NWAV take 2: constructional identity

I’m not a sociolinguist, although some of the work I do overlaps quite a bit with what some sociolinguists do (and that was what I was talking about there). A few things jumped out, and one was on how ‘identity’ is used.

I was surprised by the way in which the concept of ‘identity’ was used by a number of the speakers. In perhaps a majority of the talks, ‘identity’ is something which is primarily constructed. It is a set of choices, a set of categories which people choose to participate in or not, and which they mark by certain linguistic features.

This strikes me as problematic. Firstly, it’s predicated on a certain type of social mobility, which isn’t true of all cultures. Secondly, it’s predicated on us being able to separate intent from action, which is also quite a sticky prospect. And finally, it seems to ignore the rather obvious point that identity is *also* constructed for us and projected onto us (stereotyping being one form of this).  Something more could also be said, perhaps, about the extent to which speakers are willing participants in the construction of their identity.

I’m sure all of this has been gone into (e.g. in the linguistic anthropology literature) but it would have been good to see a little more nuance in some of the studies — although I know I’m asking a lot for a 20 minute talk!

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2 responses to “NWAV take 2: constructional identity

  1. Hey Yapa. Have you heard what’s happening here in the NT with Bilingual schools? looks like they’ll be closing next year because of the 4-hours of English rule. Don’t know what Milingimbi mob feel about the whole thing but there’s quite a few letters and a bit of lobbying happening. I’m guessing that you’d be supportive of the bilingual programs – if so, any contribution or awareness-raising you could do would be great.

    Bilin,

    Wawa nhungu.

  2. Hi Wäwa, I’m sending something to the Chief Minister- I’ll post it here.

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