You’re the Only One Who Knows My True Identity: How Fandoms Create New Identities for Constructed Language Learners

Brianna is currently a PhD student at the Queen’s University in Cultural Studies. She completed her Master’s in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of British Columbia (Okanagan Campus). Brianna also completed her Bachelor of Arts at UBC Okanagan, with a major in Anthropology. Her Master’s thesis focused on constructed languages, identity, and belonging, and she worked with an online community of Trigedasleng learners (the language constructed for the television show The 100). In 2020, she received the LCS Presidents’ Scholarship for her research. Brianna is also a fan of Star Wars, which has influenced both her future research and her identity.

Abstract

This thesis explores the intersections between fan studies, feminism, language, identity, and belonging. To do this, Brianna employed community-based research with the online language fan community, Slakgedakru, who spend time learning the language Trigedasleng. Trigedasleng was made for the television show The 100, which airs on The CW Network. The members of Slakgedakru consist of both fans of the language and fans of the show. Many assumptions about fans have cast them in a negative light and this research also aims to dispel misconceptions about fans. Fans are more often intelligent, mature, and reasoning than they are portrayed. This is especially true of language fans, who spend their time learning grammar and vocabulary, and, in the case of Slakgedakru, expanding the language. Slakgedakru’s international member base emphasizes the importance of online research. This research consisted of two phases: the first included a general survey for anyone learning Trigedasleng and an interview with the language’s creator, David J. Peterson; the second phase involved two text-based focus groups, one on the software platform Slack and one on the software platform Discord, both of which Slakgedakru belong to. Throughout these phases, she also conducted participant observation within the general, public chat channels on both platforms. Once these phases were complete, she analyzed the data and found that Slakgedakru comprises intelligent, mature fans who are inclusive and diverse in gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. The community itself provides a space where the language, the show, and real-life intermingle and this produces discussion on real-world, complex topics. In addition, members are able to explore their diverse genders and sexualities with a community of like-minded individuals. By accessing these alternative worlds, members are able to re-imagine possibilities for the real world.

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