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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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9. Summary and Discussion


In the last three chapters I have shown how social and local belonging is established in different interactional contexts with community outsiders. In this discussion, I will conclude by bringing together four analytical core principles: First, I will scrutinize the spatial, social and temporal categories the speakers make relevant in all of the interactional contexts that are taken into account in this book. Second, I will focus on the references of the deictic terms chosen to express categorical belonging. Third, the positionings that speakers repeatedly use in the narratives leading to certain metanarratives are outlined. Fourth, I will discuss the narrations themselves as a shared practice and as articulations of a “collective memory” in the community. I will close this discussion with an outlook on the concept of community of practice, and the advantages of different data for this specific analysis of belonging.

I will begin by re-examining the categories of belonging in their spatial, social and temporal dimensions. The most prominent category that appears repeatedly, partly “condensed” in specific sequences and partly used as a supplement to other spatial references, is the local adverb aquí ‘here’. Both in the workshop interaction with the trainer and in the narrative accounts of the participants, aquí is used to refer to the speakers’ and/or to the community’s local “rootedness”. In the workshop, the women employ it as an argumentative device for rejecting the ethnic category system of the trainer from the outside. At the same time it is...

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