Discourses about linguistic diversity

Authored by: Cooke Melanie , Simpson James

The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  May  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415496476
eBook ISBN: 9780203154427
Adobe ISBN: 9781136578144


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In many parts of the world, multilingualism is a fact of life, intensified in recent decades by processes of globalization characterized by an increase in the movement of people within and across borders, electronic mass media and online communication. Although in many quarters linguistic diversity is accepted, and indeed celebrated as an asset, at the same time it has become a source of tension and debate in public and political discourse, where multilingualism is often constructed as a problem or threat to national unity. Linguistic diversity is also a potential source of conflict in multilingual societies, particularly when choices have to be made about language use in domains such as government, broadcasting, education and public services. The work surveyed in this chapter explains how discourses about linguistic diversity produced in powerful domains such as the government and the media interact with other discourses and circulate through different levels of society, gain legitimacy and, importantly, impact on legislation. To illustrate our points we provide examples from debates in the UK where language is invoked in arguments about immigration, British identity, citizenship, multiculturalism, national security and social cohesion.

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