An Analysis of Discourses on Integration through Language of the National and Cantonal Levels in Switzerland

Mi-Cha Flubacher

1: University of Berne, Department of Linguistics, Switzerland 2: LINEE (Languages in a Network of European Excellence


If immigrants wish to be naturalised in Switzerland, they need to be proficient in the official language of their resident canton. However, due to recent legal changes on the national level linguistic integration has become a condition even for residence permits. Following the national example, the canton of Basel passed an integration law in parliament this spring, in which it is stated that a serious effort in language courses can possibly be treated as a prerequisite for the granting or renewing of residence permits. Language has thus become one of the key indicators for measuring the integration of immigrants.

In this context, my poster presentation addresses the discourses surrounding questions of integration through language, i.e. language policies and their implementation. This perspective is embedded in the larger context of LINEE (Languages in a Network of European Excellence), a EU research project. One of the core aims of LINEE is to investigate multilingualism and linguistic diversity in Europe. In further detail my project deals with the conflicting discourses on language as an integrative instrument in Swiss integration policy in general, and in the new integration law of the canton of Basel in particular. I intend to concentrate on two discourses of the microstructure relating to the integration law of Basel and its language policy. These are the discourses on integration versus assimilation (D’Amato/ Fibbi 2006: 81) and the discourses on inclusion/ opportunity versus exclusion. They both influence and feed each other, and in both cases the perspectives of the immigrant population affected by the new law are significant to the analysis.

The Swiss national policies under investigation form the macrostructure that influences the local microstructure (van Dijk 1980: v) of Basel. Conversely the language policy-planning processes on the local microstructure, the canton of Basel, can have an impact on the language policy-planning discourse of the macrostructure. The intertextuality between the discourses on the macro- and microstructure accentuates the processual character of language policy-planning pertaining, in the case of Switzerland, to policy-planning in the spheres of integration, migration and naturalisation. In the light of the interconnections between the different structures, my research is aimed at establishing possible overlaps as well as contrastive elements between the macro- and microstructure and the policy-planning discourses pertaining to those levels. The intention is to evaluate the overt and covert discourses regarding migration, integration and language skills that pertain to the political and societal sphere of the microstructure, which is constituted by discourses of the macrostructures on these issues.

D’Amato, Gianni and Fibbi, Rosita (2006). Bürgerschaftspolitik statt Neopatriotismus. Zur Debatte über Integration. Widerspruch 51. 75-83.

van Dijk, Teun A. (1980). Macrostructures: an Interdisciplinary Study of Global Structures in Discourse, Interaction and Cognition. Hillsdale (NJ): Lawrence Erlbaum.

Session: POSTERS:Focus on language policy, literacy, education, identity
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 13:00-15:45
room: foyer