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Football language in the age of superdiversity

Chapter in book
Authors Gunnar Bergh
Sölve Ohlander
Published in The Routledge Handbook of Language and Superdiversity / Edited by Angela Creese, Adrian Blackledge
Pages 254-267
ISBN 978-1-138-90509-2
Publisher Routledge
Place of publication London and New York
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 254-267
Language en
Subject categories Languages and Literature

Abstract

This chapter deals with football language, or football-related communication, here mainly considered as a specific conceptual or semantic sphere, shared by the global football community. Sociolinguistically, football language in its various realizations, or registers (informal–formal, oral–written, etc.), can be seen as making up a special part, or resource, of a person’s linguistic repertoire, independent of more conventional sociolinguistic variables (Blommaert & Rampton 2016). As a field of study, it can be characterized as basically under-researched, although offering a wealth of material not only for research into its lexical, grammatical and other properties, but also for studies related to superdiverse social contexts. While not based on a specific corpus or set of data, the study provides a discussion, primarily from a migrant perspective, of the role of football language as a unifying link between different categories of spectators with a variety of first languages. In particular, the emphasis is on spoken communication, eclectically collected, in informal settings where English serves as a lingua franca. Football and football language can be seen as cutting across a range of barriers related to language, ethnicity and culture (Giulianotti 1999). Special attention is drawn to the parallelism between the early social history of British football, including its spread to other parts of the world, and the potential of today’s football and football language to bridge sociocultural and linguistic gaps, promoting integration between people in superdiverse environments in Britain and elsewhere. Thus, the “imagined community” (Anderson 1983) of people with an interest in football may transcend societal divisions, creating a sense of shared identity, especially pronounced at club level; in this, football language is instrumental. Wherever football has a long tradition as a mass culture, the game’s role in providing opportunities for communicative interaction, even among strangers, is readily apparent. In such interaction, even rudimentary familiarity with English football language may contribute to a sense of community, despite significant differences in other respects. In countries with other first languages, corresponding processes may be expected to be at work.

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