Final Conference

Responding to contemporary multilingual realities, recasting research methodologies

25-26 March 2013

Over the last two decades, sociolinguistic research on multilingualism has been transformed. Two broad processes of change have been at work: firstly, there has been a broad epistemological shift to a critical and ethnographic approach, one that has reflected and contributed to the wider turn, across the social sciences, towards critical and poststructuralist perspectives on social life. Secondly, there has been increasing focus on the social, cultural and linguistic changes ushered in by globalisation, by transnational population flows, by the advent of new communication technologies and by the changes taking place in the political and economic landscape of different regions of the world. These changes have had major implications for the ways in which we conceptualise the relationship between language and society and the multilingual realities of the contemporary era. A new sociolinguistics of multilingualism is now being forged: one that takes account of the new communicative order and the particular cultural conditions of our times, while retaining a central concern with the processes involved in the construction of social difference and social inequality. 

The purpose of this final conference of the ESRC RDI project on Researching multilingualism, multilingualism in research practice was to reflect on the nature of the changes that have been taking place in the ways in which we approach the teaching of research methodology courses in this field and to map out new directions, focusing on methodologies that are best attuned to research on linguistic diversity in the late modern era.

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Conference Abstracts

Ethnography of language policy: Theory, method, and findings

David Cassels

JohnsonWashington State University, U.S.A.

Much of the current work on language policy can be characterized by a tension between structure and agency; between critical theoretical work that focuses on the power of language policy to disenfranchise linguistic minorities, and, ethnographic and other ‘on-the-ground’ approaches that emphasize the powerful role that educators play as creative actors in language policy processes. I argue that this tension in language policy research is benefited by ethnography of language policy (ELP), a methodology that combines critical analysis of language policy power with ethnographic and discourse analytic data collection in schools and communities. In this paper, I discuss the origins and evolution of ELP, its theoretical orientation, and I review some of the major findings, drawing from others and my own research in Pennsylvania and Washington state. ELP is particularly well suited to make connections between policy texts, discourses, and practices across multiple layers of language policy activity. I argue that such research is vital if our goal is to protect the educational rights of minority and Indigenous language users and promote a multilingual agenda of social justice in language policy research.

Doing the ethnography of language-in-education policy: theory and method

Jo Arthur Shoba

Edge Hill University, UK

Developments over recent years in language-in-education (LIE) policy research start from an acknowledgement that a top-down view of policy as authoritatively formulated centrally, or even locally, fails to capture more complex educational and social realities. The attempt to build a more multi-dimensional picture entails ethnographic engagement with actors at different levels within education, as evoked by the layers of the ‘onion’ metaphor for language policy and planning (Ricento and Hornberger 1996, Hornberger and Johnson 2007). This reorientation allows a range of sometimes disregarded voices to be heard, and it serves to uncover human agency on the part of different actors in the processes of policy interpretation and implementation. In this paper I discuss ethnographic data collection and analysis in two different contexts. In the first of these, a language history approach was adopted in interviews with teacher educators in Ghana, thus obtaining insights into the biographical shaping of stances towards the goals and pedagogies embodied in official LIE policy (Arthur Shoba 2013). In the second context, interaction in a Scottish primary classroom (Arthur Shoba 2010) showed teachers and learners creatively exploring ideological spaces for the legitimate use of Scots. These observational and interactional data were complemented by analysis of on-line discourses which demonstrated attempts to secure greater space for Scots at the level of national policy formation.


Arthur Shoba, Jo 2010. Scottish classroom voices: A case study in teaching and learning Scots. Language and Education, 24, 5: 385-400.
Arthur Shoba, Jo. 2013 The formation of language values and educational language policy beliefs among teacher educators in Ghana: A life history approach. In Arthur Shoba, Jo and Feliciano Chimbutane (eds.) Bilingual Education and Language Policy in the Global South. London/New York: Routledge.
Hornberger, Nancy H. and David C. Johnson. 2007. Slicing the onion ethnographically: Layers and spaces in multilingual language policy and practice. TESOL Quarterly, 41, 3: 509-532.
Ricento, Thomas K. and Nancy H. Hornberger. 1996. Unpeeling the onion. Language policy and the ELT professional. TESOL Quarterly, 30, 3: 401-427.

In and around the school: documenting students’ plurilingual practices

Adriana Patiño Santos

University of Southampton, UK

This paper will present the methodological challenges and dilemmas encountered, as well as some relevant findings, in carrying out collaborative sociolinguistic ethnography in a secondary school in Catalonia (DECOMASAI, SEJ2007-62147-EDUC; PADS, EDU2010-17859). The main objectives were to investigate multilingual practices in the school through audio-visual recordings - especially of the students - and observe the ways in which the participants understood their own communicative practices, through the design and implementation of a didactic unit on multilingualism. The implementation of this unit allowed us to approach different situations, common within the Catalan education system, involving the tensions between the official language / variety of the school and the languages / varieties used by participants in the school, inside and outside the classrooms, as well as beyond the school boundaries. It also confronted us with the challenges and dilemmas of mounting a cooperative research project that involved the students themselves as researchers of their own practices.

Interacting with indigenous teachers: supervising research “done from within”

Marilda Cavalcanti and Terezinha Maher

Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil

Supervising the research work done by indigenous teachers in a multilingual teacher education course in the northwestern part of the Brazilian Rainforest has been a permanent challenge and a continuous learning process because it necessarily meant having to find a balance between the mainstream way of producing knowledge and local ways of understanding/explaining the world. Each of us, as non-indigenous researchers, knew it would be very easy to get enmeshed in the so called "scientific mode of thinking" thus not taking into account the ancient knowledge of the peoples we have had the privilege to work with. In order to avoid getting enmeshed in a ‘scientific mode of thinking’, new methodological strategies had to be thought of. In this presentation, drawing from data generated in two ethnographic research projects, one focusing on language policy and the other on classroom observation, we intend to present two of these strategies, emphasizing the difficulties found in their implementation due to differences of expectations and of what, in fact, constitutes "local knowledge".

Researching multilingual communication on-line: Methodologies for researching multilingual practices online

David Barton

Lancaster University, UK

In a forthcoming book, Language Online: Investigating digital texts and practices (D. Barton & C. Lee, Routledge, April 2013), we report detailed studies of the multilingual language practices of Chinese-English and Spanish-English users of the internet. The work focuses on people’s contribution to the language of the internet, how people ‘write the internet’, especially in Web 2.0 spaces such as social networking sites. This paper discusses the results of these studies of how people deploy their linguistic resources and the factors influencing language choice online. It also examines how people take up the affordances of multiple languages more generally. The paper then turns to how qualitative methodologies have to be adapted and modified when carrying out research online and how there is a need for innovation in research methodologies. The paper includes practical suggestions for carrying out studies of language online which can remain true to ethnographic principles and it provides a set of challenges for all qualitative research online.

Investigating multilingualism and multisemioticity as resources for (dis)identification in social media

Sirpa Leppänen, Samu Kytölä, Saija Peuronen, Henna Jousmäki & Elina Westinen

University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Our paper discusses the role of multilingualism and multisemioticity as key resources for identity work in social media. Our analyses focus on social media as arenas for social interaction and cultural activities (Leppänen 2009, 2012; Peuronen, 2011; Jousmäki 2012; Kytölä, 2012, forthcoming) which complement and intertwine with offline activities in different ways. In particular, we focus on how research on identity work – or acts and processes of identification and disidentification – may benefit from a multi-dimensional framework drawing on linguistic ethnography, the study of multimodality, and research in computer-mediated discourse (CMD).

In this discussion we highlight how communication in social media involves not only resources provided by language(s), styles and genres, but also other semiotic resources – textual forms and patterns, visuality, still and moving images, sound, music, and cultural discourses – as well as their mobilization in processes of entextualization and resemiotization. We explore the ways in which the ‘language’ of social media can be a tapestry of multiple, intertwined semiotic materials (Leppänen et al., forthcoming) which are socially significant and culturally valuable to the participants and groups involved.


Jousmäki, Henna 2012. Bridging into the Metal Community and the Church. Entextualization of the Bible in Christian metal discourse. Discourse, Context and Media 1: 217-226.
Kytölä, Samu 2012. Peer normativity and sanctioning of linguistic resources-in-use: on non-Standard Englishes in Finnish football forums online. In Blommaert, Jan, Sirpa Leppänen, Päivi Pahta & Tiina Räisänen (eds.) (2012), Dangerous Multilingualism: Northern Perspectives to Order, Purity and Normality. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 228-260.
Kytölä Samu. Forthcoming. Multilingual language use and metapragmatic reflexivity in Finnish internet football forums. A study in the sociolinguistics of globalization. Doctoral dissertation, University of Jyväskylä.Leppänen
Sirpa. 2008. Cybergirls in trouble? Fan fiction as a discursive space for interrogating gender and sexuality. In Carmen Rosa Caldas-Coulthard and Rick Iedema (eds) Identity Trouble: Critical Discourse and Contested Identities. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 156–179.
Leppänen, Sirpa. 2012. Linguistic and discursive heteroglossia on the translocal internet: the case of web writing. In Mark Sebba, Shahrzad Mahootian and Carla Jonsson (eds) Language Mixing and Code-switching in Writing: Approaches to Mixed-language Written Discourse. London: Routledge.
Leppänen, Sirpa, Samu Kytölä, Henna Jousmäki, Saija Peuronen and Elina Westinen. Forthcoming. Entextualization and resemiotization as resources for identification in social media. To appear in Seargeant, Philip and Caroline Tagg (eds.), The language of social media: communication and community on the internet. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Peuronen.
Saija 2011. “Ride hard, live forever”: Translocal identities in an online community of extreme sports Christians, in C. Thurlow and K. Mroczek (eds.) Digital Discourse: Language in the New Media. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 154-176.

Virtual linguistic ethnography – investigating corporate multilingualism online

Helen Kelly-Holmes

University of Limerick, Ireland.Despite initial concerns about the dominance of English on the Web, particularly in corporate domains, multilingual provision has in fact become a key strategy for many online brands. Companies, groups and media organisations are now competing to increase the number of language options offered to users and, due to technological developments, linguistic glocalisation online is now expected and demanded by a growing number of consumers. In addition, increasing personalisation on the Web, through the use of profiles and filters, means that individuals can be assigned to a linguistic category based on factors such as location and certain choices and transported in a monolingual bubble through the Web (cf. Pariser 2012). Given the complexity of the processes involved and the challenge of constant change presented by the Web, investigating multilingualism in new media environments thus requires an adaptable multi-methods approach. In this paper, I explore how virtual ethnography (Hine 2000) can be usefully combined with linguistic landscape analysis (Landry and Bourhis 1997) in what I term ‘Virtual linguistic ethnography’ as a way to investigate corporate multilingualism on the monologic Web. As well as describing a number of studies, I will also include examples from the application of this method to teaching with advanced undergraduate students.


Hine, C. (2000) Virtual Ethnography. London: Sage.
Landry, R. and R. Bourhis (1997) Linguistic landscape and ethnolinguistic vitality. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 16 (1): 23–49.
Pariser, E. (2012) The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think. New York: Penguin.

Researching trajectories, identities and multilingual repertoire -Biographical approaches to research in multilingual settings: exploring linguistic repertoires

Brigitta Busch

University of Vienna, AustriaIn multilingualism research a shift of paradigm can be observed: the idea of conceiving languages as distinct categories is being abandoned in favour of the notion of linguistic repertoire which seems more apt to grasp the complexity of heteroglossic practices. Whereas Gumperz's (1964) original notion of linguistic repertoire takes the outside perspective of the observer, biographical approaches to repertoire aim at bringing back the experiencing and speaking subject into sociolinguistics. Over the last decade, biographical methods have been developed in the German-speaking scientific space in particular, benefiting from a strong tradition in phenomenological thought.

In this presentation, I will give an overview of different orientations within biographically oriented research. Studies draw on different kinds of data such as diaries, autobiographical texts, language memoirs, biographical interviews as well as on multimodal representations. Biographical approaches seem particularly productive in addressing topics such as language and emotion, language and subject positions or identity constructions, or language attitudes linked to language ideologies and discourses on language(s) and languaging. Whereas, in some studies, biographical data are considered as reconstruction of remembered and lived reality, poststructuralist approaches rather take into account the performative dimension of biographical narratives and understand them as technologies of the self (Foucault 1988).

Researching identities and researcher identities: The politics of negotiating the field

Frances Giampapa

University of Bristol, UK

Critical sociolinguistic and applied linguistic researchers have employed a variety of ethnographic methodologies to investigate multilingual and identity practices within macro-social/political processes. Recently within these research fields, there has been a growing interest on the impact of researcher identities, positionality, power and agency on the process of conducting, and interpreting research across linguistic and cultural contexts (Giampapa & Lamoureux, 2011; Norton & Early 2011).

Drawing from my critical ethnographic research on Italian Canadian youth’s constructions of Italianness in Toronto (Giampapa, 2001, 2004, 2010), this presentation explores the ways in which my researcher role, identities and positionings were reframed within discourses of authenticity, legitimacy and power within the field. These discourses framed the interactional practices and the crossing of diverse sites in which I was positioned as an insider/outsider.

What I hope to make visible and underline from this discussion is the complexities of being in the field and the importance and impact of critically reflecting on the multiple positions that we claim and are assigned throughout the research process.

Catching the stakes of language and identity: Trajectories of multilingual Montréalers through time and space

Patricia Lamarre

University of Montreal, CanadaLanguage in Quebec is a politically charged and much researched issue, but most research has heavily focused on language dominance, relying on census data and on surveys in which people are asked which language they use the most often in the home, public places, and the workplace. There has also been an inability to think in terms of a blurring of linguistic categories and the hyphenation or hybridization of linguistic identity (eg: being French-English). In a place where language politics colors most everything, there is very little data on the complexity of linguistic practices of young Montrealers, the majority of whom are bilingual or multilingual.

This instigated a new approach to data collection to examine how language repertoires are drawn upon as people move through their daily lives and what lies beneath choices made about language use. More specifically, why does a speaker choose to use French in one situation, English in another, choose heteroglossic ways of speaking (parlers bilingue et multilingue) among friends or even customers and coworkers, and then adopt much more conservative unilingual practices in other settings or interactions? How are the stakes underlying these situations understood and what is being negotiated by speakers? And finally, are traditional conceptions of language and identity salient to these young multilingual Montrealers? The study contributes to the growing academic interest in multilingualism, bringing to the fore constraints to heteroglossic ways of speaking, but also how heteroglossia challenges traditional politics of identity and ethnolinguistic nationalism.

This non-static approach to data collection allows us to follow young adults through their daily lives in the city, through social networks and a range of sites and activities, including in virtual space. The approach is inclusive, bringing participants into the analysis of data and engaging them in a reflexive process. A dynamic dimension to the case studies has been added in the past year. More specifically, participants in the original study were contacted and interviewed on how their lives have evolved, looking at language and identity issues as they move out of postsecondary education and into the workplace. In conclusion, I will discuss how this methodology responds to the growing need for a mobility paradigm in research and theory (Sheller 2010).

Researching interaction in the context of superdiversity - Ethnographic monitoring as a method for observing change

Jef Van der Aa & Jan Blommaert

Tilburg University, The Netherlands

In studies on superdiversity, it becomes increasingly clear that language, as an object of analysis, appears to be the most sensitive and accurate index of larger sociocultural shifts, and a concerted effort is underway to provide the study of superdiversity with a firm and reliable sociolinguistic foundation. Two major forces underlie this effort, and both will be at play in the specific project we document in this paper. One: a major effect of superdiversity is the drastic reduction of what can be presupposed and assumed about people, places and social processes; consequently, approaches in which an a priori sharedness of norms and sociocultural resources is posited can no longer be seen as unquestionably adequate, and every form of analysis must engage with the 'pretextual' conditions under which human interaction takes place. We need to examine the 'stuff' people bring to contact and communication, and the conditions that shape what can happen in such events. Two: we know that superdiversity creates forms of sociocultural complexity hitherto either unknown or neglected in analysis. The complexity presents itself as a set of rapidly, and relatively unpredictably, changing contextual conditions at several scale-levels, in which interaction can and does take place. And change itself - its dynamics, its patterns and features - becomes the object of analysis, replacing the more traditional 'synchronic' objects of structuralism.

This object demands a longitudinal approach in which change can be effectively observed, and a methodology focused on elucidating the detailed interplay of structure and agency in complex superdiverse settings. Ethnographic monitoring (EM) offers itself as a ready candidate. EM has its roots in the Hymesian paradigm of studies on language in education, and it provides a layered approach in which the observer becomes a participant (not a 'participant observer') and in which epistemic solidarity becomes the key to investigating the fine fibre of sociocultural processes.

We will outline the theoretical rationale for EM, its basic assumptions and its design, though an account of an EM project that has run for over a year now in Antwerp (Belgium), where a 'researcher in residence' has become a member of the team in a welfare organization addressing 'victims' of globalization.

Multilingualism in research practice: voices and identities - Responding to the challenges of superdiversity and multilingualism in research practice

Lisa Goodson and Jenny Phillimore

Institute for Applied Social Studies, College of Social Science, University of Birmingham,UK

Over the past two decades societies all over the world have encountered the forces of globalisation resulting in demographic changes that have transformed the social, cultural and language diversity of our communities. Birmingham, as one of the UK’s most superdiverse cities, exemplifies these changes. Superdiversity presents a number of challenges as well as opportunities to researchers from a range of different disciplinary backgrounds. By reflecting on the experiences of working with multilingual community research teams in Birmingham, this paper raises a number of methodological, epistemological and ethical concerns. It draws on examples from a community research project, focusing on English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision, to consider how working with multilingual research teams impacts on research practice, the quality of data as well as the power dynamics in the research process and what the overall learning from these experiences can tell us about multilingualism. It will then conclude with a discussion on how methodological advancements in research can be made within multilingual settings by highlighting the type of strategies that would help researchers respond to the challenges of multilingualism in research practice.

Field narratives and faith communities: the interaction of views from within and views from without

John Jessel and Ana Souza

Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

As a result of patterns of migration over the latter part of the twentieth century, faith communities have become important in offering support to newcomers to the UK. Through this, a range of activities take place that provide a bridge between heritage and new languages, literacies and cultural traditions. In order to investigate literacy learning in four such communities (Polish Catholic, West African Pentecostalist, Tamil Hindu and Bangladeshi Muslim) that have recently grown in importance in London, a collaborative ethnography was carried out*. Four researchers, who prior to their role were each already closely connected with one of the communities, acted as ‘insiders’. However, this presentation focuses on the roles of the researchers who, in addition to working within their own settings, visited the other faith settings thereby also acting as ‘outsiders’. A central methodological feature was the ‘field narrative’; an in-depth personal account of each visit produced by each researcher. Through examining perspectives on the same setting made available through the narratives to the different researchers we will not only consider the impact of the array of interpretations offered to a wider audience but also how this process may impact upon each researcher’s reporting of their own setting.

* Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC project RES-062-23-1629, 2009-2012) ‘Becoming literate in faith settings: Language and Literacy learning in the lives of new Londoners.’ Directors: Prof Eve Gregory (principal), Dr John Jessel, Dr Charmian Kenner, Dr Vally Lytra and Mahera Ruby. Researchers and administration: Dr Olga Barradas, Halimun Choudhury, Arani Ilankuberan, Dr Amoafi Kwapong Dr Ana Souza and Malgorzata Woodham.

“It’s a very difficult question isn’t it?” Exploring voices in a multilingual education research dialogue: researcher, interpreter and research participant negotiating meanings

Jane Andrews

University of the West of England (UWE), UK

Writers within applied linguistics and beyond have argued for research studies using interview to acknowledge all participants’ contributions to that data e.g. Mann (2011), Kvale & Brinkmann (2009). When research encounters involve multilingual participants who do not share each other’s languages interpreters are brought in as mediators and the issues of how to represent the research encounter and the data transparently are particularly significant. Temple & Edwards (2002) have called for interpreters to be recognised as co-researchers within research projects, given their impact on co-constructing the interaction. In this presentation, data from a single education research interview is explored using insights from sociocultural theory and interactional sociolinguistics in order to develop understandings of how knowledge was co-constructed in this instance of a multilingual research encounter.

Establishing methodologies for researching multilingually

Prue Holmes, Durham University
Richard Fay, The University of Manchester
Jane Andrews, The University of the West of England
Mariam Attia Durham University

Many sites of (social science and other) research demonstrate considerable linguistic and intercultural complexity, a condition of the late modern world. Managing this complexity requires skilful linguistic flexibility among researchers and researched and appropriate multilingual research practice. Whilst there are many opportunities for such multilingual research practice, there are also many constraints; the research training provided for scholars researching where more than one language is present tends to overlook or discount the possibilities for and complexities of researching multilingually. This paper reports on the findings from an AHRC-funded project* that sought to explore how researchers develop awareness of researching multilingually, and the methodological complexities and opportunities this awareness creates. Data drawn from 35 seminar presentations and 25 researcher profiles indicated researcher need to negotiate complex practices and processes: institutional practices, multilingual interviews, language choices, cross-linguistic data-analysis concerns, interpretation and translation, language politics, and researcher flexibility. However, researchers also identified opportunities that afforded rich insights, and the potential to navigate power imbalances. Our analysis of data enables us to propose an emergent theoretical framework for researching multilingually, which includes researcher intentionality, relationality, and research spaces. The project outcomes offer support for researchers for whom researching multilingually is a possibility and often a necessity.

*Project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), January – December 2012. The title of the project was “Researching multilingually” and the members of the research team were Prue Holmes, Durham University, Richard Fay, The University of Manchester, Jane Andrews, The University of the West of England and Mariam Attia, Durham University

Poster Abstracts

Reflexivity in Multilingual Research Practice

Mariam Attia, Prue Holmes, Richard Fay, and Jane Andrews

(Poster presented on behalf of the AHRC research team by Mariam Attia)

This presentation sheds light on the role of reflexivity in researching multilingually, in a largely English-medium academic context. Reflexivity is commonly understood to mean individual researchers’ awareness of the influence of their advanced knowledge, subjectivities, values and beliefs in shaping their research. Methodologically, the construct is significant for the conduction of rigorous qualitative research (Creswell & Miller, 2000; Etherington, 2004; Kleinsasser, 2000; van Heugten, 2004). As stated by Alvesson & Sköldberg (2000, p. 288), this “metaunderstanding” of the nature of research processes gives a field study its scope and significance. However, the understanding of reflexivity adopted in this presentation will not be limited to recognizing the effect of the researcher on the research, but also encompass the impact of the research on the researcher (Edge, 2011). Data will be drawn from doctoral researcher experiences presented at the seminars of the AHRC-funded project Researching Multilingually and posted on the project website ( Emphasis is placed on how the two-facets of reflexivity complete cycles of mutually-informing change in multilingual research practice reflecting researcher competence in its constant state of becoming. The poster illustrates experiences of embarking on cross-language doctoral research, researcher awareness of their subjective decision-making processes, how they pursue their research goals, and how they were - and may still be - influenced, in turn, by these processes and outcomes.

Alvesson, M., & Sköldberg, K. (2000). Reflexive methodology: New vistas for qualitative research. London: SAGE.
Creswell, J., & Miller, D. L. (2000). Determining validity in qualitative inquiry. Theory into Practice, 39(3), 124-130.
Edge, J. (2011). The reflexive teacher educator in TESOL. New York: Routledge.
Etherington, K. (2004). Becoming a reflexive researcher: Using our selves in research. London: Jessica Kingsley.
Kleinsasser, A. M. (2000). Researchers, reflexivity, and good data: Writing to unlearn. Theory into Practice, 39(3), 155-162.
van Heugten, K. (2004). Managing insider research. Qualitative Social Work, 3(2), 203-219.

Bilingualism in Bolzano-Bozen: a nexus and geosemiotic analysis

Peter Brannick

MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism, University of Birmingham

(Click on poster to increase the size)

This poster attempts to illustrate some of the methodological (and theoretical) choices made in undertaking a linguistic ethnography in Bozen-Bolzano, a multilingual city in the Italian Alps. The overarching ethnographic approach I have taken has been nexus analysis (Scollon & Wong Scollon 2004), complemented with geosemiotics, the Scollons’ programme for investigating language – in the very broadest sense – in the material world (Scollon & Wong Scollon 2003). In one sense, nexus analysis could be summarily described as a suite of ethnographic research methodologies and as such, at first glance, might appear to bring little of novelty to the table. However, what differentiates nexus analysis is that it is an approach which moves the locus of study away from language or culture, attending instead to human action. In nexus analysis, and indeed in geosemiotics, language and culture are understood as ‘…problems to be examined rather than as premises.’ (Scollon & Wong Scollon 2007:608-9). The allied approaches of nexus analysis and geosemiotics also take a view of language, or more precisely here discourse, as comprising ‘…all forms of meaningful semiotic human activity seen in connection with social, cultural and historical patterns of use’ (Blommaert 2005:6). As Blommaert notes (2011:34), nexus analysis began as a meditation on intertextuality. With this in mind, its focus is on the meeting point (the nexus of practice) not only of discourses and people, but also of ideas, objects and places: whose historical trajectories “coincide” in an instance of social action, and whose historical trajectories are altered by this social action. In the complex multilingual context of my study, these approaches have enabled the mapping of discourse itineraries (or chains), seemingly displaced by time and space, and has allowed – obliged even – the tracing of discourses across disparate discursive genres, to understand the interrelationship of language and other social semiotic data in discourses around bilingualism in Bolzano-Bozen.

Blommaert, J (2005) Discourse. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.
Blommaert, J (2011) Chronicles of Complexity. Tilburg Working Papers no. 29.
Scollon, R & Wong Scollon, S (2003) Discourses in Place: Language in the Material World. Routledge, New York.
Scollon R & Wong Scollon S (2004) Nexus Analysis: Discourse and the emerging internet. Routledge. London. New York.
Scollon R & Wong Scollon S (2007) Nexus analysis: Refocusing ethnography on action. Journal of Sociolinguistics 11/5, 608-625.

Researcher positionality: reflections on recent fieldwork in primary classrooms in Timor-Leste

Ildegrada da Costa Cabral

MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism, University of Birmingham.

I am carrying out a study of language policy and classroom practice in Timor-Leste. The focus is on the ways in which the new language policy adopted in Timor-Leste is shaping everyday classroom practices and patterns of communication. The fieldwork for this study was based on an ethnographic approach with fieldnotes, participant observation, and audio- and video-recording in classrooms. In this poster I explore issues related to the researcher’s positionality in ethnography. Ethnography is a particular way of looking at social reality, a research approach where researchers tend to recognize their subjectivity in their research. I clearly acknowledge that aspects of my identity shaped my research project and I will reflect on the specific ways in which this happened. I will try to show how different aspects of my identity shaped my relationship with the participants and my positionality in relation to them, and in the actual research process.

A critical ethnography of language and migration in Pakistan and the UK: aligning literacy practices with CDA’s discourse historical approach.

Anthony Capstick

Lancaster University

This poster presentation focuses on the critical and ethnographic approach taken in a study of transnational literacies across sites in Pakistan and the UK. The multilingual literacy practices of a transnational family are investigated alongside interviews with literacy mediators such as teachers and immigration consultants. The study investigates the family’s mobile linguistic resources by focusing on both physical and social spaces, firstly by examining the visa application process and secondly by examining key respondent’s online vernacular writing. Following Blommaert (2013), the aim here is to understand the family’s writing as a complex of specific resources which are subject to patterns of distribution, availability and accessibility through the analysis of both bureaucratic literacies as well as the vernacular writing of online social networking. Moreover, in order to capture the transcontextualizing potentials of what are often seen as local literacy practices (Brandt and Clinton 2002), the study seeks to understand both dominant and vernacular literacy practices within a framework which draws from the discourse historical approach’s four-level model of context in CDA (Wodak 2001; 2008). By moving between different levels of context the aim is to capture what Wodak and Fairclough describe as the spatial and temporal relationships between texts, including relations of recontextualization (2010), thereby responding to the methodological challenge of researching linguistic diversity in the late modern era.

“The voice of the ants don’t reach the sky”: paths of an ethnography of language policy in Timor-Leste

Alan Silvio Ribeiro Carneiro

Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil and University of Birmingham

Timor-Leste is a small Southeast Asian country, which became independent in 2002. The country has a complex sociolinguistic landscape with two official languages, Portuguese and Tetun; two working languages, English and Indonesian, and at least 15 other local languages. The reintroduction of the Portuguese language in different institutional settings in Timor-Leste has been giving rise to a number of political and ideological issues in this multilingual setting. The government of Timor-Leste set up agreements in 2001 and 2002 with Portugal and Brazil to develop cooperation projects for the training of teachers to replace the Indonesian language, in the national education system, by Portuguese and Tetun. In this period, the first projects designed to train Timorese teachers were initiated and one of these projects was the creation of a degree course of Portuguese Language as Second Language at the National University. The main focus of my doctoral research is to investigate how teachers and students in this course were representing their languages, language practices and language policies and how they were making sense of the current sociolinguistic processes at work in the country. The fieldwork was conducted between January and June of 2012. It included interviews with focus on the life histories of teachers and students. The aim of this poster is to present a reflective account about the process of conducting the fieldwork and generating the data and to discuss the main difficulties encountered during this process, as well during the analysis of the data. My focus is on the challenges involved in designing an ethnographic approach to the study of language policies and of developing an analysis that takes into consideration the way these policies are constructed through language in the context of wider social practices.

Diary and photo-based interviews in ethnographic research: developing a dialogic approach

Sonia Gallucci

Regent’s University London and University of Birmingham

This poster aims to show the significance of a dialogic approach as a methodological strategy in ethnographic research through a multiple case-study analysis of three female British citizens who lived in Italy for an academic year as ERASMUS students. The research was mostly undertaken by means of semi-structured and in depth interviews. Some of these interviews were based on photographs, with accompanying captions (written by participants). The photographs were taken by participants and related to their learning environments in Italy. I also drew on diary entries written by them for at least two consecutive weeks during their sojourn abroad. All interviews were audio recorded and particular communicative events were also filmed. The data collected consists of audio and video recordings. The use of diaries was very important in my research, since it provided insights into the significance of particular situations and into the inner perceptions of participants (cf. Alaszewski, 2006; Jones, Martin-Jones and Bhatt: 2000). In addition to the diary-based interview, I also set up another ethnographically-informed method, that is image-based interviews. Here my starting point was with the photo-based interview method devised in a recent research project (Martin-Jones et al., 2009). The participants’ degree of involvement and the amusement they shared when commenting on their pictures allowed me to have crucial new insights into their life in the new contexts, and their perceptions of them (cf. Hamilton, 2000; Nikula & Huhta, 2008).

Selected references

Alaszewski, A. (2006). Using diaries for social research. London: SAGE Publications.
Hamilton, M. (2000). “Expanding the new studies: Using photographs to explore literacy as social practice” in Barton, D., Hamilton, M. & Ivanic, R. (eds) (2000). Situated literacies: reading and writing in content. London: Routledge.
Jones, K., Martin-Jones, M. & Bhatt, A. “Constructing a critical, dialogic approach to research on multilingual literacies” in Martin-Jones, M. & Jones, K. (eds) (2000). Multilingual literacies: Reading and writing different worlds. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 319-51.
Nikula, T & Huhta, A.P. (2008). “Using Photographs to Access Stories of Learning English” in Kalaja, Menezes, V. & Barcelos, A.M.F. (eds). Narratives of learning and teaching EFL. Palgrave Macmillan, 171-85.

Oral history contributions to research about teachers’ education and their recollection of literacy practices: notes on the appropriation of speech

Ana Lúcia Guedes Pinto

Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil

This presentation aims to illustrate the contributions that Oral History methodology offers to research on teacher education and, specifically, teachers’ recollections of past literacy practices. The presentation draws on my doctoral work, on the final steps of my most recent research (Education at the University: dimensions of written language at the beginning of the educational process for comprehensive school teachers), and on theory-building within the framework of a project entitled: Teacher’s Education: insertion processes and literacy practices (FAPESP/UNICAMP). During the course of this research, I adopted the theoretical and methodological perspective of Oral History and came to see that this approach offers a denser and deeper understanding of teachers’ narratives, and particularly their recollections of reading in the early stages of their education. Although the interview procedure is a well established and accepted resource in the social sciences, an Oral History approach that builds on studies such as those by Portelli (2012, 2001), Thomson (2002) and Amado (1995, 1997), offers a new lens on narrative and on the discourses of research participants. In addition, Oral History poses a challenge to us regarding our role as researchers. In this presentation, I will consider the opportunities opened up by Oral History work and, at the same time, I will touch on some of the challenges associated with this work. I will analyse excerpts of interviews that I have conducted with teachers with a view to discussing some of these opportunities and challenges and with a view to reflecting on the discursive processes involved in the appropriation of the word and texts by research participants.

Multiple uses of photographs in an ethnographically-informed case study

Kamran Khan

MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism, University of Birmingham, UK

My research follows the citizenship journey of W, a Yemeni migrant in the UK. It was an ethnographically informed case study in the Sparkbrook area of Birmingham. Birmingham is one of the most diverse cities in Europe and Sparkbrook was the setting for Rex & Moore’s seminal text on race relations Race, Community and Conflict.The majority of my data was collected using field notes and interviews. However, I also used photographs in two ways. Firstly, I used photographs to capture ‘semiotic landscapes’ in order to frame how the area changed in response to new immigrants arriving in the area. This captured details of how social spaces among migrant communities changed – changes not readily available in the statistics. This became a form of photo-documentation. The effect of this for the researcher was what Brecht would describe as an ‘alienation effect.’ As someone who has spent the majority of his life in the area, this exercise in documentation became a way of making the familiar become strange. Secondly, photo elicitation was used. W was given a topic for which he used photographs to describe his life in the UK. This became the stimulus for interviews and also provided insights into his life that may not have otherwise have been explored. This allowed W to guide certain aspects of the data collection. Overall, using photographs in different ways has offered a method in tracking change in the neighbourhood, adjusting the positionality of the researcher and eliciting rich interview data.

Mediation in medical systems: are mediators empowering patients´ voices in any way?

Dolores Ruiz Lozano

Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

The presence of intercultural mediators in institutional contexts have become a reality in the bilingual region of Catalonia since the arrival of persons from diverse linguistic backgrounds in the ‘90s. The present study analyses the different forms of mediation in interlinguistic interactions, performed in Catalan healthcare services and in contexts of migration. The transformative dialogic mediation (TDL) model promotes participants’ empowerment and mediators intervene as providers of opportunities to talk, checking reciprocal understanding, and helping parties to improve their communication. Although the literature encourages TDL, existing research (Baraldi 2009) highlights how dyadic separation – which prevents patient´s active participation- seems to be the most widespread form of mediation. The challenge of the present study is to integrate macro-social theoretical concepts with the analysis of the micro-local activities of situated actors. The study addresses the macro-social configurations of power and empowerment where mediator practices are located and the possibilities for either challenging or reproducing these practices in the local, micro-interactional mediating activities. This study is an attempt to find out whether mediators actually empower patients or if they mainly contribute to the continuity of institutional social/linguistic processes. Ethnographic fieldwork has been undertaken in a health centre serving a multi-ethnic, multilingual migrant neighbourhood in urban Barcelona. The fieldwork conducted for this study consisted in two different phases of data gathering: the first phase involved semi-structured interviews with doctors and health mediators. Data collection for the second phase consisted of audio-recordings of medical encounters in which a mediator was present in consultation. Observations and audio recording of activities mostly involved physician-patient-mediator interaction.

Bolivian-origin migrants in São Paulo, Brazil: trajectories, discourses and resources

Selma Moura

State University of Campinas, (Unicamp) Brazil and MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism, University of Birmingham

New forms of migration and language contact have been transforming global cities in different parts of the world and creating ‘contact zones’ that are increasingly diverse in nature (Blommaert, 2010; Pratt, 1991). The ‘diversification of diversity’, or superdiversity, embraces all aspects of social life, including social, cultural, political and historical dimensions (Vertovec, 2007). This research is taking place in Bom Retiro, a neighbourhood in São Paulo, Brazil, that has been the destination for numerous groups of migrants for more than a century. With the economic changes ushered in by late capitalism and the growth of Brazilian economy, this working-class neighbourhood, in which the garment industry has been the main economic activity, has been attracting new and increasingly diverse flows of migrants, including Koreans, Bolivians, Chinese and people from various African countries. This ethnographic study takes a critical sociolinguistic stand and draws on linguistic ethnography to focus on Bolivian-origin migrant families, their trajectories, their linguistic resources and cultural practices and values. The data is being gathered through photo documentation of the linguistic landscape, ethnographic interviews and field notes. Currently, narrative analysis of the interview data (Baynham and De Fina, 2005; De Fina, 2003) is being used as analytic approach so as to build an understanding of why and how these families came to this neighbourhood and how they are constructing and sustaining transnational links. I am also building an account of the linguistic resources available to different family members, the values they associate with these resources and the ways in which they draw on these resources to navigate different domains of their lives. The critical dimension of the study focuses on the ways in which they are positioned, as ‘Bolivians’ in different domains of social life and how they are responding to these positionings. I am also taking into consideration the ways in which their individual trajectories relate to broader economic, social, cultural and political processes.


Baynham, M. and De Fina, A. 2005. Dislocations/relocations: narratives of displacement. Manchester: St. Jerome
Blommaert, J. 2010. The sociolinguistics of globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
De Fina, A. 2003. Identity in narrative: a study of immigrant discourse. Amsterdam: Jonh Benjamin
Pratt, M. L. (1991) Arts of the contact zone Profession 91. New York: Modern Language Association.
Vertovec. S. 2007. Super-diversity and its implications, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30:6, 1024-1054

Literacy learning and development in Cyprus educational context

Sotiroula Stavrou

MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism, University of Birmingham

This study investigates the way 18 students in a primary school in Cyprus learn literacy skills and practices in the bidialectal social context of Cyprus. Greek-Cypriot students with and without specific learning difficulties are integrated, socialised and learn knowledge in the classroom through two languages. The Cyprus dialect (CD) is part of their daily routine while Standard Modern Greek (SMG) is the official language of the island and education system.

The research methodology is based on ethnography and follows the principles of classroom ethnography since it examines students’ behavior, learning activities, social interactions and discourse in formal and semi-formal educational settings such as their school classroom (Watson- Gegeo, 1997; Hornberger & Corson, 1997). It is characterised by a strong empirical approach (Wiersma, 1991), and involves the collection of firsthand information on literacy development of an identified group which is a fourth year’s classroom of 18 students in a primary school in a village in Southern East Cyprus.

The students were studied in their everyday school and social context through systematic observations and rich descriptions of what occurs in the classroom. As their class teacher I was participant-observer. Further ethnographic research methods involved ethnographic interviews with the parents, document analysis including samples of student writing, field notes and researcher reflection/ journaling (Eisenhart, 2010). Conversations in the classroom are being analysed based on sociocultural discourse analysis and thematic coding. The primary questions which are driving the investigation are:

  1. How does translanguaging appear in classroom talk? Does it support communication particularly the exploratory talk, as an element for curriculum teaching and learning? 
  2. How do students construct knowledge collectively drawing on all of their linguistic resources? 
  3. How do students with specific learning difficulties or dyslexia respond to this collaborative effort? Are they responding differently?

How Russian? Whose Russian? Selecting memory, objectifying language

Sabina Vakser

University of Melbourne, Australia

Many researchers working in their own language communities can recognize how multilingual dynamics with participants affect not just the transcripts that inform our studies, but the framing of reality itself. A reflexive stance alerts us to multilingualism as more than an object of study, but indeed as a a subjective, driving force behind every stage of the research process, including research question formulation, access and interaction, transcription choices, translation, and interpretation. This poster draws on my experiences transcribing and interpreting interactional data with Russian speakers in Melbourne. I use Kramsch’s (2009) notion of the doubly-symbolic nature of language to demonstrate how field relations and researcher subjectivity orient transcription and representation. In particular, I draw attention to the blurry distinction between ‘heritage’ and ‘second’ language, noting how it can sometimes be a matter of both.As languages are increasingly seen as resources for meaning-making, I consider how in this process, individuals must actively suppress established meanings – indeed, neutralize an ‘inherited’ consciousness – in light of shifting ideological commitments. Thus histories and memories indexed by once ‘normal’ language habits are both validated and renounced with new goals, such as raising children, or even writing a PhD. This requires a conscious distancing, creating new multilingual realities and flavours of heritage, which are reflected in subsequent language choice. I argue that this objectification of language is an overlooked but crucial dimension that points to a shaky, but often necessary, construct between ‘second’ versus ‘heritage’ language. Interestingly, this objectification – which can appear as monolingualisation – contributes to an expanded stylistic repertoire.


Kramsch, C. J. (2009). The Multilingual Subject: What Foreign Language Learners Say about their Experience and Why it Matters. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Teacher and student talk in state and private primary schools in Colombia and the impact of the national policy on bilingualism: what are its real outcomes?

Silvia Valencia Giraldo

Universidad del Quindio, Colombia

As in many other world contexts, state policy on bilingualism in Colombia is being implemented by the Ministry of Education in public schools all over the country. Bilingualism, traditionally associated with private bilingual schools is now aimed at students in public schools from early grades through the ‘Programa Nacional de Bilingüismo (PNB) 2004-2019’. Although some local education authorities are carrying out pilot schemes in bilingualism in public schools in different regions throughout the country, many schools have now introduced changes in their curricula encouraged by current discourses on bilingualism circulating in Colombian society. As a result of globalizing processes and the accelerated development that the Colombian economy has been experiencing in the last decade, mastery of English as well as Spanish, understood as ‘bilingualism’ in this context, has become a necessary requisite for professionals and students. However, educational policy and the way it is put into practice in public schools create tensions and resistance not only among students but also among in-service teachers. In this presentation, I will discuss results of a recent micro-ethnographic study in state and private primary schools in Armenia, Quindío. The study investigated the impact of the policy being implemented, and, through close analysis of teachers’ and students’ talk, directed attention towards issues arising from the classroom practices shaped by the policy. The focus was on interactional and pedagogical practices, the linguistic and cultural resources (Luk and Lin, 2007) that the teachers and students drew upon in the construction of local meanings, and the institutional practices of the schools. I will contend that despite efforts from official and private sectors, the gap continues to widen between public and private education and that the anticipated outcomes of the policy on bilingualism are still far from becoming a reality.

An ethnographic study on Young Native Speaking Teachers’ (YNESTs’) identity transition process in elementary schools in South Korea

Soyoung Yun

MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism, University of Birmingham

Through this poster, I would like to share with you how I collected data for a study of Young Native English-speaking Student Teachers’ (YNESTs’) identity transition process in elementary schools in Korea. Seven YNESTs were selected from the TaLK (Teach and Learn in Korea) and EPIK (English Program in Korea) programmes from February 2012 to September 2012. These programmes are co-run by the Ministry of Education of Korea and the Korean government. To track their identity transition process, I attempted to investigate the range of identity positions Young Native English-speaking Student Teachers (YNESTs) articulate for themselves at different stages: when they arrived in Korea, when they completed the government’s training programme, after one month’s teaching experience and then after six month’s teaching experience. To achieve “thick description” (Geertz, 1973), empirical evidence was collected - mainly diaries, interviews (audio-recordings), classroom observations (field-notes) and to, a lesser extent, personal diaries, essays and teacher notes. My ethnographic approach included in-depth case studies of each of the participants, and their identity transition was studied with supporting data gathered during the fieldwork.

For further information please get in touch with the conference organisers: Marilyn Martin-Jones and Deirdre Martin

Final Conference, May 2013


Download the Responding to contemporary multilingual realities, recasting research methodologies abstracts (247KB, PDF)

Download the Responding to contemporary multilingual realities, recasting research methodologies poster abstracts (433KB, PDF)