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LINGUIST List 24.980

Mon Feb 25 2013

Review: Sociolinguistics: Rindler Schjerve and Vetter (eds., 2012)

Editor for this issue: Anja Wanner <anjalinguistlist.org>

Date: 25-Feb-2013
From: Lelija Socanac <lelijasocanacyahoo.com>
Subject: European Multilingualism
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-2349.html

AUTHORS: Rindler Schjerve Rosita; Vetter, Eva
TITLE: European Multilingualism
SUBTITLE: Current Perspectives and Challenges
SERIES TITLE: Multilingual Matters
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2012

Lelija Socanac, Centre for Language and Law, Faculty of Law, University of
Zagreb, Croatia


The book is a result of the project LINEE (Languages In a Network of European
Excellence 2006-2010), initiated by sociolinguist Peter Nelde (†) and funded
by the European Commission. It addresses multilingualism in the EU in its
socio-cultural, political and scientific dimensions within the context of
advancing Europeanisation. The authors’ task within the LINEE project was to
develop a research platform for theories and methods of multilingualism, which
made it possible to summarise the results of the project with respect to the
general theoretisation of multilingualism.

The first chapter, “European Multilingualism: Political Scope,” is an attempt
to define the basic concepts of European multilingualism and linguistic
diversity, largely based on official documents showing the historical
development of the basic concepts. The term ‘linguistic diversity’ is often
taken to be synonymous with European multilingualism: On the one hand, it is
used to refer to the many languages that are actually spoken in Europe and
particularly in the EU. On the other hand, it is used ideologically to refer
to a central value to which the EU adheres in its documents. Some crucial
questions, such as the role of minority and migrant languages (cf. Nic Craith
2006) or the question of language hierarchies within the European
multilingualism, have remained unclear. The authors conclude that ‘linguistic
diversity’ and ‘European multilingualism’ are intersecting notions which are
not fully synonymous. Rather, it can be taken that ‘linguistic diversity’
constitutes the ideological basis for European multilingual politics, while at
the same time constituting a political goal promoted on the assumption that
linguistic diversity can be equated with cultural diversity, which represents
European identity as a whole. European multilingualism is presented as an
ideologically driven concept, which in its functional top-down approach is not
yet established well enough in the grass roots and in civil society at large.

Section 1.1. shows how the plea for European multilingualism has evolved from
the diversity debate in the EU’s economic and political integration process.
Linguistic and cultural diversity often tend to be equated, with the promotion
of one assumed to involve the promotion of the other. Within this ideology of
diversity, integration into a transnational community requires a pluralistic
language regime that would allow for democratic and civic participation. A
detailed reading of EU official documents reveals that in the beginning,
European multilingualism was an issue primarily associated with educational
matters. In the 1990s, it was mainly linked with the question of enhanced
second and third language learning while, at a later stage, it included the
objective of social cohesion and intercultural understanding.

Section 1.2. discusses the European multilingualism policy in the making that
has a direct impact on diverse policy areas such as education, culture,
economics, external relations and foreign affairs, science and research,
justice and social rights. Since the 1970s, the EEC/EU promotion of increased
language learning has been motivated by economic concerns, since language
skills were assumed to contribute to professional mobility and increased
employability. The learning of a second and third language was considered a
precondition for economic wealth and prosperity. Later EU documents suggest
that EU success as a knowledge-based economy depends on how well it tackles
the issue of language learning. Language skills and intercultural
communication skills are seen as assuming an increasing role in global
marketing and sales strategies. In addition to its economic importance,
multilingualism as a policy covers a wide range of areas including lifelong
learning, employment, social inclusion, competitiveness, culture, youth and
civil society, research, translation and the media. Within this framework,
multilingualism is linked to social cohesion and prosperity.

According to the authors, there are two central preoccupations of EU language
education policy: the first centers on the question of how many, and which,
languages European citizens should be proficient in , while the second focuses
on external relations and global spheres of communication, i.e. spheres
exceeding the member states. The requirement of ‘mother tongue + 2’ has
developed from a maximum requirement for students to a minimum requirement for
all Europeans. The question of which languages should be prioritized,
however, remains open. While in the 1970s ‘languages of the Community’
referred to official languages, later on they came to be defined as ‘the
languages spoken in the Community.’ According to recent EU documents, the
range of languages to be taught is, ideally, very wide, and includes smaller
and larger European national languages, regional, minority and migrant
languages, as well as languages of major trading partners throughout the
world. It remains unclear, however, how such a broad approach can be
implemented, especially since on the national level only a restricted number
of large national languages are usually taught.

As to linguistic minorities’ policy, considerable progress has been made
thanks to the ratification of documents such as the ''European Charter for
Regional or Minority Languages'' (1992) and the ''European Framework
Convention on the Protection of National Minorities'' (1995), within the broad
framework of human rights protection promoted by the Council of Europe. Within
the European Union, projects such as Euromosaic, a study on minority language
groups in the EU initiated by the European Commission in 1992, institutions
such as the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages and academic networks
such as MERCATOR have made a very substantial contribution in this respect.
Immigrant languages, however, along with dialects, have been left out of the
protection of the European Charter. The authors argue that in spite of the
efforts towards greater inclusiveness, the question remains of how to
integrate immigrant languages into the European diversity framework.

The EU institutional language regime reflects a model of integral
multilingualism, which ensures the linguistic equality principle among the
official EU languages. The integral language regime, however, is not fully
viable in institutional practice since it is restricted to a very small and
selected range of procedural languages.

Multilingualism seen as multiple monolingualism from the nation-state
perspective is very likely to generate a hierarchical order of language
preferences as shown in institutional language practice and in foreign
language learning. Therefore, the authors conclude that if European
multilingualism is to achieve its goal, it will have to take a perspective on
the Union in terms of a multiple inclusive society rather than that of a

Chapter 2 is devoted to multilingualism as a highly interdisciplinary field of
research. It shows how multilingualism has evolved into an independent field
of research in a process of delimitation from bilingualism research. It is
only recently that the traditional understanding of languages as distinctly
identifiable entities came to be seriously questioned and critics argued that
conceiving of bi- and multilingualism simply as a collective container of
separate parallel monolingualisms could no longer be maintained (Martin-Jones
2007). Over the past 20 years, multilingualism research has been undertaken in
highly diversified disciplinary contexts and with reference to a range of
different perspectives, which are not always sufficiently elaborated. The wide
range of methodologies and theoretical approaches to multilingualism has
resulted in the fragmentation of this discipline. The LINEE project is an
attempt towards decreasing this fragmentation since it has been targeted
towards bringing together and seeking to reconcile discrepancies between
theories and methods of European multilingualism within its research platform.
As to the intersection between policy and academic research, research could
provide the planners of European multilingual policy with the empirical
foundations by means of which they can put pressure on the member states to
promote and establish multilingualism in their particular sphere.

Chapter 3 presents the LINEE Project, whose aim was ‘to investigate linguistic
diversity in Europe in a coherent and interdisciplinary way, by developing an
innovative, visible and durable scientific network that can overcome
fragmentation and serve as a world-wide quality and knowledge-based reference
framework’ (p. 60). The research focused upon four thematic areas, namely: 1)
Language, Identity and Culture, 2) Language Policy and Planning, 3)
Multilingualism and Education, and 4) Language and Economy. It was
hypothesized that the four thematic areas would provide information on how the
EU and its member states identify with linguistic diversity, how they plan and
implement it, how they provide the educational prerequisites for linguistic
diversity, and how they attempt to meet the multilingual requirements of a
single market. Each of the four thematic areas was subdivided into the
supranational, national and regional level. During the first two years of the
LINEE project, multilingualism was explored with respect to Europeanisation
and nationalization processes, aspects of immigrant and regional minorities,
English as a lingua franca, diversified pedagogic cultures, multilingual
classrooms, multilingual companies, and migrants in the labor market. In the
second phase, the major themes of the first phase were further elaborated and
cultural tourism and multilingual cities were integrated into the LINEE
themes. A major LINEE objective involved developing new methodological and
theoretical platforms. They were aimed at 1) providing the comparative
perspectives from which diversified insights into both the power and the
conflict potentials of European multilingualism should be attained, 2)
ensuring scientific pluralism, and 3) combining fundamental and applied
research in order to test the existing scientific paradigms against the
empirical background of the ongoing integration process.

The area-specific research revealed a set of recurrent features which
interacted in variable degrees with the diverse phenomena of European
multilingualism. The following features were identified: ’culture,’
‘discourse,’ ‘identity,’ ‘ideology,’ ‘knowledge,’ ‘language policy and
planning,’ ‘multi-competence,’ and ‘power and conflict.’ The next step
involved investigating how these variables were conceptualized and how they
interacted with the shaping of multilingualism within and across the thematic
areas. For example, culture is most salient in the identity area while it
remains implicit in other areas. Regarding discourse, two characteristics are
central to all approaches within the project, namely the multi-level and the
ideological nature of discourse. The LINEE studies clearly show the connection
between discourse and power in diverse contexts. As to the key variables,
discourse is shown to be closely related to language policy and planning.
Identity is a salient force in the context of language policy and planning,
education and economy. It strongly connects with culture since identity is
seen as contextually embedded and discursively formed. It is maintained that
European identity includes multiple identities where local, national and
supranational identifications can exist alongside each other. Ideology is seen
as a discursive reconfiguration of social space. Language policy and planning
are described as intrinsically related to ideology and to power and conflict.
The term ‘multi-competence’ (Cook 1991) refers to the compound state of mind
with two or more languages. It is closely linked to education, and it figures
prominently in the economy area. Power and conflict closely intersect with
discourse, ideology, knowledge and identity.

Thus, it is argued that European multilingualism points to highly diversified
phenomena, which do not allow for generalized definitions and explanations.
Multilingualism should be conceptualized in terms of complex and unstable
relationships instead of a fixed range of variables. Apart from the
theoretical dimensions, the LINEE project was concerned with methodological
issues. Within qualitative social research, five basic models were identified:
case studies, comparative studies, retrospective studies, snapshots (analysis
off state and process at the time of the research) and longitudinal studies
(Studer and Werlen 2012). The chapter ends by identifying problem areas that
run counter to European multilingualism as a mode of effective Europeanisation
such as the vagueness of the concept of European multilingualism, the weak
implementing power of the EU language policies, the lack of consensus
concerning the plurilingual repertoire, the traditionally strong bond between
language, identity and culture, the disregard of the disparities of power and
the traumatic histories that often combine with diversity, and monolingual
ideologies that continue to inform the foreign language learning practices at
the national level. English as a lingua franca is not seen as a threat to
other languages, but as an effective means of flexibly engaging in
multilingual communication without compromising speakers’ motivations for
learning or using other languages.

Chapter 4 focuses on European Multilingualism beyond LINEE. The theoretical
and methodological framework developed within the LINEE project has made it
possible to re-conceptualize European multilingualism, which should not be
regarded as a container of national languages but as a flexible and open-ended
concept. The chapter ends with an integrative view of European
multilingualism. The main objective involves pointing out scenarios in which
European multilingualism is adequately conceptualized in its dynamics and
complexity. This aim is achieved by relating the single key variables, such as
‘knowledge’, ‘language policy and planning’, ‘identity’, ‘discourse’, and
‘culture,’ which are handled flexibly, subject to the respective research

The book’s ‘Conclusion’ outlines the concept of European multilingualism again
on the basis of results obtained, taking into account both political and
scientific points of criticism. It considers potential options for reassessing
the discrepant aspects of conceptualizing European multilingualism and opens
new paths in order to theorize European multilingualism in its complexity and


The book presents European multilingualism as a multi-layered phenomenon,
which raises questions both regarding its conceptual design and the way it is
handled. These questions are closely related to the economic and cultural
process of Europeanisation. In its broad perspective, the book offers answers
to some of the major questions.

The book is a synthesis of the research findings of a European project
designed to meet the highest standards of scientific excellence, advocating an
ambitious framework for integrating different disciplinary perspectives.
Within its wide scope it bridges the gap between practical policy
considerations and academic research, theory and practice, fundamental and
applied sciences. It reveals the major discrepancies in the EU multilingual
policies, which the EU must overcome by developing into a multiple inclusive
society beyond the nation-state.

The book will be of interest to scholars and students of multilingualism,
offering them a wide range of analytical tools for their subject of study, as
well as to policy makers, who should be aware of results of scientific
research pointing to problem areas and discrepancies related to the concept of
European multilingualism and its practical implementation.

The volume is a coherent whole bringing together political and theoretical
aspects of European multilingualism, with a detailed account of the
methodological and theoretical dimension of research characterized by a
flexible and open-ended qualitative approach.

All in all, the book is an invaluable contribution to research on European
multilingualism and practice, as it discusses current and develops new comprehensive
interdisciplinary conceptualizations, understandings, and perspectives,
bridging the gap between theory and practice in a highly constructive way.


Martin-Jones, M. (2007) Bilingualism, education and the regulation of access
to language resources. In M. Heller (ed.) Bilingualism: A Social Approach (pp.
161-182). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cook, V. J. (1991). The poverty-of-the-stimulus argument and multi-competence.
Second Language Research 7, 103-117.

Nic Craith, M. (2006) Europe and the Politics of Language: Citizens, Migrants
and Outsiders. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Pauwels, A.; J. Winter and J. Lo Bianco (2007) Maintaining Minority Languages
in Transnational Contexts. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Studer, P. and I. Werlen (eds., 2012) Linguistic Diversity in Europe: Current
Trends and Discourses. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton .


Lelija Socanac is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of
Zagreb, Croatia. She is the coordinator of the Centre for Language and Law,
and she currently directs the project Legal and Linguistic Aspects of
Multilingualism. Her main research interests include sociolinguistics,
historical sociolinguistics, contact linguistics, and legal linguistics.
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