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Multilingual and Multicultural Communication


The last 50 years or so has seen a variety of interdependent processes associated with globalization, including greater geographical, demographic, social and information exchange and mobility, leading to an exponential increase in contacts and communication between cultures and languages. As a result many more people, especially in large urban areas are affected daily by intercultural and multilingual contacts. This is particularly the case in large urban environments around the world where the presence of speakers of hundreds of languages is not unusual. For example, a recent article in The Economist (10/9/2011) claimed that New York City had nearly as many languages (800) as Papua New Guinea, the country often regarded as home to the highest number of languages (according to Ethnologue, around 830). London is reputedly home to several hundred languages.

Recent research, including that by MERCATOR (The Fryske Akademy, The Netherlands) an independent European Research Centre for Multilingualism, has begun to acknowledge multilingual communication as a norm worldwide, with an increasing amount of research being focused on the complexities underlying multilingualism in individual, developmental, and societal perspectives. With this proposal, which is a joint enterprise of MERCATOR, the School of Oriential and Asian Studies (University of London), the ICA-affiliated International Association of Language and Social Psychology, and the ICA Intergroup Communication Interest Group, we aim to explore some of these recent trends from an interdisciplinary perspective with insights from sociolinguistics, sociology, social psychology and communication theory. Prominent researchers* in these different fields will be invited over the course of the day from the UK, Europe and elsewhere to not only present their own work, but also to be part of a roundtable at the end of the day that aims to begin the process of integrating interdisciplinary insights towards a testable model of multilingual communication.

*Cor van der Meer & Reinier Salverda (Netherlands), Francois Grin (Switzerland), Jean Marc Dewale (UK), Lid King & Dina Mehmedbegovic (UK), Li Wei (UK), Rupert Brown (UK), Anne Pauwels (UK), & Howard Giles (USA) & Itesh Sachdev (UK)

Estimated Attendance



There has recently been an exponential increase in daily multilingual contacts in urban environments around the world; London is home to serveral hundred languages. Prominent researchers in this field will not only present their own work, but also roundtable with a view to crafting a testable interdisciplinary model of multilingual communication


SOAS, University of London, the location for this Preconference, was founded in 1916 and is based in central London. It has an unparalleled history in offering the highest quality resources, knowledge and research in the widest range of cultures and languages of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, covering not only the languages, but also their literatures, arts, cultures, societies, histories, religions and legal systems. SOAS has a long history of responding to the needs of individuals, commerce, industry, government, non-government and other public organisations (including EU and other international organisations).

Additional Information

The Program is of confirmed speakers and draft program is:

8.15 – 9.00 am Registration
9.00 – 9. 15 am Introduction and Welcome
9.15 – 10.00 am Europe & Multilingualism (provisional title)
Cor van der Meer & Reinier Salverda
MERCATOR, Fryske Akademy, The Netherlands

10.00 – 10.45 am Economics of Multilingual Communication (provisional title)
François Grin
Université de Genève, Switzerland

10.45 – 11.15 am Tea/Coffee/Refreshments
11.15 – 12 noon Gender & Multilingual Communication (provisional title)
Anne Pauwels
(School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London, UK

12 noon – 12.45 pm Communicating emotions in multiple languages
Jean Marc Dewaele
Birkbeck, University of London, UK

12.45 – 2 pm Lunch
2 – 2.45 pm Multilingual diversity in London (provisional)
Lid King & Dina Mehmedbegovic
The Languages Company, UK; & Institute of Education, University of London, UK

2.45 – 3.30 pm Diasporas: Multilingual and intercultural communication across time and space
Li Wei
Birkbeck, University of London, UK

3.30 – 4 pm Tea/coffee/refreshments
4 – 4.45 pm Acculturation (provisional title)
Rupert Brown
University of Sussex, UK

4.45 – 5.30 pm Round Table: Modelling Multilingual & Multicultural Communication
Chairs: Howard Giles & Itesh Sachdev
UCSB, USA; & SOAS, University of London, UK

5.30pm Reception

Howard Giles,; U of California – Santa Barbara (Session Organizer)
Please register at:

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