Narrative Analysis as a Research Method for Studying Language and Identity

An invited lecture for the SLA Talk Series

Dr. Christina Higgins

Professor and Chair in the Department of Second Language Studies
Director of the Charlene Junko Sato Center for Pidgin, Creole, and Dialect Studies
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

4:00 pm, Friday, October 21
on Zoom

About the talk

In this presentation, Dr. Higgins will discuss how to think about narrative analysis as a useful methodology for examining a range of questions related to language and identity. Narrative data offer researchers the opportunity to investigate people’s sense-making practices and to better understand how they position themselves in relation to discourses of place, gender, ethnicity, nationality, language, and more. Moreover, narrative analysis offers researchers specific tools that can be used to conduct rigorous qualitative analysis of interviews and social interactions. To begin, she considers what counts as narrative data, drawing on examples from her own work in a range of contexts, including research interviews, educational settings, and social media. She will then introduce several key narrative structures which regularly prove important to the analysis of narrative data in relation to issues around identity. First, she will show how narrators use the narrative structure of orientation (Labov & Waletzky, 1997; De Fina, 2003) in relation to footing (Goffman, 1974) when they articulate their experiences to their interlocutors. Second, she will illustrate the tool of voicing (Deppermann, 2013; Sandhu, 2014) to show how speakers enact different characters in their storied worlds and express evaluations toward those characters and their actions. Finally, she will discuss how speakers use second stories (Benwell, 2012; Sacks, 1992) in interactional narratives to express alignments and disalignments with one another, and to express their positionalities towards particular dispositions and ideological stances. She will close with a discussion of the promises and challenges in conducting narrative research in the fields of sociolinguistics and applied linguistics.

About the speaker

Dr. Christina Higgins is Professor and Chair in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where she is also the Director of the Charlene Junko Sato Center for Pidgin, Creole, and Dialect Studies. Dr. Higgins strives to be a sociolinguist for the “real world” and to engage in scholarship that can effect positive change in society. Her research examines multilingual practices and identities among people who navigate local-global affiliations and tensions, with particular attention to marginalized populations. Much of her research has been in post-colonial contexts, including Tanzania and Hawaiʻi. Her current projects include research on a collaborative redesign of the linguistic and semiotic landscape of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s
campus, with attention to Hawaiian history, language, culture, and geography, as well as several citizen sociolinguistics projects about multilingual Hawaiʻi. Dr. Higgins is also Editor in-Chief of Applied Linguistics (Oxford University Press).

Sponsors: Second Language Acquisition PhD Program with the Language Institute. Funding by the Anonymous Fund.

Contact: Jana Martin

The UW-Madison Language Institute is committed to inclusive and accessible programming. To request an accommodation for this event, please contact Language Institute associate director Jana Martin three business days in advance.