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The languages of the world can be seen and heard in cities and towns forests and isolated settlements as well as on the internet and in international organizations like the UN or the EU. How did the world acquire so many languages? Why can't we all speak one language like English or Esperanto? And what makes a person bilingual? Multilingualism language diversity in society is a perfect expression of human plurality. About 6500-7000 languages are spoken written and signed throughout the linguistic landscape of the world by people who communicate in more than one language (at work or in the family or community). Many origin myths like Babel called it a 'punishment' but multilingualism makes us who we are and plays a large part of our sense of belonging. Languages are instruments for interacting with the cultural environment and their ecology is complex. They can die (Tasmanian) or decline then revive (Manx and Hawaiian) reconstitute from older forms (modern Hebrew) gain new status (Catalan and Maori) or become autonomous national languages (Croatian). Languages can even play a supportive and symbolic role as some territories pursue autonomy or nationhood such as in the cases of Catalonia and Scotland. In this Very Short Introduction John C. Maher shows how multilingualism offers cultural diversity complex identities and alternative ways of doing and knowing to hybrid identities. Increasing multilingualism is drastically changing our view of the value of language and our notion of the part language plays in national and cultural identities. At the same time multilingualism can lead to social and political conflict unequal power relations issues of multiculturalism and discussions over 'national' or 'official' languages with struggles over language rights of local and indigenous communities. Considering multilingualism in the context of globalization Maher also looks at the fate of many endangered languages as they disappear from the world. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts analysis perspective new ideas and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

- Explains the role of language and multilingualism in our increasingly multicultural community
- Highlights the role of languages in the global movement of people for travel work and migration
- Discusses the role of language in identity and how this can play a part in issues of nationalism or regional rights
- Considers the reasons why languages thrive or decline
- Part of the Very Short Introductions series - over eight million copies sold worldwide


John C. Maher explains why societies everywhere have become more multilingual, despite the disappearance of hundreds of the world languages. He considers our notion of language as national or cultural identities, and discusses why nations cluster and survive around particular languages even as some territories pursue autonomy or nationhood.


Author John C. Maher

Product Features

Features ISBN Multilingualism: A Very Short Introduction. Written by: John C. Maher, Number of pages: 168 pages, Language version: English

Product Details


GTIN 09780198724995

Release Date 21.06.2018

Language English

Pages 168

Product type Paperback

Dimension 6.85 x 4.33 x 0.31  inches

Product Weight 4.59 ounces

Manufacturer Part Number 9780198724995

ISBN Multilingualism: A Very Short Introduction 168 pages English


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