Using the data I have collected, and paralleling it with the data others have collected, I will show the way in which linguistic maps produce cultural identities in different spaces; keeping in mind that this is all within a postcolonial space (Lebanon as a whole) still affected by cultural imperialism. I would also like to add that the deductions I will be making are subjective, merely observations that I’ve (carefully) made using my own experiences, but which are still valid on a micro-level and individualistic basis.
Taking a look at this linguistic map displaying the entirety of the data collected by peers and myself:
it is evident that the most pervasive languages concentrated to the left of the map are English (alone), and English and Arabic (appearing simultaneously). As one moves further away from this cluster, languages not including English begin to appear more frequently, and in different variations i.e. by themselves, coupled with two or three other languages, and in scripts different than the Latin script.
If one compares my data to this collection, one can see that this is mirrored in my linguistic map as well:
Let me first say that identities are complex and intricate structures, they are not, however, ontological subjects that exist in vacuum. Our identities are formed by our socialization: The gender we are ascribed, the nationality we are given, our race, our class – interwoven in the fusion of all these different aspects of identity comes language (and education levels). Language is one hell of a complicated thing. We could talk about whether language produced thought, or whether thought produced language, but this debate has no place in what I am trying to prove. I am speaking about years later, when your identity has more or less been formed in the static way that it is – it begins to be affected by the languages you use, hear, laugh at, argue with. Language essentially becomes the foreground for all of our social interactions.
I don’t speak French. But that is only because I never grew up in an environment where French was spoken to me, I was never surrounded by it, I didn’t hear it in music or on the television. Somehow, though, upon my moving to Beirut, I began to know the meaning of words in French – I understood words in the contexts in which they appeared. Words such as: Garderie, Foyer, Soeurs, or Famille. For a native speaker, perhaps these words seem simple, or easy to recognize, but not for someone who hadn’t really been exposed to French – ever.
Spaces where French seems to be more common than Arabic or English, spaces like Badaro, or Badaro street:
where French, and it’s mixity with English and Arabic is much more ubiquitous than in places like Hamra or Forn el Shebbak, gives the onlooker a sense that the French language contributes a particular aspect of identity to those living around that area. The appearance of the French language is such a space provides information of what “kind” of people live around that area. Perhaps one can make assumptions about the class, or race, or education level. Language does more than form a linguistic identity, but it speaks of identity as a whole.
“Identity is constantly interactively constructed on a microlevel, where an indi- vidual’s identity is claimed, contested and re-constructed in interaction and in relation to the other participants” (Norris 657 as quoted by Pearson 35).
Living in an imperially influenced country with a history of colonialism, it’s easy to think that your identity has strictly been constructed by those colonial and imperial factors, i.e. mainly speaking English in an American accent, with a little bit of Arabic and French boiled into the mix. It’s interesting to see how these linguistic maps create spaces that describe our postcolonial identity. My English is not purely American, my Arabic is not purely Lebanese, and my French is only a mix of the two. My identity is one of a fusion of languages displayed by the spaces in which I live and move in. These are maps not only of our identities, but our uniqueness and singularity in a world that constantly categorizes itself into neat little boxes of “yeas and nays.”