LINGUIST List 27.2052

Wed May 04 2016

Review: Socioling: Nortier, Svendsen (2015)

Editor for this issue: Sara Couture <>

Date: 07-Feb-2016
From: Katherine Morales Lugo <>
Subject: Language, Youth and Identity in the 21st Century
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Book announced at

EDITOR: Jacomine Nortier
EDITOR: Bente A. Svendsen
TITLE: Language, Youth and Identity in the 21st Century
SUBTITLE: Linguistic Practices across Urban Spaces
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2015

REVIEWER: Katherine Morales Lugo, Trinity College Dublin

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


Jacomine Nortier and Bente A. Svendsen’s edited volume “Language, youth, and
identity in the 21st century” offers a first look at youth language and
identity from a global perspective. It includes a collection of articles that
discuss cross-cultural similarities and differences in youth practices among
countries from around the world, including the U.S., Canada, Europe, and
Africa. Its primary aim is to uncover the similarities and differences in the
way youth use language in superdiverse settings, and the way they negotiate
their identity positions through variable language use. Central themes of this
volume include Silverstein’s notion of total linguistic fact (TLF), which
brings together both structural and contextual knowledge of linguistic
features, in order to uncover the question of “why” behind certain linguistic
practices. Other key concepts include Ben Rampton’s inclusive concept of
“contemporary urban vernaculars” (CUVs) to describe the fluid and socially
meaningful practices that take place in increasingly diverse, urban settings
among Late Modern youth.


I. Content and Concepts

The first chapter, written by series editor Bente A. Svendsen discusses
contemporary sociolinguistic concepts such as “total linguistic fact” and
“superdiversity”, essential to understanding linguistic diversity today. This
chapter includes a discussion of the different outcomes of increased language
contact in urban settings: linguistic differentiation, homogenization, and
hybridization. The present volume itself focuses on linguistic hybridization
as an outcome of increased language contact, which results in linguistic
deviations from the ideological “Standard”. Rampton’s “contemporary urban
vernacular” (Ch.2) is offered as an alternative label to describe youth
practices in diverse settings; this term encompasses “a set of linguistic
forms and enregistering practices (including commentary, crossing, and
stylization)” (9). Indeed, some authors in this volume argue that this term is
more fitting to describe variability in language in urban settings than, say,
other more semantically narrow terms such as “multi-ethnolect” or “youth
language” – both of which emphasize a single social factor. The term is
introduced alongside Silverstein’s notion of “total linguistic fact” (TLF),
which discusses the social meaning of variable language, or “the semiotics of
contemporary urban speech styles” (23). Ultimately, the TLF approach argues
for a reconciliation of structure and stylistic practice by looking at the
structural aspects of language, its contextualized use, and ideologies
attached to a particular way of speaking (10).

Chapter Two expands on the concept of contemporary urban vernaculars. Ben
Rampton discusses some of the sociolinguistic literature that inspired the
term, such as Silverstein’s TLF. He contends that language ideologies are at
the heart of determining and interpreting a speaker’s stylistic choice, and
that “every stylistic move is the result of an interpretation of the social
world” (Eckert, 2008: 456). Rampton offers data from a middle-aged Punjabi
speaker in London to demonstrate how CUVs, linguistic practices originating at
youth, can carry on well into adulthood. In this way, he challenges the
exclusiveness that labels such as “youth language” suggest with regard to age.
Data from three different interactions shows the Punjabi speaker accommodating
and positioning himself according to his audience by deploying variable
linguistic features from those registers available to him (e.g. creole,
traditional London vernacular, Punjabi). When speaking to his friend, the
Punjabi speaker adopts a multi-ethnic style forged in his youth to index
familiarity, friendship, and solidarity. Through interactional analysis,
Rampton demonstrates how a speaker may use various features of his/her
repertoire, which may serve as a reflection of a speaker and his/her

Chapter Three by Leonie Cornips, Jürgen Jaspers, and Vincent De Rooij provides
an excellent discussion of labeling practices, their positive and negative
outcomes and sociolinguistic implications. The authors begin by discussing the
importance of said practices to the ordinary non-linguist, “languages may be
fiction for us but they are realities to others” (47). With this statement
they challenge the exclusion of labels in sociolinguistic research, arguing
that they are demonstrative of typification practices and language ideologies.
This chapter provides two scenarios in which labeling practices have positive
and negative outcomes, and differing ideological implications. The first
example describes how a linguist’s efforts to re-label multi-ethnic practices
in the Netherlands went awry. The authors found that having a label, such as
Strattaal (i.e. street language), that targeted many minorities at large,
served as an instrument to essentialize and discriminate against ethnic groups
and their way of speaking. Soon Strattaal became linked to negative
stereotypes, such as the “resisting of authority”. Contrasting to this example
are the labeling practices in Belgium – a country that did not possess a term
as widely used as Strattaal. However, there was a movement towards promoting a
more standard variety, and some labeling practices were on the rise. The word
“ileegals” was used among community members for describing non-standard,
multi-ethnic speech. White teenagers appropriated features of this variety for
their own speech. Teenage migrants adopted the label “ilegaals” to describe
their speech, despite its negative connotations. In this way, Chapter Three
demonstrates how labeling can be used as a tool to discriminate against ethnic
groups, but also to assert one’s ethnolinguistic identity.

II. Forms and Functions

Chapter Four by Ulrike Freywald, Leonie Cornips, Natalia Ganuza, Ingvild
Nistov and Toril Opsahl attempts to describe grammatical features of CUVs in
four Germanic languages: Dutch, German, Swedish, and Norwegian. In particular,
the authors focus on syntactic deviations of the second verb (V2) constraint
in declarative sentences. They argue that multilingual settings provide the
ideal backdrop for variable language use and “loosened syntactic
restrictions”, where structural preferences may be performed in novel ways
(74). Data drawn from peer interactions, self-recordings, and interviews
demonstrates that indeed this syntactic variation is found in both
simultaneous and early successive bilinguals, second language speakers, and
native speakers, thus suggesting that these deviations are not the result of
language transfer, but that they are a feature of contact-induced dialects
formed in superdiverse settings (CUVs). This newly developed word order, here
denoted as XVS order, involves the prepositioning of linguistic material “in
front of an otherwise ‘normal’ verb second declarative” (82). XSVs are common
in most vernaculars discussed in this chapter, however to a lesser extent in
Dutch vernacular. When it does occur in all of the cases, it manifests
deviation through the use of adverbials (AdvSV).

Chapter Five by Lena Ekberg, Toril Opsahl, and Heike Wiese offers a different
focus to describing Germanic CUVs, by examining the lexical production of the
phrase “such as”/ “such”. They argue that a cross-linguistic analysis of
“such” reveals how this word undergoes similar development in each linguistic
environment, particularly in terms of its patterns of functionalization,
therefore suggesting it is a universal feature of Germanic CUVs. The authors
provide examples that demonstrate how syntactic and semantic restrictions are
loosened in order to make way for new pragmatic functions for these lexical
items. They observe that ‘san’, ‘sann’ and ‘so’ in Germanic languages achieve
seemingly parallel grammatical and pragmatic developments or “gains”, as focus
markers and elements with determiner functions, whilst simultaneously
experiencing two patterns of semantic bleaching or loss. Semantic bleaching of
“such” reduces its semantic use of “of this kind” to a less strong, general
meaning “of some kind”, and in some cases to a complete loss of semantic
content. The authors argue that while semantic reduction might suggest
simplifications of CUVs, a closer look at linguistic developments reveals that
reduction is experienced in order to make way for new processes of pragmatic
and grammatical functional gain.

III. Language practice, values and identity in media and popular culture

Part III present efforts at describing linguistic practices in the media.
Chapter Six by Tommaso M. Milani, Rickard Jonsson and Innocentia J. Mhlambi
observes the social practices in three commercials from South Africa and
Sweden. Though culturally and historically different, Milani et al. show how
television commercials in both countries challenge ideologies linked to
multiethnic minorities through the use of non-normative linguistic practices
(CUVs) in the popular media (119). The authors argue that the commercials
demonstrate global sensitivities toward ethnic or racial ideologies through
stylistic use of stereotypical features. They further demonstrate how values
of each CUV are taken up and challenged in the commercials. Both commercials
make reference to the “ethnic other” through stylistic use of vernaculars,
where the non-white subject is portrayed as a comical, exoticized figure put
up against the ideologies of the standard-speaking, white individual. However,
the authors also demonstrate how minority identities are not passively
inhabited, and they suggest alternative explanations where multiethnic
identities are portrayed as “economically streetwise” and white counterparts
as linguistically “stiff”, lacking sense of humor, and artificial (130).

Chapter Seven offers an interesting discussion of the Global Hip Hop practices
in the United States and Norway. Cecelia Cutler and Unn Røyneland demonstrate
how in a Late Modern world hip hop language has been adopted as a tool
worldwide in which artists demonstrate local pride, authenticate themselves as
members of a community and/or ethnic group, and demonstrate sense of
belonging. This chapter echoes Chapter Six’s use of the “ethnic other” in the
general media, where rappers perform their identities as “outcasts” and
express “the alienation they feel as ethnic ‘others’” through the use of
vernacular features (163). It includes data from ethnographic and traditional
interviews, observations, rap lyrics, video clips, vlogs and social media
discussions. Personal narratives yield insights towards minority identity
formation, stylistic practices and language ideologies; metapragmatic
commentary is also included in this chapter’s analysis. Results demonstrate
similarities in linguistic practices among youth in the United States and
Norway, and differences in the way they project themselves as immigrants in
society. Practices in Norway yield a desire to be accepted as native
Norwegians; meanwhile, practices in the U.S. challenge negative stereotypes
linked to ethnic minorities and express pride in their cultural heritage.

IV. Language practice as emblems of becoming and belonging

Part IV considers the way adolescents negotiate their identity positions and
assert their affiliations through strategic choice of emblematic features. In
Chapter Eight Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese observe language use in
adolescents in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the UK. In particular,
identities of belonging, authenticity, and inheritance are explored
linguistically through Bakhtin’s “heteroglossia” (1981), a sociolinguistic
concept that reinforces the “social meaning” approach to language variation.
At focus are emblematic features, or “emblems”, of multilingual communities;
here defined as noticeable, enregistered practices. By providing examples from
four school ethnographies Blackledge and Creese demonstrate how in different
environments young people negotiate their identities of inheritance and
authenticity through strategic deployment of emblematic features. The data
includes linguistic practices found in social media (Facebook) and the
environment (graffiti, post-it notes), as well as metapragmatic discourses
about these practices. Results demonstrate that identities are negotiated in a
complex way, building on previous historical relationships, and orienting to
emblematic features that indicate authenticity. The authors argue that emblems
are not static but vary across time and space, by demonstrating how students
challenged what was being taught to them by superiors in classroom settings.

In Chapter Nine Vally Lytra observes the linguistic ideologies of “belonging”
by analyzing the social values of majority and minority languages in two
Turkish-speaking communities. In particular, this chapter offers data from two
schools in Athens and London. By adopting Silverstein’s ideological concept
“total linguistic fact”, Lytra observes how young people’s experiences as
migrants help shape their language beliefs as well as their overall sense of
“belonging” or identities. She contends that language ideologies have
important implications about what a person, community, and/or institution
thinks counts as “authentic”, or indicates “peoplehood” and allegiance to
one’s culture. Through ethnographic analysis this chapter detects differences
in the way vernaculars and standard varieties of Turkish are interpreted. It
finds that a community’s orientation to a particular variety is dependent on
the linguistic affordances of that community (e.g. native language teachers),
as well as the amount of language policing taking place. While Athens students
were more open to vernacular styles of speaking, London students were more
inclined to Standard Turkish, and associated this style with personhood, and
‘educated’, ‘urbane’ and ‘successful’ values (p. 202).

V. Language practice and positioning in interaction

Part V observes the linguistic practices and identity positions that take
place in real time interactions. In Chapter Ten Lian Malai Madsen and Bente
Ailin Svendsen discuss the stylistic practices of two neighborhoods in Oslo
and Copenhagen. The aim of their chapter is to observe which ideologies,
hegemonic or non-hegemonic, are called upon through stylization practices, as
well as the role of social and ethnic issues in each community. Results found
that stylized practices are not evenly spread throughout data, but they occur
in clusters, where one person’s stylized efforts invite others. In the case of
Copenhagen, features from multiethnic varieties (Copenhagen CUV) were most
common. Standard varieties were also found and linked to the educated
population and to politeness values, thus demonstrating an understanding of
class differences based on language use. In the Oslo data, ethnicity was found
most salient, as young people were able to detect speech from multilingual
neighborhoods and stylistically implement multiethnic features in their
speech. Throughout this chapter the authors challenge contemporary
perspectives of socio-constructivism and identity-related phenomenon, by
reemphasizing the importance of class and ethnicity in sociolinguistic

Chapter Eleven by F. Hülya Özcan, Lian Malai Madsen, İlknur Keçik, and J.
Normann Jørgensen offers a unique look at interactions within the genre of
teasing. In the introduction, the authors contend that teasing is
culturally-specific phenomenon, and a social practice that may provide a
linguist with insights towards the negotiation of identities and levels of
intimacy among speakers. The authors present data from two school
ethnographies: one taking place in Eskisehir (Turkey), while the other
discusses Koge (Denmark). The methodology for collecting peer data was drawn
from problem solving tasks. Data from Turkey yielded that teasing was more
frequent in male groups than female groups, and that females took
problem-solving tasks more seriously. In turn, when students were assembled
into mixed-gendered groups, teasing was present among both genders and used as
an instrument of flirtation and renegotiation of traditional gender roles. The
Denmark data, contrastively, demonstrated more complex functions of teasing,
to do with linguistic resources and competence. Knowledge of Danish was used
as a verbal resource towards ritual insults. Power struggles were often
reenacted, and subjects ridiculed and asserted their superiority by portraying
others as incompetent Danish speakers. Furthermore, the Turkish data suggested
that most teasing practices took place in Turkish; meanwhile, Denmark data
included code-switching and cross-linguistic practices from several languages.
The authors interpret results as reflective of the linguistic affordances in
each community: while Denmark emphasized the learning of English, German and
French in their curriculum, Turkey consisted of a more monolingual pool, thus
showing that linguistic resources do play a role in the negotiation of
identities and linguistic practices in multilingual settings.
VI. Language practice and urban space

Part VI discusses the linguistic practices taking place in urban contexts. In
Chapter Twelve Finn Aersæther, Stefania Marzo, Ingvild Nistov, and Evy
Ceuleers adopt indexical approaches to youth practices in Genk and Oslo. In
particular, the authors observe how adolescents utilize features of their
local CUVs in order to indicate local or place identity in discourse. The
chapter details the ideological transformation of a way of speaking originally
linked to minority status to being relinked to urbanity and space. Aersæther
et al. use Johnstone’s (2010) reinterpretation of indexical orders to argue
that second-order indexicals can sometimes be reinterpreted and relinked to
indicate region; this process is referred to as “space appropriation” (255).
The chapter draws on data from metapragmatic comments from questionnaires,
interviews and focus groups to show how place can become a salient third-order
index in some CUVs. Results from Genk revealed interesting findings with
respects to CUV ideologies: (1) multiethnic adolescents claimed it was a style
adopted in informal peer interactions, (2) adolescents with mixed backgrounds
stated it was a localized variety. Authors interpreted this shift in
ideologies as a process of “de-ethnification”, as Citetaal is transformed from
a multiethnic variety to a local variety, despite the little use of this style
among those without immigrant backgrounds. Narrative data suggests that this
style is tied to ideologies of “being yourself” (authenticity) and “purely
Genk” (regional identity). Contrastively, data from Oslo suggests that
adolescents are aware of a multi-ethnic variety, and that this variety is tied
to minority status, and “non-posh” and “local” ideologies, thus suggesting
that Oslo urban vernaculars are viewed in terms of class, ethnicity, and sense
of local belonging. Despite differences in migration histories, both cities
demonstrate processes of de-ethnification, where young people reestablish the
meanings of CUVs and contest previous notions of correctness.

Chapter Thirteen by Margreet Dorleijn, Maarten Mous, and Jacomine Nortier
observes CUVs (here “urban youth speech styles”) in the Netherlands and Kenya.
Despite sociocultural differences, Dorleijn and others claim that both
countries share similar conditions to which their respective urban youth
speech styles (UYSSs) were formed: (1) they are both formed by multilingual
adolescents in urban contexts, and (2) they represent alternative ways of
speaking (i.e. they do not emerge out of communicative needs) (271). This
chapter seeks to uncover the differences and similarities in functions,
linguistic features, and social factors in the UYSSs of these two
environments, and to find out whether UYSS can be considered a universal
linguistic phenomenon. The data presented here is compiled of previous
research and YouTube videos. Results demonstrate that in both cases UYSSs are
based on the most dominant language in that region, the lingua franca. A point
of difference between UYSSs lies in their base language: while both utilize
lingua franca as base language, the base language is more difficult to
identify in the case of some African countries where two languages compete for
dominant status. Furthermore when dominant languages are in competition,
whatever base language is chosen is an indication of identities or
affiliations to the vernacular group.

The last chapter, Chapter Fourteen by Sally Boyd, Michol F. Hoffman, and James
A. Walker discusses the way young people in Toronto, Canada and four cities in
Sweden orient to their linguistic and ethnic origin, i.e. their
ethnolinguistic orientation (EO). Several factors are taken into account in
order to calculate EO, such as their language use, social networks, and
language proficiency level, as well as language attitudes. Through principal
component analysis (PCA), the authors observe co-variation of multiple
independent variables and aim to illuminate which variable has more
“explanatory force” (22). Although each study had different research questions
and methods, they had the common interest of observing salient linguistic
features in multilingual settings, and to discover whether participants
oriented more towards a specific ethnic variety (ethnolect) or a more
mainstream variety (multiethnolect). Results demonstrate similarities and
differences in the way they way they orient to their ethnicity, one
influential factor to EO is the level of proficiency in the heritage language,
which varies according to location. The authors conclude that the features
analysed in both countries neither fit into the description of an ethnolect or
multiethnolect, rather they can be best defined as features that form part of
the repertoires found in multilingual communities, and that they are free to
be used by adolescents with and without multilingual backgrounds.


The book’s main objective is to investigate how adolescent’s practices relate
to social factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, and social identity in urban
settings. It offers invaluable insight into linguistic practices in different
parts of the world, and claims to be one of the first volumes to offer
cross-cultural insight into different linguistic practices. However, despite
its claimed “global” insight, “global” remains a term to be applied loosely.
The majority of articles in this volume represent studies discussed in a
workshop at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study in Humanities and
Social Sciences in 2009 (15); consequently, it is written primarily from a
European perspective, where most multiethnic practices represent migrant
minorities rather than multilingual majorities, thus suggesting a monolingual

Labeling practices also play a central role to this volume’s organization, or
lack thereof, indeed it appears as if one of the major obstacles towards
achieving cohesiveness is the lack of uniformity in labeling practices across
chapters. The book often jumps back and forth between using “contemporary
urban vernaculars” and other labels, such as regional-specific labels (e.g.
Tsotsitaal, rinkebysvenska), and more etic labels such as “contemporary urban
speech styles” (Ch. 13), “multiethnolectal speech styles” (Ch. 7), “youth
vernacular” (Chapter 3), and “urban youth speech styles” (Chapter 13). This
lack of consistency ultimately affects the book’s readability as a single
volume, making it difficult to follow. Instead, a reader might opt for
searching for a particular Chapter or section, relevant to his/her own
approach or personal preferences in labeling practices, as distinct labeling
practices may be reflective of different research intentions and analysis.

One of the major contributions of this volume is the numerical extent of
cross-cultural examples within each chapter, at times extending to 4-5
different examples (e.g. Chapter 4). This inclusion of several examples leads
to innovative findings in terms of universal features of contact-induced
varieties. Simultaneously, its holistic approach is also one of the book's
setbacks, as it impedes the authors from providing a thorough description of
each linguistic situation.

Despite minor downfalls, researchers interested in youth language in
superdiverse settings will find this collection of articles as an invaluable
resource. The volume largely adopts a practice-based approach to language use,
often making reference to “third wave” (Eckert, 2012) variationist approach in
sociolinguistics, which views language use as not directly correlated to
social factors (e.g. class, gender), rather views social meaning in language
use as influential to the interpretation and consequently distribution of
linguistic features. In this way, the authors of this volume make reference to
terms that expand on the study of meaning in language use, or semiotics.
Meaning is discussed through anthropological concepts such as Michael
Silverstein’s (1985) “total linguistic fact”, which plays an integral role in
the organization of the volume and is defined as dialectic in nature.


Eckert, P. 2008. Where do ethnolects stop? International Journal of
Bilingualism 12 (1 – 2): 25 – 42. 2012. Three Waves of Variation Study:
The Emergence of Meaning in the Study of Sociolinguistic Variation. Annual
Review of Anthropology, 41.

Johnstone, B. 2010. Indexing the Local. In: N. Coupland, ed., The Handbook of
Language and Globalization, 1st ed. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Nortier, J., & Svendsen, B. A. 2015. Language, Youth and Identity in the 21st
Century: Linguistic Practices across Urban Spaces. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press.

Silverstein, M. 1985. Language and the culture of gender: At the intersection
of structure, usage, and ideology. Semiotic mediation: Sociocultural and
Psychological Perspectives. Academic Press New York.


Katherine Morales is a doctoral researcher in Sociolinguistics at the
Department of Linguistic, Speech, and Communication Sciences in Trinity
College Dublin. Her research specializes in language and identity, with a
particular focus on code-switching and translanguaging practices. She is
interested in observing language variation in Latino adolescent communities,
as well as the ideological implications of speaking a non-local variety
(English) in a primarily Spanish-speaking community (Puerto Rico). Other areas
of interests include sociophonetics and World Englishes in postcolonial

Page Updated: 04-May-2016