Engaging Superdiversity? Yes, Very Engaging.

16 December 2016

This month we published Engaging Superdiversity edited by Karel Arnaut, Martha Sif Karrebæk, Massimiliano Spotti and Jan Blommaert. In this post, Jan explains more about the background to the book.

Engaging SuperdiversityAs all of us know, there is a tremendous pressure in the academic system at present to operate as an individual in a competitive ‘market’ of science focused on deliverables – or more precisely, a market of money for science and other more symbolic and status-related perks. All of these elements – individualism, competition and result-driven orientation – are fundamentally unscientific, and render our lives as science workers increasingly less interesting. Science is a collective endeavor characterised by solidarity and focused on processes of knowledge construction. Why else do we need references at the end of our publications, than to illustrate how we have learned from others in a perpetual process of critical and productive dialogue?

This critical reflex was the motive, almost a decade ago, for a small team of scholars to join forces in a consortium called InCoLaS (International Consortium on Language and Superdiversity) – a ‘dream team’ of people who decided to care and share, to explore domains only superficially touched by inquiry, mobilising each other’s resources in the process,  and to do all this without a pre-set target or road map. After all, exploration is not the same as driving in a limo on a highway with the GPS on: by definition, you don’t know where it will take you. There is no ‘draft proposal’; there are ideas.

This mode of collaboration turned out to be immensely ‘profitable’, to use the terms of the market. Several high-profile publications emerged, and our buzzword ‘superdiversity’ has become a modest celebrity in its own right, attracting what must be seen as the ultimate intellectual compliment: controversy. There are ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’, and both camps have had, over the past years, sometimes heated debates over the value of the word ‘superdiversity’.

We ourselves don’t really care about that word. Sometimes one needs a new word simply to examine the validity of the older ones – the word is then just a sort of stimulus to shed some of the attributes and frames inscribed in the older ones; and it is not the word that is central, but the ideas it points to and the data it can help explain. Whether research is convincing or not rarely depends on which words are used to write it down; usually it depends on the quality of analysis and argument.

Engaging Superdiversity offers another set of studies on language and superdiversity, drawn from one of the key features of our collective mode of work: team workshops in which we listen to and discuss the work of our team members – senior as well as more junior researchers – and insert their results in the collective explorative process described earlier. In these workshops, all of us are ‘free’ – free to come up with unfinished ideas, unsolved problems, struggles with complex data. The joint work of critical dialogue, usually, results in products that are, to say the least, engaging.

This collection of essays, more than any other publication so far, gives people a sense of the ambience in InCoLaS activities. It covers the terrains we find important – inequality, the online-offline nexus, power – and expands the theoretical and methodological framing of the process of exploration. There is a very large number of new things in this book (for the benefit of the “non-believers” who question what is so new about superdiversity), and some of the chapters will, I believe, have considerable impact in the field.

I joined the editorial team rather late in the game, and my gaze is thus, perhaps, a bit more that of a detached spectator than Karel’s, Martha’s and Max’s. So let me say this: When reviewing manuscripts for journals, book proposals, or even student’s essays, I always make a distinction between work that is good and work that is interesting. Most work I see is good, in the sense that there is nothing wrong with it, other than that I would never read it: it’s not interesting. Engaging Superdiversity is good and interesting – extraordinarily so – and I am proud to see it in print.

Jan Blommaert

Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic LandscapesFor more information about the book, please see our website. You might also be interested in Jan’s previous book Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes.


Are languages dying out or just becoming more diverse?

28 July 2016

This week we published Linguistic Genocide or Superdiversity? edited by Reetta Toivanen and Janne Saarikivi. In this post, Janne discusses the question of whether languages are dying out or whether, in fact, the world is just becoming more linguistically diverse.

Linguistic Genocide or Superdiversity?Since the 1990s linguists and anthropologists have become increasingly aware of the fact that most of the world’s languages are under threat of extinction. The main threat for languages comes from the erosion of their traditional communities due to urbanisation and changing ways of life, as well as improved standards of education and new working environments.

Languages today are used for entirely different purposes than in primordial societies. In communities characterised by agriculture, fishing, hunting or gathering, all the members of a community typically worked the same way and inherited their social roles from their parents and family. Language was primarily used as a means of oral communication.

A postmodern society, by contrast, is dependent on an elaborate division of labour, and also on the different social identities of their members. The most important tools for this identity creation are reading, writing and studying, i.e. activities carried out within language. For an increasing number of people around the world, language is both the main working tool as well as the main outcome of their work.

Languages are often measured and compared by the number of their native speakers. But for some purposes a more adequate way to ascertain the size of languages would probably be to measure the number of different texts composed in a particular language. For instance, languages such as Icelandic or Estonian have far fewer native speakers than languages such as Kanuri (in Nigeria) or Uighur (in China) but since they are national languages of independent states, countless texts are produced in them every day by language specialists in schools, ministries and media. This language use is currently evolving into an endless stream of text in social media, where practically every speaker of the language community is also an author of new text. Meanwhile other languages with more speakers but fewer elaborate societal functions have little use outside oral intercourse.

The modern language situation has been characterised as a genocide of languages, because so many languages have disappeared, but it has also been called unprecedented plurilingualism, where languages are used in more diverse ways than ever. In a modernising society some minority languages disappear within a few generations, sometimes almost without a trace. But in many contexts they also change, become creolised to a mixed code that carries and creates new types of modern identities in urban and virtual environments. For some minority languages this means more variation than before instead of disappearing.

The new social situation with more interaction in global networks and new media accelerates the pace of language change and creates new pidgins, creoles, mixed and intertwined codes. The languages of east and west are used in the growing multicultural urban centres of Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas in countless new mixed genres, some of which are bound to a particular city, others to a particular music style and clothing, still others to particular professions and education.

Is the world of languages thus becoming more or less diverse? Is the new linguistic variation somehow different from the variation that has been described in dialectological and sociolinguistic investigations for decades? There are some grounds to suggest that this is indeed the case. The difference is not so much that languages interact on a global scale, but that much of this interaction takes place in a written medium and is affected by standards and ideologies learned through ever more common formal education. Much of what happens in language contact has been described many times in studies concerning dialects, but other things are new: the fact that language use is now work for many, or the fact that language choice is one of the primary ways to create modern identities.

But can the new linguistic variation compensate for the languages of the hunters, gatherers, fishermen and nomads, many of which are already gone forever? And will it be long-lasting?

It is still fair to say that much of the world’s linguistic diversity is under threat. But its disappearance might not just be voices vanishing to silence. More likely, it is going to be like a star shining brighter than ever just before it explodes into a vacuum.

Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic LandscapesFor more information about the book please see our website. If you found this interesting you might also enjoy Jan Blommaert’s book Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes.

 

 

 


Multilingual Matters at the Sociolinguistics Symposium

30 June 2016

Earlier this month Anna and I headed to Spain for the biennial Sociolinguistics Symposium which this year was hosted by the University of Murcia.  The last symposium was such a good conference (you can read about it in our blog post here) that this one had a lot to live up to, but it certainly delivered!

The gathering was very well attended and had a busy timetable of panels and sessions going on throughout the 4 days of the conference.  There were a high number of attendees from all over the world and we were pleased to sell books to delegates who had come from places as far flung as New Zealand, Cape Verde and Aruba!  It’s great to know that our books are reaching many corners of the earth and to meet the people working in such places.

Laura and Anna sporting conference caps and fans at the stand

The equation of Spain plus June certainly equals hot sunshine and we braved the soaring temperatures to set up our bookstand outside in the beautiful university courtyard.  We and the books survived the heat and were grateful to the conference organisers for thinking to include hats and fans in the conference bag! We thoroughly enjoyed tasting all the yummy refreshments provided during the breaks and sampling local tapas and drinks in the many squares of Murcia in the evening.

Book contributor and customer at the stand

The bestsellers at the stand included Jackie Jia Lou’s new monograph The Linguistic Landscape of Chinatown, the enduringly popular Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert and Lid King and Lorna Carson’s new edited collection The Multilingual City.  As ever we enjoyed meeting lots and lots of our authors and contacts, including some whose first ever chapter we have just published.

One of the highlights of the conference was the dinner which was held in a typical Murcian restaurant in the heart of lemon and orange groves.  The local food and drink was delicious and the traditional Spanish dancing displays were great fun to watch.  The next Sociolinguistics Symposium is to be hosted by the University of Auckland in New Zealand and will be the first time that the conference will be held outside Europe.  Needless to say, we’re already looking forward to the next gathering in 2018!

Laura


Why are multilingual cities so important in today’s globalised world?

27 January 2016

This month we published The Multilingual City edited by Lid King and Lorna Carson which explores the reality of urban multilingualism in a network of cities researched by the the LUCIDE team – part of a European project funded by the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme. In this post, the editors tell us more about multilingual cities and what we can learn from their research.

The Multilingual CityWhy are cities such a useful laboratory for the study of multilingualism?

In many ways, cities are working models of the future, and powerful generators of new ideas on managing and benefiting from new patterns of mobility and diversity. They are places where new policy discourse can be created, where the constraints of national policies and limitations of national discourse may be modified or overcome.

What does the literature on urban studies have to say about multilingualism?

To be honest, not much! While the city has long been a topic of academic, policy and development discourse, and in recent years there has also been significant interest in the potential of the city to resolve social and economic problems, there has also been a persistent underestimation of the importance of linguistic diversity as a catalyst for such creativity and change. This volume seeks to rectify this lack of attention by examining the realities of multilingualism in the eighteen cities represented by the LUCIDE network.

Are there any common themes which might indicate the future for multilingual cities? Or does every city tell a different tale?       

Despite the homogenisation of globalisation, it would appear that diversity is the one striking characteristic of our urban world. The model is not one of ‘the multilingual city’, but of a more complex typology of cities, which are essentially distinct and rooted in particular landscapes. So for many cities, an image as multilingual is seen as highly desirable. Utrecht, for example, presents itself as a multilingual hotspot, and the administration of the city presents this as a positive thing and sign of a better way of life. Other cities, however, downplay their multilingual aspects, some not even recognising the realities of their language diversity.

Yet there are also some common themes which emerge from the cities, despite their economic, demographic and historical differences.

What about the experiences of individual citizens?

Just as authorities choose to promote their city’s image in different ways, so too do individual inhabitants’ reactions to multilingualism differ. Even in the most cosmopolitan cities, not all of the inhabitants share positive and optimistic attitudes. For some, their city is a vibrant, cosmopolitan, creative place where they want to live. For others, it is a more uncomfortable place where the very speed of change has been unsettling rather than inspirational.

The economic crisis has only exacerbated this uncertainty.

How has the political class responded?

In recent years politicians across the spectrum have joined a chorus of concern about the consequences of globalisation and have stressed the need to reaffirm national identities. Many of the accepted liberal consensual views about the value of diversity and the role of the state, particularly in promoting inclusive education, are being called into question. The inability of European leaders to respond to the current influx of refugees is the most vivid and tragic indication of where such negativity could lead.

And what about the future of the multilingual city?

Despite this narrow and inward-looking discourse of politicians, there is an inescapable logic to reality, especially in the more or less democratic and open cities of our network. The strength of urban multilingualism lies in the activities of citizens – in the initiatives and structures which grow up from the ground. These happen because of need and in response to community aspiration. At policy and political level, multilingual vitality will be maintained and will flourish in cities which allow freedom and give support to these communities, rather than seeking to suppress or homogenise growth and diversity. Together, the chapters in our book articulate a rationale for multilingual vitality and for promoting the value and strength of the diverse city.

Linguistic Landscapes titlesFor more information about this book please see our website. If you liked this post, you might also be interested in a couple of our other titles: Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert and Linguistic Landscape in the City edited by Elana Shohamy, Eliezer Ben-Rafael and Monica Barni.


Summer conference travel – EUROSLA and BAAL

16 September 2015

As usual, we attended both the EUROSLA and BAAL conferences this summer and I was fortunate enough to get to represent Multilingual Matters at both.

Laura with the outdoor book display

Laura with the outdoor book display

This year marked the 25th EUROSLA conference and the special anniversary meeting took place Aix-en-Provence in France. The conference followed the usual format with plenaries by key researchers in the field and many papers on a wide variety of topics within the domain of second language acquisition. The novelty from a publishing aspect was that I got to do my first ever outdoor book display in the glorious (if rather hot!) French sunshine.

The delegates and I very much enjoyed the fresh air during the breaks, as well as the excellent refreshments that were provided.  I was most impressed that the organisers provided everyone with a re-useable mug at the start of the conference and we used them during each break – saving well over a thousand disposable cups throughout the conference.

The Pavillon Vendôme, location of the welcome reception

The Pavillon Vendôme, location of the welcome reception

We spent the first evening of the conference at an outdoor drinks reception at the beautiful Pavillon Vendôme where we were welcomed to the city by the mayor.  We were treated to tasty canapés, wine and I even tried pastis for the first time. My verdict was positive although I can imagine that the anise flavour might not be to everyone’s taste! The second evening was the conference dinner and again the wonderful French weather meant that we could make the most of another warm evening with drinks and dinner outside. Following the pattern of the conference thus far, we were again spoilt with yet more delicious food and drink!

The bestselling books of the conference were Measuring L2 Proficiency edited by Pascale Leclercq, Amanda Edmonds and Heather Hilton, Working Memory in Second Language Acquisition and Processing edited by Zhisheng (Edward) Wen, Mailce Borges Mota and Arthur McNeill, and Vivian Cook and David Singleton’s textbook Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition. David Singleton was also the recipient of the EUROSLA Distinguished Member Award during the conference, which was also a proud moment for us as he is founder and co-series editor of our Second Language Acquisition series.

From EUROSLA in France I headed back home and then straight on to BAAL which this year was hosted by Aston University in Birmingham. Sadly we left the sunshine behind us but having hardly ever been to Birmingham, despite it being less than a couple of hours from Bristol, I was interested to attend a conference in the city. The Aston University campus was located right in the heart of the centre but still manages to be a pleasant, green campus.

Birmingham's Poet Laureate Adrian Blackledge

Birmingham’s Poet Laureate Adrian Blackledge

The conference was opened by Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese who gave a stimulating plenary during which they played some enchanting vignettes from their research, which included examples of communication in both the city library and market. A further highlight of the conference was a poetry session by Adrian Blackledge who is the current Poet Laureate for Birmingham. He recited some of the poems that he has composed during the past year, which included one to commemorate the start of the First Word War, another to celebrate Burns Night, and one which was not an official poem but that he had written on the birth of his first grandchild, a really touching piece.

Bestsellers at BAAL were understandably quite different to those at EUROSLA and the list was headed up by the second edition of Bonny Norton’s book Identity and Language Learning, Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert and our new title Emerging Self-Identities and Emotion in Foreign Language Learning by Masuko Miyahara.

Next on our travel list include our annual trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where we meet with our contacts and representatives from the book industry, and then Tommi will be heading to Auckland in November for both the Symposium on Second Language Writing and the Language, Education and Diversity conference. Look out for him there if you are also in attendance!

Laura


Applied Linguistics conferences coming up…

26 August 2014

Over the next few weeks we’re going to be very busy at several conferences. If you’re going to be attending any conferences where we have a stand please come and say hello as we always like to meet people face-to-face and we’ll also have displays of our books available to buy at a special discount.

Motivational Dynamics in Language LearningFirst up is Motivational Dynamics and Second Language Acquisition in Nottingham which Tommi and Laura will be attending. This symposium is organised by Zoltán Dörnyei, one of the editors of our forthcoming title Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning. Zoltán, as well as several other MM authors such as Ema Ushioda and Peter McIntyre, will be giving keynote speeches at the symposium.

Following this, Laura will be heading up to York for EUROSLA while Tommi will travel to Warwick for the BAAL conference. Both of these conferences are regulars on our conference schedule and we wouldn’t want to miss them!

Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic LandscapesThis year we are particularly excited to announce that Jan Blommaert’s book Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes has been shortlisted for the BAAL Book Prize. We’re really looking forward to the announcement of the winner and have our fingers crossed for Jan!

The following week in September Kim is heading to the Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication conference in Manchester. Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication is a biannual conference associated with the Linguistic Ethnography Forum, a Special Interest Group of BAAL. This is the first time we’ve attended this conference so we’re hoping to make some useful new contacts. If you’re going to be there, please come and say hello to Kim, she’ll be very pleased to meet you.

After all these conferences, we’ll all be back in the office for a while to catch up before heading to Germany in October for our annual trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair.


Books, snakes and snacks aplenty – AILA 2014

21 August 2014

This week saw Kim and Laura banished from the office. No, we weren’t sent to the other side of the world for bad behaviour but rather, we headed to Brisbane, Australia for the triennial AILA conference. With a theme of ‘One World, Many Languages’, we knew this would be a great conference for Multilingual Matters. AILA is always exciting for us, as so many of our authors and editors are in attendance. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with old friends as well as make new connections, and hear some fascinating papers.

Some wildlife enjoying our books!

Some wildlife enjoying our books!

The week started well, with strong sales and lots of interest in our new books, particularly Language Globalization and the Making of a Tanzanian Beauty Queen (Billings), Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition (Cook and Singleton) and Measuring L2 Proficiency (edited by Leclercq et al). We also got to meet a different type of delegate – the organisers had arranged for some local creatures to join us for the opening reception! We met snakes, a wombat, a kookaburra, a tortoise and a baby crocodile – some even seemed quite interested in our books.

Jan Blommaert's keynote

Jan Blommaert’s keynote

The conference was pretty busy all week so we didn’t get to many sessions, but those we did attend were high quality and very interesting. Of particular note were the keynotes by Lourdes Ortega, Elana Shohamy and Jan Blommaert, as well as the session on publishing by Mary Jane Curry, and the symposia on indigenous languages organised by Gillian Wigglesworth and Teresa McCarty. Jan had some particularly comical examples of lookalike language!

Brisbane by night

Brisbane by night

The Wednesday afternoon was a chance for everyone to take a breather, as it was a national holiday in Brisbane for their county show, known as the Ekka. We took the opportunity to explore some of Brisbane and had a lovely time doing the typical tourist attractions – we loved the Big Wheel and got a great view of the city. Back to the conference the next day and the stand was as popular as ever, with more animals to see including koalas, possums and a skink. Our best-sellers of the week really did sell well, with Identity and Language Learning (Norton), Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes (Blommaert) and A Scholar’s Guide to Getting Published in English (Curry & Lillis) taking the top spots.

We couldn’t possibly write a piece on this conference without mentioning the food. We’ve never been so well fed! The organisers truly laid on a feast every day, with cakes, pies and biscuits aplenty. Needless to say – the diet went out of the window for the duration of the conference!

Thanks Brisbane, not only for hosting a fabulous conference but also for showing us the very best of your city. We loved it! We’re already looking forward to the next AILA in Rio in 2017.


Midsummer at the Sociolinguistics Symposium

8 July 2014
The opening reception

The opening reception

Last month Tommi and I attended the 20th biennial Sociolinguistics Symposium which took place in Jyväskylä, Finland.  We were very much looking forward to the conference and visiting Finland at this time of year, as the 24 hour daylight makes “Juhannus” (Midsummer) a really special occasion. Tommi, being an English-Finnish bilingual, knows the country, language and culture well and was able to explain all the traditions of “Juhannus” to me, as well as translate many footballing terms as I attempted to follow the World Cup on Finnish TV!

Our stand was well-placed in a lovely, airy atrium where the coffee breaks were held. It was a really lively space as the delegates streamed in between sessions to socialise over the coffee and Finnish culinary treats.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Finnish food that I tried during our stay and particularly enjoyed Karelian pies (rice pies), Rieska (potato flatbread) and Reindeer stew.

Author Lyn Wright Fogle signing a copy of her book

Author Lyn Wright Fogle signing a copy of her book

As well as co-manning our stand Tommi ran a lunchtime workshop on publishing an academic book and took part in the roundtable entitled “Academic publishing and access to knowledge: A discussion on current trends, challenges, and possible futures”.  Such events are great ways for us to engage with the delegates and hear their thoughts, questions and concerns about academic publishing.

As usual, we brought a wide selection of our latest books with us and the delegates snapped up the special conference discount that we always offer.  The bestselling books of the conference were Identity and Language Learning (2nd Edition) by Bonny Norton, Jan Blommaert’s two books Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes and Ethnographic Fieldwork (with Dong Jie), the new 4th edition of Colin Baker’s best-selling book A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism and Flexible Multilingual Education by Jean-Jacques Weber.  The latter two books are both part of our trial bookmark scheme which you can read about here.

The Midsummer bonfire

The Midsummer bonfire

To make the conference extra special, the organisers arranged for the delegates to enjoy traditional Finnish Juhannus celebrations by running a lake cruise to a Midsummer party on an island.  There we enjoyed a kokko (bonfire), buffet and humppa dancing. Much fun was had by all before we travelled back in the extraordinary midnight sun! Thank you to the conference organisers for putting on such a fun evening and doing an excellent job at hosting the conference.  We are already looking forward to the 21st Sociolinguistics Symposium.

Laura


AAAL conference and doughnuts!

15 April 2014

My first conference for Multilingual Matters was AAAL in Portland. I had been reliably informed the AAAL crowd were a very pleasant bunch and that Portland was a gastronomic delight, so when I left the house at 3.30am on a Friday morning I was hoping it was all going to be worth it! I wasn’t disappointed.

Fresh faced and eager to get started!

Laura, Tommi and Kim: Fresh faced and eager to get started!

The conference itself was great, very well organised and we saw many of our authors and editors during the event. We’re told it was AAAL’s best ever attendance, with 1,700 delegates and a high number of delegates from Australasia and Asia. Our books sold very well indeed, with Bonny Norton’s 2nd Edition of Identity and Language Learning taking the top spot. Other popular books included Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA edited by Sarah Mercer and Marion Williams, Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert, and Language, Migration and Social Inequalities edited by Alexandre Duchêne, Melissa Moyer, and Celia Roberts (the second volume in our new Language, Mobility and Institutions series). Tommi gave a talk on how to publish your first book to between 50-100 people, and wasn’t too scared, and took part in the colloquium on the future of academic publishing in applied linguistics and was terrified, but both went very well! We had very nice comments about both sessions, with lots of insightful questions from the audience.

Maggie Hawkins and Tommi enjoying the Bacon Maple Doughnut

Maggie Hawkins and Tommi enjoying the Bacon Maple Doughnut from Voodoo

Portland was a joy. We ate incredibly well, with the foodie highlight being soufflés with our lovely colleagues from the Center for Applied Linguistics. We managed to squeeze in a trip to Voodoo doughnuts, a must-do in Portland, as well as a visit to Powell’s bookstore – a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. It didn’t take long before we found some of our own books in there!

The ethos of Portland - and we loved it

The ethos of Portland – and we loved it

While we didn’t have long to explore the city, we loved what we saw. From resistance banknotes to bars filled with pinball machines – Portland was a total treat and we can’t wait to be back one day!

Kim


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