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Auteur: Jakob LEIMGRUBER

Visualising multilingualism: Linguistic landscapes in Singapore, Wales, and Québec

Abstract/Résumé: Multilingualism is commonly conceptualised as existing at the individual and the societal levels. Individual multilingualism manifests itself in speakers’ abilities to use several languages (or varieties, codes, etc.) and in code-switching; it has benefitted from both sociolinguists’ and psycholinguists’ attention. Societal multilingualism is concerned with the use of multiple languages in a speech community of a given size, with a given level of organisation and acceptance towards linguistic diversity; here, the language policies enacted at various levels of government, as well as issues concerned with the functional, domain-, and group-based distributions of the languages involved have been of prime concern to scholars. It is only recently that the effects of a globally increased societal multilingualism has been recognised as spreading linguistic elements beyond their original social and spatial context. The emergence of the field of sociolinguistics of globalisation (Blommaert 2010) has contributed significantly to the understanding of the effects on language use of the transnational flows of persons, information, and cultural practices, channelled through vectors such as a globally increased mobility as well as the increasingly interconnected nature of societies (be it only via affordable internet connections, cf. the ‘mediascape’ of Appadurai 1996), and resulting in a picture of society characterised by partly deterritorialised ‘super-diversity’ (Vertovec 2007). The framework of ‘linguistic landscapes’ (Landry & Bourhis 1997), though not new as a methodological tool, offers novel perspectives when used to explore language use through the lens of sociolinguistics of globalisation. In this contribution, I present evidence from three traditionally multilingual geographical locales: Singapore, Wales, and Quebec. In all three polities, several languages co-exist (English being common to them all), with different levels of official status and of official language policy: promotion of English and bilingualism in Singapore, demotion of English and promotion of French in Quebec, promotion of Welsh and laissez-faire policy towards English in Wales. The linguistic landscapes in these three entities offer insights into the language policies and language planning measures in place, as well as into the actual linguistic make-up of the polity: frictions between top-down planning and grassroots realities are explored, as is the presence of traditionally non-local languages in the landscape. I conclude by evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of the framework of linguistic landscapes as a methodological tool for the sociolinguistics of globalisation.