Language identity and sociolinguistic scales in contemporary Asia

Author: Kerim Friedman (National Donghwa University)
Tzu-Kai Liu (Academia Sinica)
Rika Yamashita (Kanto Gakuin University)
Javed Khatri (The Technical College Branch At Al-Hariq)
Speaker: Kerim Friedman, Tzu-Kai Liu, Rika Yamashita, Javed Khatri
Topic: Language minorities and majorities
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 Colloquium Session


This colloquium discusses contemporary experiences of linguistic diversity in various regions of Asia in order to address the commonalities and differences in the ways multilingualism is evaluated, organized, and scaled across different “axes” of time and space (Pennycook 2010, Hult 2010, Lempert and Carr 2017). In doing so, it seeks to deploy recent developments in contemporary linguistic anthropology in order to ask whether the frameworks of multilingualism developed in Europe and North America are adequate to the task of explaining the forms of linguistic diversity found in Asian societies. If not, how can we develop more inclusive theoretical understandings that address the complexities of Asian experience? Specifically, it is asked whether concepts such as “superdiversity” (Vertovec 2007, Blommaert and Rampton 2011) and “plurililingualism” (CEFR), which have been deployed to great effect in order to discuss the accommodation and integration of ethnic diversity brought about by the changing ethnic composition of Europe in the face of globalization, can be applied to the Asian context without significant modification.

Multilingualism in Asia has generally been discussed in relation to conflicts between indigenous minority communities and the nation state, or in terms of colonial and post-colonial language policies. However, the tremendous ethnic diversity of countries such as India and China, the apparent linguistic homogeneity of countries like Japan and Korea, the experience of non-European colonialism in Korea and Taiwan, etc. each calls into question the simplistic application of terms such as ‘multiculturalism,’ ‘post-colonialism,’ or ‘imperialism.’ This colloquium convenes papers from each of these areas, and discusses issues related to language identity and multilingualism, such as language testing policy, the rural-urban migration of ethnic minority workers, contemporary language anxieties, and translation and media. Drawing from recent work in linguistic anthropology, these papers each draw upon the concept of “sociolinguistic scale” (Blommaert 2007) and “language ideology” (Woolard and Schieffelin 1994), to explore these diverse multilingualisms and challenge the status-quo of how we deal with issues in multilingualism​.