Language policy regimes, new speakers and sociolinguistic ethnography - News

Article Index


New signers and the vitality of sign language communities

Maartje De Meulder, post-doc researcher at the University of Namur, is carrying out a research project on ‘new’ and ‘traditional’ signers in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, and their relationship to the vitality of sign language communities. The starting point of the research are current numerical disparities observed in sign language communities (also found in the context of some of Europe’s minority languages): a decreasing number of deaf traditional signers, an increasing number of deaf new signers; more hearing than deaf adults knowing a national sign language and those hearing new signers outnumbering deaf traditional and new signers; and in the youngest age groups, more hearing than deaf children who sign.

The research includes 15 participants (deaf and hearing new and traditional signers) and draws on a sociolinguistic ethnographic methodology, using interviews, language use diaries, language portraits and participant observation. It aims to gain a better understanding of the language trajectories, attitudes, motivations, and spaces for language learning and socialisation of deaf and hearing traditional and new signers, and how they see themselves as playing a role in vitality. This will be instrumental to inform future sign language policy and planning efforts.


COMBI in Coimbra: Erasmus+ project on teaching minority languages to migrants

The COMBI project is a three-year Erasmus+ project, funded by the European Commission, on teaching minority languages to migrants in bilingual workplaces. The partners involved are Wales, the Basque Country, the Nertherlands, Finland and Sicily. The Mercator Research Centre is responisble for coordinating the project. Working group 9 members, Jeroen Darquennes, Kathryn Jones and Gwennan Higham are involved in the project. Basque representavive of the COMBI project, Petra Elser, was present at the recent New Speakers Whole Action Conference in Coimbra, Portugal. Petra explained her work as founder of the Basque language centre for migrants and how the COMBI project will provide new pedagogical resources for teaching Basque to migrants as well as influence language policy from the bottom up. See the COMBI project website for more information:


New Speakers' Final Whole Action Conference



Working group 9 organised a stakeholder panel at the Coimbra conference, 14-16 September 2017, including stakeholders from Wales, the Basque Country and Latvia. The aim of the panel was to consider how language policy is and could be reinvented from the 'bottom up' of society. In this regard, working group 9 members discussed their academic research looking at how ethnographic work amongst new speakers can inform language policy. Stakeholders discussed how their work 'on the ground' has impacted language policy in various ways. The discussion therefore was aimed at considering how to use academic findings and stakeholder experiences' to bring about impact in language policy on local levels using innovative methods.

  • Steven Morris, Swansea University
  • Gwennan Higham, Swansea University
  • Anna Augustyniak, Southampton University
  • Kathryn Jones, IAITH: The Welsh Centre for Language Planning
  • Heiko Marten, University of Latvia + Rezekne Academy of Technologies
  • Nora Schleicher, BKF University of Applied Sciences
  • Minna. Suni , University of Jyväskylä
  • Bernadette O'Rourke, Heriot-Watt University
  • Heini Gruffudd, Welsh language author and chairman of 'Dyfodol i'r Iaith', Welsh language pressure group
  • Petra Elser, Director of Banaiz Bagara, Basque language centre for migrants
  • Sanita Lazdiņa, Rezekne Academy of Technologies and Ministry of Education of the Republic of Latvia


Special Edition in Language Policy

WG9 members are currently working together towards publishling a special edition on language policy and new speakerness to be submitted to Language Policy. Members, who met in Namur University March 2017, are writing individual or joint articles which will be internally reviewed before sending to the journal editors.

Below are the articles to be included in the special issue:

Darquennes, Jeroen & Soler, Josep (to be submitted). 'New speakers' in applied linguistics and language policy research: prospects and limitations. Language Policy.
Augustyniak, Anna & Higham, Gwennan (to be submitted). Contesting sub-state integration policies: migrants as stakeholders in language policy. Language Policy.
Higham, Gwennan, Jones, Kathryn & Morris, Steve (to be submitted). Language policy, learning and citizenship in times of superdiversity: creating spaces for ‘new speakers’. Language Policy.
Kraft, Kamilla (to be submitted). Constructing, accommodating and de-selecting ‘new speakers’ through safety and language policies in the Norwegian building industry. Language Policy.
Schleicher, Nóra & Suni, Minna (to be submitted). To go or not to go? The role of language and language policies in the migration process of medical workers. Language Policy.
Spotti, Massimiliano, Li, Jinling, Kroon, Sjaak (to be submitted). Language policy oddities working toward the normalisation of ‘new speakers’ in the Netherlands. Language Policy.
Soler, Josep & Marten, Heiko (to be submitted). Resistance and adaptation to newspeakerness in a small nation state: two tales from Estonia. Language Policy.
O’Rourke, Bernadette & Nandi, Anik (to be submitted). New speakers of Galician as invisible language planners in contemporary Galicia. Language Policy.
Walsh, John (to be submitted). Activist ‘new speakers’ of Irish: motivations and ideological positioning. Language Policy.
Williams, Colin (to be submitted). New speakers and language policy. Commentary. Language Policy.

International Workshop

Language policy issues in ‘new speaker’ contexts – Critical ethnographic perspectives Namur, 16-17 March 2017

Fuelled by the work of Working Group 9 of the COST-Action on New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe this two-day workshop addresses the complex and multi-sited nature of language policy and planning processes in various ‘new speaker’ settings across Europe. During the workshop, the invited speakers will present papers from a range of different contexts (including historical minority languages, migration settings and transnational workplaces). Mainly rooted in critical ethnography the papers will help to clarify how language policy matters are dealt with by speakers ‘on the ground’ as well as by language policy and planning officers and other agents in managerial positions. The workshop will help the speakers to discuss and fine-tune the first draft of a paper for a special issue on language policy and new speakerness that will be submitted to Language Policy in the second half of 2017.

Organizers: Jeroen Darquennes (UNamur) & Josep Soler (Stockholm University)
Venue: UNamur Business & Learning Center, Room 03 (Rue Godefroid 5/7, B-5000 Namur)