Let's Revise

Let's Revise - Languages in Danger

Multilingualism and Language Contact


1. If multilingualism is the use of more than one language in any given situation, what is 'unbalanced' multilingualism? What examples are given in the chapter? Can you think of any situations of 'unbalanced' multilingualism in your country?

Unbalanced multilingualism means that certain languages in a society are seen as more "worthy" than others. A good example of this in the chapter is the mention of surzhyk - many people in Ukraine value standard Ukrainian and standard Russian over the 'mixed' variety known as surzhyk, even though they may use surzhyk daily with their friends and family.

2. What is the difference between multilingualism and plurilingualism?

Multilingualism takes places in society; plurilingualism takes place in an individual. Thus a city might be officially multilingual (e.g. Brussels in Belgium, Montréal in Canada) and often individuals in these cities might know more than just the official languages (for example, a Montréaler might know Arabic in addition to French and English) - that individual is therefore plurilingual. An individual might also be plurilingual in an officially monolingual setting as well - many people living in Berlin, for example, where the official language is German, might also be speakers of Turkish or French

3. What are the three main ways language contact is noticeable in people's speech behaviour?

Language contact is noticeable when pidgins, creoles and code-switching occur. Pidgins are simplified forms of a language that is being used by two or more non-native speakers of that language who have acquired it imperfectly. There are many pidgins based on English and French (and many other languages of course) and reflect the colonial past of England and France. A creole occurs when the pidgin become nativized, that is, the children in a society become native speakers of the pidgin their parents speak. The third indication of language contact involves code-switching, where words from one language can appear in another language, and which all speakers in the conversation understand. However this can be controversial and this link (http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/lleucu-siencyn-shouldnt-mind-welsh-7607347) takes us to the case in Wales where recently winners in a literature competition were criticised for using too much English in their work.