[lg policy] Interesting book on multilingualism

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jun 1 16:52:40 UTC 2014

 Multilingual Identities: New Global Perspectives
From:Zuzana Elliott zuzana.elliott at ed.ac.uk
LINGUIST List issue http://linguistlist.org/issues/25/25-2362.html

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-5098.html


Inke Du Bois and Nicole Baumgarten's volume brings new approaches in
understanding and analysing multilingual migrants' backgrounds and
identities. This collection of essays investigates migrants'
"linguistic-ethnic-national" (p. 8) identities performed in different
cultural societies. The studies shed new light on multilingualism around
the globe, focusing primarily on identity construction in urban settings of
less-documented languages in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East.

The chapters are organised thematically, where the first three chapters
deal with multilingual identity of children and adolescents and the last
four are concerned with multilingual identity construction of adults. Each
chapter includes a brief literature review and references, which inspire
opportunities for further research. In the introduction, the editors
combine the materials from subsequent chapters and apply them to global

The first chapter in this volume ('Communicative practices among migrant
youth in Germany: "Insulting address forms" as a multi-functional
activity', by Susanne G�nthner) explores functions of insulting address
forms among 2nd and 3rd generation male youths of German and Turkish origin
residing in Germany. The data were collected in youth centres via informal
interactions between 17- to 23-year-old men of migrant backgrounds in four
different regions in Germany. The author analyses adolescents' everyday
interactions and identities in mixed-speech communities to uncover the
meaning of insulting terms and their usage. Following the previous studies
by Eckert & McConnel-Ginet (1998) and Bucholtz (2007), G�nthner found that
insulting forms are predominantly used "as resources for asserting
particular positions within the group and for establishing hierarchy and
status" (p. 26). In addition, G�nther found that there are other purposes
behind insult use, from creating group !
 identity to forming (or breaking) social ideologies. The study suggests
that the use of insults is therefore not limited to any specific purpose,
and that their use varies according to the social functions associated with
each one.

In the second chapter, 'Made in Berlin: Bilingualism and identity among
immigrant and German-background children,' Janet M. Fuller analyses the
concepts of ideologies and identities of pre-teen bilingual children in
Berlin. The chapter investigates how children perceive what it means to 'be
German' when positioned between two or more languages with various social
backgrounds. This study was based on ethnographic research conducted in
Berlin's two English-German bilingual schools, the Charles Dickens School
and the John F. Kennedy School. More than 100 hours of audio recordings of
classroom activities were collected, along with participants' observations
and questionnaires, which examined "children's backgrounds, language use,
attitudes, self-identification, and views on what it means to be German"
(p. 37). The first part of the methodology featured a survey exploring
children's attitudes towards their own bilingualism and choice in language
use. The author argues that while !
 policy changes define German-ness in terms of language and culture instead
of descent, there is some ambiguity about how the changes are reflected in
the bilingual classroom setting. The data for the second part of the
methodology were obtained through multilingual classroom interactions, and
revealed that code-switching was still prevalent among immigrant students
who identified themselves as German. The results of this study showed that
"'being German' is accessible to anyone who is culturally part of Germany"
(p. 48), demonstrating that language use was not the sole factor involved
in cultural identification. Particularly interesting is the discussion of
multilingual language ideologies and self-representations through the eyes
of children. As Fuller rightly points out, the data collected were not
objective, as they reflected mere behaviours and feelings, of which
children might not be well aware.

A. Lane Igoudin's short chapter, 'Asian American girls who speak African
American English: A subcultural language identity', investigates language
use and attitudes among three first-generation Asian-American teenage girls
(two Filipino-American and one Cambodian-American) who use African American
Vernacular English (AAVE) in their everyday speech. Based on three recorded
group interviews, the researcher observed that the girls appeared to adopt
"a wide variety of phonological, morphosyntactic and lexical features of
AAVE" (p. 54). Interestingly, as Igoudin points, the results did not
correlate with a previous study by Wardhaugh (2002), who claimed that "the
less standard the variety of English spoken [is], the more successfully
formal education appears to be resisted" (p. 55). The academic performances
of the girls were above average, but they frequently switched between AAVE
and Standard American English (SAE) (and their home languages Khmer and
Tagalog) based on different!
  situations. The girls' code choices appeared to be very unconventional
because the AAVE dialect "more than any other dialect of American English,
has been stigmatized as a socially unacceptable code -- something, we
learned, the girls were well aware of" (p. 60). The chapter includes useful
examples of phonological and morphosyntactic AAVE features of the subjects'
speech, thus providing a clear understanding of the identity construction
and sensitivity of the subjects.

Katharina Meng and Ekaterina Protassova's chapter, 'Deutsche or rusaki?
Transformation of the cultural self-conceptions after (r)emigration', seeks
to answer questions regarding 'cultural self-conceptions' of immigrants in
Germany. This interesting study provides insight into Russia-Germans, or
ethnic Germans who emigrated from the Soviet Union to Germany. Using
analyses from interviews, newspapers and internet forums, the authors
compared the complex societies' attitudes towards Germans and Russians.
They identified two terms which represent the migrants' multilingual
identities: Deutscher (German) and rusaki. Both terms mark integration in
Germany to varying degrees. While Deutscher marks immigrants' German-ness
through accepting their German ancestries or names, or even decisions to be
registered as Germans in their Soviet passports (p. 70), rusaki defines
"[a] group of Russians and underlines its specific ethnicity, the
Russianness, above all in its rural appearance" (p.!

In her chapter, 'Loving Bollywood and being Dutch: Language choice and
identity issues among Surinamese-Hindustani women in Amsterdam', Dipika
Mukherjee shares her findings of women with regard to their language
maintenance and loss, as well as the obstacles they face concerning their
own identity. The author observed twenty-two Surinamese-Hindustani women
enrolled in a Bollywood dance class in Amsterdam for the duration of 16
months. These women used four languages in their daily lives; however, in
the class, they spoke exclusively Dutch. Mukherjee observed that women who
migrated into the country young had much stronger ties to the Netherlands
than to India, although they identified themselves as 'Hindustani' over the
other categories of 'Dutch' or 'Indian'. The author found that these women
did not share any desire to consider India as their home country; however,
the notion of "Hindustaniness" was perceived to be very high, as related to
preserving the language for their!
  children and community. Also, Suriname is "conceived as 'home,' [though]
they realise that there is no going back" (p. 95). The author concludes
that despite the cultural and language barriers, Bollywood presents itself
as "an accessible means for language retention of a familiar tongue" (p.
96), thus preserving the strong sense of fellowship among the
Surinamese-Hindustani community.

Heike Baldauf-Quilliatre's study, 'The role of public opinion in
argumentation: Immigrants in the French radio broadcast L�-bas si j'y
suis', seeks to answer how multiple identities shape the cultural notions
of speakers with migrant backgrounds in France. Public opinions are often
viewed in light of politics and culture; therefore, as the author points,
analysing them through the eyes of migrants often creates debatable and
controversial opinions on the acceptance and tolerance of speakers'
communities. In her study, Baldauf-Quilliatre aimed to identify immigrants'
opinions on immigration laws and their situation in poor suburbs in
relation to the arguments presented by Nicolas Sarkozy. Her analysis was
based on a one-hour French radio broadcast with a "regular" audience, where
she paid particular attention to radio listeners and their complex
contributions left on answering machines. Although the study didn't allow
for broad generalizations, in her fifteen contributions,!
  the results seem to differentiate "between European and South-American
migrants on the one side, and African/North-African migrants on the other"
(p. 108). While the first group showed integration and positive attitudes
towards the host country and people, the second group seemed to resist and
instead, showed rather negative attitudes and 'resignation' toward problems
faced in their communities. Each group used unique tactics to add weight to
their opinions on the radio show, demonstrating multiple paths to
immigrants' public integration.

Inke Du Bois' study, 'And then I had to hold my first Referat on Beethoven
as a politischer Mensch: Multilingual identities and L1 language loss of US
Americans in Germany', identifies sociodemographic factors affecting
lexical levels in immigrants' speech. This study presents quantitative and
qualitative analyses of a corpus of multilingual interviews of thirty
American immigrants who left America for Germany between 1964 and 2001.
Investigation of code-switching and language attrition were analysed
statistically. The results were correlated with extralinguistic variables
such as length of residency in Germany, educational level, and social
networks via a demographic questionnaire. The results indicated that
German-American code-switching appeared more often when Americans were
exposed to the society of other Americans. Thus, Americans who used their
first language (L1) tended to experience fewer problems in retrieving
English lexical items. Interestingly, Du Bois' study sh!
 owed that education, length of residence and L1 social networks were the
main factors influencing the varying degrees of "L1 attrition and the
intercultural identities of speakers" (p. 134).

The last chapter, 'Indigenous and immigrant identities in multilingual
Israel: Insights from focus groups and discourse analysis', by Dafna
Yitzhaki, Carmit Altman, Zhanna Feldman-Burstein, Leor Cohen and Joel
Walters, offers a variety of insights into indigenous and immigrant
minority languages. The chapter consists of a "linguistic taster" in which
the authors examine four studies that focus on identity constructions among
immigrants of different ethnic backgrounds in Israel. The first study
analyses a language policy interaction between indigenous and immigrant
language groups of Israeli and Arabic. The study found that arguments
supporting indigenous minority language instruction rely on two recurring
elements: that 'indigenousness' is either irrelevant or hierarchical in
deciding language instruction (p. 143). The contradictory nature of these
elements makes for highly complex and volatile debates. The second study
focuses on identity formation in four Russian immigrant!
  adult parents and their six adolescent children, all of whom are second
language (L2) speakers with high proficiency in Hebrew. The authors offer
two excerpts from interviews of two of the adolescents with different
backgrounds. The first adolescent, Faina, demonstrated a strong attachment
to her host country, including near-total integration into Israeli and
secular Jewish culture. Though she preserved her Russian roots for
'practical' reasons and did not hide her Russian background, she distanced
herself from similar immigrants who self-identified as Russian. The second
adolescent, Rina, showed more attachment towards her Russian identity, but
demonstrated a keen awareness of the complexity of her immigrant identity.
Both of these girls held their opinions without antagonising differing
opinions. The third study presents the complexity of Ethiopian-Israeli
identity display, as characterised through self-perception and ethnicity.
Four Ethiopian-Israeli college students we!
 re recorded, showing how their soldier identity conflicts with but als
o ascends beyond other social norms. In this way, these students use their
soldier identity to break through or remove limitations imposed by other
social identities (e.g., gender, nationality, religion) and to become more
socially mobile as a result. The fourth study focuses on analysing
relationships between code-switching and identity among twelve
English-Hebrew participants who immigrated to Israel in adulthood from the
United States. The research questions focused on motivations behind
code-switching between L1 and L2 narratives, and identifying discourse
markers that reflect a variety of aspects of motivation for code-switching
across different identities.


Researchers interested in discourse analysis and L2 acquisition will
certainly find this small collection of essays to be an interesting and
inspiring resource. This volume investigates new approaches towards global
multilingual migrant identities while addressing various topics in the
fields of language loss, discourse analysis, and code-switching.

Overall, the book provides invaluable reading for anyone interested in the
growing development of global multilingualism, where the primary focus
applies to immigrants' national and ethnic backgrounds and cultural
identities. As a student who does extensive research on multilingualism and
immigrants' identities, I find this book to be a great contribution to my
research. When compared with similar sources, this volume presents the most
recent studies in a well-structured and cohesive manner, taking into
account different communicative and social interactions of global personae.

Despite the small number of chapters, this book identifies different
concepts of children's and adults' multilingual identity constructions
while focusing primarily on lesser-researched languages, such as Israeli,
French, or Dutch. The volume is also highly inclusive, as it considers
lesser-known national and ethnic identities such as Surinamese-Hindustani,
German-Croatians, and German-Americans, among others.

As a researcher focusing on immigrants and their identities, I found
Fuller's 'Made in Berlin' and Igoudin's 'Asian American girls who speak
African American English' particularly poignant; both chapters examine
first-generation immigrant children who identify themselves as part of
their local community as a result of strong ideologies and perceptions
towards their peers and cultures. In contrast, Yitzhaki et al.'s
'Indigenous and immigrant identities in multilingual Israel' reviewed four
separate studies. Although I found the section 'Identity construction in
the discourse of Russian-Israeli immigrant adolescents' intriguing, I would
have appreciated more information, in general, in each of the sections.
This chapter felt constrained, primarily due to its covering four separate
studies in the space of one chapter.

In sum, Du Bois and Baumgarten provide a measured and effective analysis of
increasing global multilingualism, and their book acts as an excellent
source of cutting-edge social research to stimulate discussion in
classrooms and research centres alike.


Eckert, P. & McConnell-Ginet, S. (1998). Communities of practice. Where
language, gender, and power all live. In J. Coates (Ed.) "Language and
gender: A Reader" (484-494). Mass.: Blackwell.

Bucholtz, M. (2007). Word up. Social meanings of slang in California youth
culture. In L. Monaghan and J. E. Goodman (Eds.) "A Cultural approach to
interpersonal communication. Essential readings" (244-267). Malden, MA:

Wardhaugh, R. (2002). "An introduction to sociolinguistics." Malden, MA:
Blackwell Publishers.

Zuzana Elliott is a doctoral student of Linguistics and English Language at
the University of Edinburgh. Her previous research experience examined
literacy in children across five European languages. She is interested in
multilingualism, language identity, and acquisition of linguistic variation
in migrant second language learners. Her current research is investigating
sociolinguistic aspects of long-term Slovak and Czech immigrants who reside
in Scotland.

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