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The language of the hybrid: Verbal manifestations of identity and alterity in G. B. Shaw’s John Bull’s Other Island

Author(s): Zsuzsanna Ajtony

Journal: Bucharest Working Papers in Linguistics
ISSN 2069-9239

Volume: XIV;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 131;
Date: 2012;
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Keywords: discursive | ethnic identity | ethnic stereotypes | micro-sociolinguistic | Shaw

This paper presents the discursive construction of ethnic identities in the verbal behaviour of the three major characters of G. B. Shaw’s John Bull’s Other Island (1904): the English protagonist Thomas Broadbent, and two ethnic Irish characters, Larry Doyle and Father Keegan. The play is approached with the help of micro-sociolinguistic methods, focusing on face-to-face conversational interactions between characters, as ethnic stereotypes. The main linguistic means of expressing ethnic sameness and difference (deictic ‘we’ vs. ‘they’, politeness strategies, markers of power and solidarity, etc.) are analysed as conversational strategies that foreground the relationship among these characters and their attitude towards their own and the other’s ethnicity and home country. The analysis of these strategies reveal an unusual result: the reversal of ethnic roles which – as a technique of character treatment – proves Shaw to be wellahead his age, at the same time constructing and subverting ethnic stereotypes.
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