Her Mother’s Tongue: Bilingual Dwelling, Being In-Between, and the Intergenerational Co-creation of Language-Worlds

Critical Philosophy of Race 12 (1):145-181 (2024)
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This article takes up the idea of language as a home and dwelling, and reconsiders what this might mean in the context of diasporic bilingualism – where as a ‘heritage speaker’ of a minority language, the ‘mother tongue’ may be experienced as both deeply familiar yet also alien or alienating. Drawing on a range of philosophical and literary accounts (Cassin, Arendt, Anzaldúa, Vuong, among others), this article explores how the so-called ‘mother tongue’ is experienced by heritage speakers in an English-dominant world. From navigating one’s being in-between language-worlds, to the experience of language loss and efforts of reconnection, I argue that bilingual dwelling involves many complex layers often overlooked by philosophical accounts of language that do not attend to the lived world of the migrant and racialised outsider. By turning to the example of bilingual parenting, I then examine how such an undertaking, while labour-intensive, offers opportunities to refresh and co-create language-worlds anew.

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Helen Ngo
Deakin University

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References found in this work

Phenomenology of perception.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1945 - Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: The Humanities Press. Edited by Donald A. Landes.
On the way to language.Martin Heidegger - 1971 - San Francisco: Harper & Row.

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