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Language identity of CL2 speakers living in Croatia


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Grgić, Ana. (2018). Language identity of CL2 speakers living in Croatia. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Croatian Language and Literature.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij hrvatske kulture) [mentor Jelaska, Zrinka].

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This doctoral dissertation addresses the issue of linguistic identity of non-native Croatian speakers living in the Republic of Croatia. These are speakers whose native language is other than Croatian and who have acquired or are acquiring Croatian as the official, majority and dominant language of the community in Croatia. Although the acquisition of smaller languages, such as Croatian, is rarely discussed as the acquisition of a prestigious language or the acquisition of symbolic capital, in the local context that is precisely the status it has. Local linguistic practice is a cultural capital that can be turned into social, or even economic capital (Grbić 2004), therefore knowledge of the local language is one of the important prerequisites for a successful inclusion of non-native Croatian speakers living in the Republic of Croatia into the society of the country in which they live. Investment into the Croatian language can provide them with multiple benefits, given that the Croatian language is the one most frequently or exclusively used in the Republic of Croatia in all domains constituting social life – personal, public, professional and educational (Zeroj 2005: 46), hence the acquisition of Croatian is one of the most important factors of their notion of their own linguistic identity. The number of non-native Croatian speakers in Croatia is not small, even though Croatia is most often perceived solely as an emigrant country. However, it should be noted that Croatia is also an immigrant country, with various immigrants and immigrant groups moving to it. In addition, the so called returnees and their descendants also come to live here, and the territory of the present-day Republic of Croatia has traditionally been the place of residence for members of various national and language minorities who can also be non-native speakers of Croatian. The theoretical part of the dissertation proposes a classification of non-native Croatian speakers that attempts to cover the specific non-native speakers and groups of speakers and describe the existing linguistic situation in the field, whereby the affiliation with a given subgroup demonstrates all the elements that have affected the linguistic development of an individual and the formation of their idiolect, as well as the formation of the idiom of the group they belong to. The guiding criteria for the classification are the type of non-native language and the associated course of bilingualism, the type of linguistic input and level of language acquisition in different language skills. One of the linguistic criteria was also the language relatedness that precisely in the example of Croatian, i.e. of the linguistic situation in the Republic of Croatia, has proven to be a major criterion given that both the minority and immigrant speakers group contain a large share of speakers of closely related languages. Another classification criterion was the type of motivation where the ancestral and borderline heritage speakers have been singled out into a special group of immigrant speakers. The extralinguistic criteria shaping the classification are the type and causes of migration, the status and social position of the language, as well as the complex relationship between ethnicity and languages according to which one can distinguish certain speakers or groups of speakers. This selection of criteria was aimed at describing the concrete linguistic situation “in the field”. For the needs of various other studies, non-native speakers could also be divided according to other criteria, but in this dissertation such additional potential criteria were considered within individual reconstructions of language biographies, and were subsequently discussed as the factors additionally affecting the construction of individual and collective linguistic identities. In this kind of division, bilingualism is ascribed to whole groups of speakers with similar features. Such collective bilingualism (or multilingualism) of a language community is most often studied in the sociolinguistic framework (Piškorec 2005: 18). As the sociolinguistic approach dealing with language contacts, i.e. the co-existence of two more or languages and cultures in a given time and space, in other words the coexistence of bi- or multilingual individuals and groups alternately using one of the languages they have acquired, allows for the study of the linguistic practice of individual multilingual speakers as the verbal testimony of language contacts (Wildgen 2004: 2), this dissertation applies the language biography method to the study of the linguistic identity of non-native speakers of Croatian. The choice of the method was determined by the post-structuralist approach to the notion of identity, according to which it is always constructed anew in the discourse and language use, and is a dynamic and multilayered language-discourse construct generated in interaction (Kalogjera 2007, Skelin Horvat 2017). Therefore, the term linguistic identity of an individual or group implies their overall language behavior, i.e. the totality of the identity positions of a person (Lujić 2016), meanings that it is the sum of all those positions manifested by an individual in a given social context in connection with a language or languages. In order to describe the sociolinguistic circumstances of the adoption of Croatian as the majority and dominant language of the community, the different consequences of language contacts, overall language behavior conditioned, inter alia, by language policies, the relationship between bilingualism and ethnicity, the impact of the relationship between bilingualism and ethnicity on the formation of individual and collective identities and identity self-positioning, the analytical part of the dissertation provides an analysis of the language biography accounts of non-native Croatian speakers. The corpus for this analysis comprised transcripts of fourteen conducted language biography narrative interviews with non-native speakers. When selecting interviewees, efforts were made to include in the study available nonnative speakers belonging to different subgroups according to the classification (e.g. according to the subtype of L2 they use, course of bilingualism, language relatedness). The material for analysis was collected by conducting language biography narrative interviews. The interviews were conducted in the period from early July to late November 2017 in Zagreb (12) and Bjelovar (2). The shortest interview lasted a total of twenty minutes, the longest almost two hours. The interviews were recorded in compliance with the basic principles of biographic narrative interviews: during the interview, there were always only two persons present in the room – the interviewer and the interviewee; each interview was conducted in a quiet surrounding, with enough time provided for the conversation. The biographic narrative interview technique employed in this study relied on the BNIM method. Each of the conducted interviews took place in several stages. The initial stage is the very definition of the study question and the search for interviewees. In this initial stage the interviewees were briefly acquainted with the area of study. At the very beginning of the interview, they were given clarifications as to the course of the interview and protection of their privacy, as well as answers to any questions they may have had about the study. The third stage is the posing of the starting question aimed at encouraging the interviewee to talk. In this study, the interviewees were asked for their biography where the emphasis would be on the languages they speak, with the Croatian language being of the greatest interest to us. They were explained that at this stage they could talk uninterrupted and that once they were done, they would be asked a few more questions. After the interviewees finished their narration, they were asked questions on the topics that called for further discussion. The final stage of the interview was the end of the recording, after which an informal conversation would ensue where the interviewees were asked for additional information considered to be of importance for the understanding of their narrative. In their language biography accounts they place their own language at the center of their narrative/talk, especially the way it was learned or adopted and the context in which they speak it (Nekvapil 2003: 63, Nekvapil 2004: 147); they self-present, but at the same time present other members of their family or the community to which they belong. On the other hand, their accounts are the material from which we gain insights into the linguistic practice of the interviewee and their surrounding community, hence the narratives have proven to be the manner and instance of their identification, i.e. of the discursive construction of identity. From those narratives on learning, adoption and use, the researchers gain a picture of the process of language acquisition from the point of view of the interviewees, i.e. language speakers or learners (Piškorec 2007: 458). The analysis of each individual narrative consisted of three steps. The first step was the extensive discursive macro-analysis of propositional content. The result of such a presentation of the collected material is a text which places the interviewee’s narration at the forefront, whereas the researcher appears as the selector and commentator (Piškorec and Zelić 2006: 279). What distinguishes such a macro-analysis from a recount is the theory of biographical and social processes and the theory of linguistic presentation of autobiographic experience in narrating (Treichel 2004: 48). Based on this, the language biographies for fourteen non-native Croatian speakers were reconstructed. The reconstruction of a language biography begins by analyzing the elements that factually describe the elements on the basis of which a person’s linguistic identity is constructed, namely: year and place of birth, description of the family situation and family idiom, education, work, details of migration to the Republic of Croatia, details of acquisition of Croatian, etc. This group also includes various other social factors, such as, for instance, the legal position and social value of the language, and the position of the language community. After that, the reconstruction of an individual language biography continued with the analysis of reflections on one’s own linguistic practice and the analysis of reflections on the linguistic practice of the broader community. These chapters observe how identity is constructed through the narration of oneself and of the events in one’s own life, i.e. how experience and memory turn into a specific account. The last step in the analysis was the analysis of a questionnaire in which excerpts from the narrative were assessed by native speakers. This step of the analysis was aimed at demonstrating that the way in which non-native speakers self-present in narratives is shaped in a sort of co-narration with others, and is also constructed according to how Others see them (Kalogjera 2007). These attitudes, in turn, are the result of many more deeply rooted attitudes of social communities. After the interviewees self-presented their linguistic identity in the narratives by presenting their everyday linguistic practice, their origin, language and speech, as well as the acceptability of such language and speech in different domains and situations in this part of the study were assessed by assessors who are native Croatian speakers living in Croatia. Based on the level of acquisition of Croatian, they determined identity positions, and at the same time represented a frame for the construction of the linguistic identity and self-positioning of a speaker identified on the basis of what is both said and unsaid, assumed images that the surrounding community has of them as non-native speakers. In the analytical part of the dissertation the approach is triangulation because in the language biography accounts the speakers are self-determined, after that their account is interpreted by the voice of the researcher, and then how parts of their accounts were assessed by native speakers is analyzed. When listening to a person’s self-presentation, we do not draw conclusions based merely on what they have said, but rather interpret somebody else’s identity not only based on language, but also based on the understanding of what has been said in the context of the given person, where occasionally a gap can occur between the determined and self-determined identity positions. The analysis was aimed at demonstrating the linguistic identity of non-native speakers of Croatian living in Croatia, whereby four main hypotheses of the dissertation were being verified: 1) that non-native speakers construct their linguistic identity differently in view of social factors, including the legal position and social value of the language and the position of the language community; 2) that they construct their linguistic identity differently in view of linguistic factors, including language input, language models and incentives for communication; 3) that the acquisition of Croatian is the most important factor in the comprehension of their bilingual and bicultural, or multilingual and multicultural identity; and 4) that native speakers assess the affiliation of non-native speakers with a given category mostly according to their language characteristics. The study has confirmed the theoretically explained proposal for the classification and demonstrated that the biographical information of the speakers and different language and social factors have a direct impact on the framework in which linguistic identity is constructed, but that there are also numerous other factors shaping it before the speaker is self-positioned and self-determined in their own narrative. The first two hypotheses have been completely confirmed, and the analysis has demonstrated that the construction of linguistic identity, in addition to being affected by the above linguistic and social factors, is also influenced by some additional ones, such as language relatedness, direction of bilingualism, type of migration, reasons for migration. In addition, it turned out that this process is influenced by numerous affective factors (motivation, non-native anxiety, attitudes, attributions and notion of self), as well as by the relationship between ethnicity and language. An additional factor proven to be extremely important is the attitude of the surrounding community. During the interaction, the surrounding community assesses the language and speech, level of acquisition, various layers of the speaker’s identity, and adds those assessments to the already existing attitudes on the language, on the country in which this language is a majority one, on the majority religion, on the race or, in general, on immigrants, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers etc. Conclusions on the attitudes of the surrounding community on non-native Croatian are drawn from the results of the questionnaire in which the assessors, native speakers of Croatian, described their own impressions, assessed the origin and length of stay in Croatia and provided ratings after they had heard excerpts from the non-native speakers’ narratives. The hypothesis this part of the study was attempting to verify was that native speakers assess the affiliation of a non-native speaker with a certain category primarily based on their language characteristics. In the questionnaire of this design the hypothesis could not be fully verified. Given that this is not a quantitative study with a large number of participants and with precisely measured correlations, the conclusions are not so much based on specific numbers as they are on the relationships suggested by these numbers, impressions and assessments, and on their qualitative interpretation. It is precisely the relationships between those results that demonstrate certain tendencies which can yield conclusions on the attitudes of native Croatian speakers (members of the majority language group) towards individuals and groups for whom Croatian is a foreign language. By allowing polyphony, providing authentic testimonies, i.e. deciding to present the language biography accounts of non-native Croatian speakers themselves and reconstructing their language biographies, the idea was to tell the story bottom-up (Apitzsch and Inowlocki 2000: 55–56). This choice of method is an attempt to give voice to the ordinary person, allowing them to tell their own lived non-native experience with the Croatian language, and an attempt to describe a collective language situation with the everyday individual linguistic practice of various non-native speakers. The qualitative approach also provided new insights into the language situation in the Republic of Croatia pertaining to the process of acquiring Croatian as the majority and dominant language of the community, and to different forms of inter-language influences. Owing to the language biography method that enables the individual and collective construction of identity to be connected, insights have also been provided pertaining to the (self)positioning of different minority groups and different linguistic and extra-linguistic specificities of immigration to the Republic of Croatia.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Croatian as L2, acquisition of Croatian, non-native Croatian speakers, language biography, narrative interview, reconstruction of language biography, language identity, bilingualism
Subjects: Slavic languages and literatures > Croatian language and literature
Departments: Department of Croatian Language and Literature
Supervisor: Jelaska, Zrinka
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij hrvatske kulture
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2018 10:37
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2018 10:37

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