The native speaker, identity, and the authenticity hierarchy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many sociolinguistic writings (e.g. Fishman, J. A., 1972. Language and Nationalism: Two Integrative Essays. Newbury House, Rowley, MA; Fishman, J. A. 1991. Reversing Language Shift. Multilingual Matters, Clevedon; Phillipson, R. and Skutnabb-Kangas, T. 1986. English: The Language of Wider Colonisation. Paper presented at the 11th World Congress, New Delhi) assume native language is inherently central to individual identity, so that those members of an ethnic group who natively speak a language particularly associated with that group are more 'authentic' than those who do not. Though such an ideology is true of many groups and many individuals, it is not true of all groups: some, such as Jews, Greeks, Armenians, overseas Indians, Chinese, etc., define their identity in other ways, according to religion, tradition, and/or ancestry, but not native language. An ideology defining identity in terms of native language will inevitably view groups rejecting this ideology as being deficient, low on the 'authenticity hierarchy' established by this ideology, deceptively speaking 'other peoples'' languages, and perversely and insistently claiming distinctive identities and interests. It is just such an understanding of the alleged 'natural' connection between language and identity which was at the heart of the development of Nazi antisemitism, the view that Jews were impure, deceptive, and not normal human beings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-97
Number of pages21
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003


  • Ethnolinguistics
  • Linguistic ideologies
  • Sociolinguistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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