The Philosophy of Multilingualism

Aronin, Larissa, and Singleton, David (2013). Multilingualism and Philosophy. In Carol A. Chapelle (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics (pp. 3951-3954). Wiley-Blackwell.

It might have been imagined that a philosophy of multilingualism could draw copiously on the long-established concepts and procedures of the philosophy of language. However, much of the work undertaken by philosophers of language is of minimal relevance to current multilingualism—a phenomenon sometimes labeled a new world order (Fishman, 1998). Among the new realities one can cite the changed role of multilingualism in our present world, where so much now depends on multilingual arrangements and individuals. Complexity is also a salient feature of contemporary multilingualism—a concomitant of the dramatic rise in the number and significance of multilingual migrants and multilingual communities, which has enormously extended the scope of current multilingualism. Finally, at both individual and community levels, constellations of languages often fulfill the communicative, cognitive, and identificational requirements once met by single languages.

Aronin, Larissa, and Vasilis, Politis (2015). Multilingualism as an Edge. Theory and Practice of Second Language Acquisition (Wydawnictwo Unwierstetu Śląskiego), (1), 27-49.

The article presents a philosophical conceptualization of multilingualism. Philosophy’s general task is to subject human experience to reflective scrutiny and the experience of present day society has changed drastically. Multilingualism, as the vehicle of a new linguistic dispensation, plays a central role in it. We apply the metaphor ‘edge’ to explore the way multiple languages are deployed in, and intensively shape, the postmodern world. We also demonstrate how multilingualism is an edge, not only metaphorically, but involving true and real boundaries of various kinds, and all of them are essential for its nature.
K e y w o r d s: philosophy, multilingualism, boundaries, edge

Aronin, Larissa, and Jessner, Ulrike (2016). Spacetimes of Multilingualism. In: Researching Second Language Learning and Teaching from a Psycholinguistic Perspective. (23-35). Berlin: Springer.

Multilingual speakers, bilingual and more often multilingual, are diverse in many ways. They undergo different kinds of experiences in a variety of social spaces, in particular when undergoing changes in their linguistic environments. This article suggests a conceptual tool to examine the various contexts in which multilingual speakers emerge and re-establish their identity: the concept of spacetime. The concept of spacetime allows analytical vision of the circumstances and actors. It can be instrumental in teasing out the mechanisms by which new linguistic practices appear both in local settings and globally. From the complexity perspective, each spacetime of multilingualism is an emergent, dynamic and self-organizing system that cannot be understood simply by understanding its separate parts, but by exploring their interaction in complex and non-linear ways. It is the interaction between the many elements of each spacetime that makes it unique. The spacetime approach takes into consideration both space and time. Thus the understanding of multilingualism becomes more realistic and more attuned to the diversity and unpredictability of each particular sociolinguistic situation

Aronin, Larissa, and Jessner, Ulrike (2015). Understanding current multilingualism: what can the butterfly tell us? In Claire Kramsch and Ulrike Jessner (Eds.), (271-291).The Multilingual Challenge. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Understanding multilingualism has always been a challenge. The reasons are several. Firstly, manifestations of multilingualism at first sight are similar to those of bilingualism, so that often the impression is that it is “just learning an additional language.” Secondly, researchers admit it is much too complicated to study compared to bilingualism. In this chapter we will consider the phenomenon of current multilingualism on the background of a significant pool of data collected in multilingualism studies up to now. We will discuss whether there is a need to distinguish between bilingualism and multilingualism, and explain the challenges multilingualism poses to researchers and practitioners by showing how its very nature is complex. Finally we will examine the implications of seeing multilingualism as a complex phenomenon, different from bilingualism in many important ways.