Inventing a Motherless Tongue

Yeasemin Yildiz

in Beyond the Mother Tongue

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780823241309
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241347 | DOI:
Inventing a Motherless Tongue

Show Summary Details


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

Chapter.  11031 words. 

Subjects: Literature

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Fordham University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.