Lecture by Agnes He, September 20, 2013

Voices and Agencies: Discursive Foundations for Socialization in Heritage Language Speaking Households

by Agnes He, Stony Brook University

If immigration and globalization can be experienced by our auditory senses, it is through the new, additional languages that immigrants and globalized citizens speak. Different generations in immigrant families are socialized to use new languages at different rates and via different routes.  Meanwhile, the availability of internet and mobile phones has made it possible for immigrant family members to be simultaneously both separate and together, both here and there, both local and global.  This presentation examines features of communication in American households where Chinese is used as a heritage language against this backdrop of global migration and technological advancement.

In this presentation, I focus on language mediation practices by members of different generations in varying situational and technological contexts.  I highlight the discourse strategies of reformulation and repair that are used by the participants during language mediation both among themselves and with the outside world.  Reformulation refers to the presentation of the same propositional content with an alternative linguistic structure, affective stance, or conversational style.  Repair refers to the deployment of conversational-structural resources to address problems in speaking and understanding.  I show how the participants use these strategies to collaboratively navigate and negotiate their worlds and to complement each other’s language and cultural knowledge and skills.  I argue that language mediation is a form of social action that translates, transposes, and transforms linguistic information and cultural values while transcending generational and geographical divides.

Data are drawn from a dozen of households with child, pre-teen and/or teen speakers of Chinese as a heritage language.  Naturally occurring interactions during dinner time, playtime, homework time, and telephone/video call time were recorded and transcribed.  Informal interviews were conducted in the participants’ households over the course of one year.
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Friday, September 20, 2013
3:00 – 5:00 pm, B-4 Dwinelle Hall

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