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Heteroglossia and the Construction of Asian American Identities

Abstract

This article examines the interactive deployment of code-switching in a conversation between a Chinese American man, a Korean American man, and an African American man. By drawing upon their heteroglossic repertoires of a vulgar register of Korean, English inflected with African American Vernacular English, and formal English, the participants index specific ethnic identities for themselves and for each other while collaboratively constructing the identity of a girl. Yet because a single act of language can have both affiliative and disaffiliative ramifications and because participants' ideologies about even individual words can vary, the indexical meaning of the code-switching is not always shared. This article thus argues that any analysis of code-switching must take into account the local constitution of identities and ideologies as well as the multivocalic nature of language.

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