Over the last twenty years, sociolinguistic research on multilingualism has been
transformed. Two processes have been at work: first, an epistemological shift to
a critical ethnographic approach, which has contributed to a larger turn toward
post-structuralist perspectives on social life. Second, the effects of globalization
—transnational population flows, new communication technologies,
transformations in the political and economic landscape—have sparked
increasing concern about the implications of these changes for our
understanding of the relationship between language and society.
A new sociolinguistics of multilingualism is being forged: one that takes account
of the new communicative order, while retaining a central concern with the
processes in the construction of social difference. The contributors to this
volume have been at the forefront of these epistemological shifts. They write
here about the conceptual and methodological challenges posed by these shifts,
and the profound changes that we are witnessing in the late modern era.