Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Feeling Languages: "A Diaspora of Selves" Among Bi- and Multi-lingual Students at the University of Colorado Boulder Public Deposited

  • Languages are not only means of communication. Languages are embodied experiences that are emplaced in contexts; thus, they are imbued with feelings that affect speakers' expression of self. Using interview and survey data from 60 student research participants at the University of Colorado Boulder, this thesis finds that 91.67% of participants report feeling different to some degree when they speak different languages. By analyzing commonalities in the data, it was found that there are eight main feelings that participants experience when they speak a language: 1) confidence, 2) comfort, 3) enjoyment, 4) ability to express emotions, 5) humor, 6) academic-ness, 7) formality, and 8) authenticity. These feelings are influenced by ten key factors: 1) context of acquisition and context of use, 2) ideological associations, 3) proficiency level, 4) accent level, 5) group belonging, 6) frequency of use, 7) perceived translatability, 8) age and order of acquisition, 9) the intended purpose of the language, and 10) perceived vocabulary or grammar constraints. The most powerful factors are a speaker's context of language acquisition, context of use, and the associated language ideologies. Gender was found not to affect feelings of difference. Participants understand and justify the relationship between who they are and the languages they speak in different ways. Yet, when one speaks a language, the feelings they experience culminate in an expression of self – a persona – that will feel authentic or inauthentic, in varying degrees, to the speaker's identity based on its perceived degree of difference from their 'true' self.
Date Awarded
  • 2019-01-01
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Granting Institution
Last Modified
  • 2019-12-02
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