Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 22:24:49 +0100 From: Sebastian M. Rasinger Subject: Urban Multilingualism in Europe: Immigrant Minority Languages at Home and School
EDITORS: Extra, Guus; Yagmur, Kutlay TITLE: Urban Multilingualism in Europe SUBTITLE: Immigrant Minority Languages at Home and School SERIES: Multilingual Matters 130 PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2004
Sebastian M. Rasinger, Department of Linguistics and English Language, University of Sussex
With immigration becoming an increasing issue in European politics, so does, inevitably, the issue of bilingualism. In particular with respect to social and cultural integration of migrants into the host society, the aspect of language proficiency plays an increasing role on political parties' agendas and in social policies alike.
Extra and Ya?mur's book provides a profound overview of multilingualism throughout Europe, and considers both theoretical approaches and actual case-studies. The volume is divided into three parts: Part one approaches the theme from a multidisciplinary point of view and provides an overview of four perspectives relevant for the study of multilingualism
Chapter 2 addresses phenomenological issues, focusing on the difficulties in defining central terms of the topic. In particular, the chapter focuses on the notions of ethnic identity and its relation to language.
The third chapter focuses on demographic issues, in particular the difficulty of categorisation of speakers according to their ethnic origin, nationality, or language; a problem underlying most forms of censuses which include information about languages and speakers.
Chapter four addresses the issue of language rights in both Europe and the rest of the world is summarised; and last, in chapter 5 educational perspectives are outlined.
The remaining two parts are based on results from the Multilingual Cities Project (henceforth MCP), a international project under the auspices of the European Cultural Foundation; part two summarizes results of six sociolinguistic case-studies of six multilingual cities, written by various authors. Methodologically, the project is based on renown work on language vitality, such as Giles et al. (1977) and subsequent studies.
Lilian Nygren-Junkin provides an overview of the MCP in Gothenburg. In particular, Nygren-Junkin focuses on the use of languages from the former Yugoslavia in Swedish schools. Sabine Bühler-Otten and Sara Fürstenau's chapter on multilingualism in Hamburg considers primarily the status of so- called 'Aussiedler' ('out-settlers') - people from Eastern European states with German ancestry, who were granted German citizenship.
Rather than focusing on a particular group (or language), Rian Aarts, Guus Extra and Kutlay Yagmur's chapter on The Hague takes a multicultural approach, and focuses on a survey investigating patens' need for home language instruction for their parents.
Marc Verlot and Kaat Delrue's chapter on Brussels does not only consider the Dutch/French bilinguality of the city, but also provides an analysis of emergence of minority languages in Brussels. Case studies on Turkish and Polish are used as examples. Similarly, Mehmet-Ali Akinci and Jan Jaap De Ruiter provide an overview of the language situation in primary and secondary schools in Lyon.
In the final chapter of part 2, Peter Broeder and Laura Mijares provide a cross-linguistic study of the eight most frequently spoken minority (or immigrant) languages in Madrid. Interestingly, unlike in the other five cities, Broeder and Mijares found that in Madrid many immigrant children (and parents) originate from countries where Spanish is also the mainstream language.
The third part provides a cross-national outline of the language profiles of the languages used in the 6 cities under investigation in course of the Multilingual Cities Project. This final part mainly consists of statistical data and brief summaries of the main findings for the six participating cities and for 20 languages.
It seems unlikely that a single volume could possibly address a complex issue such as urban multilingualism at great depth in a single volume; how could one possibly consider theoretical, methodological and political aspects, while simultaneously provide sufficient data to illustrate the depth of the topic in satisfactory detail? Although it does in fact not provide in-depth analyses, the volume provides an excellent overview on the topic, and comprises both theoretical approaches and actual case studies alike. This makes the volume useful as both a source for work on European multilingualism and multilingualism in general. The three parts of the book nicely complement each other, while, simultaneously, each part, or each chapter even, could stand for itself. Nevertheless, one must not forget that each chapter provides a summary of the issues discussed, rather than an in-depth discussion. However, the extensive reference section provided for each chapter (as opposed to a useless list at the end of the volume) allows to quickly finding relevant studies to refer to.
A rather surprising aspect in this volume is the omission of examples from the United Kingdom. While numerous research has focused on multilingualism and minority languages in the British Isles - The 1983 Linguistic Minorities Project, Edwards' study on Black English (1986) and her extensive research on multilingual classrooms, Alladina and Edwards volume on multilingualism in Britain (1991), Sebba's work on London Jamaican (1993), and Rampton's 1995 study on interaction amongst minority adolescents, to name but a few - the inclusion of an up-to-date study of one of the main urban centres in the United Kingdom, with their ethnically and linguistically diverse demographic structure, would have been a significant advantage, in particular with respect to the increasing awareness of British social and educational policy makers of these issues.
The almost excessive use of tables and graphs in part three may be overwhelming for readers less familiar with the interpretation of statistical data in general. In fact, even the statistically versed reader needs time to fully understand the data provided. However, despite this, this part provides an extremely valuable source for numerical data. In fact, this part in itself can function as a first point of references for information of language use, and speaker numbers in the six cities under investigation.
Alladina, Safder, and Edwards, Viv. 1991. Multilingualism in the British Isles.vol. 2: Africa, Asia and the Middle East: Longman linguistics library. London: Longman.
Edwards, Viv. 1986. Language in a Black Community. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Giles, H., Bourhis, R.Y. and Taylor, D.M. 1977. Towards a Theory of Language in Ethnic Group Relations. Language, Ethnicity and Intergroup Relations, ed. by Howard Giles. London: Academic Press.
Rampton, Ben. 1995. Crossing: Language and Ethnicity Among Adolescents. London: Longman.
Sebba, Mark. 1993. London Jamaican: Language Systems in Interaction. London: Longman.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Sebastian M. Rasinger is teaching linguistics and English language at Roehampton University, and at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. His primary research interests include second language acquisition and urban multilingualism. He has a particular interest in the Bangladeshi community in East London, on which he has based his PhD research.