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Sociolinguistics from the Periphery

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Academic Paper


Title: Recruiting a nonlocal language for performing local identity: Indexical appropriations of Lingala in the Congolese border town Goma
Author: Karen Büscher
Institution: Ghent University
Author: Sigurd D'hondt
Institution: Ghent University
Author: Michael Meeuwis
Institution: Ghent University
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Lingala
Abstract: This article describes discursive processes by which inhabitants of the Congolese border town Goma attribute new indexical values to Lingala, a language exogenous to the area of which most Goma inhabitants only possess limited knowledge. This creative reconfiguration of indexicalities results in the emergence of three “indexicalities of the second order”: the indexing of (i) being a true Congolese, (ii) toughness (based on Lingala's association with the military), and (iii) urban sophistication (based on its association with the capital Kinshasa). While the last two second-order reinterpretations are also widespread in other parts of the Congolese territory, the first one, resulting in the emergence of a Lingala as an “indexical icon” of a corresponding “language community,” deeply reflects local circumstances and concerns, in particular the sociopolitical volatility of the Rwandan-Congolese borderland that renders publicly affirming one's status as an “autochthonous” Congolese pivotal for assuring a livelihood and at times even personal security. (Lingala, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Goma, orders of indexicality, language community, autochthony, Kiswahili)

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 42, Issue 5, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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