MultiLing at the 11th International Symposium on Bilingualism

Recently, the 11th International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB) took place in Limerick, Ireland. A number of MultiLingers and MultiLing's collaborators attended the conference for four days packed with the latest research in multilingualism.

This year marked the 20th anniversary for the International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB), the most important international conference on multilingualism. The first ISB took place in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1997, initiated by Li Wei and Nick Miller. Since then, the conference has taken place at ten different locations around the globe, and this year, about 950 delegates came to the University of Limerick, where 900 talks and posters were presented over the course of five days. The theme for the 2017 gathering was “Bilingualism, Multilingualism and the New Speaker”.

Graffscapes, languagized labor markets, and multilingual aphasia

During the conference, participants from MultiLing held a number of presentations, in addition to chairing several colloquia (a full overview can be seen at the end of this article). How can drawings be used to understand language as in space? Haley De Korne and Judith Purkarthofer explored how children’s drawings can be used as a part of the local linguistic landscape to show their active negotiation of language in space. Kellie Gonçalves has collected images of ‘wildstyle’ graffscapes (Pennycook 2010: 64), semi-structured interviews and videos in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York since 2011. These graffscapes is an art form that integrates graffiti letters with designs, and in her

talk, Gonçalves explored how they index an array of visually powerful socio-political messages relating to global capitalism and neoliberal regimes within the 21st century. Veronica Pajaro analysed video-recorded job interviews, observations of the recruitment process, and various written materials related to medical resident posts at a university hospital to see how languages and proficiencies are imagined, named and co-constructed by both the employer and the applicants. Pajaro’s analysis shows that candidates strategically disclose and withhold information on their multilingual competences in order to present themselves as ‘hirable’ doctors, in a labor market where language has been both reified and commodified, and where languages and competences are placed in hierarchies where they are unequally valued.

Clinical aspects of multilingualism was also the topic of several presentations by MultiLing’s researchers — For instance, Monica Norvik Knoph and Mira Goral opened the colloquium “Communication disorders in migrants and refugees”, with a talk on assessment challenges in multilingual persons with aphasia. Aphasia might affect not only the patient's languages differently, but it can also affect the four language modalities (listening, speaking, reading and writing) in different ways. Assessment is thus crucial, but as Knoph and Goral noted there are several challenges linked to the tools and interpretation of data that have to be addressed in order to provide better assessment of these patients.

Multilingualism across the lifespan

Pia Lane opens the colloquium on multilingualism across the lifespan (Photo: UiO)

Pia Lane chaired a featured panel on multilingualism across the lifespan, with Aneta Pavlenko as the discussant. In her introduction, Pia Lane, gave an overview of sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic approaches to multilingualism studies, and highlighted the continued need to "bridge the gap" between the two disciplines, and to learn from each other to bring the field forward. There is also a need for more longitudinal studies, to examine causal relationships between variables. In the panel, multilingualism across the lifespan was addressed with a focus on the multilingual individual, social interaction and social practices in multilingual contexts, and the management of multilingualism.

The seven speakers led the audience through the lifespan from multilingual acquisition in children (Annick De Houwer, Erfurt Uni.) and youth multilingualism (Quentin Williams, Uni. of the Western Cape), via the language policies of multilingual families (Casse Smith-Christmas, Uni. of Limerick), to Mira Goral’s (CUNY) presentation on how multilingual competence changes in older adulthood. The emotional aspects of multilingualism were presented by Ng Bee Chin (Nanyang Technological Uni.), and later in the session, Monica S. Schmid (Uni. of Essex) talked about multilingualism and first language attrition. The processes of language acquisition, transmission and socialisation in contexts of language contact and change was the topic of Gillian Wigglesworth's (Uni. of Melbourne) presentation.

“Family matters!”

From Elizabeth Lanza's plenary talk (Photo: UiO)

The final keynote of the conference was given by MultiLing’s center leader Elizabeth Lanza. In her talk, “The multilingual child and the family: Input, practices and policies”, she  presented an overview of the research in the field, with a focus on family language policy: How has the field developed and what directions is it currently taking? Lanza concluded that family matters: we need to focus on the family embedded in society as the context for home language development and maintenance. To effectively study and understand the multilingual child, we need to draw on insights from family language policy and multilingual acquisition research. She also pointed to some issues that deserve more attention, such as socio-psychological issues (identity, emotions) in family language use, and code-switching/translanguaging in the family — how do family members engage in communication and how do they communicate across various media, drawing on their entire linguistic repertoire?



Pennycook, A. 2010. Language as a local practice. London: Routledge.


Full overview of MultiLing presentations at ISB11:

  • Haley De Korne and Judith Purkarthofer: Zooming into language use: Drawings as a means to understand languages in space
  • Valantis Fyndanis, Helene Killmer (with Varlokosta, Efstratiadou, Wartenburger, Burchert, Chatziantoniou & Potagas): Morphosyntactic production in Greek-German bilingual agrammatic aphasia: A case study.
  • Anne Golden (with Guri B. Steien): “My mother tongue that I do not speak anymore is Tchokwe" Multilingual Congolese migrants in Norway about changes in their linguistic competence
  • Kellie Gonçalves: Multilingual orthographic norm breaking: the case of ‘wildstyle’ graffscapes in Bushwick, New York.
  • Kellie Gonçalves (chair, with Anne Schluter): The political economy of language: challenges and approaches within ‘blue-collar’ workplace contexts (colloquium)
  • Mira Goral: Change in multilingual competence in older adulthood
  • Mira Goral (with Lerman, Pazuelo & Borodkin): Language control in bilingual aphasia: Evidence from language mixing
  • Bård Uri Jensen (with Guri B. Steien): New speakers and newer speakers: Intonational characteristics of two post-L1 languages in sequential multilinguals
  • Monica Knoph and Mira Goral: Aphasia in an unfamiliar landscape
  • Pia Lane (chair), Aneta Pavlenko (discussant): Multilingualism across the Lifespan (featured colloquium)
  • Elizabeth Lanza (keynote): The multilingual child and the family: Input, practices and policies
  • Marianne Lind & Monica Knoph (poster): Working with multilingual aphasia: Attitudes and practices among Norwegian speech and language therapists
  • Kamilla Kraft: Multilingualism, work, and integration: between emancipation and stratification
  • Kamilla Kraft (chair, with Mi-Cha Flubacher): Multilingualism, work, and integration: between emancipation and stratification (colloquium)
  • Maria Obojska (with Ragni Vik Johnsen): "Then suddenly I knew a lot of Spanish’"- How changes and transition in life can affect family multilingualism.
  • Veronica Pajaro: Multilingual competences in a languagized labor market: Naming languages and conveying skills in recruitment processes
  • Aneta Pavlenko (with Scott Jarvis): Bilingual semantics in a real-life context: Comprehension of legal rights
  • Judith Purkarthofer (with Guri B. Steien): “Nous allons prétendre comme si on connaît pas une autre langue que le swahili” How multilingual parents in Norway evoke change and continuity when talking about their family language policy
  • Judith Purkarthofer (chair, with Guri B. Steien): New speakers come to life – Matching expectations of families and their environments (colloquium)
  • Yesim Sevinc: The dual anxiety of immigrants: Heritage language anxiety and majority language anxiety.
  • Hanne Gram Simonsen, Marianne Lind, Ingeborg Ribu, Malene Bøyum & Jan Svennevig: Lexical access in a bilingual speaker with dementia: changes over time


By Malene Bøyum
Published June 26, 2017 3:13 PM - Last modified June 19, 2018 1:37 PM