Identity, language, and new media: The Kurdish case
Language Policy , Volume 9 - Issue 4 p. 289- 312
This paper draws on theories that describe interrelationships between identity, language and the media to investigate how the Kurds utilise two forms of electronic media-satellite television and the Internet-to construct their identities. The data for this study is generated from four sources: a Kurdish satellite television channel (Kurdistan TV), a variety of Kurdish Internet sites, literature reflecting on the place of the new media among the Kurds, and informal interviews and personal communications with Kurdish media producers and audiences. Strategies including participant observation and online ethnography have been used to select data. Data analysis is informed by a critical discourse analytic approach that calls for examination of data at three levels: discourse practices, text, and socio-cultural contexts (Fairclough in Media discourse. Arnold, London, 1995). Findings suggest that the Kurdish language is held as one of the most important and salient manifestations of Kurdish identity. Satellite television and the Internet have magnified the symbolic role of the Kurdish language in defining Kurdishness. In addition, these new media have enabled Kurds from different regions and all walks of life to share and discuss cultural, social and political ideas and issues publicly and dialogically, and to construct and reconstruct their identities discursively with relative freedom and ease. The study also underlines significant differences between these two forms of new media in relation to identity construction and language use. Whereas satellite television seems to foster mutual intelligibility among the speakers of different Kurdish varieties the Internet tends to further diversify the language across alphabet and regional lines.