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Multilingualism and English in Twenty-First-Century Europe

Recent Developments and Challenges

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Edited By Clive W. Earls

This book aims to tackle one of the most controversial and important linguistic, educational and societal debates in contemporary Europe. English is growing rapidly within, and spreading across, an increasing number of areas of society. This development is influenced by actions taken by national and supranational decision-makers, as well as global forces outside the control of any one state or political union. Europe’s founding principle of respecting and fostering diversity and equality of cultures and languages is being affected by the growing role of English across European countries, creating a de facto linguistic hierarchy and consequently a potential cultural hierarchy.

The essays collected here aim to examine existing debates and stimulate further discourse on the nurturing of multilingualism in Europe and the concomitant acquisition of English. By bringing together contributions focusing on multiple European countries and regions by researchers from a variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds, this volume presents a snapshot of the current relationship between multilingualism and English and explores the challenges generated by this situation.

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Language as gate-keeper of quality? Exploring Austria’s English-only policy for national research funding

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Introduction

Over the second half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, English has increasingly secured its position as the international lingua franca in a range of domains from medicine, commerce and communications in a manner which can appear to those outside the world of sociolinguistics and language policy as a ‘natural’, unstoppable and irreversible process. In contrast, within that linguistic world, this stance is much contested, even as contrasting ideological positions lead inevitably to differing interpretations of the phenomenon. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (2000), for example, views increasing language dominance broadly in terms of human rights abuse leading to linguistic genocide. Robert Phillipson (1992 and 2003) equally argues that the process, most clearly in relation to English, is far from natural, but – through multi-layered language policy – is driven rather by a conscious intent to extend the reach and influence of English-language powers such as the United States of America and to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom. For his part, Joshua Fishman sees little evidence of such an imperialist approach, yet acknowledges that the consequences may prove the same, even in seemingly more enlightened times: ‘Language decline, language shift, and language death are no longer objects of politically correct language planning, but these deleterious consequences are every bit as alive and as destructive today as they have ever been throughout the long history of language planning’ (2006: 324–325). ← 161 | 162 →

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