book notice: Multilingualism in the Movies: Hollywood Characters and their Language Choices

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Nov 11 14:16:30 UTC 2008

Multilingualism in the Movies: Hollywood Characters and their Language Choices
Series Title: Schweizer Anglistische Arbeiten, Band 135
Published: 2008
Publisher: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag GmbH + Co. KG

Author: Lukas Bleichenbacher

Hardback: ISBN: 9783772082702 Pages: 236

Do 'bad guys' in Hollywood movies necessarily speak 'broken' English? What
happens when film characters switch between English, French, or even
Serbian? Why does Hollywood show Mozart and his wife speaking American
English? This sociolinguistic survey is based on a corpus of multilingual
movie dialogues from 32 contemporary mainstream Hollywood movies. It begins
with an analysis of movies where the English language is illogically spoken
by characters who, in real life, would have used a different language. A
second major focus is on the fictional characters: how are individual
multilingualism and factors such as sex, social status, and being a 'good'
or a 'bad guy' interrelated? Finally, the study discusses the amount of
dialogue in other languages, how it is rendered comprehensible, and the
nature of movie code-switching. The results indicate that the common view
of Hollywood movies contributing to ethnic stereotyping and ideologies of
English-only monolingualism falls short of fictional reality.

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