Multilingual and transnational encounters in late modernity: linguistic practices and social processes

Martín Rojo, Luisa and Márquez Reiter, Rosina (2010). Multilingual and transnational encounters in late modernity: linguistic practices and social processes. Sociolinguistic Studies, 4(2) 443- 462.



This paper examines the essential role played by language in the provision of services to facilitate interchanges between persons of different origins in order to enable not just the performance of these activities, but also to make it possible for the participants, who may not share cultural assumptions or values, to (re)negotiate their relations and identities. This is precisely a key sector in the new economies, and the way in which linguistic resources are managed by the multinational firms and other institutions of the developed world is reminiscent of colonial times, particularly in Spain. Within this frame, this paper focuses on the linguistic practices in some of these newly created institutional spaces in the service sector, particularly in settings where Spanish has a role to play. The analysis of linguistic policies and interactions shows how, depending on whether they concern public/private service-providers, participants mobilise their linguistic resources to (re)construct different relations and meanings within these varying institutional settings. The paper also examines how multilingualism is managed in these institutional encounters. In this context, tensions between the reproduction of a monolingual ideology of ‘one state – one language’ and the actual multilingual practices inevitably arise, making the unravelling of these new linguistic landscapes a challenge. It is the institutions, not the users, that decides how linguistic resources have to be managed, and several pieces of evidence of the lack of adaptation to user’s needs are supplied, which can be seen as part of an ethnocentric approach corresponding to the values of the host community. Such a sociolinguistic order shapes interaction and reinforces asymmetries. The analysis also shows the active involvement of social actors who can reproduce as well as challenge this sociolinguistic order.

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