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The University of Southampton
Modern Languages and LinguisticsPart of Humanities

The Language of Others: Writing Berlin Lives Seminar

The Centre for Transnational Studies
17:00 - 18:30
22 February 2017
Building 65 Room 1177 Avenue Campus SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Dr Heidi Armbruster at .

Event details

Part of the annual seminar series for the Centre for Transnational Studies (TNS).

Berlin is a multicultural and multilingual city in the heart of Europe. But what do we know about the number of languages spoken by its inhabitants and how they are used in everyday life? How do encounters with different languages impact on the experience of migration? And how do people use their experiences with language to shape their life stories?

Research on the increasing complexity of urban societies has highlighted different dimensions of diversity in terms of language knowledge and linguistic practices. Home language surveys, for example, reveal the vast range of languages used in major European cities and their spatial distribution; many studies have been devoted to research on innovative styles of ‘mixed’ language use, both in face-to-face interaction and in mediated forms; and increasing attention has been paid to visual manifestations of language in creating cityscapes. In this seminar, I would like to talk about how these demographic, interactional and representational approaches can be complemented by a biographical perspective as a contribution towards a multi-dimensional understanding of what Ingrid Gogolin calls the ‘linguistic texture of migration societies’.

The talk will draw on research in inner city districts of Berlin characterized by a high degree of migration and multilingualism. It will focus on an attempt to process ways in which individual migrants reflect on how their experience with language has shaped their transnational life worlds. Drawing inspiration from research in sociolinguistics, social anthropology and documentary journalism, I will explore this theme through the language biographies of inhabitants of a single apartment block, which in its changing ethnic and linguistic composition is a kind of metaphor for life in the contemporary city.

Speaker information

Prof Patrick Stevenson,My main research interests are in German sociolinguistics, language ideologies, the politics of language, language contact and multilingualism, and language biographies.

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