Book Review

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon May 24 13:40:06 UTC 2004

Forwarded from Linguist List:

Bilingualism and Social Relations: Turkish Speakers in NW Europe

EDITOR: J. Normann Joergensen
TITLE: Bilingualism and Social Relations
SUBTITLE: Turkish Speakers in North Western Europe
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
YEAR: 2003
Announced at

Janet M. Fuller, Department of Linguistics,
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

[The reviewer reports that the cover of the book lists its title as
''Bilingualism and Social Change'', so refers to ''social change''
rather than ''social relations'' in her review.  --Eds.]

This book is a welcome addition to the literature on bilingualism in
that it presents views of language use in Denmark, Germany and the
Netherlands which show the many and varied roles of immigrant
languages in these countries. Also published as vol. 24, Nos 1 & 2 of
the Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, this
collection stresses social roots and consequences of language choice,
but does not neglect the analysis of locally-motivated code-switching.

Chapter 1 is an introduction by the editor which provides an excellent
history of the field of sociolinguistics and a background for the
position of the chapters in this volume: linguistic variation creates
social structures and social differences. Of the subsequent seven
chapters, four analyze data from a longitudinal study of
Turkish-Danish bilinguals (the Kge project). This project, which
follows bilingual children through nine years of linguistic and social
development, provides an unprecedented amount of data on the
development of bilingualism. Thus, these data are ideal for the aim of
this volume, i.e., looking at bilingualism and social change. Two of
the other chapters in this volume look at Turkish speakers in Germany,
and the remaining chapter presents survey data from adolescents with
and without a (Turkish) migrant background in the Netherlands and

The second and third chapters involve analyses of Turkish speakers in
Germany. 'Mixed Language Varieties of Migrant Adolescents and the
Discourse of Hybridity', written by Volker Hinnenkamp, involves a
discussion of both local and global functions of code-switching. Local
functions include such patterns as using Turkish to relate events of a
narrative, and German to comment upon them; but such patterns are
never categorical in the data. Also present is the use of codes to
index certain societal roles and meanings; most notably, the use of
Gastarbeiterdeutsch (guest worker German, or immigrants' pidgin
German) to mock not only people who actually speak German this way,
but also the majority German prejudice that Turks cannot master the
German language. In this way, the language of these bilinguals is
indicative of their identity, which contrasts with both older
generation of Turks and Germans without a migrant background.

The other contribution using data from Germany is titled 'Cultural
Orientation and Language Use Among Multilingual Youth Groups: ''For me
it is like we all speak one language''', and is written by Inci Dirim
and Andreas Hieronymus. This chapter discusses the acquisition of
Turkish, a minority language in Germany, by speakers of non-Turkish
descent, and the use of German-Turkish code-switching as an unmarked
choice. This linguistic behavior can be seen as resistance to the
expectations of the majority, i.e. assimilation to the majority
language and culture, and restricted use of minority languages. Use of
Turkish by speakers of non-Turkish descent is most prevalent in the
lower-income multi-ethnic networks, but can also be seen among
university-bound adolescents who inhabit multilingual and
multicultural neighborhoods.

Jacob Cromdal, the author of the fourth chapter, writes on 'The
Creation and Administration of Social Relations in Bilingual Group
Work'. Using data from the Kge project, this analysis shows how
language, and language choice, are used by one dominant speaker in a
small group interaction to impose the task of narrative construction
upon the group, while at the same time curtailing their participation
in the task. All the speakers in this interaction use code-switching
for expression of affect and to indicate alignment; the dominant
speaker is simply the most effective code-switcher. However, Cromdal
argues that for this speaker, it is not code-switching per se which is
powerful, but how it is used to manipulate alliances in order to
achieve her goal of completing the task of creating a narrative.

The fifth chapter was authored by Trine Esdahl, and looks at 'Language
Choice as a Power Resource in Bilingual Adolescents' Conversations in
the Danish Folkeskole'. This analysis of data from the Kge project
looks at gender differences in code-switching patterns. Seventh grade
appears to be a turning point at which both boys and girls use more
Danish in interactions with their peers, although this pattern is more
dramatic among the girls. This language choice reflects a recognition
of the societal norms for use of their two languages (i.e., Danish has
more overt prestige and thus is used more, at least in the public
arena of school). However, these children also use code-switching
strategically to establish and maintain their roles and positions
within the group.

Lian Malai Madsen's contribution, 'Power Relationships, Interactional
Dominance and Manipulation Strategies in Group Conversations of
Turkish-Danish Children', also addresses gender differences in data
from the Kge project. She finds that in grade 2 -4, girls in
same-sex interactions are linguistically more competitive than boys,
as evidenced by their higher rates of new initiatives and non-focally
linked utterances. Boys in same-sex interactions use more focally
linked utterances and responding initiatives, which she describes as
more coherent linguistic behavior. However, in mixed-sex groups, girls
adapt to the more coherent style of the boys. Further, her analysis of
disputes shows that the individuals who are winning their disputes in
second grade continue to wield power over their peers throughout
primary school, suggesting that social roles are created at an early
age and are not apt to change.

The seventh chapter of this volume deviates from the type of analysis
exhibited in the other contributions in that it employs data from a
written survey. Erica Huls, Ad Backus, Saskia Klomps, and Jens Norman
Jrgensen's chapter, 'Adolescents Involved in the Construction of
Equality in Urban Multicultural Settings', uses Politeness Theory to
explain request choices in a survey completed by adolescents in
Rotterdam (The Netherlands) and Kge (Denmark). The respondents
included groups of youths with a background of migration from Turkey,
and those without a migration background. The Turkish-background
youths in Rotterdam responded in ways that would be predicted by
Politeness Theory -- i.e., they used a wide range of forms of requests
(from 'careful' to 'straightforward') depending on the
interlocutor. However, all of the other three groups (Dutch youths
with no migration background, and groups of adolescents both with and
without a migration background from Kge) were oriented to the
construction of equality, albeit to varying degrees. That is, they
used forms which were relatively 'straightforward' for all
addressees. These provocative findings challenge the idea that social
hierarchy is expressed in language behavior, or that the construct of
social hierarchy is universallyrecognized.

The final chapter, by the editor Jens Norman Jrgensen, is titled
'Languaging Among Fifth Graders: Code-Switching in Conversation 501 of
the Kge Project'. Jrgensen discusses three strong societal
forces on language choice, and goes on to show how the children ''with
premeditation, pleasure, virtuosity, skill and wonderful effects'' (p.
145) violate all three of these norms. The first norm, language
hierarchy, is violated when high status languages (English, Sealand
Danish, and Swedish) are used mockingly. The second, the double
monolingualism view (i.e., the view that bilinguals should function
just like monolinguals in each of their languages), is violated by
their persistent code-switching. The third norm, described as a
generally negative evaluation of teenagers' speech, is violated by the
verbal fights, word play, screams and curses they use which are a
model of the type of language adults disparage. Despite the role of
bi- or multilingualism necessary for the violation of the first two
norms, Jrgensen stresses that this type of language use is typical
of all adolescent speech: it uses whatever varieties are in the
children's repertoire to negotiate their social roles and

Overall, these studies contribute both valuable data and thoughtful
analyses to the field of bilingualism. There are, however, some
shortcomings to the volume. Hinnenkamp's article would be more
accessible if his discussion of 'speaking mixed' came first, and his
examples were more clearly tied to this overarching theme (although
admittedly, the data themselves make fascinating reading). The
following chapter by Dirim and Hieronymus offers a more clearly laid
out framework, but less application of that framework with reference
to the actual examples than one might hope for. Both of the articles
which deal explicitly with language and gender (by Esdahl and Masden)
do a nice job of presenting their results, but rely only minimally on
the vast body of literature on language, gender and power. The final
article by Jrgensen, although in many ways the finest of the
volume, comes close to undermining its own agenda by insisting that
the bi- (or multi-) lingual children in his study are no different
than monolingual ones. His point is well-taken -- all adolescents do
use their linguistic repertoires in similar ways; what varies is the
repertoires.  However, I would argue that the ability of these
children to chose different languages, with vastly different social
statuses and functions, is a critical part of what makes these data
part of social change.

These articles, in addition to providing a picture of the linguistic
landscape in northwestern Europe, also offer insights to those of us
who deal with similar phenomena in different locations. These studies
contain a rich smorgasbord of ideas and perspectives which can inform
studies of code-switching and variation everywhere.


Janet M. Fuller is an Associate Professor of Linguistics and
Anthropology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Her
research interests include bilingualism and language contact,
discourse analysis, and language and gender. She is currently involved
in a project examining the language choices and identity negotiation
of Mexican-American youths in a bilingual classroom

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list