Language and Identity

Topics: English language, Dialect, Linguistics Pages: 3 (1042 words) Published: October 11, 2013


Language and Self Identity

Have you ever considered that language can be more than just a means of communication? With roughly 6,500 languages being spoken in the world today, linguistics is one of the most complex subjects out there. One thing intriguing about linguistics is how we use language to create our own identity and to identify others. Neither language nor identity are fixed ideas; both are dynamic and constantly changing depending on our surroundings. The varying uses of language are crucial elements to shaping our multiple identities over our lifetime.

One’s self identity is created entirely through language and conversation. Our language choices are immensely important to the construction of our identity. Our personal identity isn’t how we identify ourselves, but rather how others identify us. These identities are most strongly built by the language we use and how others interpret it. The speaker can put forth their best effort to attempt to influence how others perceive them, but when it comes down to it, it is the listener who creates his own view and identity of the speaker. If the speaker isn’t allowed to influence the listener on the way he is thinking, the listener can construct an identity of the speaker which could be entirely different from the speaker’s intentions. This in effect creates a completely different identity of the speaker.

A good example of this is the use of black English in America. Many linguists believe there is nothing intrinsically wrong with black English, but to outsiders the language can seem corrupt and broken. To many African Americans, the use of black English is satisfactory to their communication needs. When outsiders who haven’t been educated on language tend to hear black English they stereotype the people using it as stupid, when it fact, that may not be true. Many blacks using black English in the U.S. are some of the smartest and most educated people. Amy Tan states in her essay “Mother Tongue”...

Cited: Baldwin, James. "If Black English Isn 't a Language Then Tell Me What Is?" Acts of Inquiry: A Guide to Reading, Research,and Writing at the University of Washington : With Readings. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin 's, 2011. 349-52. Print.
"Do You Speak American." PBS. PBS. Web. 15 May 2012. .
Evans, Russell. "Black English: An Underrated Bilingualism - Chantilly, VA Patch." Chantilly Patch. 22 June 2011. Web. 15 May 2012. .
"FAST-US-1 Intro to American English Reference File." FAST-US-1 Intro to American English Reference File. 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 May 2012. .
Nunberg, Geoffrey. "Double Standards." Nunberg on Ebonics. Natural Language and Linguistics Theory. Web. 15 May 2012. .
Tan, Amy. "Mother Tongue." Acts of Inquiry: A Guide to Reading, Research,and Writing at the University of Washington : With Readings. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin 's, 2011. 711-16. Print.
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