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Multilingual Norms

Edited By Madalena Cruz-Ferreira

Multilinguals are not multiple monolinguals. Yet multilingual assessment proceeds through monolingual norms, as if fair conclusions were possible in the absence of fair comparison. In addition, multilingualism concerns what people do with language, not what languages do to people. Yet research focus remains on multilinguals’ languages, as if languages existed despite their users. This book redresses these paradoxes. Multilingual scholars, teachers and speech-language clinicians from Europe, Asia, Australia and the US contribute the first studies dedicated to multilingual norms, those found in real-life multilingual development, assessment and use. Readership includes educators, clinicians, decision-makers and researchers interested in multilingualism.


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Afterword – The nature of linguistic norms and their relevance to multilingual development (Li Wei) 397


397 Afterword The nature of linguistic norms and their relevance to multilingual development Li Wei 1. Introduction The notion of “linguistic norms” has existed as long as linguistics itself as a dis- cipline. In fact, some might say that the whole point of linguistics is to specify either the norms of individual languages or the universal norms governing lan- guages generally. Prescriptivism has a strong tradition in linguistics. The amount of publications on pronunciation, spelling and grammar is overwhelm- ing. These publications clearly have their readership and user groups. Teachers, speech and language therapists, second language learners, among others, often refer to them, and academic linguists are only too happy for their work to be used. Rarely does the question of the nature of linguistic norms arise. But why do we need to bother with the question of the nature of linguistic norms? And what relevance does the question have to our interest in the language develop- ment of multilingual speakers, the focus of the present volume? The answers to the two questions are linked: the question of the nature of linguistic norms has huge implications for the study of language development of multilingual speak- ers, and that is why we need to address it. 2. Linguistic norms are social in nature It may sound surprising, but a moment’s thought makes it clear that languages do not have norms themselves; it is people who impose norms on them! The so- called linguistic norms are norms of usage, not standards of...

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