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RFI: Extent of multilingalism in communities

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  • Donald Z. Osborn
    This is an interesting question (seen on the Linguist list) that I thought worth passing on. There are of course many places in the world (market centers, some
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 22, 2004
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      This is an interesting question (seen on the Linguist list) that I thought worth
      passing on. There are of course many places in the world (market centers, some
      special regions) where several languages are spoken, but rarely I think all by
      everyone. One of my favorite points of reference is the inland Niger delta of
      Mali (Mopti region) where several languages are spoken by interspersed
      communities that are traditionally and to a large degree ethnically and
      economically specific (Bambara, Fulfulde, Bozo, Bobo, Sonrai [mainly in Jenne],
      and even some Dogon). Many people speak two or three or more of the languages
      to one degree or another, and perhaps French too.

      Don Osborn
      Bisharat.net


      Date: 21-Dec-2004
      From: Dick Hudson <dick@...>
      Subject: Community Multi-lingualism

      Does anyone know what the limits of community multi-lingualism are? I've heard
      anecdotally of a town in India where everybody is said to be able to
      code-switch among five languages. Can anyone confirm that this number is indeed
      possible, or even offer a higher figure?

      Dick Hudson

      --
      Richard Hudson, FBA,
      Emeritus Professor of Linguistics,
      University College London
      www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/home.htm
    • Harold F. Schiffman
      I don t know if anybody has any statistics on this issue, e.g. in South Asia, where lots of people are multilingual, but here s what I know about that area, at
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 22, 2004
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        I don't know if anybody has any statistics on this issue, e.g. in South
        Asia, where lots of people are multilingual, but here's what I know about
        that area, at least. Statistics aren't available because the Census of
        India doesn't ask a lot of questions about these issues, and because they
        tend to think people aren't multilingual if they aren't *multiliterate*
        and very few people are. There are some famous situations, such as Gumperz
        and Wilson's study of "Kupwar" where people were supposedly trilingual,
        and code-switched back and forth between Marathi, Urdu, and Kannada. Their
        focus was on how the 3 codes had tended to merge (or converge), especially
        grammatically, but then this happens to a large extend in S. Asia anyway.

        But the rest tends to be anecdotal--I had a friend who was from a Kannada
        speaking home environment, born in the Tamilnadu town of Salem, and grew
        up in a neighborhood that was largely Telugu-speaking. In the larger
        environment and at school he learned spoken Tamil and Literary Tamil, and
        then became a teacher of English. He was also a creative writer, which he
        did in Tamil. He was thus pentilingual, but some of his codes were pretty
        minimal; even with his children he tended to speak Tamil, but denied that
        he had "become" a Tamil speaker, or had "switched" languages.

        It does tend to be the case in India at least that the multilingualism is
        kept alive if there is division of labor, i.e. you speak X in the
        marketplace, or Y with the Y community, and there is also gender
        differentiation--one Kannada writer I know said as a child he spoke
        Kannada on the front porch of his home and Tulu in the back yard (with the
        women).

        Hal Schiffman


        On Wed, 22 Dec 2004, Donald Z. Osborn wrote:

        >
        >
        > This is an interesting question (seen on the Linguist list) that I thought worth
        > passing on. There are of course many places in the world (market centers, some
        > special regions) where several languages are spoken, but rarely I think all by
        > everyone. One of my favorite points of reference is the inland Niger delta of
        > Mali (Mopti region) where several languages are spoken by interspersed
        > communities that are traditionally and to a large degree ethnically and
        > economically specific (Bambara, Fulfulde, Bozo, Bobo, Sonrai [mainly in Jenne],
        > and even some Dogon). Many people speak two or three or more of the languages
        > to one degree or another, and perhaps French too.
        >
        > Don Osborn
        > Bisharat.net
        >
        >
        > Date: 21-Dec-2004
        > From: Dick Hudson <dick@...>
        > Subject: Community Multi-lingualism
        >
        > Does anyone know what the limits of community multi-lingualism are? I've heard
        > anecdotally of a town in India where everybody is said to be able to
        > code-switch among five languages. Can anyone confirm that this number is indeed
        > possible, or even offer a higher figure?
        >
        > Dick Hudson
        >
        >
      • Jeff MacSwan
        Greetings. I m looking for some help with CS data between Finnish and any language with N + Adj word order (French, Spanish, so on). If you are a bilingual in
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 22, 2004
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          Greetings. I'm looking for some help with CS data between Finnish and any
          language with N + Adj word order (French, Spanish, so on). If you are a
          bilingual in Finnish and such a language, please email me at
          macswan@.... Thanks a lot.

          Best,
          Jeff
        • Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta
          Yes, and I remember reading (years & years ago) that the majority of peoples of the world are multilingual (and not just bi lingual). Anyone have references
          Message 4 of 6 , Dec 23, 2004
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            Yes, and I remember reading (years & years ago) that the majority of
            peoples of the world are multilingual (and not just "bi"lingual). Anyone
            have references to such studies - I've lost track of them?

            India is indeed an interesting place in this respect. What we consider of
            languages (for instance in the Scandinavian context) would not even pass as
            dialects in the Indian subcontinent.

            I conducted fieldwork for my doctoral thesis primarily in western India (in
            present day Mumbai and Pune) where I followed the work of a national NGO
            (the Mobile Creches) that served migrant construction workers and their
            families. At one point during the fieldwork phase the NGO was serving ca
            20,000 children. One of the main interests of that study was literacies in
            everyday life. The predominantly women dominated NGO represented class
            structures in urban society in western India (during the late 80's early
            90's) in an exceptional manner. In addition (and to my frustration) the
            members in the NGO spoke at least 7 languages and used at least 4 written
            languages in their everyday working lives in Mumbai. These included:
            Bambaiya hindi, Marathi, English, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Konkani and
            Parsi. I documented and analysed the complexities and fluidity of
            multiliteracies in these settings where women with post graduate degrees
            worked together with women who had dropped out of primary grade vernacular
            schools. I may have a few copies of my thesis and could share this in case
            someone is interested.

            To Dick's query: I don't know what you mean by "limits of
            multi-lingualism". Can you expand on that. I am multilingual in 6 to 7
            languages but speak only 4 on an everyday basis. In addition to my doctoral
            work, I have experience of conducting research in settings in Sweden where
            children and adults are at least trilingual in their everyday lives.

            Sangeeta


            At 13:49 2004-12-22, you wrote:


            >This is an interesting question (seen on the Linguist list) that I thought
            >worth
            >passing on. There are of course many places in the world (market centers, some
            >special regions) where several languages are spoken, but rarely I think all by
            >everyone. One of my favorite points of reference is the inland Niger delta of
            >Mali (Mopti region) where several languages are spoken by interspersed
            >communities that are traditionally and to a large degree ethnically and
            >economically specific (Bambara, Fulfulde, Bozo, Bobo, Sonrai [mainly in
            >Jenne],
            >and even some Dogon). Many people speak two or three or more of the languages
            >to one degree or another, and perhaps French too.
            >
            >Don Osborn
            >Bisharat.net
            >
            >
            >Date: 21-Dec-2004
            >From: Dick Hudson <dick@...>
            >Subject: Community Multi-lingualism
            >
            >Does anyone know what the limits of community multi-lingualism are? I've heard
            >anecdotally of a town in India where everybody is said to be able to
            >code-switch among five languages. Can anyone confirm that this number is
            >indeed
            >possible, or even offer a higher figure?
            >
            >Dick Hudson
            >
            >--
            >Richard Hudson, FBA,
            >Emeritus Professor of Linguistics,
            >University College London
            >www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/home.htm
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >To Post a message: code-switching@yahoogroups.com
            >To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to:
            >code-switching-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
            >Web page: http//groups.yahoo.com/group/code-switching
            >Yahoo! Groups Links
            >
            >
            >
            >

            Associate Professor/Docent
            Department of Education/Pedagogiska institutionen
            Communication, Culture & Diversity - Deaf Studies (KKOM-DS) Research Group
            Örebro University
            SE 701 82 Örebro
            Sweden

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Richard Hudson
            Dear Sangeeta, Many thanks for this very interesting and helpful message. The best way to explain what I m asking for is to give you the intellectual
            Message 5 of 6 , Dec 23, 2004
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              Dear Sangeeta,
              Many thanks for this very interesting and helpful message. The best way
              to explain what I'm asking for is to give you the intellectual
              background to my query. I'm interested in people who have an astonishing
              aptitude for language (being fluent in dozens of languages), so I'm
              trying to establish a base-line for 'normal' aptitude; and my idea is
              that we could define this by finding a community where *everybody* (bar
              pathological cases) was fluent in N languages (where I assume N is some
              figure around 5 or 6). On the assumption that people in this community
              are genetically typical of humans everywhere, we could then assert that
              the typical human is capable of becoming fluent in at least N languages,
              given the right social circumstances. Then we could say that anyone who
              is fluent in more than N languages is abnormal - what I call a
              'hyper-polyglot'. Given this focus of interest, I'm less interested in
              multi-literacy than in multi-oracy, since oral language is basic and
              many of the communities I've been told about are illiterate anyway.
              With best wishes, Dick Hudson

              Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta wrote:

              > Yes, and I remember reading (years & years ago) that the majority of
              > peoples of the world are multilingual (and not just "bi"lingual).
              > Anyone have references to such studies - I've lost track of them?
              >
              > India is indeed an interesting place in this respect. What we consider
              > of languages (for instance in the Scandinavian context) would not even
              > pass as dialects in the Indian subcontinent.
              >
              > I conducted fieldwork for my doctoral thesis primarily in western
              > India (in present day Mumbai and Pune) where I followed the work of a
              > national NGO (the Mobile Creches) that served migrant construction
              > workers and their families. At one point during the fieldwork phase
              > the NGO was serving ca 20,000 children. One of the main interests of
              > that study was literacies in everyday life. The predominantly women
              > dominated NGO represented class structures in urban society in western
              > India (during the late 80's early 90's) in an exceptional manner. In
              > addition (and to my frustration) the members in the NGO spoke at least
              > 7 languages and used at least 4 written languages in their everyday
              > working lives in Mumbai. These included: Bambaiya hindi, Marathi,
              > English, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Konkani and Parsi. I documented and
              > analysed the complexities and fluidity of multiliteracies in these
              > settings where women with post graduate degrees worked together with
              > women who had dropped out of primary grade vernacular schools. I may
              > have a few copies of my thesis and could share this in case someone is
              > interested.
              >
              > To Dick's query: I don't know what you mean by "limits of
              > multi-lingualism". Can you expand on that. I am multilingual in 6 to 7
              > languages but speak only 4 on an everyday basis. In addition to my
              > doctoral work, I have experience of conducting research in settings in
              > Sweden where children and adults are at least trilingual in their
              > everyday lives.
              >
              > Sangeeta
              >
              >
              > At 13:49 2004-12-22, you wrote:
              >
              >
              >> This is an interesting question (seen on the Linguist list) that I
              >> thought worth
              >> passing on. There are of course many places in the world (market
              >> centers, some
              >> special regions) where several languages are spoken, but rarely I
              >> think all by
              >> everyone. One of my favorite points of reference is the inland Niger
              >> delta of
              >> Mali (Mopti region) where several languages are spoken by interspersed
              >> communities that are traditionally and to a large degree ethnically and
              >> economically specific (Bambara, Fulfulde, Bozo, Bobo, Sonrai [mainly
              >> in Jenne],
              >> and even some Dogon). Many people speak two or three or more of the
              >> languages
              >> to one degree or another, and perhaps French too.
              >>
              >> Don Osborn
              >> Bisharat.net
              >>
              >>
              >> Date: 21-Dec-2004
              >> From: Dick Hudson <dick@...>
              >> Subject: Community Multi-lingualism
              >>
              >> Does anyone know what the limits of community multi-lingualism are?
              >> I've heard
              >> anecdotally of a town in India where everybody is said to be able to
              >> code-switch among five languages. Can anyone confirm that this number
              >> is indeed
              >> possible, or even offer a higher figure?
              >>
              >> Dick Hudson
              >>
              >> --
              >> Richard Hudson, FBA,
              >> Emeritus Professor of Linguistics,
              >> University College London
              >> www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/home.htm
              >> <http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/home.htm>
              >>
              >>
              >>
              >>
              >>
              >>
              >>
              >>
              >> To Post a message: code-switching@yahoogroups.com
              >> To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to:
              >> code-switching-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
              >> Web page: http//groups.yahoo.com/group/code-switching
              >> Yahoo! Groups Links
              >>
              >>
              >>
              >>
              >
              > Associate Professor/Docent
              > Department of Education/Pedagogiska institutionen
              > Communication, Culture & Diversity - Deaf Studies (KKOM-DS) Research Group
              > Örebro University
              > SE 701 82 Örebro
              > Sweden
              >

              --
              Richard Hudson, FBA,
              Emeritus Professor of Linguistics,
              University College London
              www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/home.htm


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Donald Z. Osborn
              Dick, Sangeeta, Thanks for these interesting replies. I would only add a couple of things. First, I posted the question to Multilingual_Literacy (in addition
              Message 6 of 6 , Dec 23, 2004
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                Dick, Sangeeta,

                Thanks for these interesting replies. I would only add a couple of things.
                First, I posted the question to Multilingual_Literacy (in addition to
                code-switching) since multilingual new, views & issues are included there.
                Partly this is due to the thought that multilingual settings are where
                multiliteracy/pluriliteracy* (may) arise.

                The implication I read in Dick's reply that there may be a greater degree of
                multilingualism observed in oral (non-literate) cultures than in literate ones
                is an interesting one (cf. also Hal's mention of most multilingual people not
                being multi/pluriliterate). Is there a sense in which literacy/literateness
                inhibits codeswitching (multilingual performance?) by reinforcing the notion of
                discrete separate languages, or raises the status of certain languages, leading
                to focus on fewer languages? (I realize that's a stretch...)

                There are multilingual and multi/plutiliterate people in, say, Europe, but
                apparently the number of languages mastered by the average person among them
                does not reach the same levels as those mentioned in other areas.

                DZO

                * (there's an emerging terminology issue here, I think, since multiliteracy has
                taken on multiple meanings and some are using pluriliteracy to refer uniquely
                to literacy in several languages)


                Quoting Richard Hudson <dick@...>:
                >
                > Dear Sangeeta,
                >
                > Many thanks for this very interesting and helpful message. The best way
                > to explain what I'm asking for is to give you the intellectual
                > background to my query. I'm interested in people who have an
                > astonishing aptitude for language (being fluent in dozens of
                > languages), so I'm trying to establish a base-line for 'normal'
                > aptitude; and my idea is that we could define this by finding a
                > community where *everybody* (bar pathological cases) was fluent in N
                > languages (where I assume N is some figure around 5 or 6). On the
                > assumption that people in this community are genetically typical of
                > humans everywhere, we could then assert that the typical human is
                > capable of becoming fluent in at least N languages, given the right
                > social circumstances. Then we could say that anyone who is fluent in
                > more than N languages is abnormal - what I call a 'hyper-polyglot'.
                > Given this focus of interest, I'm less interested in multi-literacy
                > than in multi-oracy, since oral language is basic and many of the
                > communities I've been told about are illiterate anyway.
                >
                >     With best wishes, Dick Hudson
                >
                >
                >
                > Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta wrote:
                > Yes, and I remember reading (years & years ago) that
                > the majority of
                > peoples of the world are multilingual (and not just
                > "bi"lingual). Anyone have references to such studies - I've
                > lost track of them?
                >
                > India is indeed an interesting place in this respect. What we consider
                > of
                > languages (for instance in the Scandinavian context) would not even
                > pass
                > as dialects in the Indian subcontinent.
                >
                > I conducted fieldwork for my doctoral thesis primarily in western India
                > (in present day Mumbai and Pune) where I followed the work of a
                > national
                > NGO (the Mobile Creches) that served migrant construction workers and
                > their families. At one point during the fieldwork phase the NGO was
                > serving ca 20,000 children. One of the main interests of that study was
                > literacies in everyday life. The predominantly women dominated NGO
                > represented class structures in urban society in western India (during
                > the late 80's early 90's) in an exceptional manner. In addition (and to
                > my frustration) the members in the NGO spoke at least 7 languages and
                > used at least 4 written languages in their everyday working lives in
                > Mumbai. These included: Bambaiya hindi, Marathi, English, Urdu,
                > Bengali,
                > Gujarati, Konkani and Parsi. I documented and analysed the complexities
                > and fluidity of multiliteracies in these settings where women with post
                > graduate degrees worked together with women who had dropped out of
                > primary grade vernacular schools. I may have a few copies of my thesis
                > and could share this in case someone is interested.
                >
                > To Dick's query: I don't know what you mean by "limits of
                > multi-lingualism". Can you expand on that. I am multilingual in 6 to
                > 7 languages but speak only 4 on an everyday basis. In addition to my
                > doctoral work, I have experience of conducting research in settings in
                > Sweden where children and adults are at least trilingual in their
                > everyday lives.
                >
                >
                >
                > Sangeeta
                >
                >
                >
                ...
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