Language in Society

Research Article

Narrative as self-portrait: Sociolinguistic constructions of identity

Deborah Schiffrina1

a1 Department of Linguistics, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057


The ability of narrative to verbalize and situate experience as text (both locally and globally) provides a resource for the display of self and identity. This article focuses on two stories told by Jewish-American women about troublesome issues in their families. Analysis of the language of the stories shows how they reveal aspects of the storytellers' agentive and epistemic selves; how they construct positions in their families (pivoting between solidarity and distance, the provision of autonomy, and the exercise of power); and how they display their social identities as mothers. The view of identity offered through narrative analysis is briefly compared with other methodological and theoretical perspectives on identity. (Narrative, self, identity, gender, family, speech acts)