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19. Language and Identity


Subject Linguistics » Sociolinguistics

Key-Topics ethnicity

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631211938.1998.00021.x


The language spoken by somebody and his or her identity as a speaker of this language are inseparable: This is surely a piece of knowledge as old as human speech itself. Language acts are acts of identity (Le Page and Tabouret-Keller, 1985). The Greeks identified as non-Greek those whose speech sounded to them like barbarbar and called them barbarians ; in 1978, in a field interview in Belize, an independent state since 1976 after a long period under British rule as British Honduras, the following dialogue took place: DR (the schoolboy interviewed): “Well, I would say I'm a Belizean, too. Co … Because erm, born in Belize, you know, I got to know about Belize a bit in history. An’originally, everybody called themselves Belizean, so I call myself a Belizean.” LeP (the interviewer): “How do you recognize another Belizean?” DR: “Well, usually in Belize you find the language, the main language you know is this slang that I tell you about, the Creole. And you'd recognize them by that, you know. They usually have this, you know, very few of them speak the English or some of them usually speak Spanish.” (Le Page and Tabouret-Keller, 1985: 216) The two semantic fields of the verb identify are illustrated: In the first case, language is taken as an external behavior allowing the identification of a speaker as a member of some group, as in the case of non-Greeks identified by Greeks as ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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