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Discursive Constructions of Immigrant Identity

A Sociolinguistic Trend Study on Long-Term American Immigrants

Inke Du Bois

In which way can language be an indicator for cultural identity in immigration contexts? How are collective identity, social networks and the use of the inclusive pronoun ‘we’ connected? Does code-switching in additive bilingualism and first language attrition indicate a loss of home cultural identity? Designed as a longitudinal trend study, this book answers such complex questions as it investigates data collected from interviews with thirty U.S. Americans who immigrated to Germany between 1963 and 2001. On the one hand, in-depth discourse analyses take the discursive construction of identity within the sociopolitical context of Germany into account. Narrative structures, person and place deictics and code-switching are indexical for cultural identity. On the other hand, socio-demographic factors such as age at arrival, length of residence, social networks and education are relevant for the identification of the Americans and their linguistic choices. Qualitative and quantitative methods are applied and result in a synthesis of in-depth linguistic analyses and general trends of language variation within the cohort.
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Edited by Inke Du Bois and Nicole Baumgarten

The contributions in this volume shed light on lived multilingualism around the globe. A small, but still representative selection of the multitude of migrant experiences, all studies share the intertwining of geographical mobility and non-mainstream linguistic practices which serves as a resource of agency and promotes alternative multiple identities of the immigrant speakers. This volume is based on the two core tenets of sociolinguistic identity research. First, it accepts the idea that identities or sub-identities are in a sense pre-given and can be formulated through membership categories. Second, identities are viewed as being enacted and performed, thus constituting social realities. In the social construction of identity, national and linguistic boundaries dissolve. The originating countries of the participants (and/or their ancestors) in the studies of this volume include Argentina, Ethiopia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Morocco, the Phillipines, Korea, Kazakhstan, Suriname and India. The countries of immigration include Germany, the USA, Israel, France and the Netherlands.