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Review of Opportunities and Challenges of Bilingualism
Date: Sun, 4 May 2003 12:14:16 +0900 From: Guido Oebel Subject: Opportunities and Challenges of Bilingualism
Wei, Li, Jean-Marc Dewaele and Alex Housen ed. (2002) Opportunities and Challenges of Bilingualism, Mouton de Gruyter, Contributions to the Sociology of Language 87.
Guido Oebel, Saga and Kurume/Fukuoka University, Japan
This book discusses social aspects of bilingualism. It focuses on the manifold opportunities that today's growing bilingual and multilingual societies are being offered and the challenges they are being confronted with.
Joshua A. Fishman opens the first main section with a contribution entitled titled '"Holy languages" in the context of social bilingualism' (15-24). In it he critically analyses the process of 'sanctification' of languages within multilingual societies. Starting from Emile Durkheim's definition of 'holiness', Fishman examines different types of 'holy' languages throughout human history. By doing so, he classifies these languages according to whether
- one of the two languages is considered inherent holy (17-18), - another language becomes holy by dint of association with the one already considered holy (18), - both languages are considered holy (19-20), or - neither language is considered holy. (20-21)
From there, Fishman takes off to possible 'consequences of language sanctity beliefs' (21-22) and the so-called 'staying power of sanctity' (22-23), i.e. for example Latin or Hebrew, both languages which due to their 'direct sanctity' live on in holy texts.
John Edwards starts his chapter titled 'Forlorn hope?' (25-44) explaining the genesis of this originally Dutch expression that has changed its meaning through inaccurate etymology. This illustrating word-play and example of cross-language transfer serves the author as an interesting example of how an incomplete bilingualism leads to misunderstandings, and yet to a meaningful misapprehension. The genesis of changing meaning of 'Forlon hoe' serves the author as lead-in to his examination of 'language ecology' perspective on linguistic diversity arguing stable societal bilingualism might be a desirable outcome, however, as difficult to achieve and maintain.
Tove Skutnabb-Kangas's contribution 'When languages disappear, are bilingual education or human rights a cure? Two scenarios' (45-67) continues the discussion of endangered languages, according to Krauss (1992) dividing (oral) languages into three groups, the moribund, the endangered and the safe ones. She predicts for the two first-mentioned languages a linguistic genocide caused by agents of formal education and mass media, acting on behalf of economic, military and political groups. Within this context, in analogy to racism and sexism the concept of discriminating linguicism was created with state education systems not only violating the linguistic human rights (LHRs) of minorities but even contributing considerably to linguistic genocide. Taking the LHRs perspective, Skutnabb-Kangas examines the work in international law and in education to counteract minorisation of languages and, at the same time, to promote the survival of linguistic diversity.
J. J. Smolicz's chapter 'Core values and nation-states' (69-85) is concerned with the paradox of ethnic and national upsurge in an increasingly globalized cultural and economic world. Giving the situation in Australia as an example, according to him linguistic diversity is contingent on the maintenance and development of cultural core values of each of the ethnic groups concerned. Smolicz concludes drawing a promising scenario for maintaining developing a nation-wide multilinguism promoted by acknowledging the minorities' right to their cultural heritage. By doing so, Australia fortunately happens to demonstrate a radical departure from the monolingual and mono-ethnic assumptions prevailing there from the beginning of the 20th century until the mid 70's.
The papers in the second section ('Bilingualism worldwide') focus on societal bilingualism, language ideology, its planning, maintenance and shift, respectively, in individual countries. Harold F. Schiffman's contribution 'French language policy: centrism, Orwellian 'dirigisme', or economic determination?' (89-104) examines language policy 'a la francaise' shedding light on the question of how it is embedded in and proceeds from the so-called 'linguistic culture'.
Peter H. Nelde's and Peter J. Weber's article 'The non-linearity of language maintenance and language shift: survey data from European language boundaries' (105-124) discusses typical aspects of language maintenance and language shift illustrated by comparing Germanic-Romance (German speaking minority in 'Old Belgium') and Germanic-Slavic (Sorbian speaking minority in Germany) minority contact situations.
Juri Viikberg's contribution 'Language shift among Siberian Estonians: pro and contra' (125-144) discusses the factors affecting language maintenance and language loss in the Estonian linguistic enclaves in Siberia. Starting out inter alia from Grosjean (1982: 107-112) who listed several prominent factors vital for the survival of migrant groups' languages, Viikberg analyses, besides other factors, social and intrinsic factors that might have played the key role for the ambivalent, somehow unexpectedly contradictory development of Siberian Estonians' linguistic situation.
Damir Kalogjera's chapter 'On attitude towards Croatian dialects ad on their changing status' (145-156) examines the notions of 'norm' and 'standard language' in the context of language contact in Croatia.
Wolfgang Woelck in 'Ethnolects - between bilingualism and urban dialect' (157-170) has a closer look at the effects of language contact in the city of Buffalo, NY. Starting with a review of how fellow authors define the term 'ethnolect' that was coined in the late 1970's to designate the English of immigrants' descendants long after their originally native languages are lost, Woelck understands this label of specifically American sociolinguistics as dealing with how these surviving language contact features were used to identify citizens' ethnic and linguistic, respectively, origin. After presenting convincing data supporting a revised definition of ethnolect, Woelck confirms himself in advocating a narrower restriction of this term and its application for a clearer and more specific usage, e.g., considering criteria such as host-language monolingualism and the relatively short life span of language varieties compared to the real-time life of a speech community.
Bernard Spolsky's paper 'The development of Navajo-English bilingualism' (171-198) analyses the process of Navajo language loss in the southwestern states of America. On the basis of Spolsky's paper from 1975 in which he then assessed the prospects for the survival of the Navajo language, in this paper, he attempts to identify the contribution of the various factors involved in the process of its loss especially over the last quarter century. His conclusion at the end of the chapter can be seen in sharp contrast to his enthusiasm about the prospects for the survival of Navajo in the 1970's. Despite the fact that Navajo has lasted longer than most other autochthonous languages in the United States, it now is endangered, too. According to Spolsky, the move from rural isolation to semi-urban and urban density of communication, i.e. urbanization, has had its sociolinguistic reflexes. Consequently, urbanization has had its regrettable and probably irreversible effect on the shift from Navajo to English, unfortunately reflecting a general tendency in the US as a whole.
Tim Marr's contribution 'Language ideology, ownership and maintenance: the discourse of the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua' (199-219) explores the discourse of the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua (henceforth: the Academia) based the former Inca capital Cusco. This highly critical paper 'concerns the ongoing Peruvian project of status and corpus planning being carried out by (...) the Academia (.) displaying an ambivalent attitude towards both the nation-sate which it claims to serve and the speakers whose aspirations it claims to represent' (p. 199). Marr examines the perspectives and ideology of the Academia considering this body 'at best an unreliable ally, and at worst an implacable enemy' when carrying out 'a serious Quechua language maintenance project' (p. 199). Marr's less promising outlook is that the Academia's members and self-appointed representatives with their roots in the bilingual Cusco elite evidently confuse their own opinions and aspirations with those of mainly rural Quechua speakers. According to Marr, thus one might call into question the Academia's efficacious support for the maintenance of the Quechua language, and simultaneously its authority.
Vivian de Klerk's chapter 'Xhosa as a 'home appliance'? A case study of language shift in Grahamstown' (221-248) presents a case study of language shift from Xhosa to English among Xhosa-speaking parents and their children attending English-medium schools in Grahamstown in South Africa. De Klerk's paper attempts to assess the relative importance of a range of variables influencing the rate of possible language shift. By doing so, the author provides an overview of the ten main factors (economics, institutional support, educational environment, education and literacy levels, linguistic networks, language attitudes, language status, language functions, mass media, gender) which have been identified as playing an essential role in stimulating language shift in general. De Klerk then reports on the relative importance of these factors, i.e. on findings from her longitudinal study carried out in 1998. Despite the reservation of over-interpreting surveys, the author concludes that, among the children surveyed, shift to English seems to be well under way and almost irrevocable. In terms of the ten variables aforementioned, some have proven more prominent (economic and functional factors along with high educational levels among parents) than others (socio-cultural factors).
In 'Japan's nascent multilingualism' (249-271), the two co-authors Florian Coulmas and Makoto Watanabe try to give plausible reasons why linguistic diversity is increasing in modern Japan. Starting with an historic overview on ethnolinguistic homogeneity constituted in Meiji Japan, Coulmas and Watanabe draw a considerably changed picture of the language situation prevailing in today's Japan. According to them, the current Japanese society 'offers the opportunity to study the transformation of a society largely under monolingual assumptions into one which has come to terms with greater linguistic plurality' (p. 249). Despite the authorities' reluctance 'to officially depart from the idea of Japan's homogeneity, (...) the traditional self-image of Japan as a closed, homogeneous society has begun to break down, and the push for more pluralism is welcomed (...) by many Japanese' (p. 257). The once favoured ideals of homogeneity, yes even uniformity, turn out to be obsolete in the face of the challenges modern Japan has to cope with such as attracting more foreigners than ever before, and, particularly, its rapidly aging citizens. Although this development requires more immigrants, so far the authorities have failed to implement a corresponding immigration policy or social policy. The extent of developing into a more open, i.e. a pluralistic society promoting linguistic pluralism as well, might be considered a gauge of Japan's reinvention.
The third section 'Multilingual management and education' addresses the issue of language management and language education in multilingual contexts.
Xu Daming's and Li Wei's contribution 'Managing multilingualism in Singapore' (275-295) examines the motivations for the language policies advocated by the Singaporean government. The two co-authors define their objective as to evaluate the city state's activities 'in its attempts to change the linguistic realities and charter the future development of the' four official 'languages of the country', Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English (p. 275). To this end, they first examine the effectiveness of the measures implemented and actions taken, then they analyze the nature of actions in order to characterize them as acts of 'dirigisme' or 'language management' in a manipulating sense. Cutting short the authors' outcome, according to them, language planning in Singapore can be called overwhelmingly successful, mainly owing to the planners' management approach.
Bjoern H. Jernudd's paper 'Managing languages at bilingual universities: relationships between universities and their language environment' (297-309) discusses the relationships between universities and their language environment, more precisely, 'how language management theory can diagnose and suggest solutions to language problems' arising 'in a bilingual university' such as the Hong Kong Baptist University (p. 297). Hong Kong universities operate under a trilingual (English, Cantonese, Putonghua) and biliterate (Chinese, English) policy whereas Putonghua is taught as a subject and, in addition, largely confined to communications with visitors from the PRC. English dominates as a textbook language, serves as a language of governance and of board meetings, and is furthermore used on occasions in which Cantonese is not available as shared language. Jernudd then classifies his so-called 'communicative acts in bilingual university settings' into the following 'ad hoc' categories: - teaching acts between students and teachers, - study acts by students, - administrative acts between students and administrative university members, - research acts, - writing and other presentation acts, - service acts by faculty members addressing different audiences, - governance acts between university representatives and civil servants (p. 299-300). In his evaluation, Jernudd still sees much room for removing the likelihood of systematic discourse inadequacies and recommends audits of language use. Such, as he calls it, 'joint language management action' would 'reveal the complex realities of bilingualism in practice' (p. 307).
Ofelia Garcia and Cecelia Traugh et al. in 'Using descriptive inquiry to transform the education of linguistically diverse US teachers and students' (311-328) describe the efforts educators in two US settings are making to continually support linguistically diverse schools. The authors first describe the increased sociolinguistic heterogeneity and socioeducational homogeneity of the US in general and of New York in particular. In the further course of the chapter, the authors discuss how a particular research methodology such as 'Descriptive Inquiry' could be inclined to regenerate teacher training programme and thus help deepen the understanding of bilingual education. According to Garcia and Traugh, this innovative research mode facilitates transforming a university programme to continually educate mainly bilingual urban teachers, thus supporting the efforts of a dual language school with the objective of eventually implementing bilingualism.
The last chapter by William F. Mackey, 'Changing paradigms in the study of bilingualism' (329-344), simultaneously serving as Coda to the volume, critically reviews key issues in bilingualism research over the last two decades. The definitions of bilingualism, Mackey quotes, range from 'the equal mastery, choice and use of two languages' in the middle of the 20th century over considering it just a peripheral phenomenon to a puzzle from fringes of such disciplines as social psychology, social dialectology and social anthropology. From the latter conceptualization of bilingualism in the context of linguistics, bilingualism underwent a revised positioning referring to its growing importance to bilingual or even multilingual societies. Eventually, it became evident that the term bilingualism had to be redefined taking into account that it had ceased to be looked upon as a 'peculiar either/or trait', but rather as a multidimensional and widespread phenomenon (p. 331). By the 1980's, bilingualism itself began to generate a life of its own, and in the further course it managed to engulf sub-disciplines such as 'ethnolinguistics, demolinguistics, glottopolitics, language planning and others' (p. 332).
In addition, Mackey outlines a framework for future research advocating 'new paradigms for new concepts' that might pave the way 'to new thinking about language' in today's 'increasingly diverse and complex societies' (p. 342).
Overall, this is an excellent volume, which met my expectations upon reading it. The first two contributions to this volume, by Fishman and Edwards, are exemplary papers and those readers already familiar with their linguistic research, of course, cannot help but being delighted to read their chapters.
Skutnabb-Kangas's describes two scenarios of linguistic genocide and analyzes measures to halt or ideally prevent it - so far an absolutely noteworthy issue, yes even sublime 'partisanship'. However, ten pages of text dealing with the topic, in my opinion, hardly justify almost eight pages of admittedly valuable references.
The last contribution to the opening main chapter by Smolicz is a critical and in its result promising analysis of Australia's dealing with the country's multilingualism acknowledging its minorities the right to their cultural heritage thus maintaining their cultural distinctiveness, too. All in all, this is an essay easy to read, with particular interest to those not familiar with the language policy carried out in Australia.
Schiffman's investigation on whether French language policy might be motivated by centrism, 'Orwellian dirigisme', or economic determinism, comes to the conclusion that 'the fallacy of linguistic 'dirigisme' is based on supposed parallels with economic 'dirigisme'' (p. 99). Interesting as the comparison itself is, I have the impression Schiffman's chapter lacks the topical relevance to the more current situation as one fails to find a reference to the notorious Law No. 94-665 of 4 August 1994 relative to the use of the French language (cf. my online references) -- commonly known as 'Loi Tourbon' - and its amendments until 20 September 2001.
Despite the specificity and thus excellence of Fishman's 'Holy languages' and Edwards' 'Forlorn hope-?', I take the liberty to choose Nelde's and Weber's co-authored chapter my favourite as it coincidentally deals exactly with the profiles of the German speaking minority in Old Belgium and the Sorbian speaking minority in Germany on which I myself only recently published a paper (cf. my print references). Gratefully, their chapter is accompanied by illustrative figures, maps and tables. Besides their sound analysis, in the reference section they give the English translation of German book titles as well as the faithful translation of German quotations faithfully to their meaning in the source language. Unfortunately, there is a minor aspect, i.e. failing to mention the online accessibility of an indispensable source they refer to throughout the chapter: 'Euromosaic' (cf. my online references).
To cut short this review so far in great detail, I will only comment further on Marr's chapter on the 'Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua' and on 'Managing multilingualism in Singapore' co-authored by Xu Daming and Li Wei. In my opinion, at least these two chapters deserve an independent remark: as in my opinion justifiably critical Marr's analysis of the Peruvian institution is as in some aspects uncritical, yes even somehow indifferent glorifying is Daming's and Wei's hymn of praise for Singapore's policy to manage multilingualism in the South East Asian city sate. Without my intention to disparage their expertise as scholars of high renown, maybe the prospect of facing governmental reprisals is the cause for their unilateral analysis?
At the end of each chapter, the reader finds five study questions for discussion. Following the authors' intention, these questions are aimed to facilitate further debates about the issues raised and discussed in the corresponding chapters. Their demand ranges from mainly comprehension questions comprising just one line to entire complexes of questions (e.g. Skutnabb-kangas, Schiffman, de Klerk and Garcia/Traugh) stimulating further discussion among readers. Another helpful factor is that the key references are asterisked so that readers might feel invited to consult them for more detailed examination.
In sum, I consider the present volume worth reading with only a very few reservations. It constitutes a multifaceted compilation of different aspects on the 'Opportunities and Challenges of Bilingualism' and multilingualism. In my opinion, everybody interested in this topic no matter whether experts in the field or laymen can benefit from it. Its contributions combine sound scientific xpertise with readability.
Grosjean, F. (1982). Life with Two Languages. An Introduction to Bilingualism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Oebel, G. (2002a). The German Language in Belgium. A minority language, however, not endangered of extinction. In: Journal of the Faculty of Culture and Education Saga University, 7 (1), 169-182.
Oebel, G. (2002b). European Culture and Languages: The Sorbs (Wends). A Slavonic Enclave within German Boundaries. In: Journal of the Faculty of Culture and Education Saga University, 7 (1), 147-151.
Spolsky, B. (1975). Prospects for the survival of the Navajo Language. In: M. Dale Kinkade et al. (eds.), Linguistics and Anthroplogy, in honor of C. F. Voegelin, 597-606. Lisse: Peter de Ridder Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Guido Oebel (PhD in linguistics) is a native German currently teaching German as a Foreign Language (DaF) and FLL in Japan. His main areas of research are: DaF, sociolinguistics, bilingualism, adult education and autonomous learning and approaches, particularly 'Learning by Teaching' (LdL) invented by Jean-Pol Martin of the Catholic University Eichstaett-Ingolstadt (Germany).