At the intersection of language, gender, and religion

Self-reported linguistic ideologies and practices of Muslim women in Barcelona


  • Farah Ali DePauw University



linguistic ideologies, reported language use, language attitudes, multilingualism, gendered identity, Muslim identity, intersectional identities, migrants, Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain)


Language use is notably connected to the construction and negotiation of gendered identity (Butler, 1993; Cameron, 1997; Norton, 2000; Menard-Warwick, 2009). However, the study of intersectional identities – such as gendered and religious identity – as it relates to linguistic behavior remains a relatively unexplored area of research. This study examines self-reported language use as a gendered practice among Muslim immigrant women in Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain). Using data collected from interviews with 34 Muslim women, this study looks at self-reported gendered roles, as well as the linguistic and gendered ideologies that are reflected in informants’ beliefs about their own language use. Furthermore, this study provides evidence of informants expressing specific gender roles that stem from both the heritage and target language (Spanish/Catalan) communities, as reflected in informants’ tendencies to interact primarily with other women and vary their speech depending on the gender and/or heritage identity of their interlocutors.

Author Biography

Farah Ali, DePauw University

Farah Ali is Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies at DePauw University, United States. Her research areas include sociolinguistics, as well as second and heritage language acquisition. Her work primarily focuses on using qualitative approaches to examine the relationship between language and identity in multilingual contexts. Her previous publications have appeared in a variety of journals, including Spanish in Context (2021), International Journal of Language and Law (2021), Cuadernos de Lingüística Hispánica (2020), and Journal of Foreign Language Education and Technology (2020). 


Ali, F. (2019) Language attitudes among Muslim women in Barcelona. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. State University of New York at Albany.

Block, D. (2012) Class and SLA: Making connections. Language Teaching Research 16(2): 188–205. Doi: DOI:

Bucholtz, M. and Hall, K. (2005) Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies 7(4/5): 585–614. Doi: DOI:

Butler, J. (1993) Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of ‘sex’. New York: Routledge.

Cameron, D. (1997) Performing gender identity: Young men’s talk and the construction of heterosexual masculinity. In S. Johnson and U. Meinhof (eds) Language and masculinity 47–64. Oxford: Blackwell.

Cortès-Colomé, M., Barrieras, M. and Comellas, P. (2016) Changes in immigrant individuals’ language attitudes through contact with Catalan: The mirror effect. Language Awareness 25(4): 272–289. Doi: DOI:

Crenshaw, K. (1989) Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum 1(8): 139–167.

Darvin, R. and Norton, B. (2014) Social class, identity, and migrant students. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education 13: 111–117. Doi: DOI:

De Fina, A. (2007) Code switching and ethnicity in a community of practice. Language in Society 36(3): 371–392. Doi: DOI:

Dwyer, C. (2000) Negotiating diasporic identities: Young British South Asian Muslim women. Women’s Studies International Forum 23(4): 475–486. Doi: DOI:

Estors Sastre, L. (2014) Les Actituds lingüístiques segons l’origen dels aprenents de català com a llengua d’acollida. Treballs de Sociolingüística Catalana 24: 153–171.

Fader, A. (2001) Literacy, bilingualism and gender in a Hasidic community. Linguistics and Education 12(3): 261–283. Doi: DOI:

Fader, A. (2007) Redeeming sacred sparks: Syncretism and gendered language shift among Hasidic Jews in New York. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 17(1): 1–23. Doi: DOI:

Fukuda, M. (2017) Language use in the context of double minority: The case of Japanese-Catalan/Spanish families in Catalonia. International Journal of Multilingualism 14(4): 401–418. Doi: DOI:

Furseth, I. (2011) The hijab: Boundary work and identity negotiations among immigrant Muslim women in the Los Angeles area. Review of Religious Research 52(4): 365–385.

Generalitat de Catalunya (2015) Language policy report. Retrieved from:

Giampapa, F. (2004) The politics of identity, representation, and the discourses of self-identification: Negotiating the periphery and the center. In A. Pavlenko and A. Blackledge (eds) Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts 192–218. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Doi: DOI:

Gore, S. (2002) The Catalan language and immigrants from outside the European Union. International Journal of Iberian Studies 15(2): 91–102. Doi: DOI:

Gumperz, J. J. (1982) Discourse strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Doi: DOI:

Holmes, J. (1993) Immigrant women and language maintenance in Australia and New Zealand. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 3(2): 159–179. Doi: DOI:

Holstein, J. and Gubrium, J. (eds) (2003) Inside interviewing: New lenses, new concerns. London: Sage. Doi: DOI:

Huguet, À. and Janés, J. (2008) Mother tongue as a determining variable in language attitudes. The case of immigrant Latin American students in Spain. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 8(4): 247–260. Doi: DOI:

Inda, J. X. (2000) Performativity, materiality, and the racial body. Latino Studies Journal 11(3): 74–99.

Kang, A. (2004) Constructing ethnic identity through discourse: Self-categorization among Korean American camp counselors. Pragmatics 14(2/3): 217–233. Doi: DOI:

Killian, C. (2003) The other side of the veil: North African women in France respond to the headscarf affair. Gender and Society 17(4): 567–590. Doi: DOI:

Marshall, S. (2007) New Latino diaspora and new zones of language contact: A social constructionist analysis of Spanish speaking Americans in Catalonia. In J. Holmquist, A. Lorenzino and L. Sayahi (eds) Selected proceedings of the third workshop on Spanish sociolinguistics 150–161. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Mayring, P. (2004) Qualitative content analysis. In U. Flick, E. von Kardorff and I. Steinke (eds) A Companion to qualitative research 266–269. London: Sage.

Menard-Warwick, J. (2009) Gendered identities and immigrant language learning. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Doi: DOI:

Moustaoui, A. (2016) Tú serás el responsable ante Dios el día del juicio si no le enseñas árabe [a tu hijo o hija]: lengua árabe, identidad y vitalidad etnolingüística en un grupo de marroquíes en Madrid. Lengua y migración 8(1): 51–79.

Norton, B. (2000) Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity, and educational change. London: Longman.

Pauwels, A. (1997) The role of gender in immigrant language maintenance in Australia. In W. Wolck and A. Houwer (eds) Recent studies in contact linguistics 276–286. Bonn: Dümmler.

Pavlenko, A. and Blackledge, A. (2004) Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Doi: DOI:

Predelli, L. (2004) Interpreting gender in Islam: A case study of immigrant Muslim women in Oslo, Norway. Gender and Society 18(4): 473–493. Doi: DOI:

Pujolar, J. (2009) Immigration and language education in Catalonia: Between national and social agendas. Linguistics and Education 21: 229–243. Doi: DOI:

Rida, A. and Milton, M. (2001) The non-joiners: Why migrant Muslim women aren’t accessing English language classes. Prospect 16(1): 35–62.

Silverstein, M. (1979) Language structure and linguistic ideology. In P. R. Clyne, W. F. Hanks and C. L. Hofbauer (eds) The elements: A parasession on linguistic units and levels 193–248. Chicago, IL: Chicago Linguistic Society.

Trenchs-Parera, M. and Newman, M. (2009) Diversity of language ideologies in two generations of Spanish-speaking youth of immigrant origin in Catalonia. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 30(6): 509–524. Doi: DOI:

Woolard, K. (1989) Double talk: Bilingualism and the politics of ethnicity in Catalonia. Stanford: Stanford University Press. DOI:



How to Cite

Ali, F. (2021). At the intersection of language, gender, and religion: Self-reported linguistic ideologies and practices of Muslim women in Barcelona. Sociolinguistic Studies, 15(2-4), 223–245.