Irish-language discourse features a pervasive system of practices involving the production and dissemination of directly reported speech. These homologous practices, here termed personation, include brief imitations of others in conversational speech, the use of direct voice in several poetic genres, the Irish-language song tradition, and a few influential novels. Personation is motivated by a semiotic ideology (personalism) which naturalizes speech and other expressive behavior as an immediate aspect of a person's social being. It is argued that personation, as a semiotic practice, motivates Irish-speakers' resistance to various attempts, centered in discourses of the nation and the state, to refigure the Irish language as the "voice" of a generalized and purified national past or as a semiotically transparent medium for the state. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.