Irrelevant limits?

F. Xavier Vila i Moreno, Vanessa Bretxa

Universitat de Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain


Irrelevant limits?

Some data about the role of ethnolinguistic boundaries in group formation in a non polarized society

Macro sociolinguistic research, both from sociological and variationist perspectives, tends to take the relevance of ethnolinguistic boundaries for granted. Yet, ethnolinguistic divisions, even when they are apparent to every member of the community − as it is the case in plurilingual communities −, need not be the most salient basis for social classification and group formation. In societies where ethnolinguistic separation/segregation is heavily discouraged, other characteristics − gender, social class, neighbourhood, etc.− may prevail over ethnolinguistic affiliation, and explain to a great deal the configuration of social networks, and even the nature of conflicts connected to sociolinguistic diversity as well.

In Catalonia, as in most of Spain, the educational system is designed in first place to prevent ethnolinguistic separation (Vila 2005). In this paper, we will be presenting some recent data (2007) from a research initiative aiming at understanding to what extent the language practices, language competence and language ideologies of teenagers from various descent, both native and immigrant, in a widely bilingualized community in Catalonia, do change − or not − when pupils switch from primary to secondary education. In our paper we will contrast the awareness of ethnolinguistic divisions as recorded by our macro research, with its salience for group formation according to our micro, qualitative data, and we will explore how linguist diversity is managed in plurilingual peer groups. To conclude, we will try to draw some lesson for language–in–education policies in multilingual societies.

Fishman, Joshua A. (1991) Reversing language Shift: Theory and Practice of Assistance to Threatened Languages. Clevedon, Multilingual Matters

Labov, William (1991) Principles of linguistic change, vol. 2, Social factors. Oxford UK & Cambridge USA: Blackwell.

Vila i Moreno, F. Xavier (2005) Barcelona (Catalonia): Language, Educationa and Ideology in an Integrationist Society. In: Witte, E. et al. Language, Attitudes & Education in Multilingual Cities .Brussels: Contactforum – Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten, 53-86.

Session: Paper session
Planning/Policy 2
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 18