Chapter 18. English as a lingua franca in European multilingualism

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In this chapter, we investigate the use of English as a lingua franca (ELF) in interaction with other languages in linguistically diversified settings and examine the ways in which ELF is employed by plurilingual European speakers. On the one hand, this concerns the speakers’ strategic adaptation of linguistic elements according to their specific communicative purposes. In this respect, we have identified patterns of accommodation techniques and joint negotiation of meaning among ELF users. On the other hand, these processes have themselves proven to be interwoven with speakers’ overall linguistic repertoires and have thus shown ELF to be a multilingual mode. The analysis has shed light on diverse manifestations of this linguistic diversity within ELF and the processes underlying these. On a more general level, two major findings have emerged from the investigation of lingua franca communication: (1) Regardless of differences in first languages, plurilingual speakers share a great deal of skills, knowledge and resources which they mobilise in order to achieve their communicative goals. In other words, there is ‘familiarity in the foreign’ which can be strategically exploited. (2) Intercultural communicators employing a lingua franca mode exhibit considerable flexibility and integration of linguistic resources rather than sticking to stable, strictly demarcated codes. There is thus ‘flexibility beyond the fixed’. We analyse ELF interactions as representative of today’s intercultural communication practices and concluded that there is a need for reconsideration of established categories such as stable speech communities, reified languages and additive multilingualism.


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