Conceptual and Methodological Issues in Bilingualism and Multilingualism Research


Bilingualism and multilingualism refer to the coexistence, contact, and interaction of different languages. The coexistence may take place at the societal level or the individual level. A society can have many different languages spoken and used by different groups of individuals. The individuals themselves may not necessarily be bilingual or multilingual. Likewise, individuals in a community may be bilingual or multilingual, while the community as a whole recognizes only one language for public use through legislation and other forms of regulatory control. For a society or an individual to become bilingual or multilingual, contacts and interactions between languages are essential. Over the years, bilingualism and multilingualism have become a major topic of multidisciplinary research, attracting the attention of scholars in disciplines ranging from linguistics, psychology, neurology, and computer science, to sociology, education, public policy, and management. Scholars with such different disciplinary backgrounds and research interests often approach issues of bilingualism and multilingualism with very different, sometimes contradictory, views of what bilingualism and multilingualism consist in, which, in turn, affect their choice of research methods and design. In this chapter, I will outline the various conceptualizations of bilingualism and multilingualism, the key research themes and ...

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