Language and the negotiation of identities among German-speaking diasporic communities in central Europe

Stevenson, Patrick and Carl, Jenny (2008) Language and the negotiation of identities among German-speaking diasporic communities in central Europe. In, Schulze, Mathias, Skidmore, James M., John, David G., Liebscher, Grit and Siebel-Achenbach, Sebastian (eds.) German Diasporic Experiences: Identity, Migration, and Loss. Waterloo, Canada, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 21-34.


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This paper develops recent work in linguistic anthropology on language ideologies and the negotiation of identities in a study of the ‘language biographies’ of German speakers in central Europe. Based on a corpus of ethnographic interviews conducted in 1995 and 2005 with three generations of German speakers in Hungary and the Czech Republic, it focuses on the analysis of the informants’ discursive repertoires in terms of their responses to the changing positions of German speakers in these two states.

Using the framework of ‘positioning theory’, the paper explores the relationship between individual narratives and the changing public discourses surrounding their telling on the one hand and their points of reference on the other: how do individual speakers position themselves and others by drawing on their experiences with language in the present and in the past?

By investigating speakers’ (re-)evaluations of their repertoires the paper reveals a more complex and differentiated set of representations than is often proposed through generalized reductive categories such as language maintenance and shift. The analysis aims to show the complexity and instability of relationships between (different varieties of) the German language and ethnicity and how different processes of identification are manifested in the informants’ narratives.

Item Type: Book Section
ISBNs: 1554580277 (hardback)
9781554580279 (hardback)
Related URLs:
Keywords: Central Europe, Hungary, Czech Republic, negotiating identities, narratives, positioning, language ideologies
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PD Germanic languages
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Humanities > Modern Languages
ePrint ID: 63796
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
October 2008Published
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2008
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:48
The German language and the future of Europe : ideologies, policies and practices
Funded by: Arts and Humanities Research Council (18341/1)
1 October 2004 to 30 September 2008

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