In early September ten researchers from across Europe gathered at Gladstone’s Library in the picturesque town of Hawarden, Wales, for a residential workshop addressing the theme ‘Multilingualism in the Public Space’.
The workshop was organised by Robert Blackwood, University of Liverpool, along with Deirdre Dunlevy, a Research Associate on Strand 3 of the MEITS project based in Queen’s University, Belfast. The focus for the three days of the workshop was discussion around multilingualism in diverse contexts involving national, official, standardised and minoritised languages in the public space, with each paper considering the extent to which multilingualism in the public space empowers individuals and communities.
In advance of the workshop each contributor had submitted a research paper that addressed an aspect of multilingualism, including papers focussing on a theoretical model for analysing the linguistic landscape, the visibility of Gujarati in Leicester, the role of Irish and Ulster Scots in place name signage in Northern Ireland, memorialisation in Brussels, and borderlands in Italy. Each of the papers was then discussed at length with the group, with plenty of feedback and suggestions for development for the author.
The workshop was positively received by all. The format of oral peer-review was new to most participants, and with researchers coming from a wide range of areas within sociolinguistics, it allowed for stimulating discussions of each individual paper as well as consideration of the overarching research questions examining the relationship between the multilingualism and cultural identity, language maintenance, social cohesion and societal well-being.
This collaborative format has helped build the MEITS research community, with a constructive workshop, walks in the Welsh countryside and shared meals that allowed for further discussion. An edited volume will be produced from the workshop.