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Discursive Constructions of Immigrant Identity

Du Bois, Inke

Discursive Constructions of Immigrant Identity

A Sociolinguistic Trend Study on Long-Term American Immigrants

Year of Publication: 2010

Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2010. XII, 219 pp., 27 fig., 8 tables
ISBN 978-3-631-61275-0 hb.  (Hardcover)

Weight: 0.400 kg, 0.882 lbs

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Book synopsis

In which way can language be an indicator for cultural identity in immigration contexts? How are collective identity, social networks and the use of the inclusive pronoun ‘we’ connected? Does code-switching in additive bilingualism and first language attrition indicate a loss of home cultural identity? Designed as a longitudinal trend study, this book answers such complex questions as it investigates data collected from interviews with thirty U.S. Americans who immigrated to Germany between 1963 and 2001. On the one hand, in-depth discourse analyses take the discursive construction of identity within the sociopolitical context of Germany into account. Narrative structures, person and place deictics and code-switching are indexical for cultural identity. On the other hand, socio-demographic factors such as age at arrival, length of residence, social networks and education are relevant for the identification of the Americans and their linguistic choices. Qualitative and quantitative methods are applied and result in a synthesis of in-depth linguistic analyses and general trends of language variation within the cohort.


Contents: Narrative construction of identity – Indexicality: deictics, place references and identity – Socio-pragmatic functions of identity – Demographic factors, language attrition and code-switching – Life span identity.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

Inke Du Bois studied English and Spanish linguistics at the Universities of Kiel (Germany), Barcelona (Spain) and San Francisco (USA). She received her Master’s degree in English Linguistics from San Francisco State University and her Doctorate degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Hamburg. She has taught a wide range of classes related to English linguistics and intercultural communication in California and in Germany. She worked as a visiting professor for English linguistics at the University of Vechta and currently holds a position as visiting professor for English linguistics at Bremen University.


«This book is a substantial addition to sociolinguistics. The analysis itself is highly detailed yet easily understood due to a to-the-point writing style and use of charts and graphs as appropriate.» (Christie DeBlasio, The Linguist List)
«This book is unique in its treatment of U.S. Americans in Germany, and provides a culturally situated analysis of identity formation for these long-term immigrants. A strength of the volume is the focus on identities as shifting, both over the lifespan and within a speaker’s narrative, and the analysis of these shifts in terms of positioning both with relation to other interlocutors and also with regard to macro-level categories and ideologies. It is my hope that we will continue to see work by Du Bois which develop these themes.» (Janet M. Fuller, Journal of Sociolinguistics, 2012)