The relationship between how we speak and who we are is a fascinating one. To what extent are our identities reflected through the way we speak, and to what extent are they performed? The subject is especially fascinating when we consider the experience of adolescents, who are at an age where they are constantly constructing, negotiating, and reconstructing their identities as they find their place in the society around them. I’ll be talking about this relationship, and about the process of exploring and investigating it, in relation to a group of 14-16 year olds from the UK.
The research itself was challenging – it saw the attempted collaboration between two sociolinguists from different backgrounds and with different assumptions around core aspects of sociolinguistic research, in a volatile context consisting of two educational centres which catered for young people who had been excluded from mainstream education. However, both challenges – the difficult collaboration and the unpredictable research environment – only served to strengthen and enhance the final research experience.
In this talk, I will describe both the process and some of the findings and outcomes of the research. In doing so, I will reflect on the benefits of collaboration, and of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, arguing that doing so is advantageous for not only the individual, but also for the (sub)discipline we work in.