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A language behaviour as a strategy for identity: substitutive use of the english ethnonym “black” to define black people in french context

Charles Lindor M?beri





In social psychology, in the racial or interethnic relations? study, the important role played by the generic designations or ethnonyms (White, Black,...) in defining of individuals or groups and in the identification to those groups is undeniable; they truly represent identity markers. Our research deals with the use of the English ethnonym ?Black? to define the Black person? in French context, or to qualify what refers to Black. Anglo-Saxon term, its daily use, which is almost institutionalised by certain French reference dictionaries and medias, alerted us.


The analysis in term of fashion phenomenon without identity signification is unsatisfactory. This way of speaking is in keeping with the identity construction of black people. Our approach is justified when considering that every daily use - and not only institutional use - takes a part in the construction of (the) social reality (ideological products, representations).

The sociocultural and historical context (relations to black people and to the black colour in the French culture) also justifies our approach; this context leading globally to put black people down and to depreciate what is black.

In the approach of the social identity, putting the emphasis on the contents of representation in addition to the several process in the definition of individuals and groups, we show that ethnonyms show to be inductors of the specific representations universe linked to the groups they refer to.

According to the speech act theory or pragmatic principle, the use of a word instead of another is an informational indication and shows intentionality (...). We intend to show that to use ?Black? instead of ?Black people? is a strategy aiming at making understand the working out of another social reality to which the chosen ethnonym refers, therefore another identity or identification.

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