Language test analysis and the determination of origin:

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Language analysis test and the determination of origin: Commenting validity
Yahya E-rramdani
Language analysis test as a tool for the determination of origin of the asylum seeker still causes a
great deal of controversy, with respect to its validity. Indeed, origin determination on the basis of
the person's language characteristics and culture knowledge is not a white-black issue. I shall
address here two main issues that challenge the validity of language analysis test1, with special
focus on region origin determination within a country. The first one concerns the effects of
sociolinguistic dynamics on the speakers language behaviour, resulting in mixed repertoires of
codes, containing different sets of socially, regionally and situationally defined varieties (Hymes
1996). The second issue deals with hypothetical assumptions around the asylum seeker's claimed
region of origin. A number of scenarios will be discussed here, ranging from a total matching
between origin as claimed by the asylum seeker and his/her spoken variety on the one hand, and a
total non-matching between the two on the other hand. It should be admitted that whereas the
language analysis test is illuminating with respect to the first scenario, it is not at all the case for
the other ones, at least given the complex backgrounds some reveal to have. The present talk
heads towards the point that the relation between a region and a language variety is not always
evident for origin identification, and that one type of language analysis test could not be valid for
different scenarios of origin claims. Elaboration on these issues will be based on the author’s
field work experience as interpreter, and who has been involved in numerous language analysis
test interviews.
Reference:
Hymes, D. (1996). Ethnography, Linguistics, Narrative Inequality: Toward an Understanding of
Voice. London: Taylor & Francis.
1
As conducted by migration services (IND) in the Netherlands.
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