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Beyond the Mother TongueThe Postmonolingual Condition$
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Yasemin Yildiz

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780823241309

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823241309.001.0001

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Inventing a Motherless Tongue

Inventing a Motherless Tongue

Mixed Language and Masculinity in Feridun Zaimoğlu

(p.169) CHAPTER FIVE Inventing a Motherless Tongue
Beyond the Mother Tongue

Yeasemin Yildiz

Fordham University Press

This chapter discusses code-switching and mixing of languages as the most contested linguistic practice in the age of globalization. It demonstrates how this practice, particularly associated with immigrant youth, is racialized by public discourse, but can also serve to thematize such racialization when employed critically. Feridun Zaimoglu's provocative 1995 bestseller Kanak Sprak, a collection of stylized monologues attributed to young Turkish-German men “on society's edge”—from pimp, garbage collector, and transsexual to Islamist—exemplifies such a mobilization of multilingual youth language. Yet, as the chapter shows, Zaimoglu's literary language does not follow sociolinguistic models but rather mixes codes drawn from such diverse sources as Northern German dialect, biblical language, hip-hop English, and Germanized Yiddish. This particular mix, it is argued, is closely connected to articulating an abjected but defiant racialized masculinity. Throughout, the chapter situates the style and impetus of Kanak Sprak in relationship to comparable Anglophone writing, which has been referred to as literature in “Rotten English” (Dohra Ahmad). A coda focuses on the ambivalent legacy of Kanak Sprak in media discourses and comedy routines.

Keywords:   code-switching, Feridun Zaimoglu, globalization, hip-hop, Kanak Sprak, masculinity, racialization, Turkish-German men, youth language

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