Graduate School

Identity and language

This course is part of the programme:
Humanities (Third level)

Objectives and competences

The main aim of the subject is to understand the relationship between language and identity by an individual as well as by a group. It is the most convenient to observe this relationship in a multilingual environment, where an individual has to choose among the languages/linguistic systems daily, so we will observe it in the Slovenian and Friulian communities in Italy. Through the study of relevant literature and his own field notes the student will be able to analyze the relationship of an individual to his own identity in different speech situations, he will be able to understand the dynamics of changing the individual’s and the group’s identities which are created in changing societal and social circumstances.


A fluent competence in English, active participation in lectures (at least 80 %), active participation in fieldwork (field notes), active participation in discussions and the study of relevant literature.

Content (Syllabus outline)

Each language develops according to the needs of its users in a geographical territory and in a certain time period. The group which shares the same language, usually shares the same way of life and culture. For that reason the language is always in close connection with the identity of the group that uses it and its individuals. Through language meanings are ascribed to things and the meanings establish the relationship between our conceptual and linguistic systems. Thinking about a certain culture and identity therefore means thinking about the common concepts, common linguistic system and the codes that establish the relationship between the conceptual and the linguistic systems. Identity and language are in process of constant change, which means that the future of individual’s as well as the groups’ identity depends on the degree of closeness between the language and the common identity as the relationship between them is not guaranteed, it has to be made conscious, it needs constant cultivation and protection.

Intended learning outcomes

Through the theoretical concepts of sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics and linguistics a student will be able to recognize different groups of identities (individual’s and group’s), among them especially the so-called territorial identities, i.e. local, regional ethnic and national by different nations, but especially by the Slovenians. Through relevant literature we will get to know the construction of individual ethnicities and nations in Europe and the differences in the sense of construction of the national versus ethnic identities (e.g. the Slovenians versus the Basques). Through the sociolinguistic interviews of Slovenian and Friulian speakers we will get familiar with the reasons why the Slovenians have constituted as a nation while the Friulians have constituted as an ethnicity.


  • Edwards, John 2009: Language and Identity. Cambridge, New York, Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
  • Fakin Bajec, Jasna 2011: Procesi ustvarjanja kulturne dediščine. Kraševci med tradicijo in izzivi sodobne družbe. Ljubljana: Založba ZRC in ISN ZRC SAZU.
  • Fishman, Joshua A. and García, Ofelia 2010: Language & Ethnic Identity. Volume I, Disciplinary & Regional Perspectives. Second Edition. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Coulmas, Florian 2011: Untrodden paths in linguistics identity research : special issue (general editor Joshua A. Fishman). Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Hall, Stuart, Gay, Paul de (ed) 2010: Questions of cultural identity. Los Angeles [etc.]: Sage.
  • Huntington, P. Samuel 2004: Who are we? America’s Great Debate. Sydney: Simon&Schuster UK.
  • Preston, P. W. 1997: Political/Cultural Identity. Citizens and Nations in a Global Era. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publications.
  • Rizman, Rudi: Globalizacija in kultura: konflikt ali sinergija? In: Obdobja 20. Ljubljana: Univerza v Ljubljani, Filozofska fakulteta, Oddelek za slovenistiko in Center za slovenščino kot drugi/tuji jezik. 27–42.
  • Robotycky, Czesław (ed.) 2000: Cultural Identity and Ethnicity in Central Europe. Proceedings of the International Conference on Ethnic and National Minorities in Central and Eastern Europe. Cracow: Jagiellonian Univerity.
  • Vassberg, M. Liliane 1993: Alsatian Acts of identity. Language Use and Language Attitudes in Alsace. Cleveton, Philadelphia, Adelaide: Multilingual Matters 90.
  • Vodopivec, Peter 2006: Od Pohlinove slovnice do samostojne države. Ljubljana: Modrijan.


oral exam (50%), project work (50%)

Lecturer's references

Assistant Prof. Danila Zuljan Kumar works in the Dialectological section of the Fran Ramovš Institute of the Slovenian language by ZRC SAZU. Her main occupation is the Slovenian linguistic Atlas. At the Research station of ZRC SAZU in Nova Gorica she leads a group of researchers whose main occupation is the project: Western Slovenian national border in the light of time changes. In the framework of this project she does research on the western Slovenian dialects and focuses on the language contact with the neighboring Friulian dialects. At the School of Humanities of the University of Nova Gorica she gives lectures within the course Slovenian dialectology. Lately her research has been directed towards the relationship between language and identity on two levels, i.e. the relationship between the local identity and the use of dialect and the connection between the choice of language and identity in a multilingual environment (in the case of Slovenians and Friulians in Italy).


1. ZULJAN KUMAR, Danila. Jezik, skupnost, identiteta: odnos do prvega (maternega) jezika v času globalizacije (primer Beneških Slovencev in Furlanov). Goriški letnik, ISSN 0350-2929, 2011, [Št.] 35, str. 229-242. [COBISS.SI-ID 36625709]

2. ZULJAN KUMAR, Danila. Словенский язык и словенская национальная, региональная и локальная идентичность. Slavistica Vilnensis. V tisku. In print.

3. ZULJAN KUMAR, Danila. Odraz slovensko-furlanskega jezikovnega stika v leksiki pomenskih polj polje, vrt in sadovnjak v govoru Medane. V/In: JESENŠEK, Marko (ur.). Izzivi sodobnega slovenskega slovaropisja, (Mednarodna knjižna zbirka Zora, 75). Maribor: Mednarodna založba Oddelka za slovanske jezike in književnosti, Filozofska fakulteta, 2011, str. 287-304. [COBISS.SI-ID 33032749]

4. ZULJAN KUMAR, Danila. Jezikovno preklapljanje v jeziku v stiku. V/In: NOVAK-POPOV, Irena (ur.). Slovenski mikrokozmosi – medetnični in medkulturni odnosi, (Zbornik Slavističnega društva Slovenije, ISSN 1408-3043, 20). Ljubljana: Zveza društev Slavistično društvo Slovenije, 2009, str. [62]-78. [COBISS.SI-ID 30460461]

5. ZULJAN KUMAR, Danila. Figurative Expressions in the Slovenian Linguistic Atlas. Dialectologia 13, 2014. 107-119.

University course code: 3IK061

Year of study: 1

Course principal:




  • Lectures: 30 hours
  • Individual work: 150 hours

Course type: elective

Languages: slovene or english

Learning and teaching methods:
frontal method, method of sociolinguistic observation (in bilingual schools in italy), method of sociolinguistic interview of bilingual or multilingual speakers, used in order to understand the motives of the individual's language choice in each speech situation.