Choosing not to Choose: Linguistic Choice and Ideology in Barcelonese Social Movements

Author: Grace Reynolds (University of Virginia, U.S.A.)
Speaker: Grace Reynolds
Topic: Language Ideologies
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL COMELA 2021 General Session


While the mainstream politics of opposing Catalan and Spanish nationalisms paints a simplified portrait of similarly opposed linguistic choices on the parts of speakers, new research shows that these old indexicalities are changing (Pujolar & Gonzalez 2013; Woolard 2016). Engaging with this work, this paper is concerned with how linguistic choices play out in the everyday context of activist speech in Barcelona, and with the role of historical movements and the activist values that connect them across space and time. I focus on the speech of one elderly Barcelona activist, whom I call Santos, who defies traditional understandings of code choice and simultaneity in order to prefigure and inhabit a ‘free space’ in which he can make the very Bakhtinian choice of ‘not choosing at all’ amongst the different politically-charged linguistic varieties in his heteroglossic repertoire. In general, elderly Barcelonese activists , many of whom are living reminders of the lucha obrera (labor movement) that was maintained clandestinely under the Franco regime (1936-1975), now evoke through their very presence a contentious historical memory that is often swept under the rug in a whitewashed narrative of a ‘transition to democracy’ in the late 1970s. In this case, Santos’ language use gives us a glimpse of how speech choices can simultaneously preserve old values and transmit a new ‘model’ of speech. By ‘not choosing’ one or the other of the politically charged codes of Spanish or Catalan, Santos enacts the historical values of autogestió (self-management) and autodeterminació (self-determination) that were crucial elements of resistance movements before and during the Franco era, and which remain vital across the broad Barcelonese social movement spectrum.


Pujolar, Joan and Isaac Gonzàlez. 2013. Linguistic mudes and the de- ethnicization of language choice in catalonia. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 16 (2): 138-152.

Woolard, Kathryn A. 2016. Singular and Plural: Ideologies of Linguistic Authority in 21st Century Catalonia. Oxford University Press.

Keywords: Keywords: Language Ideology, Spanish, Catalan, Barcelona, social movements, narrative, code choice, simultaneity