Sociolinguistic Indexicalities in Ethnic Diversity: Perceptions of Ethnicity and Language in Suriname

Gerald Stell

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Ethnicity and language have often been considered jointly on the grounds of their intrinsic interrelation: hard ethnic boundaries are manifested by the use of heritage languages, while dynamics of assimilation reduce the need to linguistically project ethnic distinctness. This article seeks to test the interrelation between patterns of language use and ethnic boundaries in the context of Suriname by analyzing perceptions of ethnolinguistic boundaries elicited from a sample of young informants from Paramaribo. The findings suggest that Surinamese ethnic boundaries are salient, albeit eroding in urban areas. Erosion is visible at a linguistic level in what seems to be a general shift in urban areas toward Dutch and Sranan Tongo. However, this shift might be proceeding at different paces from one ethnic group to the next. As a result, ethnicity is reflected in variable levels of linguistic competence in Dutch and Sranan Tongo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-61
Number of pages27
JournalNWIG New West Indian Guide
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • ethnicity
  • language contact
  • language variation
  • sociolinguistics
  • Suriname

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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