The role of social context in language choice: the politics of the bicultural identity

Shahrzad Mahootian

Northeastern Illinois University, USA

WS126: New approaches to written codeswitching and multilingual texts

Using a CDS framework (Fairclough 1995, 2001; Fairclough & Wodak 1997; van Dijk 1996, 1998), I examine the socio-political motivations behind codeswitching in Latina, a popular bilingual life-styles magazine. Fairclough (1995) proposes a three dimensional model for critical discourse analysis which looks at the interrelationship between text, discourse practice and sociocultural practice. He claims that “social-identity struggles” are worked out through “new configurations of genres and discourse” (pg 8). An analysis of the “texture” (form, organization and content) of Latina, leads me to conclude that the use of mixed language is one discourse practice through which a ‘bicultural identity’ is defined and promoted (sociocultural practice). Specifically, the intentional use of mixed code in printed media serves as an identity marker for the bilingual speech community associated with this data (Mahootian 2005). The use of mixed code in the context of a national publication is one way that the social-identity struggles of Latinos in the United States are expressed, and to a certain extent, resolved. Mixed code serves to forge and reinforce unity among young Latino-Americans who are asserting independence from the dominant L2/C2 (C2=corresponding culture of L2) AND breaking away from domination of the L1/C1, in order to identify themselves as a group separate from their predecessors’ generation. Simultaneously, however, they want to maintain strong emotional ties with their heritage. Through generation of new configurations and genres (code-mixed discourse) the bilingual speakers’ two worlds are brought together, allowing them to acknowledge their heritage and to assert their bicultural identity.

Fairclough, Norman (1995). Critical Discourse Analysis. Boston: Addison Wesley.

Fairclough, N. (2001). Language and Power (2nd edition). London: Longman.

Fairclough, N. L., & Wodak, R. (1997). Critical discourse analysis. In T. A. van Dijk (Ed.), Discourse Studies. A multidisciplinary introduction. Vol. 2. Discourse as Social Interaction, pp. 258-284. London: Sage.

Mahootian, S. 2005. Linguistic change and social meaning: Codeswitching in the media. International Journal of Bilingualism. Vol. 9, pp 361-376, London: Blackwell.

Myers-Scotton, C. (1993). Social motivations for code switching: Evidence from Africa. Oxford: Clarendon.

van Dijk, T. A. (1996). Discourse, power and access. In Caldas-Coulthard, Carmen Rosa, & Coulthard, Malcolm (Eds.), Texts and practices: Readings in critical discourse analysis. (pp. 84-104). London: Routledge.

Session: Workshop (part 1)
New approaches to written codeswitching and multilingual texts
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 09:00-10:30
room: 01