Defining the new speaker: theoretical perspectives and learner trajectories

Alexandra Jaffe 1
  • 1 California State University Long Beach, US

Abstract

This article addresses the concept of the new speaker from both a theoretical/definitional perspective and from the standpoint of a situated, ethnographic analysis. The more general and theoretical focus addresses some of the presuppositions and entailments of the new speaker concept, both as an “on-the-ground” concept that gets operationalized by social actors and as an analytical category used by researchers. In particular, it considers how the new speaker concept elucidates criteria in relation to which minority language-speaking communities of practice are conceptualized and enacted. The ethnographic focus, on Corsican adult language classrooms, explores how new-speakerness is invoked implicitly in Corsica, where the term “new speaker” itself is not in circulation, but is a target of language planning strategies. This ethnographic research reveals complex identity and language ideological issues that are raised about the legitimacy, authority and authenticity of Corsican language learners in a sociolinguistic context in which both formal/institutional and informal/social use of the minority language is quite restricted.

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