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The 1980 census recorded one million Irish speakers, but of these only about nine thousand live in communities where the language is likely to survive as a natural first language. Reg Hindley explores the many and varied factors which combine to determine and influence language distribution and trends. Starting from the premise that Irish will be dead when it is no longer the normal language of daily conversation in families and between groups of people who acquired it from their parents, he locates the surviving pockets' of the Irish language. He blends careful statistical analysis with field surveys among native Irish speakers to explore the reasons for the decline of the language - historical, economic, political, spatial and cultural - and discusses the causal relationships between geographical environment and language retention. Finally, he puts Irish into its broader context as a European minority language, and assesses its present position and prospects for survival. This book should be of interest to students in sociolinguistics, Irish studies, geography and politics.