Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Language and U.S. citizenship: Meanings, ideologies, and policies
by Loring, Ariel Fradene, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2013, 213; 3596915
Abstract (Summary)

Citizenship is not a neutral word; it evokes numerous interpretations and connotations in various policies, discourse, and practices. Its significance is motivated by current narratives of rights and responsibilities of a citizenry, (illegal) immigration, and English-only ideologies. The basis for this investigation is the perception that the U.S. has traditionally been a country of immigrants as well as the role that English plays in a nation without an official language.

This dissertation is situated in the research domains of language policy (Shohamy, 2006; Spolsky, 2004), globalization (Blommaert, 2003; Bruthiaux, 2005), language assessment (McNamara, 2000; Shohamy, 2001), and language ideologies (Ricento, 2003; Wiley & Wright, 2004). Understanding that meanings are transmitted both from the top-down and the bottom-up (McCarty, 2011; Ramanathan, 2005), citizenship is investigated in naturalization policy and the citizenship test, swearing-in ceremonies for new citizens, interactions at a local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office, citizenship preparation classes, and the media, uncovering discrepancies between what citizenship means and how it is ascertained. Data from these sites is analyzed using qualitative methods such as grounded theory, ethnography, interviews, social semiotics, linguistic landscape research, and corpus-based critical discourse analysis.

This dissertation asserts that discursive and semiotic ideals of citizenship affect the status of English in the U.S., societal ideologies of immigration, language assessment practices, and teaching pedagogy. How naturalization applicants conceive of citizenship is not always in accord with the U.S. government's representations of citizenship, but it is the government's definitions of citizenship that affect applicants' future access and opportunities. The dissertation concludes with suggestions for citizenship reform at the level of classroom pedagogy and test design, and ways that critical and active citizenship can be practiced in everyday life.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ramanathan, Vaidehi
Commitee: Shibamoto Smith, Janet, Timm, Lenora
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 75/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, American studies
Keywords: Citizenship, Critical discourse analysis, Ethnography, Language ideology, Language policy, U.S. Naturalization Test, United States
Publication Number: 3596915
ISBN: 978-1-303-44322-0
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