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  • 2018bruehlerphd

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Talking about self, God, and relationships: how first-year students use Christianese to construct identity at a faith-based university

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
  • Anne Bruehler
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Publication date2018
Number of pages237
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Very little systematic research has been conducted to explore the features of Christianese, a shared way of talking among Evangelical Christians. This study explored the association between Christianese and identity construction, particularly the way in which first-year students at a faith-based university participated in the practices of Christianese to construct their identity as belonging to the community. Thirty-one first-year students participated in four interviews over one year of data collection. The data presented multiple possibilities for analysis, but I chose to examine participants’ testimony narratives, agency ascribed to God or self, and metaphors used to describe relationships. Following Swales’ (1990) rhetorical move analysis framework, I identified up to five moves in the testimony narratives and grouped the participants based on the number of moves they included in their testimonies according to the trajectories in Wenger’s (1998) communities of practice model. I utilized van Leeuwen’s (2008) social actors network to analyze agency attributed to God or oneself and found this to be dependent on the topic being discussed. Regarding metaphors, I noted ten semantic fields of metaphors in the data, all of which related to relationships, and examined how participants used these metaphors to construct their identity of belonging to the community. This systematic investigation revealed that students participated at varying levels within the university community of practice by drawing from the linguistic resources of Christianese. I argue that as participants used more Christianese features in their speech, they constructed their identity of belonging to the community; conversely, those students who participated less in the linguistic repertoire of Christianese constructed their identity of peripheral or marginal membership in the community. Ultimately, using characteristics of Christianese to construct one’s identity involves multiple elements, and there was no singular means for determining one’s identity based on the Christianese they speak.