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Who speaks what language to whom and when - Rethinking language use in the context of European Schools

Journal article
Authors Marie Rydenvald
Published in International Journal of the Sociology of Language
Volume 2018
Issue 254
Pages 71-101
ISSN 0165-2516
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Swedish
Pages 71-101
Language en
Keywords European Schools, language choice, language use, multilingual teenagers, nexus analysis
Subject categories General Language Studies and Linguistics


European Schools provide a multilingual international education for children of EU employees. However, despite the multilingual context of these schools, little research has been done regarding students' multilingualism. Employing domain theory and a dynamic perspective on multilingualism, this sociolinguistic study investigates language use and language choice of secondary school students attending a European School in Belgium. The study comprises 56 participants and three different sources of data, i.e. questionnaire, self-recordings, and interviews, during a period of 3/2 years. Nexus analysis is used as an analytical tool. The results suggest that the situations of language choice which the participants constantly face appear to be influenced by a taken-for-granted, rational multilingual context, manifested in the principles of inclusion and "the least common denominator". These principles imply that students choose language based on a combination of their own, and their interlocutors' preferences. The principles are discussed in the light of the multilingual environment of the European Schools. In addition, the results show a discrepancy between the reported results from the questionnaire and the face-to-face interaction in the self-recordings. The home domain is more multilingual than reported, and interaction with peers more monolingual. These results help to elucidate the heterogeneity of the students' multilingualism, while discussing and problematizing domain theory. © 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.

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