Unsettling multilingualism

Unsettling multilingualism: insights from non-polyglossic communities around the globe

Here you can find the information about the thematic panel ‘Unsettling multilingualism: insights from non-polyglossic communities around the globe’ of the 23rd Sociolinguistic Symposium (Hong-Kong, online), organised by Ruth Singer and Jill Vaughan on June 7-10, 2021.

1. ‘Introduction’, Ruth Singer and Jill Vaughan (University of Melbourne)

2. ‘Small-scale multilingualism of Papua New Guinea: a Southern New Guinean perspective’, Eri Kashima (University of Helsinki)

3. ‘Languages in the social world of indigenous Siberia: evidence from Lower Yenisei’, Olesya Khanina (Institute of Linguistics RAS & Finno-Ugrian Society)

4. ‘The Lower Kolyma multilingual area: analysis of language proficiency levels’, Maria Pupynina1 & Natalia Aralova2 (1: Institute for Linguistic Studies RAS (St. Petersburg, Russia)/Institute of Linguistics RAS (Moscow, Russia); 2: CNRS & Université de Lyon (France)/Kazan Federal University (Russia))

5. ‘Multilingualism on the move: small-scale multilingualism and mobility in northern Australia’, Jill Vaughan (University of Melbourne)

6. ‘Changing differently? The outcomes of multilingualism in coastal west Arnhem land’, Ruth Singer (University of Melbourne)

7. ‘Toward an interactional approach to multilingualism: insights from the Vaupés’, Kristine Stenzel1 & Nicholas Williams2 (1: Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; 2: University of Potsdam)

8. ‘Negotiating identities in contexts of small-scale multilingualism: focus on relational identity’, Pierpaolo Di Carlo (University at Buffalo SUNY)

9. ‘Discussion’, Jenny L. Davis (University of Illinois)

Youtube channel with pre-recorded presentations of the panel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy0aweXXimPcko01ysyExag/videos

Summary of the panel:

Research in collaboration with communities where many small endogenous languages are spoken has unsettled existing understandings of multilingualism, challenging the notion that stable societal multilingualism relies on polyglossia. These communities, located all around the world, are themselves being unsettled and reshaped by colonisation, globalisation and mobility. Their language ecologies are in flux, calling for approaches that look back to long-standing multilingual practices and forwards to hopes of a future for threatened languages and their multilingual ecologies. The papers in this panel use ethnographic methods to identify the role of multilingual practices in people’s everyday lives and the language ideologies that support high levels of linguistic diversity. These are crucial to understanding how long-standing multilingual practices and ideologies persist despite greater mobility, the influence of newly introduced languages and colonisation in all its forms. Anchoring accounts in the contemporary lives of communities helps to avoid exoticising these little researched kinds of multilingualism.

This panel will draw together research from communities around the world where many languages co-exist within long-standing multilingual ecologies – in Siberia, Cameroon, the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, and northern Australia. The panel will cover a range of interrelated topics: the reconstruction of pre-contact patterns of language use, the nature of contemporary small-scale multilingualisms, explorations of how local ideologies shape language practices, how less well-known kinds of multilingualism shape language change and drive linguistic diversity, and the interactions of small-scale multilingualism with colonisation, changing mobilities, urbanisation and globalisation. Together, the contributions seek to unsettle and truly ‘globalise’ dominant, polyglossia-centric models of multilingualism, and explore the implications of small-scale multilingualism for theories of language change, language contact and identity.