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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Performing Bilingualism: An ethnographic analysis of discursive practices at a day labor center in the Southwest Add Dissertation
Author: Elise DuBord Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Arizona, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Completed in: 2008
Linguistic Subfield(s): Discourse Analysis; Sociolinguistics; Anthropological Linguistics;
Director(s): Ana Carvalho

Abstract: This ethnographic research examines the social implications of the
ethnolinguistic contact that occurs in the U.S.-Mexico border region at a
day labor center in Tucson, Arizona. I discuss the multiple values of
English and Spanish in this setting and how individuals interpret and
negotiate these values in the construction and performance of identity.
More specifically, I analyze how discourses of linguistic capital shape the
organization of this community and influence the dynamics of employment
negotiations. The research setting includes immigrant day laborers
(primarily from Mexico and Central America), employers who contract
workers, and bilingual volunteers who act as language brokers between
workers and their employers; all of whom use language to interactively
negotiate their social status as they construct identities vis-à-vis other
members of the community.

My analysis reveals a discourse that places a high level of linguistic
capital on Spanish-English bilingualism in the economic market. Although I
have not found evidence that this linguistic capital has a real exchange
rate into dollars, my data demonstrates that immigrants rapidly acquire and
contribute to this locally constructed discourse. I explore the techniques
that workers use to exploit and promote their language abilities through
'performances' of bilingualism that are realized not only to secure
employment, but also for social positioning within this community of
practice. Language, then, is one of the many tools that both workers and
employers use in the construction of interpersonal relationships and social
hierarchies. In addition, I analyze gatekeeping encounters focusing on the
rapid employment negotiations that occur between day laborers and their
employers, building on previous research with regard to the concepts of
rapport, co-membership, and the presentation of an institutional self.

Finally, I propose a model for the study of intercultural communication and
contact that reflects the dynamic nature of contact and the complexity of
overlapping categories of identity. Identity formation is a multiplex and
multidirectional social construction that necessitates pushing beyond
binary models of intercultural communication. Identity construction is
informed not only by face-to-face interlocutors, but also by the linguistic
ecology of dominant and subordinate discourses and the imagined individual
and collective interlocutors they evoke.