This book was published with the generous support of the National University of Ireland Publications Scheme.
Table Of Contents
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Jennifer Martyn and Chloé Diskin - 1 Introduction
- Sarah Smyth - 2 Multivoiced Identities
- Barbara Bidzińska - 3 Debunking the Myth of Poland’s Monoculturality
- Agni Skrzypek and David Singleton - 4 Age and Identity
- Jennifer Martyn - 5 Foreign Language Learning in the Secondary School: Identities and Ideologies
- Rachel Hoare - 6 Giving Voice to the Experiences of Children of Immigrants in Ireland: An Exploratory Study of Language, Identity and Emotional Well-Being
- Milène Pagès - 7 Attitudes and Identity in the French Multicultural Foreign Language Classroom in Ireland: Case Studies
- Ewa Kobiałka - 8 Language, Identity and Social Class Among Polish Migrants in Ireland
- Ruth Kircher - 9 Montreal’s Multilingual Migrants: Social Identities and Language Attitudes After the Proposition of the Quebec Charter of Values
- Alex Ho-Cheong Leung and Patrick Chi-Wai Lee - 10 Chinese But Not Chinese? A Case Study of Identity in Post-Colonial Hong Kong
- Chloé Diskin - 11 Standard Language Ideologies in Multicultural Ireland: A Case Study of Polish and Chinese Migrants in Dublin
- Clarissa de Sousa Oliveira - 12 Intergenerational Language Transmission and Brazilian Language Diversity: A Study of the Polish Community in Mallet-Parana, Brazil
- Regina Uí Chollatáin - 13 ‘Thall is Abhus’ 1860–1930: The Revival Process and the Journalistic Web between Ireland and North America
- Chefena Hailemariam, Sarah Ogbay and Goodith White - 14 Mediating between Traffickers and their Victims: The Effects of Mobility and Mobile Technology on Language Use and Identity
- Notes on Contributors
Sociolinguistic and discursive approaches to language and identity
Identity in early sociolinguistic research
Every time we speak, we are negotiating and renegotiating our sense of self in relation to the larger social world, and reorganizing that relationship across time and space. Our gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, among other characteristics, are all implicated in this negotiation of identity. (Norton 2010: 350)
The concept of identity has long fascinated writers and scholars. Philosophers of the Western European enlightenment such as Descartes, Locke, Kant, and Hegel all consider identity, the mind, the self, or the ‘I’ in their writings (Block 2007: 3). The popularity of identity scholarship today, according to Bendle (2002), may be due to three socio-historical phenomena. Firstly, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, psychology and psychiatry scholars such as William James and Sigmund Freud put forward ‘the self’ as an object of research. Secondly, in light of the increasing secularization of the industrializing world, people found new ways to find fulfilment, with a greater value placed on life on earth, as opposed to the divine. Thirdly, and simultaneously, the twentieth-century concern in ‘western’ countries with human rights has meant that ‘traditional institutions blocking social mobility across social class, racial, ethnic and gender lines’ have gradually diminished in influence (Block 2007: 3). Finally, as Block notes, the very age in which we live, that of late modernity or postmodernity, has incited new ontologies, or ways of studying existence and identity in a globalized world at which the individual is the centre (Block 2007: 3). ← 1 | 2 →
Identity has also long been considered in language and linguistic research, under various guises and within different methodological and theoretical traditions. Writings that assume a relationship between language and the ‘nature’ of the individual include that of Otto Jespersen (1922), who correlated the supposedly ‘emotional’ language of women, with their ‘natures’ (Coates 1986: 28). Dialectologists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries sought to map the geographical distribution of language forms across regions, often selecting older men as the most representative speakers of the dialects being surveyed. The language data collected from such dialectology studies were therefore usually associated with the lifestyles of these respondents (Romaine 2003: 99). The earliest systematic empirical studies of the relationship between language and the social world, and the establishment of the field of sociolinguistics, are attributed to William Labov. Labov’s studies of linguistic variation Martha’s Vineyard (1962), and in New York City (1966) demonstrated that variables such as gender and social class, as well as other factors such as, in the case of the Martha’s Vineyard study, orientation to and identification with the other inhabitants of the island, may affect phonetic variation. Since the establishment of the field of sociolinguistics, many similar studies have been conducted across the world in subsequent waves of variationist research, indicating that social categories and prescribed social roles such as gender, social class, ethnic affiliation, and community membership affect variation in language use (e.g. edited volume by Chambers, Trudgill and Schilling-Estes 2002), and in turn effecting linguistic change.
Contemporary language and identity research
Language in the sociolinguistic canon has traditionally been treated as expressive of the identity of the individual, denoting the individual’s relationship to, and place in the world around them. A paradigm shift in language and linguistic research has meant that issues surrounding identity have been reconceptualized within a poststructuralist framework. Since this shift toward poststructuralist approaches to language and identity at the end of the twentieth century, there has been, as noted by Block, a ‘veritable ← 2 | 3 → explosion’ of researchers foregrounding identity in their research (Block 2006a: 34). Poststructuralist approaches to identity reject the stability, ‘fixedness’, or essentialism of identity – ‘the position that the attributes and behaviour of socially defined groups can be determined and explained by reference to cultural and/or biological characteristics believed to be inherent to the group’ (Bucholtz 2003: 400). Rather, identity is treated in current research as dynamic and contextual, and manifest in all actions, behaviours, or practices, and communicative interactions. Identity is negotiable, or a ‘lifelong project’ (Block 2006a: 34) and all language use therefore becomes an ‘act of identity’ (Le Page & Tabouret-Keller 1985). The individual may negotiate his or her identity in discourse within a group, as demonstrated by Ochs and Taylor (1995), Kiesling (2006), and De Fina (2006). The individual may also express a particular identity or social stance through the language forms he or she, as a member of social networks or communities, employs, as attested throughout the literature on sociolinguistic variation, for example, by Milroy (1987), Bucholtz (1999), Eckert (2000), Cheshire, Fox, Kerswill and Torgersen (2008), and Meyerhoff and Schleef (2012).
Language, identity and SLA in multilingual contexts
Studies of identity in the L2 and multilingual context have tended to reflect emergent methodological approaches and frameworks as applied to the L1 context.1 Second Language Acquisition (SLA) as a distinct field emerged in the 1960s and its core aims have been defined as answering the following three questions: What exactly does the L2 learner come to know? How does the learner acquire this knowledge? Why are some learners more successful than others? (Saville-Troike 2006: 2). Research of the 1970s and 1980s tended to centralize issues of language attitudes and language learning motivation from a social psychological perspective (Gardner and Lambert ← 3 | 4 → 1959), as well as barriers to and facilitators of language development such as Schumann’s Acculturation model (1978), and Krashen’s work on comprehensible input (Krashen 1981). Block (2007: 58–68) provides a review of some L2 and SLA studies that have implicitly and explicitly discussed the identity of the learner in SLA research, in terms of individual factors such as affect (Brown 1980), anxiety (Bailey 1983) as well as studies that detail the experience of the migrant rather than his or her proficiency alone (Schmidt 1983). However, more recent sociolinguistic approaches to SLA incorporate language and identity scholarship, whereby research aims to discover the link between identity and language learning. One of the tenets of a sociolinguistic approach SLA is a recognition that non-native speakers are not ‘incomplete’ beings who are at a deficit compared to idealized native speakers (cf. Firth & Wagner 1997 for a thorough critique), but are individuals who possess a number of social identities, and these identities are dynamic (Ellis 2008: 282).
Early SLA research was also influenced by Tajfel’s (1981) theory of social identity, whereby the identity of the individual ‘derived from membership in a social group (or groups)’ (Ricento 2005: 896). Language was seen as an important marker of individual identity and group affiliation, and a change in group membership might mean subtractive bilingualism, or even language erosion (Giles & Johnson 1987). However, since the 1990s, SLA research has tended to consider the process, rather than the product of language learning, viewing language learning as an inherently complex phenomenon. Norton Pierce’s (1995) study of investment in language learning among migrant women in Canada, and her seminal monograph (Norton 2000), called for greater attention to the role of identity, and issues such as ethnicity, gender roles, power relations, and the ‘right to speak’ (Bourdieu 1977) in the language development of the L2 learner, particularly in the migrant context. Other qualitative approaches to sociolinguistic SLA have focused on the idea of a ‘language identity’: ‘the assumed and/or attributed relationship between one’s sense of self and a means of communication which might be known as a language (e.g. English) a dialect (e.g. Geordie) or a sociolect (e.g. football-speak)’ (Block 2006b: 35–36).
Schecter and Bayley (1997) looked at SLA from a language socialization perspective. Their study of intergenerational language transmission ← 4 | 5 → in English-Spanish bilingual families in the US showed that the degree of orientation to the Spanish language as a vehicle for affirmation resulted in different levels of bilingualism for the children in the family. Others such as Goldstein (1996), Mendoza-Denton (2008), and the significant edited volumes by Pavlenko et al. (2001), Cook (2002), Pavlenko and Blackledge (2004), and Regan and Ní Chasaide (2010) have considered the role of identity, as well as issues of gender, ethnicity, social class, community membership, and migrant status among L2 learners in a range of contexts and in a range of locations, from the study abroad context to the foreign language classroom, to the migrant context. Such studies demonstrate the significant impact of identity of the learner and his or her relationship to the social world on the L2 learning process, but also the way in which the language learning context can profoundly affect L2 learning and use.
In terms of quantitative studies of SLA, much research has found that discrete factors, such as age, sex, length of residence etc. are inadequate for explaining language acquisition, particularly in a migratory context. Sharma (2005) looked at Indian migrants to the United States and found that participants with the most positive attitudes towards the Americanization of their speech also displayed the highest use of local phonological features. Drummond (2012) studied the acquisition of the STRUT vowel by Polish migrants in Manchester, UK, and found that increased length of residence, having a native speaker partner, and having a positive attitude towards life in Manchester, were all positively correlated with increased use of the local STRUT variant. These studies exhibit the importance of taking speaker attitudes and ideologies about language and the communities of speakers surrounding that language into account.
In a study on (ing) with Polish adolescent migrants, Meyerhoff and Schleef (2012) emphasize the fact that variables are indexical and that adolescent and adult L2 speakers do not have access to the same ‘richness of information’ about, in this case, the social meaning of (ing), nor do they possess the plasticity of children to rapidly acquire this knowledge (Meyerhoff & Schleef 2012: 405). Meyerhoff and Schleef’s work reflects the more recent shift within sociolinguistic SLA from finding systematicity in the erroneous nature of learners’ interlanguage (e.g. Dickerson 1975), to an interest in how non-native speakers’ beliefs about ← 5 | 6 → language (or their language identity), their sociolinguistic and pragmatic competence, and processability issues such as phonological constraints and L1 transfer, interact.
Transnationalism, borders and migration
Contexts for the study of language variation, contact and change have been shifting in recent years, reflecting global trends of migration, mobility and globalization. Blommaert (2010) comments on the complexity of this endeavour and writes that although globalization may have simplified matters in terms of economics and the ‘global village’, it has rendered sociolinguistics much more dense and multifaceted: ‘Globalization forces sociolinguistics to unthink its classic distinctions and biases and to rethink itself as a sociolinguistics of mobile resources’ (Blommaert 2010: 1).
In recent decades, the very notion of an ‘immigrant’ as an individual who moves from one place (normally their country of origin) to another place (normally to settle there) has changed to the notion of a highly mobile individual. Blommaert (2010) claims that this has had an impact on urban spaces in particular: instead of migrant enclaves and neighbourhoods, where migrant groups may have traditionally settled together with others from the same country of origin, we are now witnessing the ‘diversification of diversity’ or ‘superdiversity’ (Vertovec 2006). This is a process of multilayering of ethnicities, religions, age groups, labour market experience and, crucially, languages.
Superdiversity can result in a ‘messy marketplace’ (Blommaert 2010: 28), whereby the political economy of languages shifts constantly due to mobility. It no longer suffices to say that mobile individuals are ‘bilingual’ or ‘multilingual’, as this presumes that the speaker has a fixed and more or less unchanging repertoire of complete and separate languages, e.g. English, French, German, etc. Instead there has been a call for a focus on ‘resources’ rather than languages (Blommaert 2010: 28); an individual’s linguistic repertoire should be considered as a constellation of linguistic skills, such as ← 6 | 7 → awareness of register, variety and accent, as well as competence in literacy, etc. Whereas in traditional SLA research, this may be referred to in terms of deficiency or ‘partial competence’, Blommaert challenges this notion and terms the competence of these mobile individuals a ‘truncated repertoire’ (Blommaert 2010: 103).
Jørgensen (2008) reconceptualizes the idea of the truncated repertoire and terms these language practices (of migrant youths in particular) ‘polylingualism’ or ‘polylanguaging’ (Jørgensen 2008: 161). He describes polylanguaging as a process of individuals combining features of different languages, ‘whatever linguistic features are at their disposal’ to create meaning in their complex, polycultural lifeworlds (Jørgensen 2008: 163).
Meyerhoff and Niedzielski (2010) use economic theories of globalization, e.g. the spread of global market trends, to draw parallels with the spread of linguistic innovation. They claim that globalized diffusion can be nuanced and specific, both to the linguistic variable and to the context. A variant may on the surface appear diffused from one context to another; however, the similarities in form may not mirror similarities in function. Along the way, a variant may become localized, indigenized or reinterpreted in different communities of practice. The constraints on the variable may differ, or may take on a different indexical meaning than its original meaning. Their study reflects the constant interplay between the local and the global, which is a recurrent theme in this volume.
In sum, it can be said that changing practices and processes in globalization and migration have profoundly impacted the context in which sociolinguistic and SLA scholarship is being developed. A key overarching theme, however, is the notion of identity and the role this plays in understanding language at the broadest of levels. This edited volume brings together the key themes of language, identity and migration and all seventeen authors show these themes to be strongly embedded within their research, where they constantly overlap and interact. For this reason, the volume is not divided into sub-sections or headings, but rather each chapter is viewed as contributing to these central themes, albeit from very different theoretical and methodological standpoints and in a wide variety of social and geographic contexts, from Ireland to Eritrea, and from the language learning classroom to the migrant context. It is hoped that the research presented ← 7 | 8 → in this volume will be of interest not only to an academic community, but that it may have an impact on the wider social sphere, such as in the field of language planning and policy, where these themes are also at the forefront of a variety of decision-making processes.
Introduction to the volume
Chapter 2 of this volume, ‘Multivoiced Identities’, by Smyth, explores the notion of self and identity in discourse. Her case study focuses on Russian-speaking migrants living in Ireland and their positioning of self in the context of their shared Soviet past and post-Soviet present, which they are renegotiating as migrants in another country. Relying on Hermans’ theory of the dialogical self, Smyth explores the idea of a ‘multivoiced’ identity, which is expressed through the multiple positionings of I in both monolingual and multilingual discourse. Smyth argues that I provides a locus for both individual identity (memory, experience, desire) and a we, a shared social identity which is in the making, resulting in ‘[…] a highly textured picture of the operations that link the way we position ourselves in dialogue to the way we position ourselves (and are positioned) in culture’. Smyth calls for Ireland as a host community to admit migrants into a ‘chorus of voices’, whereby a threshold is crossed from a dichotomy of I and we to a shared, collective identity of we-here-in Ireland. She thus calls for a reinterpretation of identity on the basis of nationality to the context of a shared lived experience.
Chapter 3, entitled ‘Debunking the Myth of Poland’s Monoculturality’, by Bidzińska, provides an argument for the reconceptualization of Poland in popular discourse from a monocultural society, to one which is and always has been a multicultural, multi-ethnic society due to migrating peoples and shifting state borders. Using historical and linguistic evidence, she demonstrates that the concepts of culture and nationhood are transient and ephemeral, and that migration is integral to the fabric of the state. ← 8 | 9 →
The next three chapters of this volume gradually move toward localized contexts of L2 learning and use, particularly in cases where the age of the learner has traditionally been relevant. In Chapter 4, ‘Age and Identity’, Skrzypek and Singleton consider the relationship between age and identity in language learning, particularly in the migrant context. Exploring concepts such as the linguistico-cultural identity of the learner and the ethnolinguistic vitality of the L2 community, Skrzypek and Singleton describe the complexity and multidimensionality of the age factor in SLA research.
In Chapter 5, ‘Foreign Language Learning in the Secondary School: Identities and Ideologies’, Martyn takes an alternative approach to the language learning context. She starts by identifying the ‘gender gap’ in foreign language education in Ireland, whereby girls consistently choose foreign language subjects in school more than boys, and also tend to outperform them in those subjects. Martyn calls for a ‘localized interpretation’ of this phenomenon by focusing on communities of practice within a west of Ireland secondary school. Taking an ethnographic approach, she describes the way in which two participants position themselves within their peer groups, negotiating their social identities as ‘outsiders’, and how this positioning is reflected in their ideologies about language, and about the foreign language learning process.
In Chapter 6, entitled ‘Giving Voice to the Experiences of Children of Immigrants in Ireland: An Exploratory Study of Language, Identity and Emotional Well-Being’, Hoare examines multilingualism and multiculturalism among children in mid-childhood. As well as shedding light on issues such as code-switching and ethnolinguistic identity, Hoare provides a detailed discussion of alternative methodologies for qualitative research and outlines how focus group discussions can be rendered more participatory and exploratory by engaging children in creative and engaging tasks such as physical activity, artwork, free writing and journaling. Hoare argues that this ‘lifeworld’ approach to discourse repositions her participants as ‘experiencing subjects’ rather than ‘objects of research’.
Chapter 7 of this volume also considers the young L2 user, in this case in the foreign language classroom. In her chapter entitled ‘Attitudes and Identity in the French Multicultural Foreign Language Classroom in Ireland: Case Studies’, Pagès considers the identity of the language learner ← 9 | 10 → of a migrant background in two case studies of adolescent students of French in an Irish secondary school. Drawing upon Norton Pierce’s (1995) notion of target language investment, Pagès conducts a qualitative analysis of interviews with and classroom observation of two male adolescent learners: Igor and Marmoud. Through these case studies, Pagès demonstrates how language attitudes, language learning motivation, and target language investment are mediated by complex learner identity processes.
The next four chapters in this volume take migration as the context for sociolinguistic analysis. In Chapter 8, ‘Language, Identity and Social Class Among Polish Migrants in Ireland’, Kobiałka takes a quantitative, variationist approach to SLA and identity. Kobiałka situates her study by outlining a phenomenon characteristic of more recent global migration, whereby migrants have to contend with working in jobs that are not commensurate with their level of education, in exchange for more attractive opportunities for employment and a higher standard of living in another country. Kobiałka describes how this ‘status inconsistency’ may have implications for SLA. By focusing on Polish migrants’ acquisition of the local Dublin local phonological system, she shows that migrants experiencing high levels of status inconsistency are less likely to accommodate to features of Dublin English, thus dissociating themselves from their redefined placement in the social order. She argues that it is not always low L2 proficiency that is an obstacle in language acquisition, but that social identity also plays a crucial role. This, she argues, can have implications for how we view the process of integration of migrants.
While Chapters 9 and 10 also take migration as their focal point of analysis, the methodologies differ somewhat to that outlined in Kobiałka’s chapter. In Kircher’s chapter, ‘Montreal’s Multilingual Migrants: Social Identities and Language Attitudes After the Proposition of the Quebec Charter of Values’, she makes use of a questionnaire-based study to gain insight into the attitudes of Montrealers towards language and identity in the wake of the proposal of the Quebec Charter of Values, which was to prohibit religious symbols in the public sector. While in previous research, Kircher found a strong sense of civic identity in Montreal, both among native Montrealers and those of migrant descent, she now finds that those of a migrant background evaluate the English language more positively than ← 10 | 11 → they did previously. Kircher argues, in a similar vein to Martyn (above) that local ideologies concerning identity and group membership can be projected onto ideologies about language. Thus, negative evaluations of the French language can be indicative of negative evaluations of the province of Quebec, and its future as a French-speaking province.
Chapter 10 by Leung and Lee, entitled ‘Chinese But Not Chinese? A Case Study of Identity in Post-Colonial Hong Kong’, also makes use of a questionnaire-based methodology to examine language attitudes and ethnolinguistic identity in Hong Kong. Focusing their study on three generations of Hong Kongers, they aim to discover whether societal changes, such as the ‘handover’ of Hong Kong to China from Britain, or more recent upheavals, such as the Occupy Central Protest/Umbrella Movement in 2014, have affected Hong Kongers’ positionings of identity. The questionnaire data revealed little difference between generations and an overall ambivalence in terms of identity. However, the authors’ follow-up ethnographic methods, which included interviewing participants at the Occupy Central protests, indicated that Hong Kongers view their identity and language as under threat from mainland China. The authors frequently identified negative identity practices, whereby Hong Kongers are concerned with identifying as not Chinese. This study contributes to the debate on the effects of globalization and superdiversity on ethnic identity and ethnolinguistic vitality. The authors conclude that ‘identity is not a monolithic construct’ and that a poststructuralist approach is a best fit to understanding identity practices in the complex socio-political context of Hong Kong.
Chapter 11 of this volume, Diskin’s ‘Standard Language Ideologies in Multicultural Ireland: A Case Study of Polish and Chinese Migrants in Dublin’ analyses the ideologies of the English language among migrants in a multicultural city, in light of global ideologies surrounding ‘standard English’, and in terms of local ideologies of Irish English and Dublin English. Diskin’s study demonstrates that ideologies of a ‘gold standard’ of English may no longer apply to today’s global migrants and that the concept of English as an unmarked, unaccented lingua franca may be becoming the norm.
Chapter 12 of this volume, by de Sousa Oliveira, also considers the language of migrants in the multicultural community, but in contrast ← 11 | 12 → to Diskin’s chapter (above), this chapter presents a study of established migrant communities. Entitled ‘Intergenerational Language Transmission and Brazilian Language Diversity: A Study of the Polish Community in Mallet-Parana, Brazil’, this chapter discusses the linguistic and cultural practices of the Polish community in the state of Paraná, Brazil, and the way in which descendants of Polish migrants to Brazil, who migrated between 1860 and 1914, maintain their language and cultural traditions. Through observation and interviews with participants of all age groups, de Sousa Oliveira found that her respondents still identify as Polish, and that they attempt to maintain their linguistic and cultural identities through institutions such as the church and Polish schools.
Chapter 13 by Uí Chollatáin, entitled ‘Thall is Abhus 1860–1930: The Revival Process and the Journalistic Web between Ireland and North America’, looks at identity and migration from a historical perspective. Uí Chollatáin focuses on Irish language Revivalist press, both in America and in Ireland, and argues that while periodicals of the time reflected a here/there distinction, whereby Irish migrants to America were viewed as being ‘there’ and ‘away’ (thall is abhus), the periodicals were also instrumental in the creation of a shared, transatlantic identity, which created a new ‘language world’ for Irish speakers. Uí Chollatáin examines the stances and positionings of different revivalist publications and shows that while for some, the endeavour constituted a ‘preservation project’, for others it was viewed as the opportunity to reinstate a shared identity, which would ‘supplement rather than burden’ changing notions of Irish language identity as affected by migratory flows.
The final chapter details a study that contextually differs from what has been presented to date in this volume. Hailemariam, Ogbay and White’s chapter ‘Mediating between Traffickers and their Victims: The Effects of Mobility and Mobile Technology on Language Use and Identity’ explores the role of mobile phone technology in the trafficking of Eritreans to the Sinai Peninsula. Through the analysis of transcripts of recorded phone conversations between traffickers and mediators, the authors demonstrate that despite the dearth of contextual information for researchers in such cases, sociolinguistic and discourse analyses may be applied to recordings and transcripts with potentially significant results. This chapter analyses ← 12 | 13 → how, in spite of limited information about the context in which the trafficking occurs, the concepts of ‘framing’ and ‘re-framing’ (Wine 2008) may be used in order to identify the position of the trafficker in relation to the efforts of the mediator. This chapter represents new directions in the study of language, migration and identity, and demonstrates how sociolinguistic and language and migration research models may be applied to issues concerning human rights. ← 13 | 14 →
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- Language identity transnationalism migration
- Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. VI, 414 pp.