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Monolingualism – Bilingualism – Multilingualism

The Teacher's Perspective


Hanna Komorowska and Jarosław Krajka

The book brings together sociolinguistic, neurolinguistic, and educational perspectives on language acquisition and learning in the classroom and at home. First and second language acquisition studies, classroom research findings, Polish, European and international legislation, as well as statistical reports on foreign language learning and teaching show how learners proceed from monolingual to bilingual or plurilingual competence. The book provides an overview of the major issues in the field from the teacher’s perspective, equipping teachers with theoretical underpinnings related to language education, and inviting reflection on individual choices in promoting bi- and multilingualism.

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1. Language – the sociolinguistic perspective


1. Language – the sociolinguistic perspective

1.1. Linguistic diversity

The linguistic diversity of the world is immense, and it is almost impossible to precisely state the total number of languages spoken. Some communities are difficult to reach, in many places no censuses are carried out and sometimes any assessment is difficult due to attitudes toward bilingualism and ethnic identity. One of the main difficulties, however, lies in the fact that there is no clear distinction between a language and a dialect. Many linguists perceive the difference in terms of the power held by the community using a particular variety of the language and state that “a language is a dialect with an army and a navy” – a quote sometimes attributed to Max Weinreich, sometimes to Uriel Weinreich and sometimes to Joshua Fishman or even Antoine Meillet. Today the Ethnologue, based on the ISO 639–3 standard of language identification, classifies varieties of a given language on the basis of ‘inherent understanding’ or ‘spoken intelligibility’, but stresses that a common literature, for example, can be treated as an indicator that two varieties should be treated as one language, while ‘distinct ethnolinguistic identities’ may lead to the treatment of two varieties as two different languages. It has been explicitly stated that “[t]hese criteria make it clear that the identification of a ‘language’ is not based on linguistic criteria alone” (

Therefore, dialects are now mostly defined as sub-varieties of a language, and are supposed to...

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