Alien species: the discursive othering of grey squirrels, Glasgow Gaelic, Shetland Scots and the gay guys in the shag pad

  • Joseph J
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Abstract ?Nativeness? has been recognised for two decades now as a problematic concept within applied linguistics, yet other areas of language analysis have been slow to question it, with some continuing to treat it as a primordial fact of nature. This paper briefly examines the history of the ?native speaker? and the shifts in thinking that gave the concept an intuitive validity, before turning to current instances of linguistic/discursive othering, starting with the reporting in UK newspapers of the spread of grey squirrels and calls to wipe them out in order to save the ?native? red squirrel. Themes from this discussion are found to recur in an analysis of three texts from the SCOTS Corpus, assembled at the University of Glasgow. In these texts, various forms of othering are observed in the discourse of (1) a group of Gaelic teachers remarking on the differences between their island Gaelic and that of their urban students; (2) a Shetland woman shifting her identity as the conversational frame shifts from Britain to Scotland to Shetland school to Shetland farm; (3) a group of young Glaswegians recalling their own othering in excursions to England (which doesn't prevent them from othering others). Intriguingly, in the course of discursively turning his gay neighbours into an alien species in a way that echoes the exterminationist line on grey squirrels, a speaker in (3) gives off some quite unexpected ?indices? ? which leads finally to the methodological questions which indexicality raises in terms of intention and interpretation.

Author-supplied keywords

  • discourse analysis
  • identity
  • national
  • othering

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  • John E. Joseph

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