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Séminaire doctoral - Pratiques langagières - terrains, méthodes, théories
Reem Bassiouney (American University in Cairo)
One of the main aims of sociolinguistics is to study language variation within or across communities. Variationist research was initially concerned with collecting data from across different social communities (Hazen 2014: 10), in order to ‘correlate a linguistic variable with a sociolinguistic one, such as gender, social class, age or education”. Since then, as Hazen argues, the questions and accompanying methods that pertain to variationist research have spread “[f]rom broader levels of society to social networks, with different density and multiplexity’, to communities of practice to the individual who ‘(re)create[s] sociolinguistic styles in the ebb and flow of social meaning and personal identity’ (2014: 14). In this study I explore cases related to linguistic variation and the individual in the Egyptian sociopolitical context. What these cases have in common is that they all demonstrate that linguistic variation and code choice are not just the result of a correlation between linguistic and sociolinguistic variables, but the product of an ideological process, in which talk about language is at times as significant as linguistic choices, and an individual’s linguistic choices are not simply natural, but rather are performed and, at times, are the result or reflection of a wider societal conflict. In the first case, individuals are forced to display a positive stance towards a specific dialect and to use it accordingly in interviews, even when it is not their native dialect; in this instance, the ideological indexes of linguistic resources in a highly competitive, globalised media context are manipulated to the utmost. In the second case, political unrest is manifested through a war over access to linguistic resources, and national identity is indexed through the choice of different linguistic codes. In my analysis of these cases, I engage with the sociolinguistic concepts of indexicality (Silverstein 1996) and stance (Jaffe 2009). Needless to say this study does not aim to replace methods used to quantity variation and change but rather aims to add a fresh perspective to these methods.