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6 - Multilingualism and Super-Diversity: Some Historical and Contrastive Perspectives

from Part One - Multilingualism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 June 2022

Salikoko Mufwene
University of Chicago
Anna Maria Escobar
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
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In this chapter the author revisits the concept of “super-diversity” from the perspective of colonial history. He presents the phenomenon as the outcome of the reversal of migrations, this time from especially the European former exploitation colonies to the European metropoles since the wake of World War II. The opposite direction of migrations had prevailed before, ignoring those of non-European enslaved and contract laborers from trade and exploitation colonies to settlement and other colonies. The author highlights differences in political and economic power associated with the differing directions of migrations, with the Europeans always having the upper hand, including in how to identify the migrants. Differences include the superposition of European languages as High varieties, associated with new communicative domains, over indigenous ones in the (trade and) exploitation colonies. This is in contrast with the marginalization and resentment of “allochthonous” languages in European urban centers, in addition to the stigmatization of the xenolectal and mixed character of the “autochthonous” language varieties produced by the migrants. The label “super-diversity” appears to reflect this fear of the foreigners from the colonies. Otherwise, the increase in societal multilingualism is not new. “Super-diversity” indexes the Othering of the immigrants.

The Cambridge Handbook of Language Contact
Volume 2: Multilingualism in Population Structure
, pp. 145 - 171
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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