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The interplay of language ideologies and contextual cues in multilingual interactions: Language choice and code-switching in European Union institutions

  • Ruth Wodak (a1), Michał Krzyżanowski (a2) and Bernhard Forchtner (a3)


This article analyzes multilingual practices in interactions inside European Union (EU) institutions. On the basis of our fieldwork conducted in EU organizational spaces throughout 2009, we explore different types of communication in order to illustrate how Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and officials at the European Commission practice and perform multilingualism in their everyday work. In our theoretical and methodological framework, we draw on existent sociolinguistic ethnographical research into organizations and interactions, and integrate a multilevel (macro) contextual and sequential (micro) analysis of manifold data (observations, field notes, recordings of official and semi-official meetings, interviews, etc.). In this way, a continuum of context-dependent multilingual practices becomes apparent, which are characterized by different patterns of language choice and which serve a range of both manifest and latent functions. By applying the Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA) of Critical Discourse Studies (CDS), the intricacies of the increasingly complex phenomenon of multilingualism in transnational-organizational spaces, which are frequently characterized by diverse power-related and other asymmetries of communication, can be adequately coped with. (Code-switching, multilingualism, power, institutional spaces, European Union, ethnography, discourse-historical approach, critical discourse studies)*



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