Owning Turkish and Kurmanji-Kurdish literacy in Germany: A qualitative look at language-biographical agency

Thematic Section: Literacy in heritage languages

heritage languages, literacy, reading, writing, pedagogy

Annette Herkenrath, Adam Mickiewicz University

Heritage literacy research has often been interested in complex language and completeness of acquisition, following experimental designs. The present study is interested in the subjective experience of Turkish-German bilinguals and Kurmanji-Turkish-German multilinguals, qualitatively investigating narrative patterns in is verbalisation (Treichel 2014). To the extent that they have grown up in Germany, speakers have experienced relegation of both Turkish and Kurmanji literacy to more or less private domains (Fishman 1967, 1991) at different periods in their lives, with infrastructure and educational policies regionally varying (Pfaff et al. 2017, Ozmen 2010). They may as often as not have been exposed to more or less stigmatising discourse, both academic and public, on immigrant literacy. How then do people acquire, attain, and practice their individual multilingual literacy? How do they in retrospect verbalise their experience? The data is a trilingual diaspora corpus under construction: some 130 hours of recording, some 15 of which transcribed in EXMARaLDA, elicited as thematically free-flowing conversations and discussions with adult individuals and groups. The subject of literacy emerges from a variety of language-biographical contexts. Previous studies of these data have suggested a tension between impersonalisation/ deagentisation (Blevins 2003, Siewierska 2008a, b, Akar 2011) and emphatic personal ownership, related to a number of language-biographcal experiences. Some newly analysed passages seem to suggest that certain types of heritage literacy practice can have somewhat of an invigorating language-biographical effect, discourse-structurally traceable in terms of personalisation and agentisation. The present paper is set to further explore this line of research, focusing on four case studies, methodologically following a concordancing approach by selecting passages for their thematic interest and interpreting the discourse-level function of personal versus impersonal constructions in the three languages.