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Language, Identity, and the Ownership of English

Bonny Norton
TESOL Quarterly
Vol. 31, No. 3, Language and Identity (Autumn, 1997), pp. 409-429
DOI: 10.2307/3587831
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3587831
Page Count: 21
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Language, Identity, and the Ownership of English
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Abstract

This article serves as the introduction to the special-topic issue of the TESOL Quarterly on Language and Identity. In the first section, I discuss my interest in language and identity, drawing on theorists who have been influential in my work. A short vignette illustrates the significant relationship among identity, language learning, and classroom teaching. In the second section, I examine the five articles in the issue, highlighting notable similarities and differences in conceptions of identity. I note, in particular, the different ways in which the authors frame identity: social identity, sociocultural identity, voice, cultural identity, and ethnic identity. I explore these differences with reference to the particular disciplines and research traditions of the authors and the different emphases of their research projects. In the final section, I draw on the issue as a whole to address a prevalent theme in many of the contributions: the ownership of English internationally. The central question addressed is the extent to which English belongs to White native speakers of standard English or to all the people who speak it, irrespective of linguistic and sociocultural history. I conclude with the hope that the issue will help address the current fragmentation in the literature on the relationship between language and identity and encourage further debate and research on a thought-provoking and important topic.

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