LINGUIST List 18.1456

Mon May 14 2007

Diss: Socioling: Flannery: 'Stories of Racial Discrimination in Bra...'

Editor for this issue: Hunter Lockwood <>

Directory         1.    Mercia Flannery, Stories of Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Language, stigma and identity

Message 1: Stories of Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Language, stigma and identity
Date: 14-May-2007
From: Mercia Flannery <>
Subject: Stories of Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Language, stigma and identity

Institution: Georgetown University Program: Department of Linguistics Dissertation Status: Completed Degree Date: 2006

Author: Mercia Santana Flannery

Dissertation Title: Stories of Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Language, stigma and identity

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Dissertation Director:
Deborah Schiffrin Heidi E. Hamilton Ronald Scollon
Dissertation Abstract:

Although much has been written about racism in Brazil, there has yet to besubstantial research on the language used by individuals who have beensubjected to racial discrimination. The extensive literature on race inBrazil suggests that racism is still a widespread challenge in this countrywell-known for its extensive miscegenation and pride in the commonlyaccepted harmonious relations of its people.

This study investigates stories of racial discrimination collected insociolinguistic interviews with four individuals. The purpose of thisinvestigation is to uncover the genre's characteristics and describe thelinguistic strategies that the tellers use to convey their perception ofthemselves. Specifically, it analyzes how four individuals convey a senseof possessing a stigmatized identity, sometimes through their detachmentfrom protagonist's roles in the narratives.

It addresses the following questions: What are the similarities in thekinds of discrimination reported and in the linguistic features used? Howdoes the use of specific linguistic features contribute to characterize anexperience as discriminatory and mark the relationship between the tellersand their accounts?

This investigation of the discourse of racial discrimination highlights theuse of three main features: 1) pronoun choice and how it marks involvementwith, or detachment from, the events being narrated; 2) reported speech andhow it enables the tellers to position the characters vis-à-vis each other,creating the roles of victim and perpetrator; 3) verbal forms and how thedepiction of the characters' actions unveils their participation in theevents.

The combination of these linguistic features enables the tellers to conveytheir identities as members of a stigmatized group. However, the signs ofaffiliation to a stigmatized group are not always clear-cut. Thisinvestigation reveals how the storytellers attempt to reconcile beingmembers of a stigmatized group, and having been subject to experiences ofdiscrimination, with their desire to be respected.

This study contributes to fill in the gap in the studies on language andrace adding to our understanding of how racism and discrimination influenceindividuals' views of self. It combines narratives, stigma and language inthe interpretation of the speakers' identity.