Translanguaging identities. Multilinguals using linguistic repertoires to construct everyday roles

PhD Thesis

McDermott, A. 2022. Translanguaging identities. Multilinguals using linguistic repertoires to construct everyday roles. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Centre for language and lingusitics
AuthorsMcDermott, A.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

This interpretive ethnographic study provides rich accounts of identity construction through the exploration of language use in everyday performance of roles within a group of multilingual speakers. Importantly, it yields insights into the interplay between the front stage of the role performance and the evaluations and emotions in the backstage. The ‘front stage’, in this study, refers to the public role performance, while the ‘backstage’ refers to the invisible complexities of perceptions, evaluations and emotions that are private. They are two integral and irreducible parts of the role played.

My analysis reveals that there is an intrinsic link between context, the performance of roles and language use. Importantly, this relationship entails perceptions of self and others and carries with it a thread of power, evaluations, and emotions. That is, it became evident from the analysis that the participants’ choices of languages involved emotions in that they chose the languages they felt suited the situation. Additionally, there was an element of power in their choices in that they, at times, opted for the languages they perceived had more status in particular contexts. There was a constant evaluation of their views of themselves and those of others, which results in choosing one language and concealing another and reflected in their role performances.

This research sheds light on the importance of recognising that multilinguals’ choices of the language to use in a particular everyday role and with specific groups of people is complex and involves many factors. Thus, one should abstain from imposing any forms of definitions on ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ speakers, which preserve a division that is embedded by autonomous language systems and tends to be hierarchical and, essentially, racist. Significantly, in this study, the use of translanguaging as a paradigm supports a rich description of how multilinguals perform their everyday roles.

Data was collected in the southeast of England over four years. My participants were seven multilinguals who spoke English and Spanish, amongst other languages. They were from different nationalities and have been living in the UK for many years. I collected data using various tools including semi-structured interviews, homemade videos that participants recorded capturing everyday life interactions within their homes, and reflective languaging conversations wherein participants shared their thoughts while watching those videos. Homemade videos and languaging, especially, were significant means that allowed this research to tap into the private and nuanced lives of multilinguals.

This study put a number of concepts together to help frame and articulate the findings including: the dramaturgical analogy of role performance and identity construction (Goffman, 1959); the private and public use of language (Vygotsky, 1986).

This in-depth qualitative interpretive study, inspired by a translanguaging approach (García and Li Wei, 2014), offers fresh insights into multilinguals’ performance of their everyday roles. My findings have several implications on the evaluative element and the emotional investment aspect of identity across language use and role performance. My research positions translanguaging as a purposeful approach to research that contributes to social justice.

KeywordsMultilingual speakers; Linguistic repertoires; Everyday roles
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Deposited22 Aug 2022
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