literary language still remains the 'ultimate determinant of usage'
(pp. 111-12).
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