Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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AUTHORS: Blackledge, Adrian and Angela Creese TITLE: Multilingualism SUBTITLE: A Critical Perspective SERIES TITLE: Advances in Sociolinguistics Series PUBLISHER: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd YEAR: 2010
Valeria Buttini, University of Basel/University of Turin
Blackledge and Creese carry out an investigation of multilingualism from a critical perspective, based on the analysis of classroom linguistic practices in Gujarati, Bengali, Chinese, and Turkish complementary schools in Britain. The book contains 11 chapters.
In the first chapter, ''Opening up multilingual spaces,'' the authors discuss the importance of a critical perspective on multilingualism and raise some questions -- What does it mean to young people to be multilingual? What do multilingual speakers' linguistic resources mean to them? Are they happy to discard their languages, and assimilate to English, or are there other issues at stake? What does it mean if speakers appropriate and make use of linguistic practices not typically associated with their ''ethnic'' or ''heritage'' group? -- that will later be answered. The eight schools where they conducted the investigations are introduced, and some of the social and linguistic issues important to participants in these schools are presented.
In the second chapter, ''Multilingualism, ideology and practice,'' Blackledge and Creese present the theoretical base of their investigation while reviewing previous research in the fields of multilingualism, multilingualism in education and complementary schools. The authors argue that languages are social constructs. They do not share the idea of bilingualism as ''double monolingualism'' (Heller 2006:83), and state their view of multilingualism as the appropriation and incorporation for meaning-making of any and all linguistic resources which come to hand. They argue that, however, many people's identity is inexorably linked to their language. Thus, linguistic practices are always shaped by language ideology, and language ideologies are shaped by linguistic practices.
In the third chapter, ''Ethnography of multilingualism,'' the authors discuss the notion of ethnography of multilingualism as a means to tell their story of the multilingual practices of young people and their teachers in complementary schools. They argue that this is a critical approach that shows how languages practices are connected to the very real conditions of people's lives, and to discover how and why language matters to people in their own terms (Heller 2008:250). The principle research methods used in the investigation are described.
In the fourth chapter, ''A multilingual research team,'' Blackledge and Creese try to give an account of working in a multilingual team of researchers and to describe how identity politics influenced relations in the field and within the team. Through a series of vignettes authored by the members of the research team, they represent the voices of the nine researchers as they reflected on their relationship to their participants, and the way they were able to negotiate their identities as researchers within them. Three themes that emerge in the researchers' accounts are then discussed: insiders/outsiders positionality; language and cultural background; issues of position and privilege.
In the fifth chapter, ''Separate and flexible bilingualism in complementary schools,'' the two seemingly contradictory yet co-existing sets of beliefs and practices relating to bilingualism in the complementary schools are described by the authors through extracts. Participants, usually teachers, on one hand argue for language ''separation'' in complementary schools. This position is named ''separate bilingualism'', otherwise referred as ''double monolingualism'' (Heller 2006:83) or ''bilingualism with diglossia'' (Baker 2003; Fishman 1967). On the other hand, both teachers and young people practice what Blackledge and Creese call a ''flexible bilingualism'', during which they call into play diverse sets of linguistic resources. ''Flexible bilingualism'' corresponds to the terms ''translanguaging'' (Garcia 2007:xiii) and ''heteroglossia'' (Bailey 2007). The authors argue that there are links between these two different sets of beliefs and practices relating to bilingualism and conflicting political, pedagogical and sociolinguistic discourse on language. In particular, the propose that an ideology of ''separate bilingualism'' is upheld in some of their participants' discourses through recourse to powerful and pervasive political and academic discourses, which view languages as discrete and tied to nation and culture in simplified and coherent ways. An ideology and practice of separate bilingualism allows teachers to articulate, organize and assemble resources to counter the hegemony of other ''mainstream'' institutional accounts of nation, history, culture and language. However, in doing so the schools themselves sometimes settle on simplified cultural narratives.
In the sixth chapter, ''Official and carnival lives in the classroom,'' the authors conduct a Bakhtinian analysis to identify how meaning-making emerges as an ongoing dialogic process at a number of different levels. Focusing on the Turkish and Chinese schools, they argue that using ''carnivalesque'' language, students introduce new voices into classroom discourse and create ''second lives'' which provide alternatives to the official worlds of their teachers.
In the seventh chapter, ''Multilingual literacies across space and time,'' the authors' focus is on the use of folk stories as a resource to negotiate identity, culture and heritage. The teachers see folk stories as symbolic footprints of a culture and a community, and use them to invoke features of the collective memory of community, or sometimes to endorse traditions, values and beliefs. However, young people often challenge and question some of their core elements: folk stories offer them a context in which they can both share constructions of culture and resist them.
In the eighth chapter, ''Contesting 'language' as 'heritage','' Blackledge and Creese investigate in greater depth the negotiations involved in the teaching and learning of ''heritage''. They find out that multilingual young people in the complementary school classrooms use linguistic resources in creative ways in order to negotiate subject positions that often appear to subvert school's attempts to impose them ''heritage'' identities.
In the ninth chapter, ''Inventing and disinventing the national,'' the meaning of ''nationalism'' in the context of complementary school classrooms is investigated. The students, mainly born and raised in the UK, do not always accept their teachers' positioning of them for example as ''Bangladeshi'' or ''Chinese.'' In fact, they sometimes contest the notion that they should accept national belonging and affiliation to the territory of their familial ancestors.
In the tenth chapter, ''Translanguaging in the bilingual classroom,'' the authors adopt a language- ecological perspective (Van Lier 2008) in order to describe the ideological, interrelational and interactional opportunities and constraints in complementary school classrooms. Teachers and students construct and participate in a flexible bilingual pedagogy, adopting a translanguaging approach to pedagogy: Both languages (English and Gujarati, for instance, or English and Chinese) are used simultaneously to convey the full message, and they are both needed in connection to one another (Lopez 2008).
In the eleventh chapter, ''Multilingualism: future trajectories,'' the authors raise new questions about which direction will be taken by research in multilingualism when old ethnicities interact with new possibilities, when linguistic practices get more diverse, and when the increasing mobility of people and global communication accelerate linguistic change. They do not think that multilingualism is always in itself an important feature of the social word, it is however worthy of investigation, if only because it provides a lens through which we can see more clearly the ways in which language practices are socially and politically embedded and the ways in which some linguistic practices become the basis of social differentiation.
Overall I found Blackledge and Creese's book to be quite manageable and pleasant to read. The book has a very clear structure that would make the reading accessible even to a reader who does not have a detailed knowledge of this field. The review provided of prior research is coherent and quite detailed, and I also find their innovative approach outlined well and presented convincingly.
I think this book should be of interest to a large group of people interested in the intersection of language, sociology, and culture. It should work for both researchers and advanced students as a way to acquaint oneself with the more recent work in the field. I also think it would probably work in an introductory course to multilingualism for students: All the steps of a well-conducted research are clearly presented (see for instance chapter 3 on research questions and research methods). However, students may wish for the inclusion of a glossary of terms.
Bailey, B. (2007), ''Heteroglossia and boundaries'', in M. Heller (ed.), Bilingualism: a social Approach. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 257-76.
Baker, C. (2003), ''Biliteracy and transliteracy in Wales: Language planning and the Welsh national curriculum'', in N. Hornberger (ed.), Continua of Biliteracy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 71-90.
Fishman, J. (1967), ''Bilingualism with and without diglossia; diglossia with and without bilingualism''. Journal of Social Issues, 23, pp. 29-38.
Garcia, O. (2007), ''Foreword'', in S. Makoni and A. Pennycook (eds.), Disinventing and Reconstituting Languages. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. xi-xv.
Heller, M. (2006), Linguistic Minorities and Modernity, 2nd ed. London: Continuum.
Heller, M. (2008), ''Doing Ethnography'', in W. Li Wei and M. Moyer (eds.), The Blackwell Guide to Research Methods in Bilingualism and Multilingualism, pp. 249-62. Oxford: Blackwell.
Lopez, L. E. (2008), ''Indigenous contributions to an ecology of language learning in Latin America'', in A. Creese, P.W. Martin and N. H. Hornberger (eds.), Encyclopedia of Language and Education, 9, Ecology of Language. New York: Springer Science+Business Media LLC., pp. 141-58.
Van Lier, L. (2008), ''The ecology of language learning and sociolcultural theory'', in A. Creese, P. Martin and N. H. Hornberger (eds.), Encyclopedia of Language and Education, 9, Ecology of Language. New York: Springer Science+Business Media LLC., pp. 53-65.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Valeria Buttini is in her second year of PhD study in Italian Linguistics at the University of Basel.
Her research interests lie in the fields of sociolinguistics, multilingualism, second language
acquisition, text linguistics, and syntax. At the University of Basel she has taught a course on 'An
Introduction to Second Language Acquisition' and is currently teaching 'Argumentative writing'.
She also teaches Italian as a Second Language.