New Challenges for Multilingualism in Europe

hosted by Institute for Anthropological Research, Zagreb - LINEE Network of Excellence

Venue: Dubrovnik, Croatia, 11-15 April, 2010

Start: Sunday, 11 Apr 2010 19:00

End: Wednesday, 31 Dec 2014 00:00

  • Plenary speakers

      Susan Gal , University of Chicago, Department of Linguistics  

    Linguistic regimes and European diversity

    This lecture argues that over a longue duree and from an eastern European perspective (of migrants or potential migrants) there is today a transformation in the sociolinguistic regime of Europe: from coercive monolingualism to coercive multilingualism; from the creation of valued and devalued “dialects” to the creation of valued vs. devalued multilingual repertoires.  Yet, both regimes operate through the cultural dynamics of standardization. The paper will compare today’s official valorization of multilingualism to the way monolingualism was installed as a norm in 19th c. central Europe. It will also discuss current eastern European efforts at multilingualism.

    A decade ago, monolingualism was a presupposed norm in Europe (Blommaert and Verschueren 1998).  Increasingly this looks like the last gasp of an departing nregime. By the 1990s, EU documents called for multilingualism, justified as a democratic response to regionalist demands and also as a necessity in a “knowledge society.”  The first justification gestured at regional languages; the second at English. Both, however, were imagined through an ideology of “standard” (Gal 2006).  Speakers of minority languages who demanded EU recognition were recreating, at the scale of the region, the same dynamic of standardizing exclusion that they suffered as minority-speakers. By choice of forms, a minority-language standard excludes (and thus derogates) the speech of many of the same people whose linguistic practices it was supposed to valorize. This process of fractal recursion in standardization depends on the co-constitutive values of “authenticity” vs. “universal instrumental authority.” Standardizing ideologies make this distinction, then create a code (the standard language) that claims to transcend it. European national standards index the authenticity of a speaker when compared with other standards. But within each nation-state, the standard is heard as an authoritative, neutral “voice from nowhere,” (Woolard 2006). Extending this dichotomy to both larger and smaller scales in an effort to encompass and disarm the claims of not only regional but now also migrant languages, recent European Commission documents embark on what Moore (2009) has aptly called a “standardization of diversity.” Europe itself is constituted as multilingual-in-essence and so is the idealized European: speaking a vehicular language (English) for instrumental, business transactions, plus a mother tongue, and a “freely chosen” language of “affinity” for pleasure and authenticity.

    While clearly an extension of standard ideology, this valorization of multilingualism is also the sign of a new sociolinguistic regime, one concomitant with “superdiversity.” It is part of the effort to manage diversity by re-stratifying the continent through linguistic means.  Seeming to value all multilingualism, it implicitly makes distinctions among multilingual repertoires. Trilingualism in English, French/German and one other language is becoming the indexical sign of pan-European elites in business, academics and politics. East European speakers are often “only” bilingual. The specific repertoires of East European, Asian and African diasporas, even if tri-lingual, rarely make them eligible for such elite status. But some are:  My examples will show that, seen from the east, national origin is giving way to educational trajectory as the major form of pan-European elite recruitment. This is instructively reminiscent of the Habsburg Empire.



    Adam Jaworski , Cardiff Centre for Language and Communication Research (CLCR)

    Tourism and the sociolinguistic communities of contact  

    The reorderings of contemporary social life under global capitalism decentre and deterritorialize traditional systems of power and agency, foster hybrid identities, introduce flexible hierarchies and multiple sites of plural exchanges (e.g. Hardt and Negri, 2000; Harvey, 2006). When people’s lives and identities are no longer so neatly bounded or easily located (Sheller and Urry, 2006; Z. Bauman, 2000), sociolinguists need to rethink and review some of the central tropes of their field such as ‘community’, ‘authenticity’, ‘identity’ and, indeed, ‘language’ and ‘society’ themselves. In this regard, Blommaert (2005), N. Coupland (2007), and Rampton (2009), amongst others, have written about the need for a sociolinguistics or discourse analysis that is better able to account for the hybrid, the translocal, the spectacular, the idiosyncratic, the creative, and the multimodal (cf. Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001). Following the lead of R. Bauman and Briggs (1990), contemporary sociolinguists make a special point of promoting the importance nowadays of attending to processes of entextualization and recontentextualization , as well as to situated, local practices, and to the linguistic reflexivity and metapragmatic awareness of language users (cf. Jaworski, Coupland and GalasiƄski, 2004).

    In its pursuit and endless production of difference, tourism offers itself as an ideal site for the study of recontextualization: lifting the everyday into the realm of the fantastical, transforming the banal into the exotic, and converting use-value into exchange-value. Tourism not only demands a rethink of certain sociolinguistic truisms, however; it also helps to re-asses some of the more traditional social concepts and formations, for example, with regards the tenacious influence of nationality and national identity in tourism discourse (Heller, 2008; Thurlow and Jaworski, 2010).

    In this talk, I want to explore some of these tensions by drawing on the notions of the commodification and dislocation of language under globalization. Then I examine several examples of typical language exchanges in tourism between tour guides and tourists, as well as instances of linguistic/semiotic landscapes (Jaworski and Thurlow, 2010), to argue that tourists and their ‘hosts’ operate in transcultural contact zones (Pratt, 1992) characterized by a concentration of specific sociolinguistic features, such as addressing participants in languages not known to them, shifting between ‘ordinary’ and ‘performance’ frames, extensive use of formulaic language, eliciting responses in unison, and engaging in various forms of verbal play and (risqué) humour, among others. I conclude by assessing the significance of these ways of speaking for the enactment of tourists’ and hosts’ identities, and the reproduction and subversion of dominant ideologies of tourism. Thus, the talk attempts to make a contribution to a new ‘sociolinguistics on the move’, replacing the ‘sedantrist’ approaches focusing on stable, homogenous and idealized speech communities, and capturing interactions and meaning-making between people and places in flux and on the go.




    Jan Blommaert , University of Jyväskylä, Department of Languages

    Language Policing

    In the field of language policy, literature often focuses on the macro-norms inscribed in legislation, education and media policies. In this paper, I argue that apart from 'policy', we should also look at 'policing' in order to understand the dynamics of normativity in the field of language. Such 'policing' (a Foucaultian concept referring to processes and practices of bringing and maintaining order in a social field) touches micro-norms as well as macro-norms. The suggestion is that we need to look at a wider panorama of actors and practices in the field of language and norms, certainly in an age of globalization where multiple new language policing organisms emerge (e.g. over the internet), and where language policing becomes increasingly a form of linguistic border control.


    Glyn Williams , University College of North Wales, Bangor, School of Social Sciences

    Sociology, Language and Economy

    The Westphalian state and the industrial economy have coexisted for almost two hundred years. During this time the state has regulated its economy and society.  It has actively cultivated a citizenry that shares a common culture and a common language.  Alternative forms of language and culture have been relegated to the private sphere.  It set boundaries around its economy and the associated labour market, carefully regulating the inflow of population and capital.

    This uniformity is now being challenged as a consequence of the effect of globalisation and a new form of modernity. The relationship between the state, economy and society is restructured.  The Knowledge Economy relies heavily on interaction, communication and shared meaning.  This brings language into the economy in a way that hitherto was unknown.  It is not merely languages as objects but as the very basis of constructing knowledge that is in operation.  This gives rise to arguments concerning the role of working multilingualy in fomenting creativity within the knowledge economy.

    The open economy and flexible labour markets contribute to labour market segmentation which, in turn, envelops diglossic language group relations.  The relationship between lingue franche changes and languages are freed from the constraints of a state regulated emphasis on purity and variation.  The emphasis shifts to the social determinants of language use as social practice as one of many human practices, a perspective that allows room for different kinds of reflexivity while also engaging with how power constrains praxis.



    Rosemarie Tracy , University of Mannheim


    Now you see me, now you don't! What it takes to see and foster multilingual competence


    A crucial dilemma in language-related research is that linguistic competence (both in the Chomskyan and in the sociolinguistic, “communicative competence” tradition) is not there to be “seen” or “heard” in any direct sense. Whatever system we assume behind peoples’ linguistic behavior has to be reconstructed, and what we can reconstruct crucially depends on our more or less explicit theories, i.e. on what Karl Popper once called our “horizon of expectations” ( Objective Knowledge . 1979:344).

    One major recurring theme in the outcome of LINEE area C, “Multilingualism and Education”, is the crucial role of attitudes , which obviously shape our linguistic horizon of expectations. While educators have long known about the relevance of teacher or experimenter attitudes and biases towards students and, more generally, towards human and non-human subjects, the seriousness of the influence of positive and negative attitudes in multilingual educational settings has, so it seems, been underestimated.

    Another important lesson taught by the research conducted within the LINEE programme is the extent to which both teachers and students lack awareness of the linguistic resourcefulness of bilingual or multilingual speakers. It seems that educational settings, instead of building on the multitude of resources brought to schools in the heads and minds of students (and teachers), impose more or less explicit constraints on students’ (and teachers’) behavior. While the ability to speak several languages is generally considered an asset, especially with respect to languages that “count” in the symbolic market, bilinguals/multilinguals are typically expected to behave according to monolingual norms, that is, essentially as if they  were not what they are: competent speakers of more than one language. Area C rightly calls for an “inclusive language policy” (Franceschini 2009: 48), stressing that language teachers should also be experts in multilingualism, hence capable of drawing on the metalinguistic awareness and communicative skills of a linguistically diverse student body.

    I fully support the recommendations put forth by programme area C. In addition I would like to draw attention to fundamental and persistent gaps in public knowledge concerning the nature and complexity of natural languages and of language use. Little will change within school and preschool contexts unless those ultimately in charge of language policies and institutional conditions recognize what it takes to provide people of different ages with suitable opportunities for language acquisition. In addition I wish to stress that the reflection on systematic properties of languages and communicative behavior is not just the privilege and responsibility of language teachers but of the whole educational team of schools, regardless of subject. In this context I will report on results from my own research on the creative ways in which bilinguals of various ages and acquisition types (from the simultaneous acquisition of two languages, to preschool second-language learners, to adults) draw on their linguistic repertoires. Based on current projects in preschool and school settings in Germany I will attempt to demonstrate how insight into learner grammars and childrens’ pragmatic skills can help teachers undergo a more or less radical shift from a deficit-oriented perspective of multilingual competences towards a competence orientation.















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