Academic journal article European Studies

Multilingualism and Transnational Communication Strategies in Europe: From Hapsburg to the European Union

Academic journal article European Studies

Multilingualism and Transnational Communication Strategies in Europe: From Hapsburg to the European Union

Article excerpt


The chapter discusses multilingualism in the European context and transnational communication strategies in order to accommodate the challenges of multilingualism. In the introduction, concepts defining multilingualism, transnationalism and communication strategies will be discussed and clarified. The appearance of different communication strategies, including lingua francas, like English as a lingua franca, Regional Languages of Communication (ReLan), Lingua Receptiva (LaRa) and Code Switching (CS) will be discussed in the framework of three multilingual states in the European context, i.e. the historical Hapsburg Empire, Switzerland and the European Union. We will compare multilingualism and the transnational communication strategies in these cases and draw some conclusions on historical developments of multilingualism and transnational communication strategies in Europe as well.


The definition of multilingualism is open to at least several different interpretations. Actually two forms of multilingualism can be distinguished in literature. Either within a given spatial context where several languages are being spoken without bi- or multilingual speakers or within a given spatial context where several languages are being spoken by bi- or multilingual speakers as well. In the former case, two or more languages are situated next to each other, so to speak. A good example of this case of multilingualism is Belgium that is divided between a French-speaking part, Wallonia, and a Flemish or Dutch-speaking part, i.e. Flanders. These communities are rather closed, having almost no bior multilingual speakers Qanssens, Mamadouh and Marácz 201 1, 85-89). Within the same spatial context separate language communities can also exist next to each other while forming multilingual communities. We find these communities in urban spaces, for example, where minority and migrant languages are being spoken in the same space as national languages. An example of this are Hungarian-Romanian towns in Transylvania where Hungarian is a minority language and Romanian is the national language Qanssens, Mamadouh and Marácz 2011, 75-81).

In the second case, because of bi- and multilingual speakers, we have instances of multilingualism where more than one language is used by the same interlocutor(s) in the same communicational event. In literature, the latter form of multilingualism is often referred to as plurilingualism to distinguish it from the 'separate' forms of multilingualism. In this chapter, we follow this distinction.

In order for communication to be successful and efficient in both cases of multilingualism in transnational communication, strategies are needed to overcome the communicational barriers. Before discussing several transnational communication strategies we first have to define the concept of 'transnationalism'. Transnationalism has been studied in detail in the context of globalization in Vertovec (2009). According to Vertovec (2009, 2) transnationalism, or sustained cross-border relationships, are patterns of exchange, affiliations and social formations spanning nation-states. When referring to sustained linkages and ongoing exchanges among non-state actors based across national borders - business, non-government-organizations, and individuals sharing the same interests - we can differentiate these as 'transnational'. In fact, transnational relations do not only appear in the case of spanning nation-states but they appear also in the case of national or social communities speaking different languages (Vertovec 2009, 3). The border between the communities does not need to be a concrete territorial border, it can also be a virtual one. The latter we find in modern European cities.

There are several strategies for transnational communication (Jorgensen, 201 1). First of all, two types of languages of wider communication can serve as the source for transnational communication: languages that have a global scope, and languages of (cross-border) regional communication. …

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