Superdiversity, Normativity and Money

The three assigned articles of Discourse, Context and Media, in the occasion of its special issue about “Digital Language Practices in Superdiversity”, form an interesting image of different phenomena that can be recognized around the key concept, superdiversity. This notion was first introduced by Vertovec around the middle of the last decade to cope with the challenges that poses to linguistics the increasing migration movements the globalized world brought with it.

The two cases presented (the first article is only a general introduction to the topic) are focused in contexts that could be thought as mirroring each other: in the first one, what is analyzed is the relationship between Dutch-Chinese teenagers and the language —that they barely master— of the country where their roots are: China. In this sense, this article is about leaving the identitarian language behind. In contrast, the next article deals with Luxembourg and, added to its already multilingual community (Luxembourgish, French and German) one can find not only English (a well established lingua franca) but also the language that each ethnic group brings with them (34.5% on the inhabitants of the country speaks 4 languages or more —page 76): here the experience is the clash that the already existing languages have with the new ones, particularly in the context of a Facebook group created with the purpose of giving and receiving objects without monetary exchange in return.

Regulation and normativity, on the other hand, complete the specular analogy: if one of the points that articulate the case of the Dutch-Chinese community is the different impositions the PRC has made (as still does) to the language, in the pursue of homegenizing the linguistic practices in the country (in this sense —but not only, according to the article— this is a top-bottom regulation), the other article shows how this type of attempt fails (in this case, requesting the opposite: diversity, i.e., always bilingual posts); and, finally, when the Facebook group gets acephalous (after a sort of funny coup d’état in the first anarchistic trial), the “natural” forces produced the contrary result: a vast majority of the posts ended up being solely in  Luxembourgish. Linked to this, are two ontological problems about identity: the identity of the language and the identity of the people that speaks that language. In particular, these identities in the case of China seem to be reversed in comparison to the ones of Luxembourg. If in the first case we seem to have some sort of abstract national identity, regardless the fact they do not really speak the same language, in the second case what we have is a national identity that seems to be threatened and is in virtue of this that the language issue arises by imposing the (reactionarily) defined identity of Luxembourgish to the newcomers.

As a minor comment to this topic, there is something that seems to me worth noticing: the idea of the people of Luxembourg being “hospitable” as an explanation of their acceptance of using different languages with foreigners in the daily exchanges is, of course, unsatisfactory (not only because the non-scientific certainty that “hospitable” is not the word that best suits Europeans). Similarly, the idea that the PRC is a monster that tyrannically imposes their irrational whims to the passive people of China also doesn’t seem to work. Of course, a small economy as the one of Luxembourg, surrounded by strong economies as the French and the German ones, had to accept their participation in the country’s way of living, even in the most “identitarian” one, as the language is; needless to say, that is the reason why English is accepted as lingua franca in their business. Is exactly the same pattern the one that seems to explain why China needs to have a better communication system within its borders. Maybe this is why the imposition of Luxembourgish in the Facebook group did actually work: it is very likely to think that, having been money involved in that group, the identitarian protester would have accepted the bilingualism with a different attitude.