UniCa Dipartimento di Lettere, Lingue e Beni Culturali Research Research Groups Constructing and deconstructing: (Self)-Identity at the crossroads of Linguistics, Literature and Language Education

Constructing and deconstructing: (Self)-Identity at the crossroads of Linguistics, Literature and Language Education

Constructing and deconstructing: (Self)-Identity at the crossroads of Linguistics, Literature and Language Education.

Constructing and deconstructing: (Self)-Identity at the crossroads of Linguistics, Literature and Language Education.

Linguistic and Cultural Identities, Language Change, Comparative Literature  

Identity is a much more difficult concept than its everyday usage suggests and still represents an open question with multiple definitions. This is due to the many studies that – starting from different systems of thought – have attempted to demonstrate how identity is mutable and observable from several perspectives.

Linguistic studies mainly focus on how individuals perceive and use language to express their cultural and social belonging. Using of a particular speech style or language variety implies a continuous ‘act of identity’, i.e. a way of self-positioning through which speakers cultivate and consolidate a sense of belonging to a group. No linguistic form can exist without a pragmatic construction of identity; factors such as origin, social class, age, ethnicity definitely influence linguistic choices and play a crucial role in this complex process. From a literary perspective, the concept of identity, its construction and deconstruction is often approached through the analysis of literary works, especially those written in minority or marginalized languages: here, the use of language transcends its role as a mere vehicle of expressing content and becomes a powerful tool for asserting one’s identity or resisting the erosion of the own language and culture. This is particularly relevant in contexts marked by instability, migration, social upheaval and war. Of crucial importance is the translation perspective too, i.e. the exploration of the link between identity and translation: translation is not only a technical activity in which a text is transferred from one language to another, but a complex practice involving the negotiation of sociocultural and linguistic identities. In this context, the question arises of how translation can be used to express and negotiate linguistic and cultural identity, or conversely, to what extent and in what ways authors’ cultural identity can influence the translation of their works. Indeed, while translating the text into the target language, the translator is called upon to understand the processes of manipulation that occur in text production and that reflect identity, race, gender and class, as well as the stylistic and individual characteristics of the source text.

Building on these premises, the project seeks to engage with different theoretical, methodological and disciplinary perspectives and to propose a comprehensive reflection on the processes of identity construction conveyed through language in its diverse manifestations at all levels of analysis, also in relation to the implications for language education. The aim of the project is to gather contributions that deal with the concept of identity, with a special focus on German, East Slavic and Arabic-speaking countries and communities, both from a linguistic and literary point of view. Particular attention will be given to the following points:

1.Identity and language (in literary texts, non-fiction and other art forms)

2.Identity and linguistic variation / linguistic deviation (interaction and pragmatics; use of particular morphosyntactic constructions, lexicon and jargons; possible implications for glottodidactics)

3.(National) identity and literature, literature of migration and intercultural literature

4.The role of translation in the expression and negotiation of linguistic and cultural identities

While maintaining a rigorous scholarly approach, the project has the ambition to generate and disseminate a kind of knowledge that is both scientific grounded and applicable. A greater awareness of the way in which crucial social phenomena (such as migration) impact both migrants and host communities at the level of language change and identity negotiation can prove important in everyday life, bridging the gap between humanities research and the concrete needs of society, and promoting diversity and inclusion. At the same time, the project has the potential to shed light on the relevance of language change and cultural texts for societies and communities, helping to overcome the prejudice that sees some aspects of language variation as “language degradation or impoverishment” and literature as detached from social issues and historical change – thus contributing to explain why linguistics, literary and cultural studies retain and should continue retaining such a prominent place in school and university curricula. In this respect, the project also aims to promote academic and extra-academic conversations on this issue in the Italian context, where the debate on the relationship between identity, language, culture, history and migration has been less intense than in other countries such as Germany and the United States. Considering the increased presence of civil and cultural actors with a migration background in Italian society, this task is timely and urgent, both from a scholarly and a practical point of view.


Gianluca Cosentino (PI), Angela Daiana Langone, Alessandro Achilli, Ilaria Meloni.

Progetto finanziato dall’Unione europea – NextGenerationEU. 

D.M. 737/2021 – Linea d'intervento Iniziative di ricerca interdisciplinare su temi di rilievo trasversale per il PNR

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