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Language and Identity

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In life one has a sense of identity and therefore he or she identifies himself to a particular group maybe because of gender, age, language or a particular race among others.  People will always a have a strong sense of belonging and attachment to a group and speaking similar language makes it possible for easy socialization while on the other hand language barrier may hinder people identifying themselves with certain groups. People have a unique way of identifying themselves and this attracts them to each other, growing up in certain neighborhoods also develops sense of identity and may also result in developing of a language that may be unique just to them.

People will always aim at having a positive identity because it gives them the courage and to co-exist with other people freely. In a working environment people are judged on how well they can communicate with each other and not on the basis of their origin or race. Education helps people to have a smooth transition from their comfortable backgrounds such as families or communities. By understanding that we are not all alike and we speak different languages the issue of communicating with a single language that we all understand arises.

Language may refer to specific human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communicating with each other. Human language is unique when in comparison to others such as the communication of the animals because it only allows human beings to use an endless utterances from a given set of elements and this can only be acquire through social interactions. Human language can be used in different situations to mean different meaning. Individuals who are bilingual have higher affinity to associate themselves with people that share the same language. Language plays a significant role in helping individuals decide for their identity. Different people may argue that language does not determine much in the identity of an individual but in real sense it shape an individual identity and how he/she relates with other people, knowledge of a certain language makes one free to socialize with those who can understand him without the involvement of an interpreter. Language is not only used to communicate but also to express the emotions and feelings.

This research is based on the question; what is the role of language in an individual’s identity?

Role of Language in Identity

According to Benjamin Whorf he notes that language shapes the way we think and our emotions, it determines one’s perception of reality while Lionel Groulx says that language is the light of mind. Edward Sapir says that language is not only a vehicle for the expression of thoughts, perception, sentiments and value character of a community; it also shows the social identity of a group. A common language serves as a symbol for social solidarity and identity; he goes ahead to summarize that language retention helps maintain feelings of cultural kinship.

For a very long time, language and dialect has been the key pillar of information about identity. During this same period for one to become a member of a certain community it involves acquiring the information of the functions, social attributes and their language (Ochs et al). When one is able to speak two or more languages it becomes a symbol of identification and a way of communication and he may be more privileged than other people.  A dialect acquired by belonging to a certain group for instance the minority makes one comfortable when in their midst as they feel they are part and parcel.  (Heller, 1982, Pp.308).

In today’s world, language intersects well with the nature of subjectivity (Henriquez et al. 1984), in the postmodern era identity has been based on several, dynamic and conflicting issues found on a permanent self sense not the individuals choose while in different circumstances. Despite the fact that is deeply based on social and historical backgrounds, it allows for greater flexibility than either of the two i.e. race or ethnicity when an individual is able to express dual identity either consciously or unconsciously by the linguistic choices they make. In such circumstances people will stress their cultural heritage and they base on their language.

According to( Collins & Kuczaj, 1991)While there exists some limits such as color, gender, ethnicity or the age one can find a deep affection on self-identification and self-presentation, most of them become flexible in a cyberspace. Language increases the flexibility of the role they assume and their personnel (Calvert, 2002). Language attitudes has been studied as an vital area in identity (Cargile et al. 1994), in the past 40 plus years where language speakers are judged by their linguistic and paralinguistic variations as they communicate, this process affects the way we relate to one another but it also extends to the way communities react to people who speak different languages.

Language can be described as knowledge and in today’s world it is one of the major factors of competitiveness of an individual in the job market. Despite the fact that our knowledge and brains being the centre of development we cannot ignore one’s ability to use different languages. People who have common interests all over the world can find a sense of identity if they can understand each other and this is actualized with a similar language. Over time English has proved to be that language that brings people together all over the world and it has been used in conference for the United Nations and other meetings that have brought people from all over the world. The official language is used in the meetings of the United Nations and acts as an identity to member states

Most academicians claim that language plays a crucial role in both internal and external perception of ethnic races by those from outside. Most academic papers have mentioned that language has a role in ethnic identity. Although language plays that crucial role, academicians are keen to mention that it is not the only aspect of a minority group identity.

As noted above, language is key to identity of individuals and groups as it increases the level of belonging. People are more confident when one speaks the language you understand and therefore you are able to communicate, even the academicians who share common interest and views can identify with each other through the same language. Language plays a significant role in helping individuals decide for their identity. When one is capable to express himself freely, it will have an extra advantage in socializing with his peers. This will makes it possible to choose a reference group and express inner feelings in most efficient ways. Through expressing your inner feelings and emotions one relaxes and becomes more comfortable when in a group and it is true when one says that true emotions can only be expressed through a language he/she truly understands. The whole world can develop first if it can have unity in way they communicate and this has been shown through the need for people to understand and learn multiple languages. 

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