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Language Ideologies and Belonging: Educational Experiences of Chicanx and Latinx University Students


This dissertation presents findings from an ethnographic exploration of the role of language in the academic experiences of Chicanx and Latinx university students at an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution. Specifically, this dissertation presents an extensive analysis of the language ideologies encountered, enacted, and described by Chicanx-Latinx identifying students at Patwin University. The findings of this dissertation highlight the role of a space called el centro, a campus center designed to provide academic support to retain Chicanx and Latinx students, and in particular the importance of this space for nurturing students’ sense of belonging in academia by modeling and enabling inclusive language ideologies and practices.

This dissertation relies on data collected during the 2018-2019 academic year through detailed interviews with fifteen students, participant-observation of students at el centro, and documented examples of the linguistic landscape of the focus site. Based on this data, I examine and elaborate on the role of language in contributing to students’ sense of belonging in academic spaces and exchanges. The findings contribute to closing the gap in current sociolinguistic and education literature in regards to our understandings of the role that language ideologies have in the academic experiences, opportunities, and outcomes of linguistically racialized and marginalized students. In particular, this dissertation steps away from deficit views of language by not focusing on language proficiency. Instead, this dissertation examines both exclusionary language ideologies and inclusionary language ideologies and specifically their impact on students’ sense of belonging as well as their use of English and Spanish in academic settings. Within these general categories of language ideologies are underlying belief systems and structures which impact how students feel about their own language identities and capacities and how such beliefs influence the exchanges and spaces that students engage.

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