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The Use of Language and the Image of Irishness it Portrayed in "T...

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The Use of Language and the Image of Irishness it Portrayed in "Translations" by Brian Friel and "Playboy of the Western World" by J.M. Synge.

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Language is very much associated in what we think of as culture. There are very few places where this is more true than to Ireland. Language is very much part of our national identity, yet it has almost entirely died out despite numerous attempts to revive it. The questions that arises in this context from these two plays are; is it necessary to speak Irish to be truly Irish, and should language be sacrificed in the name of progress or is language part of the progress of the culture that it inhabits and finally is it necessary to speak Irish to be truly Irish? In these two plays we get two very differing viewpoints on the study of language, and in particular the Irish language. They differ in the fact that one studies the death of the language from a modern point of view, while the other sentimentalises the language and the people that use it. "The Playboy of the Western World" uses language to inadvertently portray us in the way that we think that we were and are, while "Translations" uses language to show how far from ourselves we have come.

In "Translations" we see language as empowering, as it is through language that we create an identity for ourselves. Throughout the play, language is shown as not just a tool of expression, but also a receptacle for the past, and a means of constructing a culture. The power to do this is taken away from the Irish by the English in the form of the mapping survey, and this is not only changes the place names, which creates the situation where the Irish can become lost in their own village, but also destroys their past, no matter how forgotten it is. This is essentially the dismantling of the Irish culture by the English, in that it is removing the fabric of their society which has formed traditions and mythology which has become part of their collective memory, while at the same time also being the taking over of Gaelic religion, as the long-established Catholic names of the region are being malformed to the Anglican...