Selves in Two Languages

Bilinguals’ verbal enactments of identity in French and Portuguese

Michèle Koven | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
ISBN 9789027241450 | EUR 110.00 | USD 165.00
ISBN 9789027291899 | EUR 110.00 | USD 165.00
Bilinguals often report that they feel like a different person in their two languages. In the words of one bilingual in Koven’s book, “When I speak Portuguese, automatically, I'm in a different world…it's a different color.” Although testimonials like this abound in everyday conversation among bilinguals, there has been scant systematic investigation of this intriguing phenomenon. Focusing on French-Portuguese bilinguals, the adult children of Portuguese migrants in France, this book provides an empirically grounded, theoretical account of how the same speakers enact, experience, and are perceived by others to have different identities in their two languages.

This book explores bilinguals’ experiences and expressions of identity in multicultural, multilingual contexts. It is distinctive in its integration of multiple levels of analysis to address the relationships between language and identity. Koven links detailed attention to discourse form, to participants’ multiple interpretations how such forms become signs of identity, and to the broader macrosociolinguistic contexts that structure participants’ access to those signs. The study of how bilinguals perform and experience different identities in their two languages sheds light on the more general role of linguistic and cultural forms in local experiences and expressions of identity.

[Studies in Bilingualism, 34]  2007.  xi, 327 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
“Koven’s work employs a novel approach to studying the impact of language on bilingual women’s experiences of identity and self, and offers a significant contribution to studies of discursive relativity, bilingualism, and language and identity. Koven presents complex concepts in a clear and concise manner. She skillfully integrates scholarship in diverse research traditions, and puts forward an analytical tool that would be exceptionally helpful for future research in voicing and footing. [...] a great addition to libraries of those of us who are interested in the processes of linguistic construction of identities.”
“Koven's book is a groundbreaking study with important consequences both of a methodological and of a theoretical nature (that is, if the two can be separated at all). From a more methodological perspective, it is highly innovative in that it provides a systematic analytic framework for operationalizing Bakhtin's notion of voicing, and it uses multiple empirical - qualitative and quantitative - approaches which not only provide convergent evidence but also rely upon sound ethnographic fieldwork. From a more theoretical perspective, it significantly advancesour understanding of the role of language ideologies in the relationship between language and identity, and hence it is or should be essential reading for anybody interested in the study of bilingualism and the role of language in experiences of self.”
“Koven’s groundbreaking study is the first systematic investigation of a century-old question about bilinguals’ selves. The design of the study is creative and elegant, the data analysis is rigorous and sophisticated, and the findings will strike a cord in the heart of many bi- and multilinguals. This beautiful and provocative book will change the way we think about and investigate the relationship between language and self, raising new questions about what linguistic relativity really
“This book offers a unique perspective on the intricacies involved in being bilingual. Although many bilinguals will confirm that they somehow feel like they have different personalities when speaking two different languages, there has been very little systematic documentation of this phenomenon. In this volume, which is the result of a methodologically sound empirical study, Koven successfully illustrates both self-perceptions and external perceptions of bilinguals interacting in their two languages and the repercussions thereof. Through discourse-centered approaches, the author systematically elucidates for the reader how bilinguals and those who interact with bilinguals can see distinct personalities arise with distinct languages.”
Cited by

Cited by 59 other publications

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Subjects & Metadata
BIC Subject: CFDM – Bilingualism & multilingualism
BISAC Subject: LAN009000 – LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
ONIX Metadata
ONIX 2.1
ONIX 3.0
U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  2007026892 | Marc record