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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

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Volume 2018, Issue 254

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“It sounds like the language spoken by those living by the seaside” – language attitudes towards the local Italo-romance variety of Ghanaian immigrants in Bergamo

Federica Guerini
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  • Dipartimento di Lettere, Filosofia, Comunicazione, Università degli Studi di Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy
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Published Online: 2018-09-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0035

Abstract

In this article, I focus on the position of Bergamasco, the Italo-romance variety spoken in the Province of Bergamo (Northern Italy), in the linguistic repertoire of the local Ghanaian immigrant community. I argue that Ghanaian immigrants do not speak Bergamasco since the local people refrain from speaking Bergamasco to them. Bergamasco can be regarded as a we-code (Gumperz, John. 1982. Discourse Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.) of the indigenous community, whereas Italian – in most cases, a simplified variety of standard Italian – is the default choice when communicating with immigrants. The lack of input in combination with negative attitudes and a lack of motivation to acquire the dialect triggers a self-reinforcing dynamic, making the incorporation of Bergamasco into the linguistic repertoire of Ghanaian immigrants unlikely. Excerpts from a sample of face-to-face interactions and semi-structured interviews involving a group of first-generation Ghanaian immigrants reveal that Bergamasco tends to be perceived as a sort of “secret language” deliberately used by local people to exclude immigrants and other outsiders. This stereotype originates from and is reinforced by lack of competence on the part of the migrants, but is devoid of any foundation.

Keywords: Italian; Italo-romance dialects; Ghanaian immigrants; we-code; language crossing

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About the article

Published Online: 2018-09-21

Published in Print: 2018-10-25


Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Volume 2018, Issue 254, Pages 103–120, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0035.

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