Martin Ehala, University of Tartu, Estonia, Presents "Identity Communication: The Way We Negotiate our Place in the World"

Event Date: 

Friday, April 10, 2015 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Event Location: 

  • SS&MS Room 1009

Event Contact: 

Howie Giles,

Visiting Scholar Martin Ehala, Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics, University of Tartu, Estonia, presents "Identity Communication: The way we negotiate our place in the world"

In this talk I outline the main principles of the Sign Theory of Identity (STI) which claims that identities function as signs.  Identity communication is a process by which individuals send and receive identity signals in order to navigate social space and to negotiate their position in this space. According to STI, identities have the structure of signs, consisting of the Meaning and the Signal. As signs, identities are shared mental representations that enable groups to communicate who they are, and how they are related to significant outgroups. Individuals can claim an identity when they are able to signal authenticity relationship to both sides of this particular identity sign. Using examples from various intergroup settings I aim to show how identity communication works in practice.

Martin Ehala defended his PhD in the University of Cambridge on the theory of language change. Thereafter, he affiliated to the Tallinn Pedagogical University where he worked on different positions: 1996-2000 as a dean of the philological faculty, 1998-2008 as professor of general and applied linguistics; 2004-2008 as a chair of the department of Estonian language. From 2008, he works in the University of Tartu as a senior researcher and a professor of mother tongue teaching and applied linguistics (part time).