Linguistic Anthropology: Homegirls

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Using Language to Define Identity: Examples from Homegirls by Norma Mendoza-Denton Using Language to Define Identity: Examples from Homegirls by Norma Mendoza-Denton In Homegirls, Norma Mendoza-Denton studies the linguistic and social practices of groups of young Latinas to show how they use language to manipulate their projected identities. She observes that these “gang girls” are able to fluidly move between these identities to their benefit as they encounter different situations. They might dress in clothes of a certain color that are specific to their gang, or they might dress girly depending on the way they want to be perceived. They use different speech patterns and body language to frame their interactions for added meaning, for instance things like “clowning” or the arms-crossed, leaning back, looking down posturing which alone asserts a macha stance, but can also be used in clowning. In my personal experience I've also seen this posturing used with a hat or beanie that is worn low over the eyes and actually requires that the person maintain the stance in order to be able to see anything. A friend of mine from Sacramento does this often. Prior to the release of this book, studies had been done regarding teenagers' use of language in High-Schools. Unfortunately, these studies hadn't focused on Latino groups so very little was known about their interactions, especially those associated with gangs. A problem with this is that with no understanding, stereotypes take hold based on partial or misinformation and can lead to fear and discrimination. How does the interaction of Latina gangs relate to Latino culture? What causes the formation of these gangs, and how do they identify themselves as a part of the larger community? What are their reasons for separation and where do they draw the lines? Knowledge of the use of language can aid
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