Soft Assets: Regional and Minority Language Use in Two Francophone Regions of Europe in Light of the Eu's Strategic Goals on Multilingualism

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
JWS - Room J7 (J361) (University of Glasgow)
Zsuzsanna Fagyal , Department of French and Italian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Since the adoption of the Barcelona objective (2002) and Communication 566 on Multilingualism (2008), the European Commission has worked extensively with the Council of Europe, national governments, and civil society platforms to implement the EU’s multilingualism policy that strives to protect Europe’s linguistic diversity and promote language learning. Framed as an issue of social cohesion, human rights, and economic competitiveness, multilingualism has been declared an asset and a strategic goal to achieve from a young age via mobility and language learning. In this presentation, I argue that the sustainable development of multilingual repertoires in Europe should pay close attention to micro-level social factors and expressions of local identity that often go unreported in official polls and reports. By contrasting EU statistics on multilingualism with sociolinguistic fieldwork data on language use and language attitudes obtained in two regions of francophone Europe, I show that the most promising actors of multilingual development appear to be young speakers of regional minority languages. Surrounded by both local and national languages used in multiple communicative domains on a daily basis, these young speakers tend to regard their local multilingual heritage as dynamic, negotiable, and economically beneficial. Their linguistic ideologies also tend to be inclusive and less sensitive to monolingual ideals of normativity and correctness than their elders’. These results suggest that, rather than leading to tribalism (communautarism), minority linguistic practices in the francophone realm could be meaningful vectors of social cohesion and change within wider political systems such as the European Union.