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Title: Explorations of life in several languages
Author: Burck, Charlotte
ISNI:       0000 0001 3509 2978
Awarding Body: Open University
Current Institution: Open University
Date of Award: 2003
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This thesis is a qualitative research study exploring questions of how individuals construct living life in several languages, and of relational issues that arise. It pays attention to subjectivity and its interconnection with language. The study brings together perspectives from linguistics, translation literature, cultural theory, discursive psychology and systemic psychotherapy to consider issues of bilingualism/multilingualism at individual, family and societal levels, and to challenge the ongoing negativity associated with it. Five autobiographies and twenty-four research interviews with individuals who live in several languages form the research data. These insider accounts are treated as both referential and performative, and analysed using a synthesised grounded analysis and discursive analytic approach. It was found that individuals experience themselves differently in each language and construct their languages differently. The study identifies the discursive work individuals carry out in relation to these dissimilarities, such as the way they draw on a construct of a doubled identity, and conceptualise entry into a new language as performance. Individuals use their languages to make salient their own and others' identities. In Britain, speaking a minoritised language acts as a marker of difference and intersects with racialisation, helping to construct ethnicity and cultural identity. Although challenging, individuals develop strategies of hybridisation in enabling contexts, using the interaction between their different languages to create new perspectives, and see their multiplicity as advantage. Issues for families speaking several languages are discussed. Parents found first languages lent intimacy to parenting relationships; second languages conferred distance which helped avoid unhelpful interactions. The concept of 'mother tongue' is constitutive, perceived as language for mothers, and contributes to fathers using their first languages less. The thesis argues how crucial it is for psychotherapists to explore the differential effects of language on subjectivity and relationships, neglected to date, and for the importance of supporting bi/multilingualism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Living life