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Round table : small-scale multilingualism


Thursday 11 th January / Thursday 18 th January


Pr. Friederike Lüpke

Small-scale multilingualism refers to multilingual life in small-scale, often rural, societies, across the globe. This type of multilingualism, in which individuals share multilingual repertoires for a broad range of social purposes is very common, yet underrepresented in the public imagination of multilingualism and in multilingualism research. The ILARA round-tables present small-scale, egalitarian multilingualism to a broad and global audience. Our two round-tables on this theme have their focus on the pacific region, and on Africa, Amazonia and the Black Atlantic. The panelists work on settings that have been brutally affected by settler colonialism and areas that have experienced the often-violent effects of globalisation differently and include members of small-scale and Indigenous communities.

In our panel discussions, we want to make small-scale multilingualism accessible and relatable by evoking every-day lingual practice, by comparing it to dominating imaginations of multilingualism stemming from the Global North, but also by reclaiming this type of convivial multilingualism as the globally most widespread type of language setting. We also want to draw attention to the linguistic discrimination faced by speakers of Indigenous languages in postcolonial settings where their linguistic practices are seen pejoratively, and where prevailing language ideas do not fit and misapprehend their lived experiences. Importantly, we seek to explore the roles of linguists in small-scale multilingualism research. This includes exploring what a turn away from a descriptive, language-oriented focus enabling support of one language only towards a revitalisation paradigm geared towards language ecologies and multilingualism means for research and the role of external experts. We share ideas of, obstacles to and examples of new practices of collaborative research with Indigenous linguists and members of multilingual communities.

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