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Séminaire doctoral - Pratiques langagières - terrains, méthodes, théories
Joan Pujolar Cos (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona)
In this session, I propose to reflect on ways to address agency in sociolinguistic research on multilingualism and inequalities by drawing on recent research on New Speakers, particulary the so-called language “mudes”. During the last four years, a network of European researchers have been sharing the results of case studies in different contexts on how non-native speakers of a language manage the process not just of learning the language but also of becoming a legitimate participant in their “new” speech community. i.e. they become “New speakers” of that language. We know that linguistic diversity is constituted by -and helps reproduce- social hierarchies and relations of power that Bourdieu aptly characterized as linguistic markets in which actors strive to accumulate and define what constitutes linguistic capital. In the last decades sociolinguistic research has shown how resilient these inequalities are and how they prey on disadvantaged social groups in education, in the job market, or even in the implementation of citizenship policies. However, new speakers are testimony of the fact that social actors can strategically navigate linguistic hierarchies through individual or collectively concerted action. Speakers can act on their repertoire in many ways that have economic and political consequences. In my recent research in Catalonia, we characterized a process that we named “muda”, i.e. when native speakers of Spanish worked to make themselves available in social life as Catalan speakers. We showed that “mudes” were possible in specific junctures, moments in which people changed acquaintances and everyday life contexts; but they also required creative initiative by speakers in order to sort out the subtle logics of identities and situationalities involved in using a language in everyday life.
I intend to present my team’s main findings of our studies of linguistic mudes, and build connections with people who have done similar studies in other contexts, including new explorations on language and affect that point in interesting directions as to how social subjectivities are linguistically constituted. I will also use the opportunity to critically discuss on methods, as research on new speakers has relied so far heavily on biographical material. In the future, we will have to invest in detailed ethnographic studies to get a more comprehensive understanding on how these particular forms of linguistic agency operate.