Lecture 2: Researching multilingualism: Integrating the ideological and the interactional

Adrian Blackledge

This paper reflects on research in the field of multilingualism in Britain and ask questions which problematise the traditional dichotomies of micro/macro dimensions of social research. In particular, questions are raised about the ways in which language ideologies and linguistic practices are linked, rather than constituted as discrete and separate phenomena. Underpinning these questions is a focus on the complexity of language practices in a society in which the dominant ideology of English monolingualism is at odds with the reality of its multilingual population. The paper describes the English context and looks at how English accrues a privileged value in relation to the minority languages of Britain, through constant ‘misrecognitions’ which occur in a wide range of language practices in public and private settings. It raises a number of questions in relation to micro and macro dimensions of multilingualism research: What do everyday language and literacy interactions have to do with long-term forms of social organisation? Who has access to particular linguistic resources, how, where, when, and why? What constraints are there on access to linguistic resources? How do language and literacy interactions influence existing structures? The paper then considers how language ideologies and practices in relation to multilingualism interact in political and educational settings.