The existence of many minority languages is threatened by language shift, whereby the community of speakers moves to using the majority language in place of the minority language. Social network sites such as Facebook might be important environments for minority language maintenance, as networks of strong ties may help speakers resist pressures towards language shift. However, to date, there has been little research that investigates this aspect of minority languages' online presence. This paper presents an initial examination of the current use of the Welsh language on Facebook. The paper introduces a method for sampling the network of groups being used by a language community, based on the Related Groups information within Facebook group profiles. Basic information is presented about the use of Welsh in Facebook groups, including membership numbers, the range of topics, and the levels of activity. Visualizations of the network reveal a small number of popular central groups playing a significant role in connecting the community. The successive removal of central groups results in a relatively sparsely connected network and reveals a number of geographical neighbourhood and topic-specific sub-networks. The use of Welsh on personal profiles is also examined, as are the demographics of Welsh speakers on Facebook. The results of this examination provide evidence that suggests that the use of the Welsh language has been normalized to some extent within Facebook and that the language has established an active presence on Facebook groups and profiles.
- social network sites