WP42 In the name of science?: On identifying an ethnolect in an Antwerp secondary school

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This article deals with the problematic of naming linguistic practices in the case of young urban speakers. It suggests that, while certain communities of practice might engage in linguistic behaviour that deviates from known linguistic practices, and while home language use might have affected their uses of the dominant variety, a transformation of these observable linguistic differences into ethnolect-codes is problematic. It tends to essentialize these young speakers, and exclusively focus on their externally defined ethnicity. More seriously, ethnolect identification establishes new codes where analysis should be devoted to complex speech styling practices, and it threatens to marginalize ethnolectal speakers. The argument I develop is that ethnolects should instead be viewed as lay representations of particular ways of speaking, which do not necessarily correspond to actual linguistic practices. This also impacts on linguistic description and categorization, which I point out as a social practice in itself, with real consequences for those who are named. This is illustrated with data from a case study that show how Belgian adolescents of Moroccan descent in Antwerp resist an ethnolectal categorization of their own routine Dutch.