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Auteur: Alina BUGHESIU

A sociolinguistic approach to virtual names in the context of migration

Abstract/Résumé: In the Romanian landscape, the fall of the communist regime in 1989 marked the beginning of two major directions of social changes, the effects of which were immediately visible in the development of the Romanian language. On the one hand, the local environment began to be subjected to the unrestrained effects of globalisation on all levels; worth nothing here is the increasing import of English lexical items and of Western (i.e. American) sociocultural patterns. On the other, as crossing borders was less of an issue, people migrated to other, more developed countries, in search of a better life. In the context of social mobility, to talk of globalisation is, in fact, to analyse migration as an instance of delocalisation and relocalisation, both linguistically and culturally. Thus, for immigrants, identity (in this case, linguistic and cultural) is a constant negotiation between one's native configuration and the tendency to follow the principle of adjusting one's sociolinguistic behaviour to the prestige norm of the host community. While exploring the linguistic, cultural, and economic conditions that define the communities of Romanians in countries where they are more numerous (e.g., the U.S.A. and Canada, Italy, Spain, France), this paper aims to analyse the onomastic behaviour that these immigrants develop in the context of computer-mediated communication and social networks. Therefore, the focus in this study is on electronic names that individuals from these communities use in online public forums and chat groups, highlighting the social motivation carried by the language choice reflected in the names and discussing it along the following lines: globalisation/localisation, adaptability/unadaptability, adoption/rejection. In general, electronic names express bearers' virtual identity, which may or may not correspond to their real one. For immigrants (i.e. Romanians), the selection of a virtual name is a step in a creative process that is aimed at constructing their new public image either in agreement with or (more commonly) in contradiction to their autochthonous one. Against the background of globalisation and migration, onomastics is under the direct influence of intercultural communication and language contact. Thus, the electronic names investigated are instances of linguistic and cultural hybridity.