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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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8. Excursus


Before weaving the results of the analytical parts together in chapter 9, I want to complement the qualitative perspective on the data with two other approaches that further illuminate categories and practices of belonging and their relation to specific language use. In excursus I (8.1), a corpus-based and quantitatively informed analysis exploring occurrences of aquí and acá will elucidate their meaning not only in terms of local reference, but also in terms of an indicator for belonging. Excursus II (8.2) amplifies the discussion on categories and practices of belonging by further investigating the regimes, i.e. the collective norms and values that are manifest in specific practices in the community. By reference to one example of exclusion from the community, boundaries of belonging become observable.

8.1. Excursus I: Grounding Belonging in the Local Adverb aquí

Chapter 6 has shown that ‘being born’ in or ‘being from’ a place is the main category of belonging the community women use in the workshop interaction. The place is either referenced via geographic-administrative specifications like ‘Palmar’, ‘Palmar Quetzaltenango/Xela’ or the local adverb aquí. In the interviews, and especially in the narrative parts at the beginning of the interviews, this local deictic appears surprisingly frequently, often almost condensed and repeated in specific sequences. One example of this condensed use of aquí in the narrative at the beginning of the interview can be found in Maria’s story, analyzed in section 7.4.1. Beyond the occurrences of aquí in the narratives that I...

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