Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics



First Advisor

Laurel Stvan


This dissertation adds to work exploring where language stands in the shaping of adolescent speakers' social identities, since identities emerge through discursive and social practices, and social selves are produced through interaction (Bucholtz 1999), but much of the literature studying the role of language in defining the adolescent's identity is insufficient (Fortman 2003). This study is based on data from five months of fieldwork in 2008-2009 with two distinct and stigmatized high school cliques in Kuwait. The first clique is well known for its Arabish name boyat 'lesbian tomboys'. The second clique is a combination of Emo subculture and Filipino ethnicity. The study adopts a "mixed methods approach", which employed qualitative and quantitative measures. Qualitatively, the study is situated within an ethnographic framework that used observation, interviews, and student journal writing to emphasize the impact of language in shaping identity. Quantitatively, the work included data collected from surveys of 672 high school students, Arabic newspaper reports on the cliques, and a concordance analysis of the lexical items used by teens in their blogs. Attitudes towards members of the boyat group reflected either disgust or admiration. Attitudes expressed toward the Emo group stimulated only prejudice. The experience with ethnographic fieldwork suggested that in the lives of the student cliques, the language behaviors of others (e.g., members from three social institutions: family, friends, and school) can be more powerful than the behaviors of the young speakers concerned. These behaviors are not merely signaling factors of youth group membership, but leading factors towards social identity construction.


Linguistics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

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Linguistics Commons