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Negotiating Linguistic Identity

Language and Belonging in Europe

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Edited By Virve-Anneli Vihman and Kristiina Praakli

This volume addresses the themes of language, identity and linguistic politics in Europe. The twelve essays draw on approaches and methodologies from a range of disciplines, from sociolinguistics and contact linguistics to cultural history, psychology and policy studies. Together, they offer a collection of views on how language, society and identity are perceived to be connected. These issues are of particular importance in Europe, where the nation-building project is often paired with a linguistically based notion of social identity.
However, historical forces including shifting borders, economically and politically motivated mobility and changing political regimes have led to more complex national identities and more nuanced approaches to the role of language. Both historical developments and contemporary sociolinguistic contexts are investigated in the book, including the presence of multilingual communities and minority language communities. The volume makes a significant and timely contribution to our understanding of the linguistic landscape of today’s Europe.

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Self-Representation and Belonging

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John E. Joseph Indexing and Interpreting Language, Identities and Face 1. Identities and language Identities, whether of an individual or of a community, are not a given. They have to be forged – created, transmitted, reproduced, performed – textually and semiotically. Language being the ultimate semiotic system, every identity ideally wants a language of its own. Not a wholly new lan- guage, but at least some segment of the vocabulary that insiders can use to distinguish themselves from outsiders. Over the last two decades a strand of research has emerged in linguis- tics that is concerned with how languages function as more than cognitive systems, and texts as more than interpretable squiggles on a page. (For a survey of the earlier literature on language and identity, see Joseph 2004; and subsequently, Bucholtz and Hall 2005; Benwell and Stokoe 2006; De Fina et al. 2006; Block 2007; Mendoza-Denton 2008; Edwards 2009; Llamas and Watt 2010; Heller 2011; Clark 2013). Languages and texts are so fundamental to our day-to-day interactions with others that it is easy to take them for granted, and to imagine that they are simply tools for con- veying ideas. In reality, our very sense of who we are, where we belong and why, and how we relate to those around us, all have language at their centre. The recognition of this deep linkage of languages and texts with iden- tity – national, ethnic and religious on the grand scale, but operating no less crucially on more local levels – unites a wide...

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