SoSe 16: S-Socioling. and Varieties of English II: The languages of migration
Migration is a central factor of human societies and thus part of the lived experience of many people around the globe. As the British author Michael Rosen remarks in his lecture on The Languages of ... read more
Migration is a central factor of human societies and thus part of the lived experience of many people around the globe. As the British author Michael Rosen remarks in his lecture on The Languages of Migration, “We are a world of migrants.”
As the so-called European refugee crisis has unfolded in the past two years, the topic of migration has taken center stage in the public imagination of many Europeans. The public debate pervades politics, the media and everyday conversations, and revolves around challenges and chances, but also a discourse of anxiety and hostility. Strikingly, language is often implicitly or explicitly at the core of such debates. Thus language learning and linguistic assimilation to the host country is widely seen as the basis for successful integration of immigrants; commentators voice their surprise that interviewed refugees speak “such good English”; the linguistic landscape changes as new languages become visible in cities; the work of translators, interpreters and language instructors starts to rise to public awareness; and the very words that we use to talk about the “crisis” become part of the debate.
Despite all this attention to language use in the public debate, it has gone largely unnoticed that linguistics, in particular sociolinguistics and discourse analysis, have a long tradition of describing and analyzing the connection between migration and language. Thus we have at our disposal a large body of research that shows
• how languages evolve and change structurally when people migrate;
• how people’s linguistic identity and linguistic practice at the individual level is influenced by migration experiences
• how migration is linguistically perceived, framed and handled at the societal level.
In this class, we will therefore explore the different “languages of migration” and the connections that exist between migration and language. After becoming familiar with some key concepts of migration research, we will analyze and discuss the linguistics of migration. We will take into account structural aspects that have an impact on languages and linguistic ecologies, such as language contact, multilingual societies, and the emergence of linguistic diasporas. We will look at language use in the migrating individual by considering concepts such as linguistic accommodation, language attrition, and other factors that impact linguistic identity. Finally, we will pay close attention to linguistic aspects of migration on the societal level, by looking at institutionalized practices such as language testing regimes, and by critically discussing the public discourse about refugees and its linguistic choices and implications.
We will focus on English language repertoires and the privileged role that they play in global flows of migration. However, we will also include the multilingual and diverse nature of linguistic practice and migration. Finally, we will take into account the local perspective by looking at migrant perspectives and linguistic repertoires in Berlin.
This class is organized as a mix of lecture blocs on key concepts and discussions of controversial topics; it will include fieldwork and data sessions, guest lectures, and (if possible) an excursion to explore linguistic practices of migration in the city. Students will be expected to participate in class regularly, actively and critically. Term papers can either focus on theoretical aspects of language and migration, or adopt an empirical approach by collecting and analyzing data that are relevant to the topic. Research texts, materials and a reading schedule will be provided at the beginning of the term.