Language, Class, and Identity: Teenagers Fashioning Themselves Through Language

James Paul Gee, Anna Ruth Allen, Katherine Clinton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

57 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article uses discourse analysis to study how teenagers from different social classes in the United States use language to fashion themselves as different "kinds of people." Our analyses lead us to the following conclusions: The working class teens (in these interviews) use language to fashion their identities in a way that is closely attached to a world of social and dialogic interaction. The upper middle class teens (in these interviews) use language to construct their identities in a way that detaches itself from "everyday" social interaction and orients more towards their personal biographical trajectories through an "achievement space" defined by the (deeply aligned) norms of their families, schools, and powerful institutions in our society. In addition, the upper middle class teens use the abstract language of rational argumentation to "cloak" (of "defer") their quite personal interests and fears, while the working class teens use a personalized narrative (i.e., story-based) language to encode their values, interests, and themes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-194
Number of pages20
JournalLinguistics and Education
Volume12
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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