In August we are publishing Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic Communities edited by Emili Boix-Fuster. Here, Emili explains how he became so interested in the subject of urban diversity.
Having been born and raised in a big city, Barcelona, I’ve always been fascinated by its linguistic diversity, and above all, by the interrelation of this diversity with social inequality. Language, by means of its endless nuances mirrors the distribution of power and solidarity in society. In my city, for example, Catalan and Spanish coexist and compete in all domains in everyday life. My father, one of the first Catalan sociologists, always encouraged me to observe this heterogeneity.
My new book, Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic Communities, resonates this initial motivation. I wanted to compare the linguistic landscape of my native city with other urban areas in similar medium-sized linguistic communities. This endeavour has resulted in seven chapters dealing with this intermingling of language in society, namely Brussels (French/Dutch), Vigo (Galician/Spanish), Valencia (Catalan-Valencian/Spanish), Barcelona (Catalan/Spanish), Copenhagen (Danish/English), Helsinki (Finnish/Swedish/English) and Tallinn (Estonian/Russian/English). In all of them a competition takes place not only between the local languages, but also increasingly with the global language, English.
I am convinced that observing and studying linguistic diversity through the lens of cities, allows researchers and citizens alike to understand and improve linguistic coexistence.