The dynamics of micro and macro connections in today's multilingual communities

David Singleton, Larissa Aronin

Trinity College, Dublin, University of Haifa, Israel


The dynamics of micro and macro connections in today’s multilingual communities

We are currently experiencing a headlong rush away from traditional and stable social patterns towards an acceptance of radical changes of many kinds – including significant changes in the linguistic/sociolinguistic sphere (cf. Aronin & Singleton forthcoming). The topology of social structure (local communities, groups, states) is being replaced and added to by the fluid social topology of network (Friedman 1999; Urry 2000). Traditional divisions of society are thus increasingly out of step with world developments, while other categories of societal organization are evolving in a manner more consistent with the new reality.

In this paper we wish to discuss one type of social unit which has come to especial prominence in recent times, namely, the multilingual sociolinguistic community. Unlike language-related communities focused on in many earlier treatments - e.g. the “speech community”, usually understood as comprised of populations who share the habitual use of a single language - the kind of sociolinguistic community we have in mind revolves primarily around a set of languages, as well as typically sharing certain ethnic/social/economic features (cf. Aronin & Singleton in preparation). Sociolinguistic communities of this type, according to our understanding, possess distinct characteristics, and are increasingly widespread across the globe in a variety of countries and urban centres. They are to be seen as fuzzy, complex and transient, that is, always in a process of flux (Blommaert 2003).

The paper will approach the topic of such communities in the light of the decades-old discussion of speech communities in general (cf. the works of Weinreich, Gumperz, Labov, Hymes, Kerswill, Romaine, Fasold, Dorian, Eckert and many others) as well as in the light of very recent developments in the world. The paper will provide arguments for considering such newly evolved collectivities as primarily sociolinguistically defined. It will sketch a description of their structure, will trace their global and local connections, and will provide illustrative examples of their nature.


Aronin L. & Singleton, D. (in preparation) Multilingualism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Aronin L. & Singleton, D. (forthcoming) Multilingualism as a new linguistic dispensation. International Journal of Multilingualism.

Blommaert, J. (2003) A sociolinguistics of globalization. Journal of Sociolinguistics 7 (4), 607-623.

Friedman, L . (1999) The Horizontal Society. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Urry, J. (2000) Sociology beyond Societies: Mobilities for the Twenty- First Century. London: Routledge.

Session: Paper session
Globalization 2
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 03