Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 6

1 Bilingualism and Multilingualism Richard Clment University of Ottawa rclement@uottawa.

ca 2731 words (A-length as defined in the Writhing Guidelines) Approaching bilingualism and multilingualism from a communication perspective sheds light on a phenomenon which otherwise would appear static and asocial. MerriamWebsters online thesaurus defines bilingualism as the ability to speak two languages: the frequent oral use of two languages and multilingual as of, containing, or expressed in several languages and using or able to use several languages. The apparent simplicity of these definitions is, however, deceiving for a number of reasons. First, they fail to make the distinction between bilingualism as a collective characteristic defining nations and bilingualism as a persons competence in one or more languages. As we will see below, that distinction is crucial to our understanding of bilingualism as the product of the interplay between individuals and their context. Second, defining bilingualism at a national level entails, in itself, a number of difficulties. Since there are approximately 5000 languages distributed in 200 countries, most would be characterized by a state of relative bilingualism. Qualifying a state as bilingual does not, however, follow from a simple head count. A key question, here, is how do we distinguish a language from a dialect? Normally, languages are not mutually intelligible. Dialects, however, as varieties of one language differentiated along grammar, vocabulary and accent may or may not be mutually intelligible. European French speakers would probably not understand the Creole dialect spoken in the French West Indies but they would probably understand the French spoken in Canada. Does that make Creole a language and French Canadian a dialect? Not necessarily. According to Weinreich (1945, p. 13), A language is a dialect that has an army and a navy. This introduces the issue of power hierarchies in the definition of languages ( Power in Intergroup Settings). Languages are not languages unless they are recognized as such by the state and this usually entails the obligation to support their acquisition, maintenance and use. Hence, state-level degree of bilingualism is heavily dependent on the political and social climate. The third set of definitional problems is related to individual bilingualism or bilinguality (Hamers and Blanc 2000). A bilingual person could be the one that can speak two languages perfectly. Others would, however suggest that even a minimal knowledge of both languages is enough to qualify as a bilingual. Adding to the confusion is the fact that a strictly linguistic definition may not be appropriate. Apart from linguistic competence, Skutnab-Kangas (1984) proposes three other definitions of bilingualism based respectively on its developmental aspects, its functions for the individual and the community and speakers identification and attitudes toward the second language community. This perspective buttresses the social and political underpinnings discussed above regarding societal bilingualism. It compels to view bilingualism as heavily embedded in its social context and communication practices. The following elaborates on each of the questions raised by these definitional problems. To be sure though, when speaking of bi- or multilingualism, we not only speak of languages in contact, but also of the people from varied cultural origins using these

2 languages. Bilingualism is, therefore, an intercultural communication (IC) phenomenon (Acculturation Processes and Communication). While bilingualism and multilingualism have not been themes exploited in the literature on IC (cf. Gudykunst & Mody 2002), I will argue that the two fields of research share many concepts which are similar and that showing these would highlight their complementary characteristics ( Intercultural and Intergroup Communication). Bilinguality Acquiring and using a language other than the first language learned is a matter of fact in most areas of the world. A distinction is usually made between simultaneous and successive bilingualism. In the first case, both languages are acquired simultaneously whereas in the second case, the second language is acquired later in life. The first description of simultaneous bilingualism is attributed to Ronjat (1913) who observed the linguistic development (in French and German) of his son Louis from birth to age 4. Ronjat concluded positively about the development of his son. Since then, numerous studies have been made of simultaneous bilingualism and generally confirm what the early studies found: children developing both languages simultaneously from an early age are able to differentiate their languages at an early stage and are not at any disadvantage in terms of language acquisition compared to their monolingual peers. It is important to note, however, that achieving such a state of balanced bilingualism is subject to the existence of contextual factors favoring the equal status of the languages, their equal valuing by the parents, the availability of a language community for each languages as well as individual factors such as positive attitudes toward bilingualism and the languages. These factors are also present, under other labels in numerous IC theories. The importance of a network representing each language is expressed in Kims (1986) representation of the relation between second language (L2) competence and individual communication networks. Specifically, she relates network heterogeneity and the relative importance of outgroup members in the network to the achievement of outgroup communicative competence ( Communication Networks). Similarly, Gudykunsts (2005) Anxiety/uncertainty management theory proposes that situational processes such as norms for interacting with L2 speakers as well as the individuals connection with the L2 speakers act as determinants of communication effectiveness and intercultural adjustment ( Anxiety-Uncertainty-Management Theory). Finally, communication accommodation theory (e.g., Gallois et al. 1995) underlines the importance, among other factors, of interpersonal and intergroup factors in determining the individuals accommodative orientation ( Communication Accomodation Theory). None of these theories deals specifically with development. They do, however, lay out concepts and constructs pertaining to the broader issue of communicative behavior. As suggested by MacIntyre et al. (1998), L2 usage is fundamental to L2 acquisition. The factors affecting successive bilingualism (the acquisition of L2 after L1 has been established) are by and large identical to those affecting simultaneous bilingualism. Research results underline the importance of such factors as linguistic aptitude, learning strategies and personality factors such as introversion. These aspects find little correspondence in the IC literature. Pioneering work on the question of motivation does, however, cross many of the IC paths. Gardner and Lambert (1972) originally proposed that motivation is, with linguistic aptitude, the factor determining L2 competence. They

3 further showed that L2 motivation was closely linked to attitude toward the L2 community and an interest in becoming similar to valued members of that group, a tendency which they labeled integrativeness. Originally aimed at describing the Canadian situation, over three decades of research have shown that L2 motivation, as affectively based in intergroup attitudes, is a determining factor in L2 competence in numerous settings across the world. And this connects with aspects of the IC theories described above. Since the original research, many alternative motivational models have been created (Clment & Gardner 2001). In all cases, however, the affective basis of the motivation is linked to contextual factors ( Language Attitudes in Intergroup Contexts). Besides intergroup attitudes, the more recent literature has supported the importance of L2 confidence as a determinant of L2 behavior and competence. L2 confidence corresponds to the belief in being able to react adaptively to situations involving the use of a second language. It is related to positive self-ratings of competence and a lack of anxiety when using the second language (Clment 1980). It originates from situations where contact with the L2 community is both frequent and pleasant. Thus, while positive attitudes may orient the individual towards the L2 community, intercultural contact generates the confidence required for L2 interaction and, in so doing, promotes L2 competence as well as other aspects as well as others consequences of L2 acquisition to be discussed below (MacIntyre et al. 1998). Anxiety and uncertainty are also concepts found in IC theories. Notably, Gudykunst (1985) proposed a general theory of interpersonal and intergroup communication in which anxiety management occupies a central role. Accordingly, reconciling intergroup and interpersonal communication hinges on defining as the stranger any other person, whether that person is perceived as different culturally or not. Specifically, it is suggested that the influence on communication effectiveness of the motivation to interact with strangers, the reaction to strangers, the social categorization of strangers and the connection with strangers are mediated (in part) by an anxiety management system. Societal Bilingualism Many descriptions of bilinguality may convey the impression that the phenomenon is individually based or at, best, relevant to dyadic interactions. The above reference to the attitudinal context of bilingual development and L2 acquisition, however, situates it at the intersection of individual and societal processes. This question has, therefore, come to be a key issue for government authorities in a number of countries. Language planning has been the political and administrative instrument used to promote and protect languages according to predetermined societal options. Accordingly, the State may determine the goals of language education, the medium of interaction with government agencies, tribunals and schools, and the relative visibility of different languages in public and commercial signs the linguistic landscape. These actions are often premised on the idea that a minority situation will not only entail the loss of L1 but may also result in the disappearance of entire cultural groups. Under the concepts of additive and subtractive bilingualism, Lambert (1978) proposed that language learning outcomes could be very different for members of majority and minority groups. Notably, subtractive bilingualism would refer to a situation where members of a minority group would come to loose their first language as a result of learning the second one. Additive bilingualism, on the other hand, refers to situations

4 where members of a majority group acquire L2 without losing L1. This notion of relative group status was subsequently formalized by Giles et al. (1977) under the concept of ethnolinguistic vitality ( Ethnolinguistic Vitality and Communication) which encompasses demographic representation of the communities, their institutional representation and the socio-economic status of their members. Ethnolinguistic vitality is linked to a family of language phenomena and the results obtained to date show a consistent relation between these structural factors and first language retention and competence among minority group members. These aspects find an echo in Kims (2005) contextual theory of interethnic communication. Accordingly, language behavior is described along and associativedissociative continuum controlled by various aspects of the communicator, the situation and the environment. Associative verbal behavior would correspond to attempts at modulating messages adjusted to ones interlocutor whereas dissociative verbal behavior would seek to establish communicative distance. Although no mention is made explicitly of ones usage of a L2 to accommodate the interlocutor, that type of behavior would be considered to be associative. Kims theory also describes the environment in terms of institutional equity, relative ingroup strength and environmental stress, all factors describing aspect of the context likely to influence associative/dissociative behavior, in a manner that is consistent with ethnolinguistic vitality theory. Social and Cognitive Consequences A relevant issue here is the idea that positive benefits from L2 acquisition and usage will only be achieved to the extent that the first language and culture are well established within the individual (Clment 1980; Hamers & Blanc 2000). This presupposes a familial, educational, and social context which allows the development and transmission of the first language and culture. Although such conditions may be present for majority group members, they may not characterize the situation of minority group members, immigrants, refugees, and sojourners. The relative status of the first and second language speaking groups and the linguistic composition of the community are here key determinants of the linguistic and cultural outcomes of second language acquisition. Specifically, as suggested by identity-based IC theories (Gudykunst & Mody, 2002), there is an intimate link between communicative processes and individual identity. To the extent that the context brings about a loss of the first language, it will also bring about a loss of the first cultural identity. Noels and Clment (1996) have in fact shown this to be the case among minority group members but not among majority group members. The systemic relationships between societal conditions, and language loss, therefore, risk bringing about results that are opposite to the intended goal of bilingualism programs. A similar argument may be proposed as concerns cognitive consequences of bilingualism. It was originally thought that bilingualism would produce negative consequences for cognitive functioning. The study by Peal and Lambert (1962), however, showed that the bilinguals scored higher than monolinguals on verbal and non-verbal intelligence tests and showed a more diversified intelligence structure. According to these authors, bilinguals have the ability to manipulate two symbolic systems and thus analyze semantic features in greater detail. Subsequent studies have resulted in the conclusion that bilinguals have greater metalinguistic awareness and cognitive flexibility, that is, they are better able to distinguish the symbol from its specific meaning which gives them an

5 advantage in most school-type cognitive abilities. According to Hamers and Blancs (2000) sociocultural interdependence hypothesis, positive cognitive outcomes will result only in situations where both the first and second languages are valued. In conclusion, the picture emerging, whether taken from the perspective of IC theories or from the point of view of theories dealing specifically with bilingualism and bilinguality show a phenomenon that is tightly interwoven with social factors pertaining to the community at hand. Whereas IC theories are generally formulated in more abstract terms than bilingualism theories, they do not cover some specific aspects, such as linguistic and cultural attrition or cognitive enhancements, which have been the prime focus of interest in societies valuing cultural diversity. In either camp, most theories attempt, however, to explain these phenomena through complex multi-tiered mechanisms. They vary in emphasis and epistemological style but none of them makes predictions that are diametrically opposite to the others. SEE ALSO: Acculturation Processes and Communication; Anxiety-UncertaintyManagement Theory; Communication Accomodation Theory; Communication Apprehension; Communication Networks; Identification; Ethnolinguistic Vitality and Communication; Intercultural and Intergroup Communication; Intergroup Contact and Communication; Language and Social Interaction; Language Attitudes in Intergroup Contexts; Power in Intergroup Settings; Social Identity Theory. KEYWORDS: second language acquisition, motivation, identity, acculturation, anxiety, network, minority language REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS Clment, R. (1980). Ethnicity, contact and communicative competence in a second language. In H. Giles, W. P. Robinson, & P. M. Smith (eds.), Language: Social Psychological Perspectives. Oxford: Pergamon, pp. 147154. Clment, R., & Gardner, R. C. (2001). Second language mastery. In H. Giles, & P. Robinson (eds.), The New Handbook of Language and Social Psychology London: Wiley, pp. 489504. Gallois, C., Giles, H., Jones, E., Cargile, A., & Ota, H. (1995). Accomodating intercultural encounters. In R. L. Wiseman (ed.), Intercultural Communication Theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 115147. Gardner, R. C., & Lambert, W.E. (1972). Attitudes and Motivation in Second Language Learning. Rowley, MA: Newbury House. Giles, H., Bourhis, R.Y., & Taylor, D. M. (1977). Towards a theory of language in ethnic group relations. In H. Giles (ed.), Language, Ethnicity and Intergroup Relations. New York: Academic Press, pp. 307348. Gudykunst, W. B. (1985). A model of uncertainty reduction in intergroup encounters. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 4, 7998. Gudykunst, W. B. (ed). (2005). Theorizing About Intercultural Communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing Inc. Gudykunst, W. B., & Mody, B. (2002). Handbook of International and Intercultural Communication, 2nd edn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

6 Hamers, J. F., & Blanc, M. H. A. (2000). Bilinguality and Bilingualism, 2nd edn. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Kim, Y. Y. (1986). Understanding the social context of inter-group communication: A personal network theory. In W. B. Gudykunst (ed.), Intergroup Communication. London: Edward Arnold, pp. 8695. Kim, Y. Y. (2005). Association and dissociation: A contextual theory of interethnic communication. In W. B. Gudykunst (ed.), Theorizing about Intercultural Communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 323350. Lambert, W. E. (1978). Cognitive ad socio-cultural consequences of bilingualism. Canadian Modern Language Review, 34, 537547. MacIntyre, P. D., Clment, R., Drnyei, Z., & Noels, K. A. (1998). Conceptualizing willingness to communicate in a L2: A situational model of L2 confidence and affiliation. Modern Language Journal, 82, 545562. Noels, K. A., & Clment, R. (1996). Communicating across cultures: Social determinants and acculturative consequences. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 28, 214228. Peal, E., & Lambert, W. E. (1962). The relation of bilingualism to intelligence. Psychological Monographs, 76, 123. Ronjat, J. (1913). Le Dveloppement du Langage Observ chez un Enfant Bilingue. [The development of language in a bilingual child]. Paris: Champion. Skutnab-Kangas, T. (1981). Bilingualism or not: The Education of Minorities. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Weinreich, M. (1945). Der yivo un di problemen fun undzer tsayt ["Yivo" and the problems of our time]. Yivo-bleter, 25, 318. Biography: Richard Clment is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Ottawa, Canada where he holds the Bilingualism and Society Research Chair. He is a Fellow of both the Canadian and American Psychological Associations and has won many international awards, among which the Robert C. Gardner Award from the International Association of Language and Social Psychology.