The Spoken Self: An Ethnographic Exploration of Accent and Identity

Open Access
Rehn, Stefanie Elizabeth
Graduate Program:
Applied Linguistics
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
November 09, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Karen E Johnson, Dissertation Advisor
  • Karen E Johnson, Committee Chair
  • Paula Golombek, Committee Member
  • Celeste S Kinginger, Committee Member
  • Meredith Christine Doran, Committee Member
  • second language instruction
  • English as a second language
  • Critical Discourse Analysis
  • applied linguistics
This study examines the relationship between accent and identity in three Chinese graduate students attending a large research-one university in the northeastern United States. The study is based on Och’s (1993) concept if identity as jointly constructed by the individual herself and the persons and conventions of her culture. It also examines the construct of the myth of native speaker superiority as it relates to the three study participants. Data points for this study include interviews, a questionnaire, extended self-recordings, and ethnographic observations and were collected over the course of approximately ten months. Data analysis is conducted using both grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss 1967) and critical discourse analysis (CDA) as laid out by Fairclough (1989). Results include a case study of each individual as well as a cross-case analysis, in which the latent themes of intersubectivity, social identity, and agency are examined. Conclusions reveal the way the myth of non-native speaker inferiority weaves through the lives of these participants and examines the very delicate balance they negotiate as they explore their own identities with respect to this myth. Finally, implications for classroom practice are discussed, and the use of CDA with second-language students is advocated.