LINGUIST List 16.1593
Wed May 18 2005
Review: Multilingualism/Socioling: Extra & Yagmur (2004)
Editor for this issue: Megan Zdrojkowski
Urban Multilingualism in Europe
Message 1: Urban Multilingualism in Europe
Sebastian Rasinger <S.Rasinger
Urban Multilingualism in Europe
EDITORS: Extra, Guus; Yagmur, Kutlay
TITLE: Urban Multilingualism in Europe
SUBTITLE: Immigrant Minority Languages at Home and School
SERIES: Multilingual Matters 130
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-2498.html
Sebastian M. Rasinger, Department of Linguistics and English Language,
University of Sussex
With immigration becoming an increasing issue in European politics, so
does, inevitably, the issue of bilingualism. In particular with respect to
social and cultural integration of migrants into the host society, the
aspect of language proficiency plays an increasing role on political
parties' agendas and in social policies alike.
Extra and Ya?mur's book provides a profound overview of multilingualism
throughout Europe, and considers both theoretical approaches and actual
case-studies. The volume is divided into three parts: Part one approaches
the theme from a multidisciplinary point of view and provides an overview
of four perspectives relevant for the study of multilingualism
Chapter 2 addresses phenomenological issues, focusing on the difficulties
in defining central terms of the topic. In particular, the chapter focuses
on the notions of ethnic identity and its relation to language.
The third chapter focuses on demographic issues, in particular the
difficulty of categorisation of speakers according to their ethnic origin,
nationality, or language; a problem underlying most forms of censuses
which include information about languages and speakers.
Chapter four addresses the issue of language rights in both Europe and the
rest of the world is summarised; and last, in chapter 5 educational
perspectives are outlined.
The remaining two parts are based on results from the Multilingual Cities
Project (henceforth MCP), a international project under the auspices of
the European Cultural Foundation; part two summarizes results of six
sociolinguistic case-studies of six multilingual cities, written by
various authors. Methodologically, the project is based on renown work on
language vitality, such as Giles et al. (1977) and subsequent studies.
Lilian Nygren-Junkin provides an overview of the MCP in Gothenburg. In
particular, Nygren-Junkin focuses on the use of languages from the former
Yugoslavia in Swedish schools. Sabine Bühler-Otten and Sara Fürstenau's
chapter on multilingualism in Hamburg considers primarily the status of so-
called 'Aussiedler' ('out-settlers') - people from Eastern European states
with German ancestry, who were granted German citizenship.
Rather than focusing on a particular group (or language), Rian Aarts, Guus
Extra and Kutlay Yagmur's chapter on The Hague takes a multicultural
approach, and focuses on a survey investigating patens' need for home
language instruction for their parents.
Marc Verlot and Kaat Delrue's chapter on Brussels does not only consider
the Dutch/French bilinguality of the city, but also provides an analysis
of emergence of minority languages in Brussels. Case studies on Turkish
and Polish are used as examples. Similarly, Mehmet-Ali Akinci and Jan Jaap
De Ruiter provide an overview of the language situation in primary and
secondary schools in Lyon.
In the final chapter of part 2, Peter Broeder and Laura Mijares provide a
cross-linguistic study of the eight most frequently spoken minority (or
immigrant) languages in Madrid. Interestingly, unlike in the other five
cities, Broeder and Mijares found that in Madrid many immigrant children
(and parents) originate from countries where Spanish is also the
The third part provides a cross-national outline of the language profiles
of the languages used in the 6 cities under investigation in course of the
Multilingual Cities Project. This final part mainly consists of
statistical data and brief summaries of the main findings for the six
participating cities and for 20 languages.
It seems unlikely that a single volume could possibly address a complex
issue such as urban multilingualism at great depth in a single volume; how
could one possibly consider theoretical, methodological and political
aspects, while simultaneously provide sufficient data to illustrate the
depth of the topic in satisfactory detail? Although it does in fact not
provide in-depth analyses, the volume provides an excellent overview on
the topic, and comprises both theoretical approaches and actual case
studies alike. This makes the volume useful as both a source for work on
European multilingualism and multilingualism in general. The three parts
of the book nicely complement each other, while, simultaneously, each
part, or each chapter even, could stand for itself. Nevertheless, one must
not forget that each chapter provides a summary of the issues discussed,
rather than an in-depth discussion. However, the extensive reference
section provided for each chapter (as opposed to a useless list at the end
of the volume) allows to quickly finding relevant studies to refer to.
A rather surprising aspect in this volume is the omission of examples from
the United Kingdom. While numerous research has focused on multilingualism
and minority languages in the British Isles - The 1983 Linguistic
Minorities Project, Edwards' study on Black English (1986) and her
extensive research on multilingual classrooms, Alladina and Edwards volume
on multilingualism in Britain (1991), Sebba's work on London Jamaican
(1993), and Rampton's 1995 study on interaction amongst minority
adolescents, to name but a few - the inclusion of an up-to-date study of
one of the main urban centres in the United Kingdom, with their ethnically
and linguistically diverse demographic structure, would have been a
significant advantage, in particular with respect to the increasing
awareness of British social and educational policy makers of these issues.
The almost excessive use of tables and graphs in part three may be
overwhelming for readers less familiar with the interpretation of
statistical data in general. In fact, even the statistically versed reader
needs time to fully understand the data provided. However, despite this,
this part provides an extremely valuable source for numerical data. In
fact, this part in itself can function as a first point of references for
information of language use, and speaker numbers in the six cities under
Alladina, Safder, and Edwards, Viv. 1991. Multilingualism in the British
Isles.vol. 2: Africa, Asia and the Middle East: Longman linguistics
library. London: Longman.
Edwards, Viv. 1986. Language in a Black Community. Clevedon: Multilingual
Giles, H., Bourhis, R.Y. and Taylor, D.M. 1977. Towards a Theory of
Language in Ethnic Group Relations. Language, Ethnicity and Intergroup
Relations, ed. by Howard Giles. London: Academic Press.
Rampton, Ben. 1995. Crossing: Language and Ethnicity Among Adolescents.
Sebba, Mark. 1993. London Jamaican: Language Systems in Interaction.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Sebastian M. Rasinger is teaching linguistics and English language at
Roehampton University, and at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom.
His primary research interests include second language acquisition and
urban multilingualism. He has a particular interest in the Bangladeshi
community in East London, on which he has based his PhD research.