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Review of  Mapping Linguistic Diversity in Multicultural Contexts

Reviewer: Lorenzo Zanasi
Book Title: Mapping Linguistic Diversity in Multicultural Contexts
Book Author: Monica Barni Guus Extra
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 20.1934

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EDITORS: Barni, Monica; Extra, Guus
TITLE: Mapping Linguistic Diversity in Multicultural contexts
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
YEAR: 2008

Lorenzo Zanasi, unaffiliated scholar

The book is an edited collection of papers, divided into four main sections:
1) Introduction on what it means to map linguistic diversity in multicultural
contexts and the presentation of some useful tools in the field of migration
2) Status of some regional European languages (Welsh, Basque, Frisian).
3) Mapping immigrant languages in Europe (France, Switzerland, Italy).
4) Mapping linguistic diversity abroad (Turkey, South Africa, Australia, Japan).

Section 1
The Introduction provided by Guus Extra and Monica Barni introduces some useful
terms to explain the difference between regional minority languages (RM) and
immigrant minority languages (IM), and underlines a lack of a common reference
or framework for those categories. It goes on to describe the approach called
linguistic landscape approach (LA), a new dimension in mapping languages, as the
focus on the presence of languages around us: ''linguistic landscape concerns the
way in which the language of public road signs, advertising billboards, street
names, place names, shop signs, and public signs on governments buildings
combine to form the linguistic landscape of a given territory, region or urban
agglomeration'' (p. 25). This is an approach recently simplified and encouraged
by the current media devices and by electronic databases.

The final section of the introduction, concerning the promotion of
multilingualism at school, underlines that in the European Commission and the
Council of Europe (European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages) the
concept of RM languages is not sufficiently explored; furthermore, the IM
languages are not mentioned at all. The authors affirm the need ''to encourage
linguistic diversity, to respect the mother tongue at all levels of education,
and to foster the learning of more than one language from the youngest age'' (p.

Michel Poulain's article (''European migration statistics: definitions, data and
challenges'') observes the classic tools we need to measure the spatial and
quantitative distribution of a language (especially IM languages). First, he
introduces the distinction between migration flows and typology of populations
with foreign backgrounds, noting that ''data on migration flows are not always
available and if they are, they are often unreliable'' (p. 65). He goes on to
discus two indicators used to define people with a foreign background living in
a given country: citizenship and country of birth. Where can we find this
information and other data on migration? Usually, in administrative registers
and censuses. But it's not always easy to get this information from public
registers and questions on language use are rarely considered. Lastly, using the
data extract from the Eurostat Database, Poulain proposes an interesting set of
concluding concerns:

a) Foreign EU citizens living in another EU country
b) Total number of non-EU citizens living in every EU country

Poulain notes that only a few direct statistical data sources exist that can
support research on the link between migration and language use.

Section 2:
In ''The Welsh language in the UK, beyond the cartography'' Colin Williams first
surveys the data (census), analyzing conceptual problems in collecting it.
Secondly, he starts with a historical overview (before and after 2001), before
passing to a consideration of the policy applications related to education and
national identity.

Jasone Cenoz in ''The status of Basque in the Basque country'' discusses the
vitality of the Basque language and explains how a strong policy to promote the
Basque has stopped its decrease, but its knowledge and use is quite limited in
everyday life, apart from in the education sector.

Durk Gorter focuses on language surveys on Frisian in the Netherlands. He starts
with a historical background and a brief description of the spatial distribution
of dialectal varieties before moving to the sociolinguistic survey. He discusses
the methods to provide an ideal research in this field and underlines the need
for an approach called ''triangulation'' (a combination of different techniques to
study the same phenomenon) that we can find in a large part of the book.

Section 3:
Guus Extra and Kutlay Yagmur open with the presentation of the rationale,
methodology, and outcomes of the Multilingual Cities Project, a coordinated
multiple survey study in six major multicultural cities in different EU

Dominique Caubet and George Ludi offer two contributions on IM languages
respectively in France and in Switzerland. The first is concerned with the
spreading and the status of Arabic and Berber in France, starting from the
analysis of the ''family language survey on language practices'' (p. 165) of 1999,
the first of such surveys in this country. The author comments on the method
used in the phrasing of the questions and the composition of the sample and
observes the problems connected with the different versions of dialectal Arabic
(Maghrebi Arabic). The status of Arabic and Berber in France and the languages
offered in the French educational system are then discussed, with the conclusion
that Arabic is still not formally recognised nor sufficiently protected for a
language of an increasingly large proportion of the population of France
(immigrants from Maghreb and their descendants).

Ludi shows Switzerland's complex linguistic situation, which is not ideally
quadrilingual in the way one may imagine, but rather ''a mosaic made up of four
largely monolingual regions in which the other national languages enjoy a simple
status of foreign languages'' (pp. 195-196). Therefore, Switzerland has recently
become a country of immigration, developing itself as a multilingual country.
Ludi then investigates the distribution of the different IM languages at a
demographic level, in order to measure the degree of integration of speakers of
IM languages and finally considers the communicative encounters between them ''in
order to analyse the ways in which members of a polyglossic society take mutual
profit from all the languages they know'' (p. 198).

Monica Barni closes this section with the methodological description of a
research conducted on IM languages in Italy at the University for Foreigners in
Siena. The aim of this research is ''to reconstruct the forces of interaction in
the contact between the immigrant languages and the Italian linguistic space by
describing, from a range of points of view, the traces of change and measuring
the new use of alloglot languages'' (p. 222). To describe and represent these
traces, the survey exploits the resources of the Geographical Information
System, with the aid of a camper van equipped for collecting linguistic data
directly on the ground. Emphasis is also given to the linguistic landscape.

Section 4
In the last section we find four studies. The first, written by Katharina Brizic
and Kutlay Yagmur, presents a double line of research: linguistic diversity in
Turkey and its effects in Austria through immigration. As usual statistics and
patterns of language variation and minorities in Turkey are demonstrated (and
the result is a complex and mixed sociolinguistics) before observing the
Austrian case study.

Izak J. and Johannes H. Van der Merwe, taking the opportunity to discuss _The
Linguistic Atlas of South Africa_ (''Mapping diversity in space and time'')
provide the best contribution of the book in relation to the theoretical
background. The authors (geographers) spend several pages on the geo-linguistics
basis of their research, mainly through the tool of linguistic atlas. Secondly,
pushed by the historical situation of their country they provide clear and
exhaustive reasons for mapping the linguistic diversity.

''Community languages in Australia by Sandra Kipp is a historical overview of
multilingualism in Australia, a country of several migration waves over the last
decade. The author also describes the status of community languages in the
school sector.

Peter Backhaus leads us to discover ''The linguistic landscape of Tokyo'' through
three questions: who are the producers of multilingual signs, who are the
readers, and how is the linguistic landscape developing in Tokyo? Particularly
interesting is the section on research methodology and considerations about the
use of linguistic landscape as a way to survey linguistic diversity: ''For the
mapping of linguistic diversity, linguistic landscape is a tool to be applied
with great care. Ideally it should be used in combination with other research
tools such as linguistic census data and large-scale home language surveys'' (p.

The book is the result of an international workshop hosted in 2006 at the
University for Foreigners in Siena (Italy). The subject is analyzed principally
in a sociolinguistic perspective mainly through case studies. Methodology is
largely emphasized.

Some observations are as follows. First, the weakness of linguistic data. All
surveys complain about data availability and reliability. In some cases the data
is directly collected by the researchers, but this is not always possible, or
indeed comprehensive. Also the method of data collection is often controversial
and needs the efforts and cooperation of a network of universities. It's a
serious invitation to think about the best strategy to deal with linguistic
research within society. Second, the vivacity of immigrant languages. Third, the
uncontested dominance of English as lingua franca and foreign language present
in a given territory.

Taking a look at some imperfections of this work we can ask: why map a language?
The answers (controls, benefits for citizens, advantages for immigrants or for
urban businesses, etc.) are not obvious and are rarely explained. For this
reason, the contributions are most convincing when they deal with the
educational environment and show themes of linguistic planning and policy (the
papers of Caubet and Van der Merwe are exemplars in that sense).

I was surprised to see the absence of representation. How to represent
linguistic diversity? ''Mapping linguistic diversity'', says the title. What is
the meaning and the function of mapping here? If we use the term ''to map'' just
to mean ''to describe'' spatial distribution we are far from an idea of language
as a mutable and dynamic entity. How can we remove from an academic context the
analysis of these codes called languages in order to show linguistic difference?
It is a pity that the book does not mention this, but rather focuses on the
census and demolinguistics topics, already largely surveyed in linguistic research.

In this sense, linguistic landscaping is a good example of a new and original
linguistic representation through images directly linked to the territory in a
public way. The urban space itself becomes a map of a historical and social context.

Despite the criticisms, the collection is a good tool (well organized and
printed) to understand the present academic research on this matter, mainly in
Europe and especially in the metropolitan areas.

Lorenzo Zanasi earned his PhD in linguistics from the University for Foreigners
in Siena, Italy in 2004 with research on linguistic mapping. He has taught
Italian in Paris at the Italian Institute of Culture and managed a European
educational project in Morocco during 2007-2008. His research interests include
communication competence, intercultural communication and Italian and French

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