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Review of  Multiple Voices

Reviewer: Shiv R Upadhyay
Book Title: Multiple Voices
Book Author: Carol Marie Myers-Scotton
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 16.3510

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Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 10:35:07 -0500
From: Shiv R. Upadhyay
Subject: Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism

AUTHOR: Myers-Scotton, Carol
TITLE: Multiple Voices
SUBTITLE: An Introduction to Bilingualism
PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing
YEAR: 2005

Shiv R. Upadhyay, Department of Languages, Literatures, and
Linguistics, York University, Toronto

''Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism'' is written by veteran
linguist and author Carol Myers-Scotton. The stated goal of the book
is to serve ''as a textbook for courses that are particularly concerned
with bilingualism as a socio-political phenomenon in the world'' (p. x). It
is intended for ''upper-level undergraduates ... or beginning-level
Master's degree students'' (p. x). Its treatment of bilingualism as a
multidisciplinary phenomenon and the detailed but easy-to-understand
discussions of various aspects of bilingualism make this book a solid
and welcome contribution to the field.

In Chapter One, Myers-Scotton introduces a number terms and
concepts that are relevant to the study of bilingualism. The author also
addresses questions that are likely to interest the reader. She argues
that the study of bilingualism is warranted because it investigates the
competence of humans, that is their ''genetic potential'' (p. 12), to
become bilingual and the human experience of living with two or more
languages. The chapter ends with an outline of various aspects of
bilingualism to be discussed in the chapters to follow.

In Chapter Two, the author begins by answering some basic questions
about what language is and how it is perceived. In the course of
answering these questions, the author discusses mutual intelligibility
and socio-political basis as criteria generally used to identify two
languages as the same or different and cites a lot of actual examples
from all over the world to illustrate her discussion. The rest of the
chapter examines various questions about dialects, including how
standard dialects are identified, how the term dialect is understood
and used, how dialects differ from one another, and how regional and
social dialects are identified.

Chapter Three addresses several sociolinguistic aspects of
bilingualism. They include social factors that motivate bilingualism and
various considerations that go into assessing a speaker's proficiency
in bilingualism. The author defines bilingualism as ''the ability to use
two or more languages sufficiently to carry on a limited casual
conversation'' (p. 44) and identifies and explains two sets of conditions
under which bilingualism is promoted, namely close proximity and
displacement conditions.

Chapter Four discusses three models of community organization
which the author uses to explain various contexts of multiculturalism in
which speakers either maintain their L1 or shift to L2. In the context of
horizontal multiculturalism, in which speakers are generally
monolingual and ''live in their own geographic spaces'' (p. 71), they
are likely to keep their L1 and even ''resist bilingualism'' (p. 72). On the
other hand, in communities with vertical multiculturalism, in which
people come in contact with speakers of other languages, they are
likely to shift to L2 or become ''very proficient'' in it if it is the ''urban
lingua franca'' (p. 72). In communities that are organized in terms of
social networks, horizontal multilingualism is a possible outcome if
people have ''strong ties within their home network'' (p. 73). In
networks with weak ties, people tend to learn L2 in order to connect
with L2 speakers. Similarly, in communities where ethnolinguistic
vitality (measured in terms of sociological variables) is high, speakers
are likely to maintain their L1. In the rest of Chapter Four, the author
discusses in detail the notion of diglossia, the domains in which the
languages of a bilingual community are distributed, actual cases of
language maintenance and shift from all around the world, language
shift by young speakers to a dominant language, and the separation
of cultural maintenance and language maintenance.

Chapter Five discusses how ideologies and attitudes are relevant to
the decisions that individuals and nation states make about whether
they want to be bilingual or monolingual. While both attitudes and
language ideologies are viewed as ''assessments'' that are held
unconsciously, the latter are generally constructed and are more likely
to be brought to consciousness because of their reference to group
interests. In her discussion of the link that language attitudes and
language ideologies have with nationalities, the author views
language as ''an important part of the collective awareness of a group''
(p. 111). Because of its status as a visible language and its
instrumental basis, language users as well as nation states
can ''mobilize to protect or advance their language'' (p. 112). The
author explains that the existence of a separate language does not
necessarily mean that it will be used to claim a separate nation state.
The author also briefly talks about the concept of linguistic
marketplace and goes on to discuss in detail how group identities are
formed in bilingual contexts. The rest of this chapter is devoted to the
discussion of various aspects of language attitudes and ideologies.
The author discusses how speakers express their attitudes in terms of
such theoretical constructs and frameworks as ethnolinguistic vitality,
matched guise test, and accommodation theory, citing findings from
studies carried out using these frameworks. In the last section of this
chapter, the author defines language ideologies as ''patterns of belief
and practice, which make some existing arrangements appear natural
and others not'' (p. 135) and discusses such questions as how they
play a role in the globalized world, when local languages are ignored,
and when a language group symbolically dominates another

Chapter Six is on the social motivations for language use in
interpersonal interactions. The fundamental claim supported in this
chapter is that by using a certain linguistic variety, speakers
indicate ''both their view of themselves and their relationships with
other participants in the conversation'' (p. 143). The author talks
about the indexical nature of linguistic choices that speakers make
and explains that such choices are pragmatically significant since they
are based on ''the social and psychological features or attributes'' (p.
149) that are associated with the language speakers choose to speak.
The author also points out that the social meaning of linguistic choices
that speakers make generally comes from the situation of language
use. In the next three sections of this chapter, the author discusses
various findings from studies associated with the Matched Guise Test,
the Accommodation Theory, and the Markedness Model to show that
speakers communicate social meanings when they switch from one
dialect or language to another. The author concludes by contrasting
the Accommodation Theory and Markedness Model with Conversation
Analysis. While the first two use a deductive method of analysis, the
third uses an inductive one. Analysts who work within the first two
frameworks bring to their analysis speaker motives and intensions
whereas those who work within the third framework reject them. The
author raises the question of how Conversation Analysts ''view
cognitive resources'' (p. 174).

Chapter Seven deals with the issue of how cultural differences affect
intercultural communication in bilingual and multilingual contexts. The
author discusses with real examples from studies of Asian and African
cultures that classify societies on the basis of whether they are
predominantly individualistic or collectivistic, whether they are high- or
low-context cultures, and whether people form relationships of
equality or hierarchy. Collectivistic and high-context cultures both
favor indirectness in speech as a way to maintain harmony whereas
individualistic and low-context cultures favor directness in speech as it
allows individuals to express their opinions. Cultures are also
classified in terms of how much equality or hierarchy individuals
emphasize in their relationships. Culturally induced language behavior
also involves politeness, which is conceptualized differently in different
cultures. To show how culturally defined politeness affects one's
language behavior, the author explains how requests are made
differently in Western and non-Western cultures. The author also
discusses how the power differential is differently viewed and used in
language and how cross-cultural conflicts are managed in different
cultural groups.

Chapter Eight focuses on lexical borrowing in bilingual contexts. The
author defines lexical borrowing as ''incorporating words from one
language (the donor language) in another (the recipient language)''
(p. 211) and talks about two categories of borrowings, namely cultural
and core. When a language borrows words for objects and concepts
that do not exist in it, such words are viewed as cultural borrowings.
Core borrowings take place when a language borrows words whose
equivalents already exist in the language. The author identifies and
explains three types of indirect borrowings: calques (loan translation),
loanshifts (borrowed words that are given a different meaning in the
recipient language), and loanblends (words that are created by
blending words from the donor and recipient languages). The author
then discusses the phonological and morphological integration of
borrowed words into the recipient language and various hypotheses
of why nouns are the most frequently borrowed category. Finally, the
author makes the point that borrowed words are ''evidence of earlier
cultural contacts'' (p. 230).

Chapter Nine addresses the question of what happens to grammars in
bilingual contacts. After defining and illustrating several technical
terms, the author discusses codeswitching. She defines codeswitching
as ''the use of two languages in the same conversation'' (p. 239). The
author then introduces the Matrix Language Frame (MLF) as a model
for classic codeswitching, a bilingual phenomenon which
involves ''elements from two (or more) languages varieties in the same
clause, but only one of the varieties is the source of the
morphosyntactic frame for the clause'' (p. 241). Classic codeswitching
is contrasted with composite codeswitching, a bilingual
phenomenon ''in which even though most of the morphosyntactic
structure comes from one of the participating languages, the other
language contributes some of the abstract structure underlying
surface forms of the clause'' (p. 242). Crucial to the MLF model is the
distinction between content morphemes and system morphemes.
Content morphemes are words that assign thematic roles; verbs and
nouns are identified as ''prototypical content morphemes'' (p. 245).
System morphemes are words that do not assign thematic roles;
prototypical system morphemes are ''all affixes and function words that
stand alone (e.g. determiners and clitics)'' (p. 245).

Chapter Nine also talks about two main groups of researchers who
are interested in studying codeswitching. The main concern of one
group of researchers is to uncover ''constraints on points in a
sentence where codeswitching can occur on the basis of surface-level
linear differences between the languages involved'' (p. 250). The
other group of researchers focuses on ''looking for explanations at a
more abstract level than linear structure'' (p. 252). The author also
mentions a model based on Chomsky's Minimalist Program that some
researchers in the second group employ to account for codeswitching,
but she comments that codeswitching cannot be adequately explained
using this model. In addition, she argues that, while the status of singly
occurring words from the Embedded Language remains controversial,
such words ''resemble Embedded Language phrases in codeswitching
more than they resemble established borrowings'' (p. 254). Another
section of Chapter Nine talks about the T-4 model that the author
along with her associate Janice Jake developed in order to
explain ''some of the codeswitching data that the MLF model covers''
(p. 267) more precisely. Toward the end of the chapter, the author
discusses pidgins and creoles but elaborates on the latter since ''their
structures are more complex'' (p. 278) and are ''related to the 4-M
model'' (p. 278). The author argues that the substrate language plays
a ''major role in providing a morphosyntactic frame for the developing
creole'' (p. 285).

Chapter Ten surveys bilingualism from the psycholinguistic
perspective. The author points out that, while the question of ''how the
bilingual's languages are organized in the mind'' (p. 197) remains
unsettled, the more current position holds that ''bilinguals have two
distinct memories and semantic systems'' (p. 297). On the theme of
bilingual activation, the author states that, while in the past it was
viewed that a bilingual's languages were not activated simultaneously,
a generally agreed-upon view now is that both languages are always
activated to varying degrees. The author also points out that findings
from lexical decision tasks suggest that bilinguals have simultaneous,
rather than selective, access to their languages. The author discusses
how various models of language production vary in their answer to the
question, ''At what level is the phonological form of a word... in place?''
In discussing memory, the author reports that researchers agree that
some structures in the brain are modified as a result of learning and
experience and that there are ''two general memory systems, a short-
term memory system and a long-term memory system'' (p. 311). The
author finally discusses the effects of aphasia on bilinguals and the
patterns of language recovery.

Chapter Eleven begins by addressing two questions about ''the
relation between childhood language acquisition and later L2
acquisition'' (p. 324). The author views as normal those bilinguals who
learn to speak two or more languages when they are young because
children are genetically predisposed to ''acquire human languages'' (p.
325). She supports the argument that humans are equipped with an
innate ability to acquire language by alluding to the evidence that
shows that ''children all over the world go through similar stages when
they acquire the grammatical systems of their specific languages'' and
that both monolinguals and young bilinguals ''go through similar
stages of acquisition'' (p. 326). The author states that ''actual
exposure to a language in use'' (p. 326) is necessary for children to
acquire the language and that bilinguals may face a different socio-
cultural context of language acquisition from that faced by
monolinguals. She discusses practical and theoretical reasons for
studying child bilingualism and the problems facing such studies. In
another section, the author explains the positive answers researchers
have offered to the questions of whether child bilinguals form two
separate language systems and whether ''switching between
languages'' is ''constraint-governed in a grammatical sense'' (p. 331).
The author also discusses the questions of whether being an early
bilingual is an advantage or a disadvantage and whether early
acquisition affects some systems the most.

The rest of Chapter Eleven is devoted to various aspects of late
second language acquisition. Although the author cites several
studies to point out that researchers do not agree with the idea of the
Critical Age Hypothesis, she concludes that researchers agree
that ''late learners are much less successful in language learning than
young children'' (p. 350). The final section of this chapter explains
various answers that have been offered to questions about second
language acquisition (SLA). SLA researchers are shown as broadly
divided into two groups, namely Universal Grammar (UG) proponents
and those who are instruction-centered. According to UG proponents,
first language acquisition shares ''distinct similarities'' (p. 356) with
second language acquisition. They argue that learners of a second
language ''have some access to the same innate language faculty
(UG)'' (p. 356) that enables children to acquire their L1 naturally. On
the other hand, those who are instruction-centered argue that first
language acquisition and second language acquisition are quite
different and that UG is not actively accessible to second language
learners. Instruction-centered researchers are however divided on the
issue of whether explicit learning or implicit learning is the best way for
learners to learn a second language. The author also gives a critical
assessment of these two approaches to second language acquisition
and, citing from a 2005 study by a researcher, concludes by pointing
out three main themes that have dominated the current research on
second language learning: the age factor, second language
processing, and language transfer.

Chapter Twelve is on language policy and globalization. In the
introductory section, the author discusses the rise of the nation state
and the problems resulting from fixing national borders. She also
addresses the question of who plans language policies and discusses
the problems faced by language planners. The author identifies four
main socio-political developments today that relate to language policy:
immigration, education for immigrants and indigenous minorities, the
rise of English as an international lingua franca, and the formation of
the European Union. She points out that the issues of language rights
and endangered languages come up within the context of these four
socio-political developments.

In the succeeding sections of Chapter Twelve, the author discusses
status planning, corpus planning, and acquisition planning. The
discussion of status planning includes problematic language situations
in Canada, Australia, Cameroon, India, and South Africa. Similarly, the
discussion of corpus planning includes examples of language reform
carried out in Asia and Turkey. In discussing acquisition planning, the
author points out two potentially contradictory situations that
acquisition planners can face. First, they are aware of the link
between national economic development and literacy rate and of a
commonly held belief among educators that it is easier to make
children literate through their L1. Second, language planners are also
aware that education in the official language promotes in minority
children a sense of belonging in the nation. The author identifies four
main types of bilingual programs and discusses bilingual or
multilingual situations in Latvia, Bolivia, and Canada to illustrate the
difficulty involved in acquisition planning. Her discussion also includes
a brief history of bilingual education in the United States. She
concludes by saying that ''most Anglo-Americans are likely to support''
(p. 405) a bilingual education program that aims at moving non-Anglo
speakers to the use of English. Chapter Twelve also discusses the
status of English as an international lingua franca and the case of
Cambodia to illustrate how English is replacing French. In the last
section of this chapter, the author places English, French, and
German in a diglossic relationship with other European languages
within the context of the European Union.

Chapter Thirteen is very brief, and it reminds the reader of the main
themes covered in the book. The author concludes by listing ''five
most important points'' (p. 414) that the reader is expected to take
away from the book.


''Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism'' is written by an
author who has contributed to the study of bilingualism over a long
period of time. While the book is written with a socio-political focus, it
also provides detailed discussions of the grammatical and cognitive
aspects of bilingualism. Because of its coverage of multiple
perspectives on bilingualism, the book is expected to serve students
and scholars in a variety of disciplines.

There are several features that add to the value of the book. One of
them is that each chapter begins with a real story of a person from a
different part of the world whose life is linked to bilingualism or
multilingualism. These stories not only serve as an interesting
beginning of a chapter but also help to show that bilingualism is a real
human phenomenon with socio-cultural and socio-political
consequences. Another feature, which is valuable to students in
particular, is that important concepts and terms are put in bold so that
the reader would pay attention to them. Another feature that I view as
helpful is that each chapter ends with a summery and a list of terms
and concepts that readers, particularly students, would do well to
remember. Another feature that I found interesting is the use of rather
informal tone of voice as illustrated by these examples: ''Just for your
information, there are two sets of signs that are relevant to your life.''
(p. 145);'' ''That is, for each of you, unmarked choices would be
considered not only expected, but also appropriate, for certain
interaction types in your community and marked choices would be
unexpected, given the interaction type'' (p. 179); ''Your author
(Meyers-Scotton, 2001; 2000) offers another explanation for creole
formation ...'' (p. 285). The use of pronoun 'you' and pronominal
adjective 'your' in these sentences can create a friendly image of the
author, which may foster learning particularly in beginning-level
readers. In addition, the writer provides in easy-to-understand
language detailed discussions of various topics and issues in
bilingualism with abundant citations from past and latest studies.

While these features add to the value of the book, a few more would
have enhanced its usefulness as a textbook. A set of study questions
at the end of each chapter would be good particularly for beginning-
level students. Also, a list of further studies would benefit particularly
those who wish to acquire a further and more detailed knowledge of
certain aspects of bilingualism. In addition, it would be useful to have a
glossary of important terms and concepts covered in the book.
Perhaps, the author would consider these suggestions for the second
edition of the book, which I hope will come out soon given its high
value both as a text and resource book.

To conclude, I view ''Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism''
as a very valuable addition to the pool of books on the study of
bilingualism. Given its multidisciplinary approach, the sufficiently
elaborated discussions of bilingual topics and issues, and the
inclusion in these discussions of many relevant and up-to-date
studies, this book is an excellent choice as a textbook for a
bilingualism course. This book will also serve well students, instructors
and scholars in a variety of disciplines who are interested in any of the
many aspects of bilingualism.


Crystal, David, ed. (1998) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Romaine, Suzanne (1999) Bilingualism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Shiv R. Upadhyay is a faculty member in the Department of
Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics at York University, Toronto.
His research interests are in sociolinguistics, pragmatics, discourse
analysis, language variation and change, language gender, and
language acquisition. He has recently investigated linguistic politeness
in Nepali print media and revisited the link between linguistic
indirectness and politeness. He is currently working on the
sociolinguistic variation of gender agreement in Nepali and the
grammatical competence of university-level ESL students.

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