New Books in Language

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episode 5: Can We Ever Unthink Linguistic Nationalism?

Ingrid Piller speaks with Aneta Pavlenko about multilingualism through the ages.

We start from the question whether the world today is more multilingual than it was ever before. Spoiler alert: we quickly conclude that no, it is not.

One of the reasons why the world may seem more multilingual today than in the past lies in the European nationalist project, which culminated in the “population exchanges” of the 20th century – the great “unmixing of peoples”, as Lord Curzon called it.

As a result, languages became associated with nations and this linguistic nationalism continues to guide views of language today. Can linguistic nationalism ever be unthought?

Maybe because languages are now so deeply intertwined with nationalist projects, we have become much more emotional about language and languages than people may have been in the past. This is true even of academic research, where there can be significant pressure to bring our emotions into our research, too.

How to deal with such pressures is another thread that runs through our conversation. We reflect on our own academic careers and what lessons they may or may not hold for early career researchers today.

First published on October 04, 2021.

“Chats in Linguistic Diversity” is a podcast about linguistic diversity in social life brought to you by the Language on the Move team. We explore multilingualism, language learning, and intercultural communication in the contexts of globalization and migration.

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 February 19, 2024  1h12m