Code-switching ‘in site’ for fantasizing identities: A case study of conventional uses of London Greek Cypriot

Alexandra Georgakopoulou and Katerina Finnis


Sociolinguistic studies of ‘minority languages’ and bilingualism have increasingly moved away from a singular emphasis on issues of ethnicity that poses direct links between the use of a language and an ethnic or cultural identity towards exploring the construction of identities that are not firmly located in category-bound descriptions. In this paper, we draw on these latest insights to account for processes of identity construction in a bilingual (in Greek Cypriot and English) youth organization group based in North London. Our main data consist of the audio-recorded interactional data from a socialization outing after one of the group’s meeting but we also bring in insights from the group’s ethnographic study and a larger study of the North London Cypriot community that involved interviews and questionnaires. In the close analysis of our main data, we note a conventional association between the ‘London Greek Cypriot’ (henceforth LGC) variety that is switched to from English as the main interactional frame and a set of genres (in the sense of recurrent evolving responses to social practices) that are produced and taken up as humorous discourse: These include narrative jokes, ritual insults, hypothetical scenarios, and metalinguistic instances of mock Cypriot. We will suggest that the use of LGC demonstrates a relationship of ambivalence, a “partly ours partly theirs” status, with the participants carving out a different, third space for themselves that transcends macro-social categories (e.g. the Cypriots, the Greek-Cypriot community). At the same time, we will show how the discursive process of choosing language from a bi- or multi- lingual repertoire does not only create identities in the sense of socially and culturally derived positions but also identities (sic (dis)-identifications) in the sense of desiring and fantasizing personas.

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