Selves in Two Languages
Bilinguals’ verbal enactments of identity in French and Portuguese
Bilinguals often report that they feel like a different person in their two languages. In the words of one bilingual in Koven’s book, “When I speak Portuguese, automatically, I'm in a different world…it's a different color.” Although testimonials like this abound in everyday conversation among bilinguals, there has been scant systematic investigation of this intriguing phenomenon. Focusing on French-Portuguese bilinguals, the adult children of Portuguese migrants in France, this book provides an empirically grounded, theoretical account of how the same speakers enact, experience, and are perceived by others to have different identities in their two languages. This book explores bilinguals’ experiences and expressions of identity in multicultural, multilingual contexts. It is distinctive in its integration of multiple levels of analysis to address the relationships between language and identity. Koven links detailed attention to discourse form, to participants’ multiple interpretations how such forms become signs of identity, and to the broader macrosociolinguistic contexts that structure participants’ access to those signs. The study of how bilinguals perform and experience different identities in their two languages sheds light on the more general role of linguistic and cultural forms in local experiences and expressions of identity.