Mother Tongue

by Amy Tan
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What is Amy Tan’s primary identity according to what she says in paragraphs 1-3 of "Mother Tongue"?

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The second paragraph of Amy Tan's "Mother Tongue " explicitly establishes her primary identity. She begins the second paragraph with the topic sentence "I am a writer." By that, she goes on to explain, she means that she is "fascinated" with the "power of language" and how it...

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The second paragraph of Amy Tan's "Mother Tongue" explicitly establishes her primary identity. She begins the second paragraph with the topic sentence "I am a writer." By that, she goes on to explain, she means that she is "fascinated" with the "power of language" and how it can be used for a variety of purposes.

Tan does not identify herself as a linguist or "a scholar of English or literature." She does not present herself as an academic; it is more accurate to say, given the first three introductory paragraphs of the essay, that she is an admirer of language's elasticity and wide-ranging uses and thinks of it as a "tool of [her] trade."

Another part of her identity that Tan claims in the first three paragraphs is that of a fluent user of variations of the English language. She establishes that to her, there are different "Englishes" that she uses in different areas of her life: as a writer, as a lecturer, and as a daughter.

The last way that Tan identifies herself in the third paragraph is that of a daughter of a certain kind of English speaker. She discerns that the English that she and her mother speak at home is not at all like the English she uses when addressing groups when she speaks about her novel. Readers recognize that Tan finds the "standard English" she mastered in her education is not particularly useful in intimate communication within her family.

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