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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Complex Identities and the Writings of Nonnative English Academics

Karen Beck Englander.

In this global age, people who seek an international audience are increasingly required to write in English. To participate in their discipline's conversation of ideas, academics must take on the identity of a scholar in the field.
Identity and voice are key qualities which are embedded in the work of all writers. While the literature variously argues whether one writes from the "true self" or a "persona," one aspect of identity is writing "from within." Yet simultaneously there are real constraints, beliefs, values and accepted practices which limit the choices of any "individual consciousness." Together these forces constitute a dialogic relationship which all writers, including academics, much continually resolve with each new text they create.
Identity is more complex for nonnative speakers. They must master the content of their field, manage a relationship with their reader, and form a text that conforms to their discipline's expectations. Each of these variables is expressed in language: one which is not their own. The subtleties of word choice, syntax, and rhetorical pattern are all indicators of identity. Yet the nonnative speaker may not realize the identity that he/she is communicating in writing. Further, the nonnative speaker may feel unable to communicate the identity he/she wishes to portray.
Work in the field of linguistics has categorized some of the variables which reveal identity and voice. This presentation will demonstrate that these linguistic cues can reveal identity information to the reader. Further, combining textual analysis with semi-structured interviews can reveal discrepancies between his/her intention and the effect on the English-speaking reader. An important consequence of this preliminary study will be to further develop principles for global scholars who wish to portray their knowledge and themselves in ways that positively further the academic conversation of their field.


Karen Beck Englander  (United States)
Professor & Doctoral Candidate
School of Languages
Autonomous University of Baja California, MEXICO & Indiana University of Penn., USA

Englander, a professor in Mexico is also a doctoral candidate at IUP, Pennsylvania, USA. This study constitutes preliminary dissertation research.

  • Identity
  • Language
  • Linguistics
  • Voice
  • Scholarly Publishing

(Virtual Presentation, English)