(Un)covering the Story of Judeo-Spanish: A Personal Exploration of Language on the Margins


  • Lisya Seloni Illinois State University


heritage language, language maintenance, small languages


In this reflective story of my family rhetoric, I describe the use of a small language, Ladino (Judeoespanyol--also known as Jewish-Spanish) in Istanbul, a cosmopolitan city of around 12 million people. I argue that languages and rhetoric used in families are more than a set of linguistic systems that can be readily passed on from one generation to another. In fact, they are a set of cultural symbols, ethnic representations, and ways of acting in the world, which help the family members create safe spaces, build identities and mark group membership. Through narrating the story of the use of Ladino in my family, I explore how younger generation in minority groups members in Turkey are usually encouraged to give up significant markers of their ethnic identity in order to gain full participation in and access to a homogenized public space.

Author Biography

Lisya Seloni, Illinois State University

Lisya Seloni is an Assistant Professor of TESOL in the Department of English at Illinois State University, where she teaches courses on academic writing, second language literacy and ESL methods and materials. Before joining ISU this year, Lisya taught at Indiana University of Pennsylvania between 2008 and 2010. She received her Ph.D. in Language, Literacy and Culture at Ohio State University in 2008. Lisya’s research focuses on second language writing across disciplines, academic socialization, educational ethnography, discourse analysis, and social justice issues that pertain to teaching English as a world language. More specifically, she is interested in how Nonnative English speaking adult learners use language (written, spoken and pictorial) to convey meaning, create identities and construct new knowledge as they navigate their way in becoming legitimate participants of a community to which they seek membership.





Issue #7