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Linguistic Repertoire: Language Identity and Culture Essay

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Updated: Apr 20th, 2021

A linguistic repertoire is a set of various linguistic identities, which one person can use in different situations (Finegan 547). It could be said that it helps a speaker show his/her full potential in communications and express his/her thoughts and ideas openly on various occasions. This essay describes my own identities and codes, which are used to present them. Moreover, this paper provides information on how a transition between these identities occurs in different contexts. Lastly, the analysis of the behavior is performed by using the theory of social construction and autoethnography.

Speaking of my own identities, I should start with my cultural background. Cultural identity and mentality are vital elements of a particular language formation and vice versa (Sheela 1). I have been living in China for twenty years. However, now I am studying in Canada in English. This fact helps me to improve my communication skills in a foreign language. Consequently, I bilingual, it allows me to have multiple identities, codes, and registries.

Speaking of Chinese identities, I speak standard Chinese and some dialects such as Mandarin Chinese. In China, I use standard Chinese dialect to interact with other people. As for Mandarin Chinese, I usually utilize this dialect while communicating with the older family members. However, it has to be mentioned that sometimes I use a mixture of traditional Chinese and the dialect, as it increases the effectiveness of communication. Moreover, while I am talking to my friends, I use an individual register in this context. In this case, it is a mixture of slang, traditional language, and some English words such as ‘okay’ and ‘cool’.

As for my English identities, I am using academic English during my studies and spoken English when I am communicating with my peers. Additionally, during meetings with my Chinese friends, we use a particular register. In this case, it combines English words and Chinese structure and the flow of the speech, it can be named Chinglish. For example, we often use words ‘hey’, ‘wow’, ‘nice’, and ‘okay’.

It could be said that I do not experience difficulties while changing from one model to another. However, if I am writing an essay and communicating with my Chinese friend at the same time, I will start using a majority of English words while having a conversation or making some mistakes in spelling due to the lack of concentration. However, usually, I do not have trouble in changing languages, identities, and registers quickly, as I can adapt rapidly to the new situation.

It has to be mentioned that it is easier for me to change my registers in the Chinese language, as it is my mother tongue. I do not experience difficulties distinguishing between social situations and rarely make code related mistakes. In English, these errors might occur due to a lack of proficiency and confidence.

However, it is important to analyze the behavior with the help of the social construction theory and autoethnography. Autoethnography is chosen as a primary method, as it provides the insides of the culture and explores the researcher’s personal experience related to cultural understanding and identity (Fong and Chuang 71).

It could be said that I, as a Chinese speaker, has multiple dialects due to Chinese social norms and customs. Furthermore, older people are considered as the most respected and wise members of society (O’Neill 20). It could be said that it is a cultural significance to respect and cherish traditions and values. It is the primary reason for me speaking dialects with my grandparents.

Speaking of social construction, it could be said that an object is socially constructed if it is “dependent on contingent values of our social selves” (Boghossian 6). Language dialects and registers cannot exist apart from society and cannot be generated and created without social contact. In construction theory, knowledge is formed by the interactions between different members of the community (Andrews 40).

In the case presented above, the consistency of the culture with the society could be discovered. As the presence of Chinese and English registers occurred due to the necessity to establish relationships with other participants of collaboration. Moreover, as the contributors belong to different social groups and classes, new adaptations of the common language have to be introduced to meet the quality perceptions of each party. Furthermore, the presence of hierarchy is a vital aspect of society. In this case, one of the examples is using the Chinese dialect to show respect to the elderly. As for English, the utilization of academic English indicates a priority of the study institution and a student’s respect for traditional academic English.

In conclusion, it could be said that there is a strong connection between language identity and culture. Moreover, the interdependence between these two phenomena was discovered in this essay. Additionally, understanding the presence of linguistic registers helps a speaker see a plethora of language forms. The analysis of the language patterns and registers revealed a strong dependence of language on the cultural norms and traditions. Social construction and autoethnography were used to evaluate the findings and show the subjectivity of the language registers. Social construction discovered an impossibility of communication to exist apart from society.

Works Cited

Andrews, Tom. “What is Social Constructionism?” Grounded Theory Review 11.1 (2012): 39-46. Print.

Boghossian, Paul 2001. “What is Social Construction?” The Times Literary Supplement. 2001: 6-8. Print.

Finegan, Edward. Language: Its structure and use. Stamford: Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.

Fong, Mary and Rueyling Chuang. Communicating Ethic and Cultural Identity. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004. Print.

O’Neill, Patricia. Caring for the Older Adult: A Health Promotion Perspective. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2002. Print.

Sheela, Samula. “Language Influence over Culture.” Review of Research 3.7 (2014): 1-3. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "Linguistic Repertoire: Language Identity and Culture." April 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/linguistic-repertoire-language-identity-and-culture/.


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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Linguistic Repertoire: Language Identity and Culture'. 20 April.

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