Shifts in linguistic identities in a global world
Language diversity and the necessity of communicating across language boundaries have almost naturally fostered a desire to learn the languages of one’s neighbors, the languages of the playground and/or the languages of the market place. This process continues to increase with internal (rural exodus) and international migration, urbanization and exogamous marriages, leading to a changing language demography, where language shift and language learning are constant and ongoing processes. A cursory look at what people have always done and do with language(s) and an epistemological approach to their language repertoire(s) suggest that individuals and communities are very active agents, whose language practices show an incredible capacity and resourcefulness in empowering themselves where and when it matters most. And yet, the concept of “linguistic identity” tries to cast a mold around individuals and speech-communities, as if they are to belong to a given language or identity to the exclusion of (an) other(s). This paper explores the concept of “linguistic identity” and asks whether it is possible to argue that we actually have one identity, whether language is intricately tied to identity or whether language itself has an identity. It concludes with some considerations about language management.
Keywords: language repertoires, language empowerment, language management, communication across language boundaries, Language and identity
Published online: 20 February 2006
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