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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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10. Conclusion and Prospects


In this book I have analyzed, discussed and theoretically underpinned how belonging is achieved in interaction in a Guatemalan highland community. To establish a theoretical understanding of how the concept of belonging is fruitful in the specific context of this case, I thoroughly discussed its relation to the concept of identity in chapter 2. I also examined how belonging is currently conceptualized in its different relations to place, social position, regimes and time. I concluded the theoretical chapter by defining belonging as encompassing both belonging to certain spatial, social or temporal categories, and belonging with a group, a place or a time. This conceptualization was further elaborated in chapter 3, in which I explore an understanding of belonging as something “done” and achieved by speakers with the means of language. This chapter also put forward that the means for achieving belonging can be similar across a group of speakers forming a community of practice. Chapter 4 then set out how to trace the linguistically achieved categories and practices of belonging in spoken data, focusing specifically on the merits of membership categorization and conversation analysis, positioning analysis and finally the analysis of narratives as a form of language practice. The chapter on data collection and data processing provided a more detailed description of the community focusing on its current organization and economic links, as well as the compilation of the spoken data corpus. As this was an ethnographically grounded data collection, chapter 5 also gave special emphasis to the...

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