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Language, Identity and Community

von Kamila Ciepiela (Band-Herausgeber:in)
©2019 Sammelband 254 Seiten
Reihe: Łódź Studies in Language, Band 62


The book brings to the fore the issue of collective identity and analyzes it from the linguistic perspective. Addressing the problem, the authors demonstrate ways in which the language we use in everyday life enables us to construct and perform in a flexible and context-bound manner the sense of our belonging in a community. They offer some rich data and present strong arguments in favor of qualitative methodologies for research in the field. Drawing on numerous interactional settings, and amongst different communities, the contributors shed new light on how our language practices and non-verbal behaviors mold our collective identities.


  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • List of Contributors
  • Language: The Mirror and the Means of Collective Identification
  • Identity Construction of Non-Native Academics in Japanese Universities1
  • Testimony as Identity
  • Place-Attachment as a Master Narrative in the Interviews of Shi’i Muslim Women in the Diaspora1
  • Malaysian Students’ Identity in Seminars: Malaysian English
  • Behind Adventure Stories. R. L. Stevenson’s Kidnapped and Catriona as Narratives of Identity
  • Translocal Spaces and Identities
  • Gender Differences in Identity Construction of Polish Migrants to the UK
  • A Consideration of Imposed Identities
  • A Musician Abroad: Linguistic Challenges in Establishing a Musician Identity
  • Subjectification and Spanish Community’s Identity
  • Desirable Personality Traits of Foreign Language Learners Promoted in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
  • Identity and the EFL Classroom in the Sign Language Context
  • Identity Negotiation in Cultural and Pedagogical Contexts: Institutional Possibilities for Selfhood
  • Does the Self Writing Lead to Personal Change?
  • Co-constructing and Re-constructing Self
  • A Working Identity: Pre-professional Status in Nursing and the Ethics of Care
  • Subject Index

List of Contributors

Zayneb E. S. Al-Bundawi

Cardiff University, UK; Al-Mustansiriyah University, Iraq

Rob Anderson

Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy

Dominika Baran

Duke University, USA

Andrew Barke

Kansai University, Japan

Anne Bruehler

Indiana Wesleyan University, USA

Kamila Ciepiela

University of Łódź, Poland

Elena Faccio

University of Padova, Italy

Aleksandra Gajda

University of Łódź, Poland

Amanda J. Haste

National Coalition of Independent Scholars, France

Zurina Khairuddin

University of Sussex, UK; Sultan Zainal Abidin University, Malaysia

Iga Maria Lehman

University of Social Sciences, Warsaw, Poland

James Moir

Abertay University, UK

Katarzyna Maria Nosidlak

Pedagogical University of Cracow, Poland

Joanna Pawelczyk

Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland

Rosemary A. Reader

Kyushu University, Japan

Aleksandra Sokalska-Bennett

Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland

Izabela Szymańska

University of Warsaw, Poland

Francesca Turco

University of Padova, Italy

Ewa Urbaniak

University of Łódź, Poland

Iwona Witczak-Plisiecka

University of Łódź, Poland

Katarzyna Wojtanik

University of Łódź, Poland

Kamila Ciepiela

Language: The Mirror and the Means of Collective Identification

In today’s globalized and digitized world, society is subject to constant change and so is human identity. Instead of being viewed as something that people receive and possess, identity is seen “as constructed in discourse, as negotiated among speaking subjects in social contexts, and as emerging in the form of subjectivity and a sense of self” (Bamberg et al., 2011, p. 178). Moreover, the significance of collective identities has been questioned, which might be a consequence of the general shift in the way identity is construed in postmodern research. Rather than being characterized by a social category and group belonging, people are seen as having the flexibility to opt out of group identity, to shift identities depending on context, and to agentively select or resist social categorization and group membership.

Nevertheless, the difficulty in sustaining collective identities does not mean that a sense of collective belonging has stopped being important. Given this fluidity of group identity and the possibility of multiple intersecting social identities, a pending issue is: ‘How do individuals come to see themselves as a collective?’ To address this problem, the contributors to this volume move away “from viewing the person as self-contained, having identity […] toward focusing instead on the processes in which identity is done or made—as constructed in discursive activities” (Bamberg et al., 2011, p. 178). Hence, the papers indicate that group identity formation is a negotiated process involving strategies intended to achieve a sense of belonging and cohesion. The authors argue that collective identities take shape and gain strength through a complex social process that yields a sense of belonging and the articulation of the community. Thus, identities are socially constructed, and both macro- and micro-practices are argued to be essential components of group formation.

This collection of papers presents a range of linguistic, social and psychological approaches to collective identity, emphasizing social cognitive, performative and interactionist perspectives and research. The authors of the chapters highlight the social bases of identity, particularly identities based on ethnicity, religion, gender, occupation, institution and (dis)ability, both separately and as they intersect. They also take up identities based on space, both geographic and virtual, as ←9 | 10→well as discuss struggles over identities, organized by social inequalities, types of nationalism and social movements.

Andrew Barke discusses the issue of the internationalization of university education in Japan. Within the scope of his interest falls the way that non-native academics integrate in an educational system that has historically been treated as monolingual and monocultural. Barke anticipates that lack of competency in L2 can hinder the ability of academics to manage the construction of their professional identities, and raises questions concerning the speaker’s legitimacy, both as an academic and as a member of the workplace. The analysis of several audio recordings of discussions among non-native academics in Japan has revealed that the participants tended to position themselves and others through references to language proficiency. Thus, in addition to the construction of their professional identities as academics, they constructed their foreigner identity.

Anne Bruehler draws attention to a different aspect of identity construction in educational contexts, namely religion. She explores how first-year students at Indiana Wesleyan University use religious terminology, referred to as Christianese, to construct a particular kind of identity within the Christian college community. She argues that testimony as a genre plays an important role in the identity construction, and by examining the testimonies of six participants with the use of Swales’ (1990) rhetorical move analysis as a framework, she manages to successfully present how stories of conversion and transformation are used to construct and index membership in the Christian community at the tertiary education institution.

The title of the paper by Zayneb Al-Bundawi contains a quote, “I always say, if they give me a mansion in Baghdad and for free, I won’t leave (Karbala),” excerpted from a text produced by a participant in Zayneb Al-Bundawi’s research, Asma. This quote is indicative of the author’s aim to construe place attachment as constitutive of identity. In particular, Zayneb Al-Bundawi investigates how a master narrative of ‘place-attachment’ is used by Asma (a PhD student from Karbala at Cardiff University) as a marker of identity within the diasporic population. In a sense, this paper is similar to the one by Bruehler, as they both touch upon religion as a marker of identity. Yet, Zayneb Al-Bundawi shows how religious texts and practices related to the Muharram rituals are employed to develop and maintain ‘place-identity,’ which becomes more prominent than either professional or educational aspects of identity. Place becomes a metonym of all the experiences of the majales and of everything that is related to Hussein (the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad). Hence, place-identity no longer carries the characteristics of space alone but stands for everything that relates to the socialization of an individual in that place.

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Zurina Khairuddin investigates the performance of national identity in academic contexts, hypothesizing that national identity could be an aspect of academic identity intentionally employed by interactants to signal it. In her paper, “Malaysian Students’ Identity in Seminars: Malaysian English”, she focuses on code-switching as an identity index employed by Malaysian students in academic environments in the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Her study reveals that the varied patterns of language use and code-switching employed by Malaysian students are subject to change in situational and cultural contexts. In particular, she finds that the Malaysian students construct and negotiate their national and ethnic identity of students by code-mixing between Malay and Malaysian English in the United Kingdom when talking to other Malaysian students, and adopt Standard English when interacting with their tutors. In contrast, the context of Malaysian seminars encourages the use of Malaysian English regardless of the ethnicity or academic position of the interlocutor.

Code-switching, termed as linguistic polyphony, is also the focus of Izabela Szymańska’s paper “Behind Adventure Stories. R. L. Stevenson’s Kidnapped and Catriona as Narratives of Identity” in which she emphasizes interpretive possibilities of the original text that may arise from its linguistic polyphony. She argues that Stevenson’s adventure stories should be interpreted as political novels and narratives about discovering complexities of identity. Stevenson is claimed to consciously use the genre of adventure story to interweave into his novels his vision of difficult Scottish history and heterogeneous Scottish society; by doing so, he also makes a significant statement about Scottish identity being distinct from English or British, and one that deserves acknowledgment. The linguistic polyphony of Stevenson’s two novels is argued to be a metonymy of Scottish identity in which individual and societal multilingualism is essential.

Place and time, as well as language and religion are also argued to be constitutive aspects of discursive identities in a paper by Dominika Baran. Drawing on Meinhof and Galasiński’s (2005) concept of the ‘language of belonging’, she explores the shifting positions and stances that the participants of her study take with respect to nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, and family when they share narratives of belonging on Facebook. She shows the way the women invoke and reinterpret shared memories of their life in Italy and subsequent experiences of immigration to the United States, Canada, and Australia, and how these shared stories become a resource of co-producing a new group identity. Baran’s paper also highlights the role of language in constructing and maintaining a translocal and transnational community formed online. She argues for a privileged role of English as the language needed for transnational online communication, as well as the primary language of internet use for the participants of the study.

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The aspects of identity that fall within the focus of the paper by Aleksandra Gajda and Kamila Ciepiela are gender and nationality performed in online communities. Having analyzed over thirty posts published by Polish migrants to the UK on social media, the authors present certain tendencies in the construal of national identity by the two sexes. Their analysis reveals that Polish males tend to foreground their national identity rather than other collective identities, and that they also appear to demonstrate their national membership more frequently than females by referring to Polish symbols, traditions and history. In contrast, in posts written by female subjects, their gender identity prevails and inheres in their making identification with their compatriots, whom they tend to nurture. In the context of another culture, females frequently feel lost and in need of help, yet they are ready to accept a helping hand from ‘the other’ and more often than not relate and affiliate with the new culture. Males make stronger and direct affiliations with their native culture and disaffiliate from the culture of the host country.

The issue of identity ascription and imposition is further considered by Rosemary Reader who analyses the comments of three articles from the Daily Mail. The articles are concerned with the issue of migration, and Reader looks at the labels that migrants to Europe are referred to. She makes a claim that the term ‘migrant’ has negative connotations, and overrides other divisions of personal or group identities. Her analysis of the articles and their comments reveals that media enforce identities upon people, in a way that weakens or wipes out other facets of their personal identity in the eyes of others. This leads her to the conclusion that personal construction of identity can be unique to the individual, yet imposed identities may have negative effects on them, be it short or long-term, and personal or political.

Amanda Haste draws on her own life experience of a British musician living in France to explore the issue of musician identity. Viewing language as an “emblem of groupness” (Edwards, 2013, p. 55), she focuses on the disruption of self-image due to miscommunication in an intercultural environment. She notes that language problems lead to an inability to communicate among musicians about their shared experience of music, as well as leading to cultural miscommunication, which, in turn, results in defining the individual as ‘the other’ and the disruption of a musician self-image. She concludes that this “meta-identity as a musician” (Haste, this volume) is as crucial an aspect of the sense of self as gender or nationality.

Likewise, the importance of language as a mirror and a resource of identity construction is emphasized by Ewa Urbaniak. Her paper focusing on the process of grammatical subjectification in Spanish, aims to present the way identities ←12 | 13→are codified in the linguistic system. She argues that the values that have been grammaticalized in the Spanish language must be important for this particular language community and reflect their identity. Having analyzed several examples from the corpus of oral Spanish, she concludes that there are two basic values of utmost importance to the Spanish community, namely (i) the interest in the interlocutor and their reactions, and (ii) the reduction of a pragmatic distance between the interlocutors. These values are overtly codified in the grammatical system of the Spanish language and thus reflect the community’s identity.

A reverse perspective on the language-identity relationship is taken by Katarzyna Nosidlak, who claims that the personality of an individual plays a key role in the process of foreign language learning. Recognizing the influential role of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) on the area of foreign language pedagogy, Nosidlak examines its text in order to find references to the personality of the language learner. The analysis enables her to point to three groups of traits that are promoted in the text: cooperation, adaptation and intercultural traits. Hence a foreign language learner’s personality profile that transpires from the CEFR includes tolerance, respect, openness to experience, sociability, communicativeness, independence in thought and actions, responsibility for oneself and others, friendliness and helpfulness. This seems to confirm the thesis that certain personality traits are believed to facilitate foreign language learning and thus they are promoted in the European Union countries.


ISBN (Hardcover)
2019 (Juni)
group membership language in use sociolinguistic variation discourse practices otherness verbal / nonverbal interaction
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 250 pp., 6 fig. b/w, 13 tables

Biographische Angaben

Kamila Ciepiela (Band-Herausgeber:in)

Kamila Ciepiela is Associate Professor at the Institute of English Studies, University of Łódź, Poland. Her research interests span issues of the self and identity and how the two are embedded and realized in different discourse practices. She is the initiator of the biennial conference series »Personal Identity through a Language Lens.«


Titel: Language, Identity and Community