LINGUIST List 18.3681|
Fri Dec 07 2007
Review: Multilingualism: Auer & Wei (2007)
Editor for this issue: Randall Eggert
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Review: Multilingualism: Auer & Wei (2007)
Message 1: Review: Multilingualism: Auer & Wei (2007)
From: Randall Eggert <randylinguistlist.org>
Subject: Review: Multilingualism: Auer & Wei (2007)
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Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/18/18-1408.html
EDITORS: Auer, Peter; Wei, Li
TITLE: Handbook of Multilingualism and Multilingual Communication
SERIES: Handbooks of Applied Linguistics [HAL] 5
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
Jean-Jacques Weber, Departments of English and Education, University of Luxembourg
In the Introduction to this new volume in the prestigious Handbooks of Applied
Linguistics series, the editors emphasize that multilingualism is not a problem
but is sometimes seen as a problem due to the continuing dominance of ideologies
of monolingualism and homogeneism in many spheres of public life:
If, then, this handbook is concerned with problems that arise through and
surrounding multilingualism, it should be clear that these problems are not
''natural'' problems which are inherent to multilingualism itself; rather, they
arise out of a certain context in which this multilingualism is seen as a
They conclude that multilingualism is in fact part of the solution to many
social problems because of its ''bridge-building potential – bridges between
different groups within the nation, bridges with groups beyond the artificial
boundaries of a nation, and bridges for cross-fertilization between cultures''
(12). _The Handbook of Multilingualism and Multilingual Communication_
contributes to this agenda not only by helping with the social rehabilitation of
multilingualism but also by making available in a compact form the latest
research results in the study of multilingualism. The Handbook is divided into
four sections, ''Becoming Bilingual'', ''Staying Bilingual'', ''Acting Multilingual''
and ''Living in a Multilingual Society.''
The first three chapters explore the topic of ''bringing up children bi- or
multilingually'' from a psychological perspective (Johanne Paradis' ''Early
bilingual and multilingual acquisition''), an interactional perspective
(Elizabeth Lanza's ''Multilingualism and the family'') and a Language
Socialization perspective (Patricia Baquedano-López and Shlomy Kattan's ''Growing
up in a multilingual community: Insights from language socialization''). I will
come back to Paradis' chapter in the Evaluation section below, so I focus here
on the other two chapters. Lanza studies the influence of the family on early
bilingual acquisition and identifies a number of approaches which help to map
out the most important factors involved in fostering family bilingualism: she
particularly singles out language ideological approaches – because the attitudes
and beliefs of parents and the society can play a role in bilingual acquisition
– and interactional analyses of parent-child conversations. In her interesting
discussion of the latter framework, she shows how parents' discourse strategies
can (consciously or unconsciously) socialize children into language separation
Baquedano-López and Kattan explore how Language Socialization understands the
processes of becoming multilingual (they use capital letters because they refer
to the field of study initiated by such scholars as Elinor Ochs and Bambi
Schieffelin). Research in this area is longitudinal, ethnographic, descriptive
and analytic, and provides a socioculturally situated view of these processes.
Just like Lanza, the authors highlight the concept of language ideologies which,
they argue, ''has been most central in understanding language choice and language
shift as linked to notions of ethnicity and ... to notions of identity'' (87).
The last chapters in this section are Jean-Marc Dewaele's ''Becoming bi- or
multi-lingual later in life'' and Colin Baker's ''Becoming bilingual through
bilingual education.'' Dewaele reviews both quantitative and qualitative research
in the field and calls for interdisciplinary work that combines these
methodologies: ''Only a concerted interdisciplinary effort will allow a more
global and profound understanding of the feelings and behaviour of adult
bilinguals'' (123). He shows how people's attitudes and feelings about their
languages influence their language behaviour and help to explain changes in
their linguistic repertoires. What he seems to be talking about here is language
ideologies – which are defined as ''beliefs, or feelings, about languages as used
in their social worlds'' in Kroskrity (2004: 498) and whose importance was
stressed in the two previous chapters, though Dewaele himself does not use this
terminology. It may be that the language ideological and Language Socialization
approaches are just the ones that could lead to the more ''global and profound
understanding'' that he is calling for.
Baker provides a useful typology of bilingual education and discusses the
effectiveness of the different models. The 'strong' version of bilingual
education (where subject content is taught through two languages) is
consistently presented as the most positive model, though of course the
diversity and heterogeneity of children from a wide range of linguistic
backgrounds in today's urban neighbourhoods and global cities makes the 'right'
choice of bilingual education an increasingly challenging - though not
impossible - task (see also Horner and Weber 2008).
Section 2 (''Staying Bilingual'') opens with two chapters which focus on this
question of educational provision for bilingual children with a migration
background: ''Bilingual children in monolingual schools'' by J. Normann Jørgensen
and Pia Quist, and ''From minority programmes to multilingual education'' by Guus
Extra. Jørgensen and Quist's chapter is divided into two parts: in the first,
they report on the results of the Køge Project, a longitudinal study of the
linguistic development of Turkish-Danish students in monolingual Danish schools.
Interestingly, they show how different patterns of language use correlate with
differences between boys' and girls' identity work. In the second part, they
discuss the Norwegian (and other European) debates about linguistic minority
children's schooling and the part played in these debates by language ideologies
such as the one nation – one language ideology. As for Extra, he describes the
positive contributions of such educational schemes as ''muttersprachlicher
Unterricht'' (mother-tongue education) in North Rhine-Westphalia and the LOTE
(Languages Other Than English) programme in the Australian State of Victoria. He
closes his chapter with some critical comments on the European elite discourses
of trilingualism, which are concerned with national and regional minority
languages but not immigrant minority languages.
In ''From biliteracy to pluriliteracies'', Ofelia García, Lesley Bartlett and
JoAnne Kleifgen develop an eclectic framework for the analysis of plurilingual
and multimodal literacy practices within their sociocultural contexts, and call
for new pedagogies to break through the ideologies of strict language
compartmentalization that still prevail in many educational institutions. Monika
Rothweiler's ''Multilingualism and Specific Language Impairment (SLI)'' shows that
there is no connection between multilingualism and SLI (SLI has congenital
causes and is not an acquired disease), and warns that multilingual children may
be falsely diagnosed as suffering from SLI due to inappropriate uses of
monolingual-based testing procedures. Manfred Pienemann and Jörg-U. Keßler
(''Measuring bilingualism'') point to problems in the measurement of individual
bilingualism and advocate a cross-linguistic comparative measurement technique
based on Pienemann's Processability Theory.
Most of the chapters in Section 3 ''Acting Multilingual'' deal with various
aspects of code-switching. Joseph Gafaranga, in his ''Code-switching as a
conversational strategy'', provides an overview of research from the diglossia
model via identity-related explanations to organizational accounts. Garafanga
himself adds a view of code-switching as an aspect of the overall (and not just
local) organization of bilingual conversation. He concludes that all these
approaches are complementary and are needed to capture the multi-facetedness of
language alternation phenomena. Pieter Muysken (''Mixed codes'') discusses the
social conditions under which mixed codes emerge as well as the psycholinguistic
processes by which they emerge.
Benjamin Bailey's ''Multilingual forms of talk and identity work'' is a
refreshingly different chapter as it does not just provide an overview of
previous research but mostly presents the author's own ideas and examples.
Bailey is interested in the identity-related function of code-switching and
presents detailed analyses of bilingual talk that illustrate how identity work
is done through metaphorical switches. He also discusses the monolingual
ideology that still informs some academic work on multilingualism and argues
that multilingualism needs to be studied as a dimension of social and political
practice. In ''Crossing - negotiating social boundaries'', Quist and Jørgensen
examine one particular case of code-switching, namely language crossing. They
distinguish between mocking and non-mocking uses of crossing as well as outgroup
and ingroup mocking, and claim that stylisation is often based on media
stereotypes. They provide a stimulating analysis of two examples of crossing by
Danish students, showing that the way in which the crossing is interpreted
depends on the speaker's position in the local peer network.
The last three chapters in this section look at various aspects of
multilingualism in the workplace. In a somewhat slight piece, Dennis Day and
Johannes Wagner (''Bilingual professionals'') present some comments on language
policy in (e.g.) Danish sports clubs and linguistic interaction – especially
lingua franca interaction – in multinational companies. Celia Roberts'
''Multilingualism in the workplace'' is a more thorough and comprehensive review
of research in the field which also includes a discussion of sociopolitical
issues of power, discrimination and exclusion. Finally, David C.S. Li, in
''Multilingualism and commerce'', mentions a rather eclectic collection of aspects
illustrating how the global economy impacts upon both societal and individual
Section 4, ''Living in a Multilingual Society'', is introduced by John Edwards'
''Societal multilingualism: reality, recognition and response''. His discussion of
language legislation and language rights, linguistic ecology and the
classification of language-contact situations is extended in the two following
chapters, ''Multilingualism of autochthonous minorities'' by Penelope
Gardner-Chloros and ''Multilingualism of new minorities (in migratory contexts)''
by Peter Martin. These two chapters complement each other in the sense that the
former looks at ''old'' or autochthonous minority languages such as Alsatian in
France (including the sensitive issue of the relation between Alsatian and
German), and the latter investigates ''new'' or immigrant minority languages,
especially in the UK. At the same time, the authors are careful to point out
that the distinction between the two is not clear-cut but rather a continuum.
The last two chapters of the Handbook follow Bailey's call for a discussion of
the politics of multilingualism. In ''Multilingualism in ex-colonial countries,''
Christopher Stroud explores the dynamics of multilingualism in two ex-colonial
multilingual states, Singapore and Mozambique, while Monica Heller, in
''Multilingualism and transnationalism'', examines the tensions and paradoxes that
traverse transnational multilingualism. She ends her chapter (and the volume)
with a spirited call for a new ''multi-sited sociolinguistics of transnational
At the beginning of this review, I mentioned that the editors in their
Introduction argue that multilingualism is frequently seen as a problem due to
the continuing dominance of essentialist assumptions and ideologies. What is
rather disturbing is that traces of such assumptions can be found in the
Handbook itself. Thus, in chapter 1, the ''multilingualism as a problem'' ideology
raises its ugly head when Paradis keeps debating the question whether bilinguals
''lag behind'' monolinguals in their acquisition rates in one or both their
languages (17). ''Lag behind'' is used six times in this context, along with
related expressions such as ''score below'' (repeated three times in the chapter),
so that the reader gets the impression of a ''first past the post'' underlying
assumption: phonological or lexical or morphosyntactic acquisition is presented
as if it were a race where the only thing that matters is coming first.
Monolingual development is looked upon as the norm, and what seems to be
forgotten is that bilinguals are in the process of acquiring two linguistic
varieties, so they can hardly be seen as ''lagging behind'' or indeed as taking
part in the same ''race'' as monolinguals. In the very last sentence of her
chapter Paradis displays a critical awareness of these assumptions, but the
chapter would have been so much better if it had been informed as a whole by
such an awareness.
Paradis' chapter is not the only one in which such assumptions and ideologies
are relied upon, though they are rejected in other chapters of the Handbook. Let
me give two examples: while Edwards (451) problematizes the concept of
mother-tongue, Extra relies on it in his discussion of ''mother-tongue education''
in Germany. He seems to endorse the mother-tongue ideology that (migrant)
children have one and only one mother-tongue, whereas the actual language
situation of these children is frequently far more complex (see chapter 14 of
the Handbook, where Quist and Jørgensen warn that ''the school as an institution
often categorizes speakers according to linguistic or ethnic origin, ignoring
among other things the fact that many bilinguals in urban, western communities
grow up in mixed families with different linguistic and ethnic backgrounds''
(377); cf. also Weber (forthcoming)).
Finally, Bailey insists on the need to look upon concepts such as language and
multilingualism as socially constructed, just like race and ethnicity. Other
contributors, however, use these concepts in a rather uncritical way. Dewaele,
for instance, complains that much previous research ignored whether ''bilinguals
were in fact trilinguals, quadrilinguals or pentalinguals'', and adds that there
is a need in future research for ''finer distinctions and categorizations'' (106).
But he does not seem to be aware that these ''finer ... categorizations'' are
themselves in need of being problematized: what counts as a separate language;
how do ''mixed codes'' (see Muysken's chapter) count, etc.? Rothweiler relies upon
a similarly uncritical use of the concept of language when she talks about very
young children's acquisition of German in their homes. She fails to make
explicit which variety of German they are acquiring. Hence, the children's
''errors'' may not be indicative of Specific Language Impairment but could simply
be errors of Standard German. Indeed, the underlying Chomskyan assumptions of
her discussion (e.g. ''inborn language acquisition faculty'' and ''critical
period'', 238) make one worry about the conclusions drawn, in particular as these
diagnoses can have very serious consequences for the children concerned. The
continuing dominance of such essentialist assumptions and ideologies in some
academic work also makes me wonder whether we perhaps urgently need a Handbook
(showing the importance of) taking a language ideological approach to
Horner, Kristine and Jean-Jacques Weber (forthcoming) The language situation in
Luxembourg. _Current Issues in Language Planning_.
Kroskrity, Paul V. (2004) Language ideologies. In A. Duranti (ed.) _A Companion
to Linguistic Anthropology_. Oxford: Blackwell. 496-517.
Weber, Jean-Jacques (forthcoming) Safetalk revisited, or: Language and ideology
in Luxembourgish educational policy. _Language and Education_.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Jean-Jacques Weber is Professor of English and Education at the University of
Luxembourg. His main research area is the study of language and education in
multilingual and multicultural contexts (such as Luxembourg). He has also
published extensively on stylistics and discourse analysis.
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