Borders within Borders: Contexts of Language Use and Local Identity Configuration in Southern Galicia
Watt, Dominic and Llamas, Carmen (eds.)
Language, Borders and Identity.
Edinburgh University Press
- Author's Original
Restricted to Repository staff only
Although the River Minho constitutes a geographical and political state border between Portugal to the south and Galicia, Spain to the north, the borderland communities have long maintained regular commercial contact and communication, facilitated in part by the high degree of mutual intelligibility between their respective language varieties. Indeed, as a consequence of this cross-border contact, earlier research in the towns of Tuy in Galicia and Valença in Portugal (Beswick 2005) has highlighted the convergence of certain phonological features of Galician and Portuguese as evidence of change in progress. This research also started to question the role played by ethnic identification practices in the levelling of such phonological processes through the use of accommodation practices.
The present project revisits the Minho borderlands in order to expand the discussion regarding the relationship between identity configuration, social attitudes and language variation and use. Here, I draw on data collected from a sample of speakers from the same two towns, but in this instance and in line with sociolinguistic theories stemming from Barth’s ‘ethnic boundaries’ (1969; 1994) I focus on linguistic repertoires and the role of socio-psychological borders determining group inclusion and exclusion in the configuration of local, complex, multiple identities. The main hypothesis is that internal group borders are closely linked to processes of self-identification, loyalty with, and empathetic behaviour towards, other members of the in-group, whereas external group borders establish the out-group parameters of exclusion and otherness. Such borders thus afford a measuring stick by which compatibility with the applicable central linguistic features of identity can be evaluated and by which demarcation from those that lie outside this framework can be recognised. By adopting a constructivist approach to the manipulation of identities, I correlate local speakers’ social attitudes towards accent variation, code-switching phenomena and phonological production strategies in interactions across the geolinguistic border with socio-psychological perceptions regarding in-group and out-group membership.
Finally, I also consider pervading ideological precepts concerning language status and contexts of use in Galicia, since current issues regarding the levelling of Galician accentual and dialectal variation and the functional distribution of Castilian in the region may be engendering further socio-psychological borders of identity inclusivity and exclusivity by the local Galician group that have nothing to do with their Portuguese neighbours
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