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SAMPLE - Cultural Studies Essay Sample on Language And Identity Issue

Languare and Identity Issue

Identity is a multi-faceted notion that combines multiple psychological, cultural, social linguistic components etc. It is impossible to distinguish which constituent part of identity is the most significant one since they all are interrelated and, thus, generate mutual impact on each other. Stating that something defines our identity means neglecting the myriad of other salient elements of it. Is language merely a linguistic system used by individuals to transmit and receive information or is it part of social interaction and, therefore, may be classified as the structural part of identity?  Sociologists say, “language is theorized not only as a linguistic system, but as a social practice in which experiences are organized and identities negotiated” (Bonny 351). 

    Being the method of the exchange of information language also has a central role is social practice in which identities are negotiated. Can we claim language to be an integral part of identity?  If you ask a random person, what, in his/her opinion, are the things, which define, for example, Italian identity, most of respondents will mention the Italian language as one of the three things, which define the Italian identity. To my mind, language is an integral part of one’s identity, even though the ethno-linguistic situation in modern world is so complicated that sometimes it is hard to tell what a person’s identity is. Why is language so important in determining one’s identity? First of all, language is formed under the influence of culture and mentality of the group of people using it for the sake of communication. Therefore, very often it is impossible to adequately translate some words or expressions from one language to another. The same word can have totally different sociocultural coloring in the two languages, even of neighboring countries. This is because language reflects the country’s history and the events people had to go through.

    Another question rises on the identity of bilingual individuals: do they have two identities or should there be the language (out of two), which is of greater significance to them, and, as a consequence, can predetermine their identity. In my opinion, if a person has parents from two different national identities, it is the surrounding the person lives in, which significantly influences identity. If the father is Italian and the mother is French, but the family lives in France, especially not in the regions bordering Italy, it is likely that their child will identify itself as French. The problem gets more difficult if they live in France in the settlements with predominantly Italian inhabitants. In this case they are legally still in France, but culturally and socially-wise it is more Italian than French. 

    It goes without saying that identity is a personal perception of who you are and what nation, ethnic group, linguistic group etc. you belong to. Therefore, it seems possible that the person can feel that his/her identity is half Italian half French. It is up to the person to decide what identity s/he has and we cannot impose any identities. Language is absolutely a big part of the identity determination, but there are many other things that have to be duly reflected upon to determine who you are. As many wise people of the world said, the more language you know, the more you are a person. It does not mean you will have so many identities as many languages your master, but you will better understand your own identity.

Works cited

Norton, Bonny. Language and Identity in Sociolinguistics and Language Education (New Perspectives on Language and Education). Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2010. Print.


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