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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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7. Narrating as a Local Practice of Belonging


This part of the book will examine the stories told by the community members about the development of the community as it was during the time of the interviews in 2009. An analysis of the narratives about the transformation of the community is fruitful for local constructions of belonging in two ways. First, we can look at the emergence of spatial, temporal and social categories within the course of the stories, how the narrators draw connections between these categories and establish certain positions towards and with them. Second, we can look at the narrative practices themselves – more specifically, how speakers structure their story and the linguistic means of introducing and negotiating aforementioned categories and positions.

The aim of this section is to show, on the one hand, the diversity of the thirty stories that were elicited in the interviews, or which participants told of their own accord. On the other hand, I want to highlight what they have in common and how telling the community story should be analyzed as a “performance of commonality” (Pfaff-Czarnecka, 2011, 201). Shared features of the story can be found on two levels in this corpus. Some of the narratives share certain features in the way of telling within structure, use of categories or positionings. These narratives are grouped into certain types of narrations in section 7.2. We will look at one or more examples of the narratives from each type in detail, focusing on their most prominent and type-defining features...

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