Please join us for the next Centre for Transnational Studies seminar.
When: Wed 7th October 2015 5-7pm
Ethnographic Insights into the Superdiverse Language Context of Belize
In this presentation, I discuss the multiple indexical meanings of languages in a non-European and multilingual context with strong transnational traditions to study the links between social units and linguistic units in a context where monolingual nationalist ideologies never prevailed. I present ethnographic, interview and conversational data collected in the multi-ethnic nation of Belize to demonstrate the diversity, complexity and ambivalences of language ideologies and language use where these have not been erased by national discourse. Belize has about 300.000 inhabitants; yet it has a very diverse linguistic make-up. Centuries of contact between Amerindian, Carib, Hispanic, West African and Anglophone cultures have brought about cultural heterogeneity and strong degrees of interethnic mixing within families in this small nation. English is the official language, Spanish is demographically dominant and Belizean Creole is the oral lingua franca. Besides, Garifuna, Mopan, Ketchi, Yucatec, German, Lebanese, Hindi, Taiwanese, Cantonese and Mandarin belong to the linguistic repertoire. As virtually all Belizeans grow up speaking at least three languages, languages and cultural groups do not match up in a one-dimensional way. Close transnational ties (mainly to the UK, the US, Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico) and emigration and immigration have further increased the traditional diversity. Belize is thus an ideal context for developing an understanding of symbolic meanings of language choice beyond the confines of national epistemology, which has led to over-simplified notions of ‘multiculturalism’ and under-theorised sociolinguistic concepts.Posted By : Erin Forward