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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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6.4 Tactics of intersubjectivity – adequation and distinction


Having analyzed the distribution of plural pronouns (“we” vs. “they”) as well as the use of conceptual means (CMA, CMO), I will now consider the tactics of adequation and distinction observed in the interviews.

As a central component of the methodological triangulation applied here, the analysis of tactics of intersubjectivity provides additional information on the informants’ degree of ethnic orientation. However, just as self-positionings can be distorted in certain contexts (see pages 111–112), discursive constructions of sameness (adequation) and difference (distinction) do not always reflect the actual sense of belonging of speakers. Therefore, they must be analyzed in relation to the storylines established in the interviews and be measured against the speakers’ biographies. When speakers employ adequation with or distinction from social groups, they do not only suggest identity (as for example by means of a specific pronunciation or vocabulary) but make explicit statements on (non-)membership of these groups. As a consequence, the tactics of adequation and distinction are nothing more than positionings of self and other (cf. Bucholtz and Hall, 2005: 586). What renders the tactics of intersubjectivity significant for the analysis of identity construction is the fact that they only consider the speakers’ identification with particular social groups (e.g. culture, gender, sexual orientation, profession), as opposed to the speakers’ personal identity, which is the speakers’ self-awareness as a unique individual. ← 152 | 153 →


Before examining the interview data, I presumed that, corresponding to earlier studies on identity development...

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