16 Oct 2018
13:00 - 14:00

Englisches Seminar, room 13


English in Multilingual Settings: Singapore, Quebec, Dubai

Jakob Leimgruber (Basel)

The spread of English globally has resulted, in most places, in the language being used concurrently with other languages, which themselves may have been present in the location in question for a rather longer period of time – or not. The established models of global English, in the form of the tripartite classification of Kachru (1985) or the Dynamic model of Schneider (2007), fail to fully account for the interaction between English and those other languages. Likewise, the language policies put into place in post-colonial settings deal with the presence of English in remarkably different ways.

In order to shed light on this matter, I present in this talk recent research from three sites where English exists in a multilingual context. The first is Singapore, the southeast Asian city-state that, on its path to independence in the 1950s and 1960s, embraced an official quadrilingualism while leaving no doubts about the pre-eminence of English in most domains – resulting in large-scale shift towards the ‘working language’, which is now the one most widely used at home. A rather different language policy approach is seen in Quebec, where the demographic weight of Anglophones in Canada, and North America generally, is seen as an existential threat to French, the majority language of the province. While on the ground, speakers recognise the importance of English, top-down policies expressly seek to limit its presence in the public sphere, not least in the visible domain of the linguistic landscape. Finally, the United Arab Emirates, and more specifically the emirate of Dubai, while indigenously Arabic-speaking, have, over the past half-century, attracted an increasingly diverse migrant population, to the extent that nowadays, 85% of UAE residents are foreign citizens. The resulting linguistic heterogeneity was bridged with the lingua franca English, which is now – for all intents and purposes – a quasi-official working language that every resident needs for even the most basic kinds of cross-linguistic communication. The absence of an explicit English language policy nonetheless suggests a fairly stable position of the sole official language Arabic.

Besides a sketch of future research planned for Dubai, the talk concludes with some reflections on the role of the above-mentioned models in capturing the sociolinguistic realities of English in multilingual settings. I do so, inter alia, by taking inspiration from the ‘sociolinguistics of globalisation’ of Blommaert (2010).

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