LINGUIST List 18.3681

Fri Dec 07 2007

Review: Multilingualism: Auer & Wei (2007)

Editor for this issue: Randall Eggert <randylinguistlist.org>


Directory         1.    Randall Eggert, Review: Multilingualism: Auer & Wei (2007)


Message 1: Review: Multilingualism: Auer & Wei (2007)
Date: 07-Dec-2007
From: Randall Eggert <randylinguistlist.org>
Subject: Review: Multilingualism: Auer & Wei (2007)
E-mail this message to a friend

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/18/18-1408.html EDITORS: Auer, Peter; Wei, LiTITLE: Handbook of Multilingualism and Multilingual CommunicationSERIES: Handbooks of Applied Linguistics [HAL] 5YEAR: 2007PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter

Jean-Jacques Weber, Departments of English and Education, University of Luxembourg

SUMMARYIn the Introduction to this new volume in the prestigious Handbooks of AppliedLinguistics series, the editors emphasize that multilingualism is not a problembut is sometimes seen as a problem due to the continuing dominance of ideologiesof monolingualism and homogeneism in many spheres of public life:

If, then, this handbook is concerned with problems that arise through andsurrounding multilingualism, it should be clear that these problems are not''natural'' problems which are inherent to multilingualism itself; rather, theyarise out of a certain context in which this multilingualism is seen as aproblem (3).

They conclude that multilingualism is in fact part of the solution to manysocial problems because of its ''bridge-building potential – bridges betweendifferent groups within the nation, bridges with groups beyond the artificialboundaries 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 ofmultilingualism but also by making available in a compact form the latestresearch results in the study of multilingualism. The Handbook is divided intofour 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- ormultilingually'' from a psychological perspective (Johanne Paradis' ''Earlybilingual and multilingual acquisition''), an interactional perspective(Elizabeth Lanza's ''Multilingualism and the family'') and a LanguageSocialization perspective (Patricia Baquedano-López and Shlomy Kattan's ''Growingup in a multilingual community: Insights from language socialization''). I willcome back to Paradis' chapter in the Evaluation section below, so I focus hereon the other two chapters. Lanza studies the influence of the family on earlybilingual acquisition and identifies a number of approaches which help to mapout the most important factors involved in fostering family bilingualism: sheparticularly singles out language ideological approaches – because the attitudesand beliefs of parents and the society can play a role in bilingual acquisition– and interactional analyses of parent-child conversations. In her interestingdiscussion of the latter framework, she shows how parents' discourse strategiescan (consciously or unconsciously) socialize children into language separationor code-switching.

Baquedano-López and Kattan explore how Language Socialization understands theprocesses of becoming multilingual (they use capital letters because they referto the field of study initiated by such scholars as Elinor Ochs and BambiSchieffelin). Research in this area is longitudinal, ethnographic, descriptiveand 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 languageshift 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- ormulti-lingual later in life'' and Colin Baker's ''Becoming bilingual throughbilingual education.'' Dewaele reviews both quantitative and qualitative researchin the field and calls for interdisciplinary work that combines thesemethodologies: ''Only a concerted interdisciplinary effort will allow a moreglobal and profound understanding of the feelings and behaviour of adultbilinguals'' (123). He shows how people's attitudes and feelings about theirlanguages influence their language behaviour and help to explain changes intheir linguistic repertoires. What he seems to be talking about here is languageideologies – which are defined as ''beliefs, or feelings, about languages as usedin their social worlds'' in Kroskrity (2004: 498) and whose importance wasstressed in the two previous chapters, though Dewaele himself does not use thisterminology. It may be that the language ideological and Language Socializationapproaches are just the ones that could lead to the more ''global and profoundunderstanding'' that he is calling for.

Baker provides a useful typology of bilingual education and discusses theeffectiveness of the different models. The 'strong' version of bilingualeducation (where subject content is taught through two languages) isconsistently presented as the most positive model, though of course thediversity and heterogeneity of children from a wide range of linguisticbackgrounds in today's urban neighbourhoods and global cities makes the 'right'choice of bilingual education an increasingly challenging - though notimpossible - task (see also Horner and Weber 2008).

Section 2 (''Staying Bilingual'') opens with two chapters which focus on thisquestion of educational provision for bilingual children with a migrationbackground: ''Bilingual children in monolingual schools'' by J. Normann Jørgensenand Pia Quist, and ''From minority programmes to multilingual education'' by GuusExtra. 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 thelinguistic development of Turkish-Danish students in monolingual Danish schools.Interestingly, they show how different patterns of language use correlate withdifferences between boys' and girls' identity work. In the second part, theydiscuss the Norwegian (and other European) debates about linguistic minoritychildren's schooling and the part played in these debates by language ideologiessuch as the one nation – one language ideology. As for Extra, he describes thepositive contributions of such educational schemes as ''muttersprachlicherUnterricht'' (mother-tongue education) in North Rhine-Westphalia and the LOTE(Languages Other Than English) programme in the Australian State of Victoria. Hecloses his chapter with some critical comments on the European elite discoursesof trilingualism, which are concerned with national and regional minoritylanguages but not immigrant minority languages.

In ''From biliteracy to pluriliteracies'', Ofelia García, Lesley Bartlett andJoAnne Kleifgen develop an eclectic framework for the analysis of plurilingualand multimodal literacy practices within their sociocultural contexts, and callfor new pedagogies to break through the ideologies of strict languagecompartmentalization that still prevail in many educational institutions. MonikaRothweiler's ''Multilingualism and Specific Language Impairment (SLI)'' shows thatthere is no connection between multilingualism and SLI (SLI has congenitalcauses and is not an acquired disease), and warns that multilingual children maybe falsely diagnosed as suffering from SLI due to inappropriate uses ofmonolingual-based testing procedures. Manfred Pienemann and Jörg-U. Keßler(''Measuring bilingualism'') point to problems in the measurement of individualbilingualism and advocate a cross-linguistic comparative measurement techniquebased on Pienemann's Processability Theory.

Most of the chapters in Section 3 ''Acting Multilingual'' deal with variousaspects of code-switching. Joseph Gafaranga, in his ''Code-switching as aconversational strategy'', provides an overview of research from the diglossiamodel via identity-related explanations to organizational accounts. Garafangahimself adds a view of code-switching as an aspect of the overall (and not justlocal) organization of bilingual conversation. He concludes that all theseapproaches are complementary and are needed to capture the multi-facetedness oflanguage alternation phenomena. Pieter Muysken (''Mixed codes'') discusses thesocial conditions under which mixed codes emerge as well as the psycholinguisticprocesses by which they emerge.

Benjamin Bailey's ''Multilingual forms of talk and identity work'' is arefreshingly different chapter as it does not just provide an overview ofprevious research but mostly presents the author's own ideas and examples.Bailey is interested in the identity-related function of code-switching andpresents detailed analyses of bilingual talk that illustrate how identity workis done through metaphorical switches. He also discusses the monolingualideology that still informs some academic work on multilingualism and arguesthat multilingualism needs to be studied as a dimension of social and politicalpractice. In ''Crossing - negotiating social boundaries'', Quist and Jørgensenexamine one particular case of code-switching, namely language crossing. Theydistinguish between mocking and non-mocking uses of crossing as well as outgroupand ingroup mocking, and claim that stylisation is often based on mediastereotypes. They provide a stimulating analysis of two examples of crossing byDanish students, showing that the way in which the crossing is interpreteddepends on the speaker's position in the local peer network.

The last three chapters in this section look at various aspects ofmultilingualism in the workplace. In a somewhat slight piece, Dennis Day andJohannes Wagner (''Bilingual professionals'') present some comments on languagepolicy in (e.g.) Danish sports clubs and linguistic interaction – especiallylingua franca interaction – in multinational companies. Celia Roberts'''Multilingualism in the workplace'' is a more thorough and comprehensive reviewof research in the field which also includes a discussion of sociopoliticalissues of power, discrimination and exclusion. Finally, David C.S. Li, in''Multilingualism and commerce'', mentions a rather eclectic collection of aspectsillustrating how the global economy impacts upon both societal and individualmultilingualism.

Section 4, ''Living in a Multilingual Society'', is introduced by John Edwards'''Societal multilingualism: reality, recognition and response''. His discussion oflanguage legislation and language rights, linguistic ecology and theclassification of language-contact situations is extended in the two followingchapters, ''Multilingualism of autochthonous minorities'' by PenelopeGardner-Chloros and ''Multilingualism of new minorities (in migratory contexts)''by Peter Martin. These two chapters complement each other in the sense that theformer looks at ''old'' or autochthonous minority languages such as Alsatian inFrance (including the sensitive issue of the relation between Alsatian andGerman), and the latter investigates ''new'' or immigrant minority languages,especially in the UK. At the same time, the authors are careful to point outthat 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 ofthe politics of multilingualism. In ''Multilingualism in ex-colonial countries,''Christopher Stroud explores the dynamics of multilingualism in two ex-colonialmultilingual states, Singapore and Mozambique, while Monica Heller, in''Multilingualism and transnationalism'', examines the tensions and paradoxes thattraverse transnational multilingualism. She ends her chapter (and the volume)with a spirited call for a new ''multi-sited sociolinguistics of transnationalmultilingualism'' (547).

EVALUATIONAt the beginning of this review, I mentioned that the editors in theirIntroduction argue that multilingualism is frequently seen as a problem due tothe continuing dominance of essentialist assumptions and ideologies. What israther disturbing is that traces of such assumptions can be found in theHandbook itself. Thus, in chapter 1, the ''multilingualism as a problem'' ideologyraises its ugly head when Paradis keeps debating the question whether bilinguals''lag behind'' monolinguals in their acquisition rates in one or both theirlanguages (17). ''Lag behind'' is used six times in this context, along withrelated expressions such as ''score below'' (repeated three times in the chapter),so that the reader gets the impression of a ''first past the post'' underlyingassumption: phonological or lexical or morphosyntactic acquisition is presentedas 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 beforgotten is that bilinguals are in the process of acquiring two linguisticvarieties, so they can hardly be seen as ''lagging behind'' or indeed as takingpart in the same ''race'' as monolinguals. In the very last sentence of herchapter Paradis displays a critical awareness of these assumptions, but thechapter would have been so much better if it had been informed as a whole bysuch an awareness.

Paradis' chapter is not the only one in which such assumptions and ideologiesare relied upon, though they are rejected in other chapters of the Handbook. Letme give two examples: while Edwards (451) problematizes the concept ofmother-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 languagesituation of these children is frequently far more complex (see chapter 14 ofthe Handbook, where Quist and Jørgensen warn that ''the school as an institutionoften categorizes speakers according to linguistic or ethnic origin, ignoringamong other things the fact that many bilinguals in urban, western communitiesgrow 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 andmultilingualism as socially constructed, just like race and ethnicity. Othercontributors, however, use these concepts in a rather uncritical way. Dewaele,for instance, complains that much previous research ignored whether ''bilingualswere in fact trilinguals, quadrilinguals or pentalinguals'', and adds that thereis a need in future research for ''finer distinctions and categorizations'' (106).But he does not seem to be aware that these ''finer ... categorizations'' arethemselves in need of being problematized: what counts as a separate language;how do ''mixed codes'' (see Muysken's chapter) count, etc.? Rothweiler relies upona similarly uncritical use of the concept of language when she talks about veryyoung children's acquisition of German in their homes. She fails to makeexplicit which variety of German they are acquiring. Hence, the children's''errors'' may not be indicative of Specific Language Impairment but could simplybe errors of Standard German. Indeed, the underlying Chomskyan assumptions ofher discussion (e.g. ''inborn language acquisition faculty'' and ''criticalperiod'', 238) make one worry about the conclusions drawn, in particular as thesediagnoses can have very serious consequences for the children concerned. Thecontinuing dominance of such essentialist assumptions and ideologies in someacademic work also makes me wonder whether we perhaps urgently need a Handbook(showing the importance of) taking a language ideological approach tomultilingualism.

REFERENCESHorner, Kristine and Jean-Jacques Weber (forthcoming) The language situation inLuxembourg. _Current Issues in Language Planning_.

Kroskrity, Paul V. (2004) Language ideologies. In A. Duranti (ed.) _A Companionto Linguistic Anthropology_. Oxford: Blackwell. 496-517.

Weber, Jean-Jacques (forthcoming) Safetalk revisited, or: Language and ideologyin Luxembourgish educational policy. _Language and Education_.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERJean-Jacques Weber is Professor of English and Education at the University ofLuxembourg. His main research area is the study of language and education inmultilingual and multicultural contexts (such as Luxembourg). He has alsopublished extensively on stylistics and discourse analysis.