Presentation Beyond Bifurcation: Language Speakers as Complex Individuals

Panel session presented at the Sociolinguistics of Globalization: (De)centering and (De)standardization International Conference, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
The use of “native speaker” and “non-native speaker” discourse continues to cascade throughout all domains of language education and academia (Rivers, 2013; Rivers & Ross, 2013). However, these terms are almost never explicitly defined and therefore tend to elude scientific scrutiny and research-based challenge, instead functioning as socio-discursive and socio-semiotic constructs (Toh, 2013). Furthermore, within the academic literature it has become normative, often through discourse aimed at correcting prejudice and/or discrimination, to view this bifurcation as having a single beneficiary – the “native speaker” – and thus a single victim – the “non-native speaker” (Houghton & Rivers, 2013). However, this unidirectional perspective fails to interact with the more veiled systems through which those labeled as “native speakers” and “non-native speakers” are both potential casualties of this questionable bifurcation. Drawing upon various sources of data and illustration, this presentation posits that it is only by striving to protect all potential victims from the chauvinism and stagnation of the “native” “non-native” speaker bifurcation, that mutual trust, respect, and the development of a diverse professional identity be nurtured.

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