Symposium: Can Languages Have an “Afterlife”?

Symposium at Aston University in Birmingham, December 7th, 2016

language-shiftLanguage shift is rarely a wholesale abandonment of a language by its speakers but a complex process normally taking place over two to three generations. In some cases language shift can lead to the development of successor lects. During the 19th century, for example, Romani speakers in the process of shift to English consciously retained a repository of words and phrases to be implemented into their English, thus forming a distinct variety of English called Anglo Romani. Another language where a conscious preservation of at least a repository and the development of successor lects took place during a process of shift is Western Yiddish in contact with Dutch and German in the first four decades of the 20th century. Funded by the British Academy a one day symposium will take place on December 7th (10 am to 4 pm) at Aston University in Birmingham.

Confirmed speakers:

Sarah Bunin Benor (Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles)
Yaron Matras (University of Manchester)
Anne Pauwels (SOAS, London)
Jakob Wiedner (University of Oslo)

The event is free of charge. Please register by 15/11/2016 under:

Elite multilingualism: A critical dialogue from a theoretical and empirical standpoint

Multilingualism picElisabeth Barakos (Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at Aston University, member of the Language Education subgroup of CLaRA) and Charlotte Selleck (Lecturer of English Language, University of Worcester) co-organised a panel on “Elite Multilingualism” as part of the Sociolinguistics Symposium 2016 in Murcia, Spain. The panel, which brought together international scholars working in the fields of applied and sociolinguistics, specifically focused on the notion of ‘elite’, i.e. the conceptualisation and evaluation of multilingualism as something that adds social (or material) capital, prestige, privilege and access to resources, within the complexities of a globalised economy. Given the current celebratory discourses about linguistic diversity (emanating, for example from organisations such as the EU) and the multilingual turn in education and applied linguistics (McLaughlin 2016, May 2013), it is timely and necessary to critically engage with what multilingualism has come to mean in different social settings and for different social actors.

Traditionally, research has dealt with often minoritised, underprivileged multilingual speakers vs. the dominant, monolingual speaker, ideologies of native speakerness and standardness, the role of global English as well as monolingualism as a language ideology. There is, however, only scarce engagement with multilingualism as an ideology of and for the elite, and its link to the creation of hierarchies and social inequities (De Mejia 2002).

This panel therefore aimed to introduce the concept of ‘elite multilingualism’ to disentangle the paradoxical situation of valuing some types of languages more than others. In a European context, Jaspers (2009: 19), for example, speaks of the ‘prestige’ or ‘pure’ multilingual – referring to the upwardly mobile, highly educated, higher socioeconomic status learners of two or more internationally useful languages. On the other hand, there is ‘plebeian’ or ‘impure’ multilingual – a term referring to the use of various (regional or minority) language varieties by a mostly urban, largely multi-ethnic, very often poorly educated working class across Europe. As Sonntag (2003: 8) argues, elite is not something monolithic or static; rather, she claims that “different elites draw on different capitals to acquire and retain their elite status”.

From a critical sociolinguistic perspective, this panel aimed to de-naturalise mundane understandings of ‘elite’ multilingualism, both from a theoretical and empirical standpoint, through the following set of questions:

  • What counts as ‘elite multilingualism’? How is multilingualism as a kind of power regime taken up in these different spaces? Which type of multilingualism counts?
  • Are certain languages favoured by ‘elite’ learners? How are other, less frequently learnt languages and their speakers positioned?
  • Does multilingualism bring about new forms of inequalities, hierarchies and stratification? Who benefits from multilingualism and who is marginalised by it?

Such questions should help understand the mobilisation of multilingualism as sources of investment, means of instrumentalisation for specific social actors and social groups and as an ideology that brings about issues of inequality. The questions also pay attention to multilingualism as some kind of existing language order or language regime that is based on processes of selection, hierarchisation, inclusion and exclusion.

The introduction to this panel, which charts some conceptual premises of eliteness and multilingualism as well as outlines the panel participants’ papers, can be found here (includes audio):

Barakos_Selleck_Elite Multilingualism_Panel_Intro

If you would like to know more about elite multilingualism, Elisabeth can be contacted on See also her Aston staff profile for Elisabeth’s other research interests, talks and publications.

New Publication: Linguistic Ethnography

CLERA Director Dr Fiona Copland has co-authored an engaging interdisciplinary guide to the unique role of language within ethnography.Copland & Creese Linguistic Ethnography from SAGE

From the publisher:

The book provides a philosophical overview of the field alongside practical support for designing and developing your own ethnographic research. It demonstrates how to build and develop arguments and engages with practical issues such as ethics, transcription and impact.

There are chapter-long case studies based on real research that will explain key themes and help you create and analyse your own linguistic data. Drawing on the authors’ experience they outline the practical, epistemological and theoretical decisions that researchers must take when planning and carrying out their studies.

For more information, go to the publisher’s website.


Fourth Annual Distinguished Lecture: Prof Jennifer Jenkins


Invitation_CLERA Distinguished Lecture 2014

ELT Journal special issue: Teaching English to Young Learners

ELTcoverFiona Copland and Sue Garton have coedited an ELT Journal Special Issue on Teaching English to Young Learners which was published in July and is available at

Webinar at Linguistic Ethnography Forum

The Linguistic Ethnography Forum is currently hosting a seminar discussing the work of Professor Rick Iedema.  You can read the discussion so far and join in by registering at:

10th BAAL Language Learning and Teaching SIG at Leeds

BAAL logo

The 10th international conference of the BAAL Language Learning and Teaching SIG is taking place on 3rd & 4th July 2014, hosted by the University of Leeds. This year’s theme is “Recognizing complexity in language learning and teaching”.

The conference programme is now online on the conference website.

Registration is open until 18th June and accommodation is available on campus for the nights of 2nd, 3rd and 4th July.


Conference: New Directions in Reflective Practice


Reflective Practice Conference flyerx

Survey: Investigating MFL teachers’ engagement with research

Colleagues from the University of York are investigating MFL teachers’ engagement with research and would like YOUR input:

Help needed!
What are your perceptions of research?
Have you ever used it? Would you like to? 

A group of researchers and teachers at the University of York are trying to find out about language teachers’ views about research and evidence, and about any engagement they have with research.

Please spare 15 minutes to complete the survey.

We are interested in knowing about the kinds of research activities that teachers engage in – such as reading about research online, in newsletters or in journals, hearing about it at workshops or conferences, or doing it yourself.  We’d also like to know what kind of evidence teachers consider to be important, for example, what tells teachers that something done in the classroom was effective? What kinds of problems do you think research might address? What informs the way we assess learning?

Please circulate the survey link as widely as possible!  The more responses we have, the more we can say about how engagement could be improved between research and teachers.

3rd Annual Distinguished CLERA Lecture: Prof Norbert Schmitt


Invitation_CLERA Distinguished Lecture 2013