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"Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism" (review)

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  • Don Osborn
    FYI. This is a review (fwd from Linguist list) of a book for which the announcement was posted as message #289... DZO Date: 07-Dec-2005 From: Shiv Upadhyay
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 14, 2006
      FYI. This is a review (fwd from Linguist list) of a book for which the
      announcement was posted as message #289... DZO

      Date: 07-Dec-2005
      From: Shiv Upadhyay <upadhyay@...>
      Subject: Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism

      AUTHOR: Myers-Scotton, Carol
      TITLE: Multiple Voices
      SUBTITLE: An Introduction to Bilingualism
      PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing
      YEAR: 2005
      Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/16/16-1933.html

      Shiv R. Upadhyay, Department of Languages, Literatures, and
      Linguistics, York University, Toronto

      ''Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism'' is written by
      veteran linguist and author Carol Myers-Scotton. The stated goal of
      the book is to serve ''as a textbook for courses that are particularly
      concerned with bilingualism as a socio-political phenomenon in the
      world'' (p. x). It is intended for ''upper-level undergraduates ... or
      beginning-level Master's degree students'' (p. x). Its treatment of
      bilingualism as a multidisciplinary phenomenon and the detailed but
      easy-to-understand discussions of various aspects of bilingualism make
      this book a solid and welcome contribution to the field.

      In Chapter One, Myers-Scotton introduces a number terms and concepts
      that are relevant to the study of bilingualism. The author also
      addresses questions that are likely to interest the reader. She argues
      that the study of bilingualism is warranted because it investigates
      the competence of humans, that is their ''genetic potential'' (p. 12),
      to become bilingual and the human experience of living with two or
      more languages. The chapter ends with an outline of various aspects of
      bilingualism to be discussed in the chapters to follow.

      In Chapter Two, the author begins by answering some basic questions
      about what language is and how it is perceived. In the course of
      answering these questions, the author discusses mutual intelligibility
      and socio-political basis as criteria generally used to identify two
      languages as the same or different and cites a lot of actual examples
      from all over the world to illustrate her discussion. The rest of the
      chapter examines various questions about dialects, including how
      standard dialects are identified, how the term dialect is understood
      and used, how dialects differ from one another, and how regional and
      social dialects are identified.

      Chapter Three addresses several sociolinguistic aspects of
      bilingualism. They include social factors that motivate bilingualism
      and various considerations that go into assessing a speaker's
      proficiency in bilingualism. The author defines bilingualism as ''the
      ability to use two or more languages sufficiently to carry on a
      limited casual conversation'' (p. 44) and identifies and explains two
      sets of conditions under which bilingualism is promoted, namely close
      proximity and displacement conditions.

      Chapter Four discusses three models of community organization which
      the author uses to explain various contexts of multiculturalism in
      which speakers either maintain their L1 or shift to L2. In the context
      of horizontal multiculturalism, in which speakers are generally
      monolingual and ''live in their own geographic spaces'' (p. 71), they
      are likely to keep their L1 and even ''resist bilingualism'' (p. 72).
      On the other hand, in communities with vertical multiculturalism, in
      which people come in contact with speakers of other languages, they
      are likely to shift to L2 or become ''very proficient'' in it if it is
      the ''urban lingua franca'' (p. 72). In communities that are organized
      in terms of social networks, horizontal multilingualism is a possible
      outcome if people have ''strong ties within their home network'' (p.
      73). In networks with weak ties, people tend to learn L2 in order to
      connect with L2 speakers. Similarly, in communities where
      ethnolinguistic vitality (measured in terms of sociological variables)
      is high, speakers are likely to maintain their L1. In the rest of
      Chapter Four, the author discusses in detail the notion of diglossia,
      the domains in which the languages of a bilingual community are
      distributed, actual cases of language maintenance and shift from all
      around the world, language shift by young speakers to a dominant
      language, and the separation of cultural maintenance and language

      Chapter Five discusses how ideologies and attitudes are relevant to
      the decisions that individuals and nation states make about whether
      they want to be bilingual or monolingual. While both attitudes and
      language ideologies are viewed as ''assessments'' that are held
      unconsciously, the latter are generally constructed and are more
      likely to be brought to consciousness because of their reference to
      group interests. In her discussion of the link that language attitudes
      and language ideologies have with nationalities, the author views
      language as ''an important part of the collective awareness of a
      group'' (p. 111). Because of its status as a visible language and its
      instrumental basis, language users as well as nation states can
      ''mobilize to protect or advance their language'' (p. 112). The author
      explains that the existence of a separate language does not
      necessarily mean that it will be used to claim a separate nation
      state. The author also briefly talks about the concept of linguistic
      marketplace and goes on to discuss in detail how group identities are
      formed in bilingual contexts. The rest of this chapter is devoted to
      the discussion of various aspects of language attitudes and
      ideologies. The author discusses how speakers express their attitudes
      in terms of such theoretical constructs and frameworks as
      ethnolinguistic vitality, matched guise test, and accommodation
      theory, citing findings from studies carried out using these
      frameworks. In the last section of this chapter, the author defines
      language ideologies as ''patterns of belief and practice, which make
      some existing arrangements appear natural and others not'' (p. 135)
      and discusses such questions as how they play a role in the globalized
      world, when local languages are ignored, and when a language group
      symbolically dominates another language.

      Chapter Six is on the social motivations for language use in
      interpersonal interactions. The fundamental claim supported in this
      chapter is that by using a certain linguistic variety, speakers
      indicate ''both their view of themselves and their relationships with
      other participants in the conversation'' (p. 143). The author talks
      about the indexical nature of linguistic choices that speakers make
      and explains that such choices are pragmatically significant since
      they are based on ''the social and psychological features or
      attributes'' (p. 149) that are associated with the language speakers
      choose to speak. The author also points out that the social meaning of
      linguistic choices that speakers make generally comes from the
      situation of language use. In the next three sections of this chapter,
      the author discusses various findings from studies associated with the
      Matched Guise Test, the Accommodation Theory, and the Markedness Model
      to show that speakers communicate social meanings when they switch
      from one dialect or language to another. The author concludes by
      contrasting the Accommodation Theory and Markedness Model with
      Conversation Analysis. While the first two use a deductive method of
      analysis, the third uses an inductive one. Analysts who work within
      the first two frameworks bring to their analysis speaker motives and
      intensions whereas those who work within the third framework reject
      them. The author raises the question of how Conversation Analysts
      ''view cognitive resources'' (p. 174).

      Chapter Seven deals with the issue of how cultural differences affect
      intercultural communication in bilingual and multilingual contexts.
      The author discusses with real examples from studies of Asian and
      African cultures that classify societies on the basis of whether they
      are predominantly individualistic or collectivistic, whether they are
      high- or low-context cultures, and whether people form relationships
      of equality or hierarchy. Collectivistic and high-context cultures
      both favor indirectness in speech as a way to maintain harmony whereas
      individualistic and low-context cultures favor directness in speech as
      it allows individuals to express their opinions. Cultures are also
      classified in terms of how much equality or hierarchy individuals
      emphasize in their relationships. Culturally induced language behavior
      also involves politeness, which is conceptualized differently in
      different cultures. To show how culturally defined politeness affects
      one's language behavior, the author explains how requests are made
      differently in Western and non-Western cultures. The author also
      discusses how the power differential is differently viewed and used in
      language and how cross-cultural conflicts are managed in different
      cultural groups.

      Chapter Eight focuses on lexical borrowing in bilingual contexts. The
      author defines lexical borrowing as ''incorporating words from one
      language (the donor language) in another (the recipient language)''
      (p. 211) and talks about two categories of borrowings, namely cultural
      and core. When a language borrows words for objects and concepts that
      do not exist in it, such words are viewed as cultural borrowings. Core
      borrowings take place when a language borrows words whose equivalents
      already exist in the language. The author identifies and explains
      three types of indirect borrowings: calques (loan translation),
      loanshifts (borrowed words that are given a different meaning in the
      recipient language), and loanblends (words that are created by
      blending words from the donor and recipient languages). The author
      then discusses the phonological and morphological integration of
      borrowed words into the recipient language and various hypotheses of
      why nouns are the most frequently borrowed category. Finally, the
      author makes the point that borrowed words are ''evidence of earlier
      cultural contacts'' (p. 230).

      Chapter Nine addresses the question of what happens to grammars in
      bilingual contacts. After defining and illustrating several technical
      terms, the author discusses codeswitching. She defines codeswitching
      as ''the use of two languages in the same conversation'' (p. 239). The
      author then introduces the Matrix Language Frame (MLF) as a model for
      classic codeswitching, a bilingual phenomenon which involves
      ''elements from two (or more) languages varieties in the same clause,
      but only one of the varieties is the source of the morphosyntactic
      frame for the clause'' (p. 241). Classic codeswitching is contrasted
      with composite codeswitching, a bilingual phenomenon ''in which even
      though most of the morphosyntactic structure comes from one of the
      participating languages, the other language contributes some of the
      abstract structure underlying surface forms of the clause'' (p. 242).
      Crucial to the MLF model is the distinction between content morphemes
      and system morphemes. Content morphemes are words that assign thematic
      roles; verbs and nouns are identified as ''prototypical content
      morphemes'' (p. 245). System morphemes are words that do not assign
      thematic roles; prototypical system morphemes are ''all affixes and
      function words that stand alone (e.g. determiners and clitics)'' (p.

      Chapter Nine also talks about two main groups of researchers who are
      interested in studying codeswitching. The main concern of one group of
      researchers is to uncover ''constraints on points in a sentence where
      codeswitching can occur on the basis of surface-level linear
      differences between the languages involved'' (p. 250). The other group
      of researchers focuses on ''looking for explanations at a more
      abstract level than linear structure'' (p. 252). The author also
      mentions a model based on Chomsky's Minimalist Program that some
      researchers in the second group employ to account for codeswitching,
      but she comments that codeswitching cannot be adequately explained
      using this model. In addition, she argues that, while the status of
      singly occurring words from the Embedded Language remains
      controversial, such words ''resemble Embedded Language phrases in
      codeswitching more than they resemble established borrowings'' (p.
      254). Another section of Chapter Nine talks about the T-4 model that
      the author along with her associate Janice Jake developed in order to
      explain ''some of the codeswitching data that the MLF model covers''
      (p. 267) more precisely. Toward the end of the chapter, the author
      discusses pidgins and creoles but elaborates on the latter since
      ''their structures are more complex'' (p. 278) and are ''related to
      the 4-M model'' (p. 278). The author argues that the substrate
      language plays a ''major role in providing a morphosyntactic frame for
      the developing creole'' (p. 285).

      Chapter Ten surveys bilingualism from the psycholinguistic
      perspective. The author points out that, while the question of ''how
      the bilingual's languages are organized in the mind'' (p. 197) remains
      unsettled, the more current position holds that ''bilinguals have two
      distinct memories and semantic systems'' (p. 297). On the theme of
      bilingual activation, the author states that, while in the past it was
      viewed that a bilingual's languages were not activated simultaneously,
      a generally agreed-upon view now is that both languages are always
      activated to varying degrees. The author also points out that findings
      from lexical decision tasks suggest that bilinguals have simultaneous,
      rather than selective, access to their languages. The author discusses
      how various models of language production vary in their answer to the
      question, ''At what level is the phonological form of a word... in
      place?'' In discussing memory, the author reports that researchers
      agree that some structures in the brain are modified as a result of
      learning and experience and that there are ''two general memory
      systems, a short-term memory system and a long-term memory system''
      (p. 311). The author finally discusses the effects of aphasia on
      bilinguals and the patterns of language recovery.

      Chapter Eleven begins by addressing two questions about ''the relation
      between childhood language acquisition and later L2 acquisition'' (p.
      324). The author views as normal those bilinguals who learn to speak
      two or more languages when they are young because children are
      genetically predisposed to ''acquire human languages'' (p. 325). She
      supports the argument that humans are equipped with an innate ability
      to acquire language by alluding to the evidence that shows that
      ''children all over the world go through similar stages when they
      acquire the grammatical systems of their specific languages'' and that
      both monolinguals and young bilinguals ''go through similar stages of
      acquisition'' (p. 326). The author states that ''actual exposure to a
      language in use'' (p. 326) is necessary for children to acquire the
      language and that bilinguals may face a different socio-cultural
      context of language acquisition from that faced by monolinguals. She
      discusses practical and theoretical reasons for studying child
      bilingualism and the problems facing such studies. In another section,
      the author explains the positive answers researchers have offered to
      the questions of whether child bilinguals form two separate language
      systems and whether ''switching between languages'' is
      ''constraint-governed in a grammatical sense'' (p. 331). The author
      also discusses the questions of whether being an early bilingual is an
      advantage or a disadvantage and whether early acquisition affects some
      systems the most.

      The rest of Chapter Eleven is devoted to various aspects of late
      second language acquisition. Although the author cites several studies
      to point out that researchers do not agree with the idea of the
      Critical Age Hypothesis, she concludes that researchers agree that
      ''late learners are much less successful in language learning than
      young children'' (p. 350). The final section of this chapter explains
      various answers that have been offered to questions about second
      language acquisition (SLA). SLA researchers are shown as broadly
      divided into two groups, namely Universal Grammar (UG) proponents and
      those who are instruction-centered. According to UG proponents, first
      language acquisition shares ''distinct similarities'' (p. 356) with
      second language acquisition. They argue that learners of a second
      language ''have some access to the same innate language faculty (UG)''
      (p. 356) that enables children to acquire their L1 naturally. On the
      other hand, those who are instruction-centered argue that first
      language acquisition and second language acquisition are quite
      different and that UG is not actively accessible to second language
      learners. Instruction-centered researchers are however divided on the
      issue of whether explicit learning or implicit learning is the best
      way for learners to learn a second language. The author also gives a
      critical assessment of these two approaches to second language
      acquisition and, citing from a 2005 study by a researcher, concludes
      by pointing out three main themes that have dominated the current
      research on second language learning: the age factor, second language
      processing, and language transfer.

      Chapter Twelve is on language policy and globalization. In the
      introductory section, the author discusses the rise of the nation
      state and the problems resulting from fixing national borders. She
      also addresses the question of who plans language policies and
      discusses the problems faced by language planners. The author
      identifies four main socio-political developments today that relate to
      language policy: immigration, education for immigrants and indigenous
      minorities, the rise of English as an international lingua franca, and
      the formation of the European Union. She points out that the issues of
      language rights and endangered languages come up within the context of
      these four socio-political developments.

      In the succeeding sections of Chapter Twelve, the author discusses
      status planning, corpus planning, and acquisition planning. The
      discussion of status planning includes problematic language situations
      in Canada, Australia, Cameroon, India, and South Africa. Similarly,
      the discussion of corpus planning includes examples of language reform
      carried out in Asia and Turkey. In discussing acquisition planning,
      the author points out two potentially contradictory situations that
      acquisition planners can face. First, they are aware of the link
      between national economic development and literacy rate and of a
      commonly held belief among educators that it is easier to make
      children literate through their L1. Second, language planners are also
      aware that education in the official language promotes in minority
      children a sense of belonging in the nation. The author identifies
      four main types of bilingual programs and discusses bilingual or
      multilingual situations in Latvia, Bolivia, and Canada to illustrate
      the difficulty involved in acquisition planning. Her discussion also
      includes a brief history of bilingual education in the United States.
      She concludes by saying that ''most Anglo-Americans are likely to
      support'' (p. 405) a bilingual education program that aims at moving
      non-Anglo speakers to the use of English. Chapter Twelve also
      discusses the status of English as an international lingua franca and
      the case of Cambodia to illustrate how English is replacing French. In
      the last section of this chapter, the author places English, French,
      and German in a diglossic relationship with other European languages
      within the context of the European Union.

      Chapter Thirteen is very brief, and it reminds the reader of the main
      themes covered in the book. The author concludes by listing ''five
      most important points'' (p. 414) that the reader is expected to take
      away from the book.


      ''Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism'' is written by an
      author who has contributed to the study of bilingualism over a long
      period of time. While the book is written with a socio-political
      focus, it also provides detailed discussions of the grammatical and
      cognitive aspects of bilingualism. Because of its coverage of multiple
      perspectives on bilingualism, the book is expected to serve students
      and scholars in a variety of disciplines.

      There are several features that add to the value of the book. One of
      them is that each chapter begins with a real story of a person from a
      different part of the world whose life is linked to bilingualism or
      multilingualism. These stories not only serve as an interesting
      beginning of a chapter but also help to show that bilingualism is a
      real human phenomenon with socio-cultural and socio-political
      consequences. Another feature, which is valuable to students in
      particular, is that important concepts and terms are put in bold so
      that the reader would pay attention to them. Another feature that I
      view as helpful is that each chapter ends with a summery and a list of
      terms and concepts that readers, particularly students, would do well
      to remember. Another feature that I found interesting is the use of
      rather informal tone of voice as illustrated by these examples: ''Just
      for your information, there are two sets of signs that are relevant to
      your life.'' (p. 145);'' ''That is, for each of you, unmarked choices
      would be considered not only expected, but also appropriate, for
      certain interaction types in your community and marked choices would
      be unexpected, given the interaction type'' (p. 179); ''Your author
      (Meyers-Scotton, 2001; 2000) offers another explanation for creole
      formation ...'' (p. 285). The use of pronoun 'you' and pronominal
      adjective 'your' in these sentences can create a friendly image of the
      author, which may foster learning particularly in beginning-level
      readers. In addition, the writer provides in easy-to-understand
      language detailed discussions of various topics and issues in
      bilingualism with abundant citations from past and latest studies.

      While these features add to the value of the book, a few more would
      have enhanced its usefulness as a textbook. A set of study questions
      at the end of each chapter would be good particularly for
      beginning-level students. Also, a list of further studies would
      benefit particularly those who wish to acquire a further and more
      detailed knowledge of certain aspects of bilingualism. In addition, it
      would be useful to have a glossary of important terms and concepts
      covered in the book. Perhaps, the author would consider these
      suggestions for the second edition of the book, which I hope will come
      out soon given its high value both as a text and resource book.

      To conclude, I view ''Multiple Voices: An Introduction to
      Bilingualism'' as a very valuable addition to the pool of books on the
      study of bilingualism. Given its multidisciplinary approach, the
      sufficiently elaborated discussions of bilingual topics and issues,
      and the inclusion in these discussions of many relevant and up-to-date
      studies, this book is an excellent choice as a textbook for a
      bilingualism course. This book will also serve well students,
      instructors and scholars in a variety of disciplines who are
      interested in any of the many aspects of bilingualism.


      Crystal, David, ed. (1998) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language.
      Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

      Romaine, Suzanne (1999) Bilingualism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.


      Shiv R. Upadhyay is a faculty member in the Department of Languages,
      Literatures, and Linguistics at York University, Toronto. His research
      interests are in sociolinguistics, pragmatics, discourse analysis,
      language variation and change, language gender, and language
      acquisition. He has recently investigated linguistic politeness in
      Nepali print media and revisited the link between linguistic
      indirectness and politeness. He is currently working on the
      sociolinguistic variation of gender agreement in Nepali and the
      grammatical competence of university-level ESL students.
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