The Role of Language in Identity Development

Liliana Meneses
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This research began as a phenomenological investigation into identity development in multicultural settings, and the possible role of language. Throughout the research, however, the very basis on which this research is grounded came to be questioned and reconstructed in the researcher’s mind. Although the sociopsychological model provided grounds for a theoretical framework and construct identification, it appears to view identity as rather more stable than was found in real life. The poststructuralist approaches, grounded in the word of Bourdieu (1990), viewed language as a form of social capital. Power, however, did not emerge from this research as a signification theme, and deliberate intervention is a side of social human behavior that Bourdieu fails to explain. An individual may willfully undo the identity he was born and socialized into – thus undercutting the very basis on which “habitus” stands.

The story of a life reconstructs the past, present and future, and offers a way to provide coherence and continuity where before there might have been none. Viewing identity not only as a developmental stage or an ideology but also as a narrative enriches our perspective of identity, by creating a “dynamic perspective where actors are continuously engaged in production of selves, positioning of others, revision of identity narratives and creations of new ones which valorize new modes of being and belonging” (Pavlenko & Blackledge, 2004 p.19).

Therefore, this study concludes by presenting a view of identity that incorporates both paradigms – by proposing not either/or but both/and. These stories are stories of individuals who “are agentive beings that resist, negotiate, change, and transform themselves and others” (Pavlenko & Blackledge, 2004, p. 20).

Keywords: Identity, Memory, Language
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and the Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Liliana Meneses

Research associate, Graduate School of Education and Human Development
Department of Human and Organizational Sciences, The George Washington University


I come from the field of international education, with a background in biology. My interdisicplinary background is reflected in my research interests. My research is interdisciplinary in nature and incorporates both the psychological literature (human development, neurophysiological literature (memory) and sociological literature (social identity theory)and seeks to integrate it with the literature in linguistics on bilingualism. I am especially interested in the role of culture and language in identity development. I am currently finishing my doctoral dissertation on the role of language and memory in identity development among multicultural settings.

Ref: I06P0018