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Discursive Construction of Bicultural Identity

A Cross-Generational Sociolinguistic Study on Oromo-Americans in Minnesota


Oromiya-Jalata Deffa

The author examines the cultural identity development of Oromo-Americans in Minnesota, an ethnic group originally located within the national borders of Ethiopia. Earlier studies on language and cultural identity have shown that the degree of ethnic orientation of minorities commonly decreases from generation to generation. Yet oppression and a visible minority status were identified as factors delaying the process of de-ethnicization. Given that Oromos fled persecution in Ethiopia and are confronted with the ramifications of a visible minority status in the U.S., it can be expected that they have retained strong ties to their ethnic culture. This study, however, came to a more complex and theory-building result.
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5. Quantitative data analysis


5.1 Indexicality: pronoun analysis and identification

Before I start discussing the results of the pronoun analysis, I want to briefly recall issues of using pronouns in a constructionist framework. Despite the advantage of pronouns over other linguistic means given their indexical relationship to reference groups, the use of pronouns remains context-sensitive. Against the backdrop that identities are co-constructed by interlocutors (see section 3.2), the use of pronouns always depends on the conversational topic and whom a speaker is talking to. Accordingly, it must be assumed that the pronoun distribution in the interviews would have differed if somebody else had conducted them. A quantitative calculation of pronouns as fixed values for correlation analyses, thus, would have been a positivist undertaking.

However, it is unlikely that informants claim themselves as members of groups to whom they do not feel connected in some way. If we assume that a sense of belonging – to a certain extent – is the precondition for the use of the first-person plural pronoun “we”, the analysis of the contexts in which the pronouns are used must be precisely assessed. For that purpose, both the conditions under which the conversation took place as well as the narrative context in which pronouns were embedded need to be taken into account. While the analysis of pronoun reference relative to the narrative context is always subject to interpretation, the conversational context (i.e. setting, interlocutors, topic, power relations etc.) provides important indications as to the groups the speakers...

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