Project: Multilingualism, Subalternity and Dominance of Single Language Networks
The Hegemony of English in the Multilingual Societies of India and South Africa
General introduction
Approach and assumptions
Research objectives
Project progress
Research group

Approach and assumptions

Since we are opposed to disciplinary reduction and fragmentation, whilst trying to understand and interpret historical, social, institutional, communicative and personal realities, the approach to the research is issue and problem oriented and transcends the narrow limits of a single discipline be it socio-linguistics, applied languages, social or educational sciences.

Our central interest is to stress the importance and to enhance - in a world wide dimension - the capabilities of the politically and socially active subjects, who create and have their history, notwithstanding their previous and - in many cases - still enduring experiences of subordination or even alienation.

With this aim in mind we get ourselves involved in certain foundational issues regarding the historical constructions of the 'autonomous' and dominant subject and of the alien 'other' or of the 'sub-altern', located and acting within specific eco-social and politico-economic settings. All of them possess their own means of expression, communication and action, and have undergone various homogenising processes, which, however, never managed to fully suppress their diversified linguistic and literacy practices and relationships to their specific environment, socio-cultural identity and forms of action and technologies.

This persisting fundamental diversity is being approached and reflected in our research under the concepts of multi-perspectivity, multi-expressiveness and multi-lingualism. In this sense we say that our world is multilingual at each of its conspicuous aspects, parts and corners. Groups and communities having multiple modes of expression and communication live side by side and even overlay each other, without, necessarily, entering in conflict with one another.

Thus language and its diversity as an empirically ascertained fact has become one of the most important indicators for many non-verbal modes of expression of our thoughts, feelings, communication practices, artistic and aesthetic vision, musical emotion, technical and architectural designs. It symbolises, at the same time, our belonging to a social and cultural group, which realizes himself as a collective historical subject and is witness to the diversity of societal interpretations of the world, of cultural productions and of politico-economic organisation of the human activity.

In this sense, language becomes a very important conceptual metaphor (as distinguished from pure metaphoric linguistic expressions) allowing us to create a set of mappings between concrete or physical source domains (language as classically understood) and target domains (drawings, sculpture, gestures, dance, advertisements, etc.) due not only to their structural similarity, but, more so, due to their objective basis, derived from the variety of human experience. It is, furthermore, a metonymic expression, in the sense that it provides access to another entity within the same domains (signs, gestures, etc.) because of their contiguity.

We ascribe, therefore, this whole range of meanings to the concept of multilingualism, when we use it in our theoretical and practical reflections.