Introduction to Part 1: Appraising the ‘multilingual turn’ in applied linguistics and sociolinguistics

Lytra, Vally. 2023. Introduction to Part 1: Appraising the ‘multilingual turn’ in applied linguistics and sociolinguistics. In: Steph Ainsworth; Dominic Griffiths; Gee Macrory and Kate Pahl, eds. Multimodality and Multilingualism: Towards an Integrative Approach. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, pp. 3-14. ISBN 9781800413375 [Book Section]

Lytra-2023-Appraising the 'multilingual turn' in applied linguistics and sociolinguistics.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (349kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

The notion of the ‘multilingual turn’ has been widely used in applied linguistic and sociolinguistic research to denote a heightened analytical focus on multilingual language use across a wide range of contexts and participants (Conteh & Meier 2014, May 2014). Linguistic diversity has been spurred by the intensification of human mobility within and across national borders and the diversification of people’s migration trajectories coupled by the new possibilities for education, work and leisure opened by digital communication. Yet, this renewed analytical focus on multilingual language use obscures the fact that multilingualism is not a recent phenomenon. Writing from what is metaphorically called a ‘southern’ perspective, Heugh (2018) remind us that many societies across Africa and Asia have long and complex histories of linguistic diversity and that “the majority of multilingual communities of the world continue to live beyond Europe and North America” (: 342).

The one nation-one language ideology that underpins state-sponsored monolingualism is a foundational component of modern nation state building. May (2019) cautions against “an ethnocentric and ahistorical view of multilingualism” that ignores multilingual realities prior to the advent of nationalism and the nation-state and constructs multilingualism as a new and primarily urban phenomenon (: 125). Instead, Kramsch (2012) stresses the importance of taking a contextually embedded and historically grounded approach to the study of multilingualism. Taken together these scholars argue for a plural, heterogenous and multidimensional view of multilingualism that recognises its “many different iterations” and investigates tensions, dilemmas, and contradictions in the experiences of “contemporary multilingualisms” (Heugh 2018: 348). The four chapters in this section pay head to these concerns by bringing together ethnographically engaged studies from interactions between teachers and students in primary and secondary schools in Mauritius and the UK (Mahadeo-Doorgakant and Higgins respectively), between home and international students during theatre society sessions in a UK Higher Education institution (Ghosh) and lawyer-client consultations preceding asylum law hearings in Belgium (Jacobs).

Item Type:

Book Section

Identification Number (DOI):

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies
Educational Studies > Centre for Language, Culture and Learning


28 February 2023Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

01 Mar 2023 15:29

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 03:14


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)