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Item Type: Tesi di dottorato
Lingua: English
Date: 11 December 2018
Number of Pages: 308
Institution: Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II
Department: Studi Umanistici
Dottorato: Mind, Gender and Language
Ciclo di dottorato: 31
Coordinatore del Corso di dottorato:
Pennarola, CristinaUNSPECIFIED
Date: 11 December 2018
Number of Pages: 308
Uncontrolled Keywords: Italian diaspora, identity, discourse, multilingualism, language variation
Settori scientifico-disciplinari del MIUR: Area 10 - Scienze dell'antichità, filologico-letterarie e storico-artistiche > L-LIN/12 - Lingua e traduzione - lingua inglese
Date Deposited: 28 Dec 2018 17:37
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2020 08:54


Mass mobility is a powerful sociolinguistic force, as it leads to culture and language contact. In the period after WWII, Italians migrated to several foreign countries in search of decent life standards and job opportunities. In the UK migrant communities flourished in London, but the Italian diaspora also affected cities such as Bedford and Peterborough (Guzzo & Gallo, 2014). However, very little is known about the Italian diaspora in the South-West of England, although Bristol has so far hosted thousands of Italians (Bottignolo, 1985). Furthermore, maintenance and shift of languages and cultures have proved to be productive fields of research over the last fifty years. Yet, considerable research has involved primarily Black and Asian minorities, while rarely have White migrants’ multilingual practices been labelled as “ethnic” (Evans Wagner, 2014, p.79). On the whole, while anthropological, sociological and sociolinguistic research has investigated the Italians in the US, Canada and Australia quite consistently, British Italians’ language behaviours are still under-researched. A few sociolinguistic studies have so far investigated the Italian communities in a well-defined area in England, i.e. Bedford and Peterborough (e.g. Guzzo, 2007, 2014; Guzzo & Gallo, 2014), recently including Loughborough, too (Guzzo & Gallo, forthcoming). Moving away from the Midlands, I looked at the Italian migration towards the South West of England, specifically focusing on the multicultural city of Bristol. One of my goals was also to see whether there is any difference in terms of language behaviours and identity compared to other Anglo-Italian communities. Overall, the aim of my research was essentially twofold and it tried to bridge two gaps in previous literature. While trying to further explore the current linguistic and cultural landscape of urban Italian migration to the UK, this research also aimed to investigate an underexplored socio-geographical area, i.e. Bristol, where few research studies have been carried out recently. Therefore, this work (a) shed light on Bristol Italians’ (Bristalians) language, culture and heritage, while (b) also contributing to filling a gap in the current sociolinguistic research in the South West and, particularly, in Bristol. In particular, this project intended to investigate whether and how Bristalians adopt language devices, whether they be more local or related to their multicultural background, as social symbols of identity, to strategically index their multi-layered identities. In particular, this thesis explored multilingual practices amongst Bristalians from a cross-generational perspective, in terms of discourse and phonology. It thus investigated Bristalians’ heritage languages and their multilingual repertoire in interaction on a broad spectrum, by considering phonological features on the one hand, as well as dealing with code-mixing and discourse on the other hand. I divided my thesis into two macro-sections, and each of them was concerned with specific aspects of language variation and identity construction. While the first section was focused on Bristalians’ trilingualism (in other words English, standard Italian and their family dialect) from a discourse perspective, with a focus on code-mixing, discourse functions and identity, the second part dealt with phonology and it was concerned with two main phonological variables, specifically the (ing) and the (th) variables. These variables seemed particularly interesting to investigate: firstly, because they are well-known variables in English varieties, and secondly, due to their possible association with migrant backgrounds. I relied upon a composite methodology to perform a thorough analysis of Bristalians’ linguistic and cultural context: specifically, I decided to take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the diaspora, by blending sociolinguistics, discourse strategies, code-mixing and ethnography. In addition to these methods, I further relied upon statistical analyses, using Rbrul. Indeed, I strongly believed in the great potential resulting from combining several research tools. Overall, 31 participants were recorded during 23 recording sessions. Alongside interview data, my corpus, which I called Br.I.C. (Bristol Italians Corpus) also includes data from questionnaires, filled by participants immediately after the recording session. Participants’ age ranged between 12 and 75. In order to categorise my informants, linguistic factors as well as top-down social factors were considered, such as gender, age and generation. However, generation was not considered sufficient to obtain a full picture of Bristalians, in terms of their relation to migration and to their multicultural experience. Being inspired by Hoffmann and Walker’s (2010) Ethnic Orientation, I elaborated an identity-based factor, called “Italianness Index”, which could be more fruitful in identifying Bristalians’ according to their heritage background and identity. Italianness Index and self-assessed Bristolianness were also considered as identity-based factors in the present investigation. On the whole, trilingualism is still present amongst Bristalians, although it is decreasing in younger generations. A few Bristalians also demonstrated having deeply acquired their heritage languages. Some informants further displayed strong language awareness, particularly of dialect variation. In regard to code-mixing, younger speakers and, broadly speaking, those with a low Italianness Index preferred superficial types of mixing, namely single-noun lexical switches. However, even these small lexical choices, such as single-noun switches, may contribute to the maintenance of an Italian identity amongst Bristalians, due to the high social and cultural impact and meaning that they carry. For instance, this was the case of words associated with the field of family relationships, such as nonna (‘grandmother’), but more interestingly, also of words that recalled the experience of being Italian, such as campagna (‘countryside’). More well-rooted code-mixing revealed that Bristalians still use Italian and dialect varieties to express social meanings and functions in discourse. Phonological variation in their speech also shed some light on possible correlation between social and linguistic variables and consonant clusters, leading the way to new paths to be further explored. While all the non-standard variants under investigation were linguistically constrained, Italianness proved to be relevant on the [ɪŋk] variant only. In particular, speakers with high Italianness tended to statistically favour [ɪŋk]. In contrast, [ɪŋg] seemed to be socially influenced by generation and Bristolianness. In addition, (th) variants exclusively correlated positively with fixed categories, specifically gender had an impact on [f] and generation was statistically relevant for [t].


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