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The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism, 2nd Edition by William C. Ritchie, Tej K. Bhatia

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Introduction

TEJ K. BHATIA AND WILLIAM C. RITCHIE

In addressing issues in the study of bilingualism and multilingualism, one immediately encounters a terminological issue. The terms bilingualism and multilingualism have come to be used, respectively, to refer to the knowledge and use of two languages and the knowledge and use of three or more languages. Hence, a term is needed to refer to the full range of phenomena including both bilingualism and multilingualism in these senses. Rather than repeat the awkward ‘bi-/multilingualism’ in this introduction and the other introductions in this volume, we will use the term plurilingualism to refer to both bilingualism and multilingualism, as Mackey (chapter 28, this volume) and others have proposed.

Whatever the terminology, there is no doubt that plurilingualism constitutes a major fact of life in the world today. Plurilingualism is not such a rare phenomenon; there are, in fact, more bilingual/multilingual speakers in the world than there are monolinguals. The Ethnologue (2009) estimates more than 7,000 languages (7,358) are spoken in the 194 countries of the world, or approximately 38 languages per country. According to the Ethnologue, 94% of the world’s population employs approximately 5% of the world’s languages. Furthermore, many languages such as Hindi, Chinese, Arabic, Bengali, Punjabi, Spanish, Portuguese, and, of course, English are spoken in many countries around the globe. Such a linguistic situation necessitates that many ...

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