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National Assembly officials hear findings of new research into Welsh language

23 January 2009

Welsh flag painted on face

Welsh speakers are more likely to support political independence than non-Welsh speakers, according to new research from the School of Psychology.

The research was conducted by the Social Identity and Social Action in Wales research group based in the School, and was outlined at a seminar at the National Assembly this week.

Examining how Welsh identity is defined, it also investigated how this orients people to different political projects concerned with Welsh development, including assimilation with England, devolution and independence.

Among the report's key findings is the link between Welsh language ability, national identification, and support for national autonomy. The research found that Welsh speakers have a stronger Welsh identification and are more likely to be positive towards political autonomy than non-Welsh speakers.

Principal investigators Professor Russell Spears and Professor Tony Manstead said: "We were interested in the relation between Welsh language ability and attitudes to political autonomy and the role played by national identification in this relationship. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our research confirms that the Welsh language plays an important role in national identity in Wales, providing an important source of national distinctiveness, heritage, and pride.

"Welsh language ability also has the potential to impact on support for political action - such as Welsh national autonomy. In particular, we found that being able to speak Welsh is associated with stronger Welsh identification, and with more positive attitudes towards political autonomy.

"A flip side however is that lower Welsh language ability is associated with lower Welsh identification, which in turn predicts lower support for autonomy."

More surprisingly, the Group found that in Welsh speaking regions, low Welsh language ability is associated with greater English identification, even among those people who consider themselves Welsh. In these regions, Welsh people with low Welsh ability have a strong Welsh identity, but at the same time they have a higher English identification than their counterparts who are fluent speakers. This predicts lower support for political autonomy, making them less positive about greater autonomy for Wales.

"This link between Welsh ability and English identification suggests that although non-Welsh speakers living in Welsh-speaking areas still feel very Welsh, they can also start to see themselves as somewhat English. This reflects their position as relative outsiders in strongly Welsh-speaking contexts – something that obviously is not the case in non-Welsh speaking areas in the South and East", said Professors Spears and Manstead.

The research, Social Identity and Social Action in Wales: The role of group emotions also examined the connection between politics and protest, concluding that there is support for more radical action when Welsh identity is both perceived as vulnerable in communities and where identity is most defined in terms of the Welsh language.

For more information on Social Identity and Social Action in Wales: The role of group emotions visit:

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