Language and perceptions of identity threat

Rusi Jaspal, Adrian Coyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores how a group of British South Asians (BSA) understood, defined and evaluated languages associated with their ethnic and religious identities, focusing upon the role of language in the negotiation and construction of these identities and particularly upon strategies employed for coping with identity threat. Twelve BSA were interviewed using a semi‐structured interview schedule. Transcripts were subjected to qualitative thematic analysis. Participants’ accounts were explored through the interpretive lens of identity process theory. Four superordinate themes are reported: “Maintaining a sense of distinctiveness through language use”, “Exclusion of others and personal claims of belonging”, “Deriving a sense of self‐esteem from the knowledge of one’s threatening position” and “Two identities, two languages. Searching for psychological coherence”. While identity principles may be cross‐culturally universal, coping strategies are fluid and dynamic. Individuals will act strategically to minimise identity threat. Some of the coping strategies manifested by participants are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-167
JournalPsychology and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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