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Kurdish Language and Identity in Istanbul

Langue et Identité Kurde à Istanbul

Y. Mertcan Altinsoy


My research considers both linguistic and sociolinguistic side of the contact between Kurdish and Turkish. In multilingual contexts, such as Istanbul, outcomes of contact tend to be more diverse and complex depending on the individual background of speakers. Number of Kurdish-Turkish bilingual speakers is highly considerable, and the community is dispersed rather homogenously in the city with the exception of several locations. The link between identity and language is one of the main topics of my ongoing PhD research. Arguably language is the most marked element of identity. Economic, social, educative, familial and political factors affect the construction of the discourse on identity relating to the Kurdish language. In my field-search, beginning from 2016, I've come across many speakers who have rather contradictory practices regarding their discourse on language. I consider the reason for this to be the economic survival factor as it might be equally important as the sociolinguistic environment. One can observe that Kurdish bilingual speakers from different socio-economical classes prefer different means to preserve their Kurdish identity; e.g. not linguistic rather political, or not in the workplace rather in familial circumstances. In this respect, my communication will contribute to investigations such as the place of Kurdish language in the linguistic market of Istanbul and its relation to the discourse on identity. I will explore if the speakers make any compromises on their language use in their everyday life-and if so, how does it affect their approach to questions of identity. We could also question if the practices of passing on the language through generations correlate with the discourse on identity. We would also discuss if Istanbul is authentically multilingual, or if speaking Turkish is an absolute necessity in order to survive? In which conditions bilingual speakers are "accepted"? In which terms we can designate Kurdish as one of the languages of Istanbul? How do Kurdish speakers feel about living in Istanbul in terms of language? The heterogeneity of ethnolinguistic communities living together is often problematic, and identity is one of the main struggles in these situations, especially in those which are dominated symbolically and economically by the dominant ideological powers. I shall illustrate these points with examples from interviews and observations gathered from field work.


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Dates and versions

hal-02373279 , version 1 (05-12-2019)


  • HAL Id : hal-02373279 , version 1


Y. Mertcan Altinsoy. Kurdish Language and Identity in Istanbul. 4th International Conference of Kurdish Linguistics, Sep 2019, Rouen, France. ⟨hal-02373279⟩
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