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The sociolinguistics of place and belonging : perspectives from the margins

The Boundaries of Belonging

A Commentary

The chapters in this section form a fascinating combination in describing how quite different types of speakers negotiate a radical uprooting of their self-understanding, sense of place, and belonging. From the Bosavi villagers struggling to redefine themselves in the face of religious colonization in Bambi Schieffelin’s chapter, to the elderly miners still honoring their local speech style long after the forces of deindustrialization atrophied their community in the chapter by Peter Auer and Leonie Cornips, to the isolated Japanese expatriate wives who are trying to (re)create some kind of connectedness in Anna Banaś’ chapter, in each of these analyses we see speakers maintaining ways of belonging in the face of serious adversity. Below I will first explain that ideas of language, place and belonging are strongly influenced by discourses of modernity, and that sociolinguists have been trying to go beyond the legacy of this master narrative, before addressing the linguistic ways in which the speakers discussed in these chapters set out to construct a sense of place, group, and belonging.