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Variation, race, and multiracial identity in linguistic research

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What is the relationship between ethnolinguistic communities and ways of speaking? Who is an authentic speaker of an ethnolinguistic variety? In a time where scholarly and public conceptualizations of race and ethnicity are variable and rapidly changing, potential effects on both self‐identification and ways of speaking present an area ripe for study. However, linguistics and allied fields have often overlooked individuals and communities that do not neatly conform to well‐defined racial categories. As multiracially identified individuals are one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the United States, researchers will necessarily need to address the way that traditional methodologies have excluded individuals and groups who fall outside of these racial and ethnic categories. This presents a unique challenge for sociolinguistics in particular, since we are interested in how people draw on linguistic variation to perform aspects of their identities, including their races and ethnicities. This study examines the ways in which race and ethnicity have been traditionally conceptualized in linguistics and allied fields, and draws on research from other social sciences to see how they have begun to study individuals who fall outside of traditionally pre‐existing social categories. The study also briefly discusses the results of one of the first major sociolinguistic studies on multiracially identified participants, which found substantial effects of self‐conceptualization and self‐identification on linguistic behavior of these participants. Finally, it will address future questions and directions for research at the intersection of personal identity, race, and language.

This article is categorized under:

  • Linguistics > Evolution of Language
  • Linguistics > Linguistic Theory
  • Linguistics > Computational Models of Language
  • Linguistics > Language Acquisition
Spectrogram of the phrase “to keep doing that” from one speaker in Holliday () illustrating H* and L + H* pitch accents. The first pitch accent, labeled H*, is characterized by a simple rise, and the second one, labeled L + H*
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]
Proportion of H* (vs. L + H*) pitch accents for each speaker in each interlocutor condition, in regression model with all speaker data. Speakers ordered by identity type with group means illuminated. Lower values indicate a greater usage of the L + H* contour, which occurs more frequently for speakers of AAL (McLarty, ; Tarone, )
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]

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Linguistics > Computational Models of Language
Linguistics > Language Acquisition
Linguistics > Linguistic Theory
Linguistics > Evolution of Language

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