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Monolingual ideologies in multilingual states: Language, hegemony and social justice in Western liberal democracies

Issue: Vol 1 No. 2 (2000) Estudios de Socioling√ľ√≠stica 1.2 2000

Journal: Sociolinguistic Studies

Subject Areas: Gender Studies Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/sols.v1i2.25


In multilingual, heterogeneous societies language ideologies are constantly constructed and re-constructed in discursive interactions at micro and macro levels. When the dominant, majority group in a society, nation, nation-state or community considers that the ideal model of society is monolingual, monoethnic, monoreligious and monoideological (Blommaert & Verschueren, 1998a), we immediately encounter questions such as 'who is in?' and 'who is out?'. A dominant ideology of monolingualism in multilingual societies raises questions of social justice, as such an ideology potentially excludes and discriminates against those who are either unable or unwilling to fit the monoglot standard. In this paper I review recent research which has illuminated our understanding of language ideologies and social justice in multilingual states, and I offer an analysis of everyday discourse practices in Britain, including monolingual practices in a multilingual educational setting, a language ideological debate in local news media, and the liberal academic discourse of a recently-published report into the future of multi-ethnic Britain. My analysis suggests that in each of these contexts the many minority languages of Birmingham, and of Britain, are being written out of public discourse, as a monolingual ideology continues to prevail.

Author: Adrian Blackledge

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