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Language and Belonging

Local Categories and Practices in a Guatemalan Highland Community


Rita Vallentin

In this book, the author introduces belonging from a sociolinguistic perspective as a concept that is accomplished in interaction. Belonging can be expressed linguistically in social, spatial and temporal categories – indexing rootedness, groupness and cohesion. It can also be captured through shared linguistic practices within a group, e.g. collectively shared narrative practices. Using conversation analysis and an analysis of narrative as practice bolstered with ethnographic knowledge, the author shows how belonging is tied to locally contextualized use of deictics and to collectively shared narrations of the past in a Guatemalan community. The book examines the understudied phenomenon of belonging at the intersection of pragmatics and linguistic anthropology.

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5. Data Collection and Processing


In this chapter I will introduce the methods of collection, processing and analysis of the data. All three steps of data handling are a process of data selection by the researcher. The type and quality of data collection depends on the kind of access the researcher has to the community. It further depends on what data she deems relevant for her research question – in this case, establishing and negotiating belonging. In this chapter, I will elaborate on where, when and how I carried out the data collection and how the spoken data was transcribed. In the first sections of this chapter (5.1, 5.1.1 and 5.1.2), the research field is described in terms of population, its geographical location and the social relations of its inhabitants. In section 5.1.3, the organizations and projects of the community are briefly introduced. The process of relating to the community’s inhabitants and approaching the data collection in the field are presented as an ethnographic account in section 5.2. My own relations to the community members as a participant observer and their consequences for my fieldwork are illuminated in section 5.3. The corpus is introduced in detail in section 5.4, focusing on narrative accounts within the interviews (5.4.1), narrative accounts for visitors (5.4.2), other interactions with outsiders (5.4.3) and community interactions (5.4.4). The chapter concludes with an outline of my choice of data transcription and selection (5.5).

5.1. The Field

In order to understand the narratives of the community and how...

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