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Beyond multilingualism: Heteroglossia and social diversity

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A focus on multilingualism as a feature of social diversity implies an understanding of ‘languages’ in use alongside each other. This understanding in turn implies that ‘languages’ exist as bounded, unitary phenomena. However, recent scholarship argues that whilst the idea of ‘a language’ may be important as a social construct, it is not suited as an analytical lens through which to view language practices. This paper suggests an alternative, if not unfamiliar, analytic gaze: one that explicitly joins the linguistic utterance in the present with its historical context; one that identifies the tensions and conflicts in the spoken word; and one that acknowledges the multivoiced nature of the word as speakers negotiate the social world. Such an analytic gaze attends not only to ‘languages’, but to social diversity in access to economic and symbolic resources, gender, sexuality, disability, and ethnicity. The paper presents the voices of young people in an English city, analysed through the lens of heteroglossia.

Biog note: Adrian Blackledge is Professor of Bilingualism in the School of Education, and Director of the MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism, University of Birmingham. His research interests include the politics of multilingualism, linguistic ethnography, education of linguistic minority students, negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts, and language testing, citizenship, and immigration. His publications include The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism (2012,with Marilyn Martin-Jones and Angela Creese, Routledge), Multilingualism, A Critical Perspective (with Angela Creese, 2010, Continuum), Discourse and Power in a Multilingual World (2005, John Benjamins), Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts (with Aneta Pavlenko, 2004, Multilingual Matters), Multilingualism, Second Language Learning and Gender (2001, Mouton de Gruyter, with Aneta Pavlenko, Ingrid Piller, and Marya Teutsch-Dwyer) and Literacy, Power, and Social Justice (2001, Trentham Books).

This talk is part of the Second Language Education Group series.

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