Discourses of speakerhood in Iyasa: Linguistic identity and authenticity in an endangered language

Date
2018-06
Authors
Belew, Anna
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
University of Hawaii Press
Abstract
Within most subfields of linguistics, the term “speaker” is often used in a shorthand, nonspecific way. In referring simply to “speakers” of endangered languages, the nuances of proficiency, language use, self-identification, and local language ideologies are collapsed into a binary: speaker vs. non-speaker. Despite the central role of local language ideologies in shaping patterns of language shift and maintenance, insiders’ perceptions of speaker status are not often investigated as part of language documentation projects. This paper approaches the issue of speaker status in Iyasa, a threatened Coastal Bantu language of Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, through the firsthand accounts of self-identified Iyasa speakers. Using a discourse-analytic approach and the framework of identity and interaction (Bucholtz & Hall 2005), this paper examines the ways Iyasa speakers construct “speakerhood” in discourse, respond to researchers’ language ideologies, and position their own and others’ proficiency in Iyasa. Local language ideologies which equate ruralness, elderliness, and authenticity are discussed, as well as their links to similar ideologies in linguistics. Finally, the implications for language documentation and maintenance work in the Iyasa community are discussed.
Description
Keywords
Iyasa, linguistic identity, endangered languages, discourse
Citation
Belew, Anna. 2018. Discourses of speakerhood in Iyasa: Linguistic identity and authenticity in an endangered language. Language Documentation & Conservation 12: 235-273.
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