Beyond Multilingualism: Scripts and Semiotic Processes

Author: Yuichi Asai (Tokyo University Of Agriculture And Technology)
Gerald Roche (The University Of Melbourne)
Nishaant Choksi (Kyoto University)
Debra Occhi (Miyazaki International College)
Speaker: Yuichi Asai, Gerald Roche, Nishaant Choksi, Debra Occhi
Topic: Semiotics and semiology
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 Colloquium Session

Panel Abstract

‘Multilingualism’, as a concept, focuses on the enumeration and analysis of different, predetermined linguistic “codes”. Classic studies of codes analyzed how they interact in everyday communication (Gumperz 1984). This model has recently begun to break down with scholars coining new terms, such as “translanguaging” (García and Li 2014) to account for how individual users create their own unitary code from their own multilingual resources; however, anthropologists working in a semiotic tradition (Irvine 1989, Mertz 2007) move in the opposite direction. Rather than focusing on individual translanguaging, these scholars point out that linguistic codes are but one of multiple semiotic resources which make up human interaction. As such, hybridity is formed not just by combining pre-existing codes, but by incorporating elements from multiple media and sign systems. This tradition draws upon earlier insights developed in the “new literacy studies” tradition (Street 1984) which sought to break down binary approaches to thinking about orality and literacy. Accordingly, the papers in this colloquia each discuss contemporary experiences of linguistic diversity in ways that move beyond code-centered frameworks of multilingualism, giving attention to the diversity of scripts and other semiotic processes in the greater Asia-Pacific region.

Yuichi Asai’s paper explores the mixing of ritual and everyday language in Fiji which projects the relationship between native and Indian Fijians. Gerald Roche interviewed older Tibetans to understand the relationship between manuscripts, orality, and a variety of emically-constructed speech varieties in the years before 1958. Nishaant Choksi discusses the movement of a romanized transcription system developed for the Santali Ol-Chiki script which has morphed into an ironic “trans”-script (Androutsoupolous 2017) in the age of social media. And Debra Occhi studies the the visible use of English – some decorative and some functional – contrasting with varying levels of fluency and varying attitudes for the need for English speech at all by Japanese in globalized contexts.