Text 1-5. LANGUAGE AND SUPERDIVERSITY

(After J. Normann Jørgensen’s and Kasper Juffermans’ sections in the Toolkit for Transnational Communication in Europe. Copenhagen Studies in Bilingualism. University of Copenhagen, 2011)

1.‘Superdiversity’ is the term introduced by Vertovec (2007) to describe the new forms of sociocultural diversity that has emerged after the end of the Cold War, and has altered the face of large urban centers in the West and elsewhere. It is characterized by two parallel developments: (1) a range of new forms of migration across the world, leading to ‘diversity within diversity’ in about every society, and, in particular, in large urban centers in the West and elsewhere; (2) the escalation of online cultural and social phenomena since the advent of the internet, leading to new forms of identity performance, new forms of global popular culture and new forms of community formation. All these developments are shot through with new sociolinguistic phenomena of tremendous complexity, defying current ways of understanding and description. The struggle to come to terms with these developments has led to a flurry of terminological innovation, including terms such as ‘languaging’, ‘polylingual languaging’, ‘metrolingualism’, ‘transidiomaticity’ and so forth. Superdiversity is a term for the vastly increased range of resources, linguistic, religious, ethnic, cultural in the widest sense, that characterize late modern societies. The term has been coined by Vertovec (2006) in a review of demographic and socio-economic changes in post-Cold War Britain: "Super-diversity underscores the fact that the new conjunctions and interactions of variables, that have arisen over the past decade, surpass the ways – in public discourse, policy debates and academic literature – that we usually understand diversity in Britain".

2. Superdiversity should be understood as diversification of diversity, as diversity that cannot be understood in terms of multiculturalism (the presence of multiple cultures in one society) alone. At the basis of this paradigm shift are two sets of developments that can be observed in Europe and world-wide. One is the changing patterns and itineraries of migration from the outside into Europe and continued migration by the same people inside Europe: "more people are now moving from more places, through more places, to more places" (Vertovec 2010). In effect, people bring with them continuously more different resources and experiences from a variety of places in their everyday interactions and encounters with others and institutions.



A second factor is the technological developments which have made new social media of communication accessible to the masses, with mobile phones and the Internet (e.g., social network sites). These developments mean that the individual in superdiversity is likely to meet a much wider range of resources than was characteristic of Europe just a few decades ago.

3. A consequence of this superdiversity is an increasingly important lack of predictability. A few decades ago it would be possible to predict with some degree of certainty what a 14-year old grade school student in, for instance, Berlin would be like – looks, mother tongue, religious affiliation, cultural preferences, musical taste, and in other ways. The range of resources available to and employed by 14-year old grade school students in Germany was limited compared to what we observe today – none of this can today be predicted with any substantial degreee of certainty. Blommaert (2010) oberves that "the presuppositions of common integration policies – that we know who the immigrants are, and that they have a shared language and culture – can no longer be upheld".

Fanshawe & Sriskandarajah (2010) take the observation a step further and criticize the routine reference to "protected strands" (gender, race, disability, sexuality, faith and belief, age) in efforts to eliminate discrimination and inequality – there is no longer any single dimension along which to work with these concepts, or with "identities". Their argument is that in the context of superdiversity, we need a new politics of identity: people can't be put in a box anymore.

4. The superdiverse conditions call for a revisiting and reinventing of our theoretical toolkit to analyse and understand phenomena of language and communication (see Blommaert and Rampton 2011). For instance, it makes concepts such as "speech community", "ethnic groups", "minority" very difficult to maintain in any sense. It requires us to study rather than assume relations between ethnicity, citizenship, residence, origin, profession, legal status, class, religion and language. A superdiversity perspective on society problematises the countability and representability of cultures, languages and identities (see also our languaging lemma here), which is why superdiversity can be understood as post-multiculturalism (Vertovec 2010).

The concept of superdiversity has been theorised primarily in relation to the UK and, by extension, contemporary Europe. It is, however, evident that other societies have experienced and still experience superdiversity, and that superdiversity may be a much older condition in other places, India and Africa being obvious examples which include societies of long-standing superdiversity, although not necessarily late modern.

5. Humankind is a languaging species. Human beings use language to achieve their goals, and with a few exceptions by using language to other human beings. It is a widely held view that language as a human phenomenon can be separated into different “languages”, such as “Russian”, “Latin”, and “Greenlandic”. This idea is based on the recently developed sociolinguistic understanding that this view of language cannot be upheld on the basis of linguistic criteria. “Languages” are sociocultural, or ideological, abstractions which match real-life use of language poorly. This means that sociolinguistics must apply another level of analysis with observed language use. Languaging is the unique human capacity to change the world through communication with others by means of language, i.e. systematically organized arbitrary signs. This capacity enables people to acquire (or develop) a complex system of symbols, and to use this system for creating and negotiating meanings and intentions and transferring them across time and space.

All human beings language, and they do so to achieve their goals. Languaging is individual and unique in the sense that every single person possesses her or his own combination of competences and knowledge with respect to language. No two persons share exactly the same vocabulary, pronunciation, etc. More importantly, however, language is social in the sense that every aspect of language is shared among several individuals, and that it is exclusively acquired and practiced in interaction with other individuals.

6. Traditionally the language sciences deal with 'languages'. Languages are thought of as sets of features, i.e. conventions which are believed to somehow belong together. Over the past decade sociolinguistics has come to the conclusion that languages are ideologically constructed abstract concepts which do not represent real life language use: 'languages do not exist as real entities in the world and neither do they emerge from or represent real environments; they are, by contrast, the inventions of social, cultural and political movements' (Makoni and Pennycook, 2007). Languages in the plural exist only as sociocultural inventions: 'Languages are conceived and languaging is practiced' (Mignolo, 1996).

The making of languages in Europe is intertwined with the nation-building projects that emerged in the wake of the Renaissance and reached its high point in the nationalist and romanticist nineteenth century. The compartmentalised vision of language as separate bounded linguistic systems is a modernist, Renaissance vision on language. Italian is the product of the creation of an Italian nation-state, while French is the product of the creation of a French nation-state, thereby absorbing, erasing or marginalising the linguistic diversity in their territories. Likewise, the boundary between Dutch and German is the same as the border between the Netherlands and Germany and does not in any meaningful way precede the history of the respective nation-states.

7. A languaging perspective regards boundaries between languages as arbitrary and historically contingent, as the result of particular histories of standardisation and regulation. Standardizing language means compartmentalizing the free and unbounded languaging of a particular geographical area and class of people as the language for that particular geographical area and its people and freezing its evolution. Standardizing language also means enregistering particular linguistic features as normative: selecting particular phonemes, morphemes, words, syntax, etc. as normal, as the norms for the language while designating all variation to those norms as sub-standard, dialect, or even deficit language.

Languaging is the use of language, not of "a language". The analytical perspective pointed to by the concept is that of the feature. Linguistic features appear in the shape of units and regularities. Individual features are routinely ascribed a range of associations. Features are typically (but not always) associated with one or more sociocultural constructions called "languages". The unit (word) Durchschnittsgeschwindigkeit, for example, is generally associated with "German". Features are also associated with values, meanings, speakers, places, etc. (Jørgensen 2010). Learning language in real life means learning new features, including some or all of these associations.

A languaging perspective sees language in actual practice not as bounded, countable entities that are given in the natural world, but as dynamic, creative potential to speak. It emphasises that people do not primarily use 'a language', or 'some languages', but use language, linguistic resources. Bilinguals are not seen as 'speaking two languages', but as languagers making use of resources that are recognized by the speakers or others as belonging to two sets of resources. A languaging perspective conceptualizes language as a verb (as practice or behavior), rather than as a noun (a thing or object) and places the activity and the agents (languagers) in focus rather than the linguistic system ('languages').

As a theoretical notion, languaging therefore reflects 'a human turn' in sociolinguistics, i.e., a move away from languages (in plural) as stable linguistic systems ('codes' or 'varieties') that are used by people, toward language or languaging as a dynamic sociolinguistic system that is constructed and performed by people. The question students of languaging ask themselves is therefore not 'who speaks (or writes) what language (or what language variety) to whom, when and to what end', as Fishman defined the field sociolinguistics forty years ago, but 'who languages how and what is being languaged under what circumstances in a particular place and time' (for futher discussion, see Møller and Jørgensen, 2009; and Juffermans, 2011).

OVERVIEW QUESTIONS: MAIN IDEA, MAIN TOPIC, MAIN PURPOSE, ORGANIZATION OF THE TEXT, CONTEXT CLUES, CIRCUMSTANCIAL EVIDENCE, TONE AND ATTITUDE

Instruction:When analyzingeach paragraph of the text you mostly rely on circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is evidence not drawn from the direct observation of a fact. If, for example, “Standardizing language means compartmentalizing the free and unbounded languaging of a particular geographical area and class of people as the language for that particular geographical area and its people and freezing its evolution”, then there is circumstantial evidence that the author is a supporter of languaging. Circumstantial evidence is collected by asking and answering overview questions.


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