Norms and practices of polylingual behaviour: a sociolinguistic model


  • Jens Normann Jørgensen
  • Somogy Varga



This paper discusses the notion of language in relation to the notion of a language. We argue that the concept of languages as neatly separated, countable units is an ideological construction. This ideological construction served the European nation states well during the Romantic period and later, for instance during Colonialism (e.g. Heller 2007, Makoni and Penny cook 2006). With growing internationalization, however, this concept of languages has become increasingly at odds with the linguistic experience of speakers throughout Europe. In fact the notion of languages, for instance as separable from dialects, has never been accepted by sociolinguistics. Any specific notion of a language, say Dutch, is a sociocultural construction, and it is only real at the level of norms. At the level of language use we can not maintain these concepts of languages. As an alternative idea of language we propose that descriptions and analyses of language use must be based, not on “languages”, but on features, and the focus must be in the individual (Hudson 1996).


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How to Cite

Jørgensen, J. N., & Varga, S. (2011). Norms and practices of polylingual behaviour: a sociolinguistic model. Eesti Ja Soome-Ugri Keeleteaduse Ajakiri. Journal of Estonian and Finno-Ugric Linguistics, 2(2), 49–68.