Flexible Multilingualism: Rethinking Theories and Concepts
The term “multilingualism” has been critically challenged by sociolinguists and applied linguists. They advocate replacing it with terms such as ‘polylingual languaging’, ‘translanguaging’, and ‘metrolingualism’. These concepts are attempts to change the fixed view of what is a language; the oppressive ideology that has been manipulated by institutions and individuals to create particular hierarchical boundaries and to justify as well as impose power over particular individuals or groups. Heterogeneity of voices and discourses are also in line with this reframing.
These concepts of flexible multilingualism are still not without limitations. The studies have emerged from spoken interaction data, and texts or multimodal interaction of online spaces are not represented. Another is that the studies were often concerned with ‘diverse speakers’ in urban spaces, often of the north. Contesting script systems were not discussed either.
This session invites approaches that upgrade the flexible view of “multilingualism”, by deepening our understanding of flexible written “multilingualism”, or by highlighting multilingualism in more specific sociohistorical or sociolinguistic configurations (e.g. postcolonial, less ‘ethno-linguistically diverse’, rural, multiple script systems, etc.). The session welcomes studies discussing on a range of geographical, political, and cultural configurations. It also welcomes studies of policies and practices in regions where more weight is placed on written languages than discussed in those using the Latin alphabet. Discussions on the regions where contest and conflict between the local (or national) language and global languages (namely English) retain a significant force in language or scriptal choice are especially welcome.