This paper explores current attitudes towards English, using contemporary data from several member states of the European Union where English has become (or is the process of becoming) the most popular foreign language in terms of acquisition and in its use in high societal domains. Various sociolinguistic perspectives are adopted to account for how English has successfully consolidated its position as the chief language of interaction between speech communities that would not traditionally have employed it. An Ethnolinguistic Vitality approach is adopted to look at the power dynamics that operate both between speakers of different 'standard' languages and speakers of languages that, albeit officially recognized, lack societal prestige either in terms of an absence of an agreed 'standard' form or because of negative sociocultural associations. Other linguistics approaches are also considered: English is assessed vis-à-vis other European languages in terms of diglossic relationship and domain restriction. The paper attempts to establish to what extent the spread of English in Europe has impacted on how non-native speakers perceive the importance of minority languages that have, in some cases, been attested for hundreds of years and, in other cases, have been present in Europe since the period of decolonization and extensive migration. In effect, does the new Europe welcome multilingualism with languages that represent political and/or economic pre-eminence whilst actually disparaging the maintenance of languages that do not - or that are associated with migration?
|Keywords:||Nationalism, Prescriptivism, Standardization, Language and Dialect, National Unity, Unilingualism, Assimilation, Language Planning, Ethnolinguistic Vitality, Domain, Diglossia, Minorities, Migrant Communities, Social Exclusion|
Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics, Deanery of the Humanities, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, England, UK
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