An Introduction to Multilingualism: Language in a Changing World

ISBN : 9780198791102

Florian Coulmas
336 Pages
171 x 246 mm
Pub date
Dec 2017
Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics
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This book offers an introduction to the many facets of multilingualism in a changing world. It begins with an overview of the multiplicity of human languages and their geographic distribution, before moving on to the key question of what multilingualism actually is and what is understood by terms such as 'mother tongue', 'native speaker', and 'speech community'. In the chapters that follow, Florian Coulmas systematically explores multilingualism with respect to the individual, institutions, cities, nations, and cyberspace. In each of these domains, the dynamics of language choice are undergoing changes as a result of economic, political, and cultural forces. Against this background, two chapters discuss the effects of linguistic diversity on the integration and separation of language and society, before a final chapter describes and assesses research methods for investigating multilingualism. Each chapter concludes with problems and questions for discussion, which place the topic in a real-world context. The book explores where, when, and why multilingualism came to be regarded as a problem, and why it presents a serious challenge for linguistic theory today. It provides the basic tools to analyse different kinds of multilingualism at both the individual and society level, and will be of interest to students of linguistics, sociology, education, and communication studies.


1 The polyphonic world
2 Multilingualism is...: Twenty definitions - and more
3 Descriptive and theoretical concepts
4 Power, inequality, and language
5 The polyglot individual
6 Multilingual (international) institutions
7 Talk of the town: Language in super-diverse cities
8 Multilingual (multiethnic) countries
9 Diversity in cyberspace: The multilingual Internet
10 Integration and separation: Language
11 Integration and separation: Society
12 Research methods for investigating multilingualism

About the author: 

Florian Coulmas is Senior Professor of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Duisberg-Essen University. He has previously held teaching and research positions at Georgetown University, Chuo University Tokyo, and the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics. From 2004 to 2014 he served as Director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo. His publications include The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems (Blackwell, 1999), Writing and Society (CUP, 2014), and Guardians of Language (OUP, 2016).

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