The Role Of Language And Social Identity

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We have been conditioned to view language as merely an instrument of communication. However language is more than a simple means of communication. Language is a tool used by people to shape personal identity and as well as construct social identity. According to Gumperz defines personal identity is “the distinct personality of an individual regarded as persisting entity” (1982). Tafjel defines social identity as “that part of an individual’s self-concept which derives from his knowledge of his membership in social groups” (1999) In other words social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group interactions. A typical example of social identity is social hierarchy; a person may form part of low class, middle class and high class society. Through the use of language individuals are able establish and maintain their social group membership. Moreover language has the ability to either bind or separate social groups. This result to a phenomenon called the minimal group paradigm. Proposed by Tafjel the minimal group paradigm is defines as “being able to divide people into separate groups on basis of unimportant criteria” (1999). It is an experiment to show how people who are put in random groups will often start to feel and show that they are superior. How they start to believe they superior and better than the outsiders. They then set boundaries and "rules" that set them apart from others. An example of this phenomenon is two netball teams which are rivals.
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