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MultiFam: Family language policy in multilingual transcultural families (completed)

Family language policy involves implicit and explicit planning as well as practices in relation to language use and literacy within home domains and among family members.

Photo: Colourbox

About the project

Contemporary socio-political and cultural contexts have led to intensified mobility and an increasing number of multilingual transcultural families. MultiFam's main goal is to generate knowledge on the factors involved in multilingual transcultural family members' decisions and practices concerning language use and literacy in the home. The following research questions are in focus:

  1. What language(s) do caregivers choose to transfer to the next generation: why and how?
  2. What language(s) do children speak with siblings and older generations: why and how?
  3. What literacy skills and practices characterize different family members in relation to the languages they were socialized in and through? The purpose of this focus is to examine the factors that contribute to the transfer—or not—of minority languages across generations, and the factors that lead to a possible language shift.

MultiFam builds on state-of-the-art research on language socialization and language ideology. Language socialization includes socializing into language to enable appropriate use of linguistic structures, and through language to become effective social actors and community members.

Language ideology investigates how ways of using languages reflect and (re)produce socio-cultural values, and the beliefs and assumptions people have about language and language users. Family language policy can thus be defined as conscious and unconscious planning of language use and literacy practices within home domains and among family members. Various types of data will be collected including a large-scale questionnaire survey, focus group interviews, and conversations in the home among various family members. The body of new knowledge on family language policy evolving from this project will have the potential to contribute to policy and practice in local society, and to a better understanding of what it means to be a contemporary citizen in a society with increasing linguistic and cultural diversity.

Full project description. (PDF)



3 years


Funding as an Independent Project (FRIPRO), The Research Council of Norway, 2015–2018.

From MultiLing: Elizabeth Lanza (project leader), Anne Golden, Bente Ailin Svendsen


Li Wei, University College London; Annick De Houwer, Erfurt University; Lars Kulbrandstad, Høgskolen i Hedmark; Language Council of Norway; FAFO

Some publications on language socialization and family language policy in multilingual families

2020. Elizabeth Lanza & Rafael Lomeu Gomes. Family language policy. Foundations, theoretical perspectives and critical approaches. In Andrea C. Schalley & Susana Eisenchlas (eds.), Handbook of Home Language Maintenance and Development. Social and Affective Factors. Mouton de Gruyter, 153 - 173. 

2020. Elizabeth Lanza. Digital storytelling: Multilingual parents' blogs and vlogs as narratives of family language policy. In Guri Bordal Steien & Lars Anders Kulbrandstad (eds.), Språkreiser. Festskrift til Anne Golden. Novus forlag.  Download here.

2020. Elizabeth Lanza. Urban multilingualism and family language policy. In Giuditta Caliendo, Rudi Janssens, Stef Slembrouck & Piet Van Avermaet (eds.), Urban Multilingualism in Europe: Bridging the Gap between Language Policies and Language Practices.  Mouton de Gruyter, 121 – 139.

2019. Elizabeth Lanza & Kristin Vold Lexander. Family language practices in multilingual transcultural families. In Simona Montanari & Suzanne Quay (eds.),  Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Multilingualism: The Fundamentals.  Mouton de Gruyter, 229 - 251. 

2019. Judith Purkarthofer & Guri Bordal Steien. 2019. “Prétendre comme si on connaît pas une autre langue que le swahili”: Multilingual parents in Norway on change and continuity in their family language policies. International Journal of the Sociology of Language DOI:

2019. Purkarthofer, Judith. Using Mobile Phones: Recording as a Social and Spatial Practice in Multilingualism and Family Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research 20(1), Art. 20,

2018. Elizabeth Lanza & Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen (Eds.). Special issue Multilingual Families: Aspirations and ChallengesInternational Journal of Multilingualism. Volume 15, Issue 3.

2018. Maria Antonina Obojska & Judith Purkarthofer. " ‘And all of a sudden, it became my rescue’: language and agency in transnational families in Norway". International Journal of Multilingualism. Volume 15, Issue 3.

2018. Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen & Elizabeth Lanza (Eds.). Special issue Multilingual Family Language Management: Efforts, Measures and Choices. Multilingua, Volume 37, Issue 2.

2017. Kendall King & Elizabeth Lanza (eds.). Special issue Ideology, agency, and imagination in multilingual families. OnlineFirst. International Journal of Bilingualism.

2017. Judith Purkarthofer. Buidling expectations: Imagining family language policy and heteroglossic social spaces. In Special issue Ideology, agency, and imagination in multilingual families. OnlineFirst. International Journal of Bilingualism.

2016. Elizabeth Lanza & Li Wei (eds.). Special issue Multilingual encounters in transcultural families. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development.

2007. Elizabeth Lanza & Bente Ailin Svendsen. Tell me who your friends are and I might be able to tell you what language(s) you speak: Social network analysis and multilingualism. International Journal of Bilingualism, Volume 11( 3): 275-300.

2007. Elizabeth Lanza. Multilingualism and the family. In Li Wei & P. Auer (eds.), Handbook of Multilingualism and Multilingual Communication. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

2004. Elizabeth Lanza. Paperback edition with new Afterword  Language Mixing in Infant Bilingualism: A Sociolinguistic Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2004. Elizabeth Lanza. Language socialization of infant bilingual children in the family: Quo vadis? In X. Rodríguez-Yáñez, A. Suárez & F. Ramallo (red.), Bilingualism and Education from the Family to the School. Munich: Lincom Europa, 21 - 39.

Published Dec. 8, 2013 10:42 PM - Last modified Nov. 30, 2020 1:44 PM


Elizabeth Lanza

(+47) 22856751


Detailed list of participants