Project Strands

Strand 3

Sociolinguistic perspectives on multilingualism: identity, diversity and social cohesion

Multilingualism raises complex questions around diversity and identity, with implications both for the individual and for society, especially in fields such as politics, education and the public space. We focus on multilingualism in Ireland and France, which offer contrasting scenarios. Ireland has an official national language which is both minoritized and dialectal. France’s sole official language is highly standardized and, until recently, dominant on all fronts despite a rich heritage of regional languages and a multiplicity of languages (e.g. Arabic, Romany) in superdiverse urban contexts. This strand will thus offer a strong comparative dimension, focusing on current issues such as urban language in multicultural contexts, regional identities, and language and social cohesion/peace-building. We ask:

  • How does the concept of national identity, especially where it is fluid or contested, intersect with multilingualism? What are the implications for social cohesion?
  • What is the relationship between cultural and linguistic identity? Does multilingualism protect distinctive cultural identities or erode them? What does it mean for the agency of individual citizens in their daily use of language and what are the implications for government policy?
  • Does multilingualism help or hinder the maintenance of minoritized languages? What are the tensions between standardization and native-speaker usage and/or regional identity markers?
  • What is the relationship between multilingualism, social cohesion and/or conflict resolution, and societal well-being? What are the policy implications with regard to education and the public space?
  • How can we design an innovative interdisciplinary fieldwork methodology that can be used successfully not just in linguistics and sociolinguistics (S3, S5) but also by other disciplines, notably in neuroscience (S6) and education (S4)?

We will blend quantitative and qualitative approaches. Quantitative analysis will result from corpus analysis and fieldwork using questionnaire methodology relating to identity, diversity and language use with speakers and learners of particular languages, including their attitudes to those languages and their motivations for learning them. Qualitative research will include exploration of questions around history, politics, demographics and government policy.

The Co-Is, PDRAs, PhD students and our collaborators Gadet, Bras, and Vergez-Couret will concentrate on learners and speakers of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, speakers of French who form part of a multi-ethnic peer group in superdiverse urban contexts, and learners of Occitan. Our other collaborators (Blackwood, Mar-Molinero) will cover Corsican and Spanish.

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