Natasha Kennedy profile

Natasha Kennedy.JPG

Natasha Kennedy

University of Brighton (2023)


Dr Craig Jordan-Baker


The polyglot writer: what multilingual texts reveal about writers’ emotional attachment to the languages they speak


Heterolingualism or multilingualism is the use of several languages within a single text (Grutman 1997) and this project considers what heterolingual and multilingual texts say about the polyglot writer’s emotional attachment to the languages they use. Literary theory in this area has thus far focused on representations of the Other and power dynamics revealed by the languages used (Grutman 1997, Suchet 2014), on polyglossia in a specific era (Lacroix 2016), or on how multilingual texts are translated (Sansonetti & Hélie 2022). The way a polyglot writer identifies with the languages they use, and the creative and cognitive processes behind why they may switch language, however, have been overlooked. Linguist Aneta Pavlenko stresses the importance of our emotional attachment to languages in the construction and expression of identity. She claims that “emotions have traditionally been undertheorized” (2006) when looking at bi- or multilingual individuals and conducted studies on the emotions different languages elicit in those individuals (2006). According to the “Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis” (Hojier 1954), languages structure our thoughts and inspire different worldviews; this is known as linguistic relativism. Given that language is also a sensory phenomenon (Tomatis 1991), it is also reasonable to acknowledge that linguistic diversity implies distinct emotional attachments to languages. Therefore, in addition to lexical differences between languages, these distinct emotional attachments to languages can lead the polyglot writer to switch languages within a text. By applying Pavlenko’s psycholinguistic analyses to multilingual texts, this project will focus on polyglot writers’ identities and provide an understanding of how their emotional attachment to their languages is revealed. As well as shedding light on how we perceive language through the scope of multilingual literature, this project seeks to contribute to heterolingual and multilingual literary theory and fill the gap currently existing around the polyglot writer’s creative process.