Mobility, identity and localization of language in multilingual contexts of urban Lusaka
This study explores Mobility, Identity and Localization of Language in Multilingual Contexts of Urban Lusaka. By examining data from different sites of language practices of Lusaka urbanites, that include, casual and formal conversations, Zambian popular music, computer mediated discourses and advertisements; the study shows how interlocutors creatively draw on their extended communicative repertoire to make meaning, transform social structures/roles and stylize modern identities. Accordingly, the study consolidates the recent sociolinguistic theoretical position that views language as social practice and privileges speakers as social actors in shaping and recreating language. In this regard, the study foregrounds language as localized social practice and argues against the idea that language is homogenous and a bounded system. In doing so, the study adds to recent sociolinguistic theorizing calling for a paradigm shift to language studies. Therefore, the main research question that the study addresses, relates to how Lusaka urban dwellers achieve their mediated agency, voice and actorhood through linguistic choices during interactions in various social contexts of modern Lusaka. In turn, the question relates to how urbanites use language as localized social practice to maintain, transform and reproduce social structures/roles and identities in modern Lusaka. Owing to the type of data the study collected, a multifaceted methodological and analytical approach was employed for both data collection and analysis. Informed by a descriptive research design, the study used focus group discussions and individual key-informant interviews to collect data from casual and formal conversations. Data from Zambian popular music were purposively sampled from Youtube.com and music CDs. In addition, group/individual interviews with musicians were conducted in order to supplement data collected from music CDs and video sources. Data from online discourses were collected from the Facebook platform and from two Zambian based online news blogs, while data from print advertisements were collected through the capturing of images on billboards around Lusaka city as well as advertisements from newspapers and internet sites. Television and radio advertisements were recorded from the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation TV and radio channels. All the data collected from these sources were generally analyzed using Conversational Analysis, Facework Negotiation Theory, Multimodal Discourse Analysis and its cognate analytical tools such as Resemiotisation, Semiotic Remediation, Intertextuality, Multivocality and Dialogism. The study shows that message consumption is not a function of isolated semiotic resource but a combination of semiotic material drawn from semiotics that people are familiar with. The study thus argues that social meaning is steeped into social and cultural experiences of the speakers and that any study of language practices in such contexts should take into account the multifaceted nature of human communication. Furthermore, the study demonstrates that given the advancements in communication technology and mobility of semiotic resources across modes which have largely contributed to a reconceptualization of the nature of human language, any study of language in social contexts ought to account for other meaning making semiosis in both methodological and approaches to data collection and analysis, respectively. The study further shows how interactants in late modern settings of Lusaka stylize their multiple identities by dissolving the traditional linguistic boundaries through use of the extended linguistic repertoire. In this vein, the study demonstrates that social identity is a dynamic aspect of social life which is actively negotiated and performed through speakers' linguistic choices. In this respect, the study finds that speakers simultaneously stylize translocal hybrid identities which include urban versus rural, modern versus traditional, African versus Christian (Western fused) as well as gendered ones, through their use of different linguistic choices. Furthermore, the study finds that language borders and domains of language use are permeable. In this regard, the study demonstrates how Lusaka urban speakers use localized language forms to colonize the formal spaces thereby challenging the dominant ideologies about language as a fixed, impermeable and a bounded system. In the process of colonizing formal spaces using localized language forms, the study shows how speakers perform acts of humour, role play, face saving, identity and meaning enhancement. In turn these localized repertoires are drawn upon as resources to accomplish different tasks which would not be accomplished if only a 'single' language were to be used. In this regard, the study views language as a resource that transcends the role of meaning making. In addition, the study shows how, through the use of localized repertoires in formal spaces, speakers transform traditions and modernity into a hybrid space which identifies them as having multiple identities. This demonstrates that speakers in such modern settings use language as a resource to accomplish several things at once. It also highlights speakers’ agency in recreating language as well as transforming their social spaces. The findings of the study entail contributions to recent arguments on language that view it not as an autonomous system but rather as embedded in people’s social interactions. It demonstrates that languages have no clear-cut borders.The study also contributes to methodological and analytical approaches to the study of language in recent times. In addition, the study adds new knowledge to our understanding of identity as a performative act which is actively negotiated for as people interact in different social contexts. This implies that identity is not a fixed thing as traditionally conceived. Ultimately, the study calls for a rethinking of our conception of language and identity considering modernity practices.