Uncovering Small-Scale Multilingualism


  • Friederike Lüpke University of London


Small-scale multilingualism, non-polyglossic multilingualism, Typology of multilingual settings


This paper uncovers a particular type of multilingualism: small-scale multilingualism, meant here to designate communicative practices in heteroglossic societies in which multilingual interaction is not governed by domain specialization and hierarchical relationships of the different named languages and lects used in them, but by deeply rooted social practices within a meaningful geographic setting. These settings are mainly attested in areas of the globe that have been spared from Western settlement colonies. Their study is of great interest for advancing our understanding not just of language contact, but of the social conditions that have shaped language use and language structure for most of human history. Calling for an integrated approach combining sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic, descriptivetypological and ethnographic approaches, I present a number of case studies from West Africa, Amazonia, Northern Australia and Melanesia, and typologize them according to the language ideologies governing them and their known patterns of language use.