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Institutional multilingualism / Challenging monolingual histories (MEITS seminar series)

Last Updated: 15 Feb 2019

28 February 2019, 13:00 – 14:30

Seminar Room G, Second Floor, 17 Mill Lane (CB2 1RX), Cambridge

Talk 1: Institutional multilingualism: theories, policies and practices of language and law in the EU

by Javier Moreno-Rivero (PhD student, Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, University of Cambridge)

The European continent is widely known for its multilingualism. As compared to other geopolitical powers (as it is the case of the United States, the Commonwealth, China, or the Islamic world, for instance), there is no one-and-only language tied to a European identity. At the moment, there are 24 official languages in the European Union. With the aim to ensure communication among Member States, the EU founded the Directorate-General for Translation and the Directorate-General for Interpretation, which are entrusted the task of overcoming language barriers among its citizens. Nevertheless, although all the EU official languages hold an equal status, there is a disguised hierarchy (Nic Craith 2006 and Biel 2014) organizing languages in accordance with their use in institutions that increases disparities already existing in national domains.

The main objective of this paper is to assess the implications of the language regime of the EU institutions. Firstly, it will describe the evolution of language and translation policies in the European Union. Secondly, I will put a particular focus on the role of legal translation in these institutions, and will explore the ways in which translation embodies the hegemonic multilingualism (Krzyzanowsky & Wodak 2010) within the European Union. Finally, by presenting a practical case study from Spain, the potential future directions in the development of institutional multilingualism will be discussed.

Talk 2: Challenging monolingual histories: Multilingual evidence from the Dutch-German borderlands in the long nineteenth century 

by Dr Andreas Krogull (MEITS postdoctoral research associate, University of Cambridge)

Traditionally, European language histories (e.g. of German, Dutch and English) have been portrayed as being first and foremost monolingual. This strong focus has become particularly evident in the period from c. 1800 onwards, when the dominant ideology of ‘one language–one nation’ suppressed any form of linguistic diversity, such as dialects, regional or minority languages, for the benefit of a homogeneous national or standard language. Against the background of politically segregated nation-states, borderlands have often been ‘invisibilised’ in language historiography, leading to the exclusion of contact phenomena and multilingual practices.

This presentation takes a historical-sociolinguistic perspective ‘from below’, exploring archival sources from the Dutch-German borderlands and their potential to challenge the monolingual bias. Zooming in on a collection of letters written by so-called hannekemaaiers, i.e. (Low) German seasonal labourers who crossed the border to the Netherlands every year to work as haymakers or grass-mowers, I will outline the specific contact setting of labour migration in the long nineteenth century. Furthermore, it will be discussed how the remarkable linguistic practices found in these handwritten ego-documents can contribute to a wider understanding of post-1800 language history beyond monolingualism and standard language ideology.

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