Monthly Archives: September 2010

Panel paper: Discourse on multilingualism in the Scottish Parliament

University of Southampton


Like many other European legislatures, the Scottish Parliament has recently debated and passed legislation on the autochthonous and immigrant languages that fall under its auspices. Language policy-making in the UK as a whole is complicated by the different responsibilities of the UK-wide and devolved administrations. For example, while broadcasting policy is reserved by the UK Parliament in Westminster, educational policy in Scotland is governed by the Scottish Parliament. This fragmented picture is matched by a disconnected approach to languages in the Scottish Parliament.
In this paper, I examine discourse on multilingualism in the Scottish Parliament since it was reconvened in its modern form in 1999. By employing a discourse-historical approach (Wodak 2001) in combination with Bourdieu’s (1991) concepts of symbolic capital and the linguistic market, I show that mere content analysis (i.e. examining what is said about language) is insufficient to give a full account of language policy-making. Rather, how languages are debated and discussed in the parliament is equally important.

For instance, despite the apparently high valuations of minority languages found in some of the debates, it is apparent these valuations apply only to certain very restricted ‘linguistic markets’, e.g. public celebrations and literary education. Policy-makers can therefore claim to be taking decisive action to support languages, but are not taking account of the low value they will continue to have on the ‘linguistic markets’ of daily life, (e.g. in dealing with local government, non-literary educational settings, job interviews, etc.), and in international contexts (e.g. multinational companies based in Scotland, call centres). Multilingualism is thus constructed as desirable only when it does not interfere with mainstream communication in English.


Panel chair (with Ruth Wodak and Michał Krżyżanowski): Multilingual Encounters in Institutions

University of Southampton

Thematic Panel Abstract:


Ruth Wodak    Lancaster
Michał Krzyżanowski    Lancaster
Johann Unger   Vienna

Other contributors
Adrian Blackledge    Birmingham
Bernhard Forchtner    Lancaster
Georges Lüdi    Basel
Luisa Martin-Rojo    U Autónoma de Madrid
Frank van Splunder    Antwerpen

General overview abstract
The purpose of this panel is to explore the overall conference theme, ‘Negotiating transnational space & multilingual encounters’ in the context of institutions.

Multilingual encounters have become commonplace in many national institutions, and have of course been an essential part of most supranational institutions since their inception. The main aim of the panel will be therefore be to explore and discuss different ways of researching the discursive dimensions of these encounters, and to critically examine their relevance to policy, politics and society as a whole. This will include institutions at the local, regional, national and supranational level.

Multilingualism is often seen as an obstacle, not an opportunity, at least with respect to European public and private spheres. We therefore have invited a number of contributions that address the following questions:

1)    How is multilingualism conceptualised and talked about in different institutions?
2)    How do different institutions ‘deal with’ multilingualism, both
a.    internally, e.g. through institutional regulations, social and discursive practices, etc. and
b.    externally, e.g. through institutional self-presentation, policies, interactions with politics, the media, civil society, etc.
3)    What are the policy-making roles and challenges for the future for various institutions with respect to multilingualism?

The individual papers can be loosely grouped by type of institution concerned:

1)    private sector institutions: international and national companies (Lüdi)
2)    national and supranational (political) institutions: the European Commission (Krzyżanowski, Forchtner), the European Parliament (Wodak), and the Scottish Parliament (Unger)
3)    educational institutions: mainstream schools (Martin Rojo), ‘complementary’, i.e. part-time, community-run schools (Blackledge), and universities (van Splunder)

There are of course numerous theoretical and methodological approaches to this topic, and our invited participants represent a broad cross-section of these approaches, with a particular emphasis on critical approaches to discourse and to language policy and planning. We anticipate that the application of these different approaches to different types of institution will provide a fruitful opportunity to share knowledge in an interdisciplinary setting.