Unities in Diversity: the ASEAN, the EU, and “English”

Author: Peter Szabo (Tilburg University)
Speaker: Peter Szabo
Topic: Language ideologies
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Linguistic anthropological analyses of changing multilingual practice in South East Asia and Europe, institutionally framed as Multilingualism in the ASEAN, and European Multilingualism (EM) can put one another into global context by comparative reflections. The comparisons may deepen insights on regional dynamics of polity and identity potentials (e.g. Acharya & Allan, 2013) in and by multilingual practice, including an expanding lingua franca English (LFE) component (Kirkpatrick, 2012), and on competing language ideological representations of LFE, ranging from threat to opportunity.

The multimodal data samples to be discussed in the presentation are emic observations of multilingual performances on the floor of the European Parliament by agents, members of parliament, with overlapping resource repertoires, delegated from the 27 Member States of the EU, aided by simultaneous interpreting. The data have been gleaned in longitudinal participant observation from the simultaneous interpreter’s booth, where I work.

The findings indicate that LFE resources deployed in interactions on the EP floor, and meta-pragmatic commentaries on multilingual talk by agents reveal various indexical potentials for identification and meaning making. Performed in tactics of intersubjectivity (Bucholz & Hall, 2005), linguistic resource forms accomplish an axis of differentiation (Gal, 2011) indexing value-laden social positionalities of Us and Them. Importantly, the indexical accomplishments by the idiosyncratic forms of LFE performances, including sociolinguistic features of the L1 of speaker, allow identifications below and above the conventional ideological construct conflating language, nation, and identity. This exhibits a current re-centering shift from the ethnolinguistic assumption (Blommaert et. al, 2013) towards open-ended language ideological configurations in the representation of late-modern discursive and social outcomes of translingual (Canagarajah, 2013) practice.


Acharya, A. Allan, L. (2013). Collective Identity Formation in Asian Regionalism: ASEAN Identity and the Construction of the Asia-Pacific Regional Order, online: http://paperroom.ipsa.org/papers/paper_7151.pdf.

Blommaert, J. Leppänen, S. & Spotti, M. (2013). Endangering multilingualism.Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies.Paper No.56.

Bucholz, M. & Hall, K. (2005). Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies, SAGE Publications. 2005, 7(4–5), 585–614.

Canagarajah, S, (2013). Translingual Practice. Global Englishes and Cosmopolitan Relations. New York: Routledge.

Gal, S. (2011). Sociolinguistic Regimes and the Management of Diversity. In Duchêne, A.& Heller, M. (Eds.), Language in Late Capitalism: Pride and Profit. London: Routledge.

Kirkpatrick, A. (2012). English in ASEAN: implications for regional multilingualism, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development Vol. 33, Iss. 4, 2012.