B02Contouring and Blurring of Linguistic Human Differentiation

The project examines the linguistic practices of human categorisation among (mainly Rwandan and Burundian) speakers in Uganda.

The Old Taxi Park in Kampala, Uganda. Deborah Wockelmann researches, among others, the inscriptions on the taxis.

Rwandans and Burundians in Uganda

Migration movements of speakers into neighbouring Uganda illustrate how ambiguous language boundaries actually are: They can be accentuated or flattened according to speakers' needs, so that national boundaries often no longer correspond to speakers' fluid and hybrid linguistic practices.

Categorization of speakers

Similarly, external categorisations by others often differ from speakers' self-positionings. In everyday interpersonal encounters, speakers are stigmatised and differentiated into social categories (e.g. ethnic groups, non-nationals, etc.) on the basis of external features (skin colour, facial features, stature) and their linguistic performance (choice of language, accent, proficiency).

Linguistic choices

Looking at multilingual practices in Kampala, it seems that speakers sometimes counter practices of differentiation through language. Depending on the context, they would either blur or accentuate their backgrounds and biographies. Our research project therefore asks How are speakers perceived by others and how do they position themselves? How do speakers mark or conceal differences linguistically? Which (fluid) affiliations are indexed and performed linguistically? In which situations does categorisation become (ir)relevant?