Language as Social Practice in Trilingual Settings

Dagna Zinkhahn Rhobodes (Frankfurt/Oder)


The panel seeks to discuss the processes of establishing, transcending and blurring social boundaries in trilingual settings.
The subject of an individual’s ‘belonging to’ a collective (‘Zugehörigkeit’) and ‘belonging with’, understood as collective belonging and togetherness (‘Zusammengehörigkeit’), are especially salient and highly interesting to investigate in trilingual settings.
According to Pfaff-Czarnecka (2011), three dimensions play an essential role in the question of ‘when do we belong?’. Firstly, commonality – perception of sharing common cultural values, experiences, and memory constructions – is closely connected with establishing social boundaries between insiders and outsiders. The demarcation of ‘the other’ or ‘the outside’ is crucial to the perception of internal sameness and collective boundary maintenance. Secondly, mutuality – understood as expectations and obligations to norms based on reciprocity, loyalty, and commitment – is necessary to belong to a particular group. Lastly, attachments – such as to objects, graves of ancestors and ritual sites – emotionally bound individuals within their collectives and localities.
On the panel, we intend to focus on the dynamic nature of social boundary-making and processes of collective boundary maintenance in trilingual contexts, such as among the group of Italians from the northeast of Italy and Germanic from the Hunsrück mountain range and the old Pomerania constituting the pluri- and multilingual city of Domingos Martins in Brasil (Gaio 2019) or trilingual speakers in French Guiana, in St. George on the border with Brazil, who speak French creole, French and Brazilian Portuguese but also Spanish and Dutch (Patzelt 2016). Another interesting example of the dynamic nature of social boundary-making highlighted by language use can be identified in border regions (Zinkhahn Rhobodes 2016), such as the Portuguese-Spanish border, where speakers in Barrancos speak Barranquenho, Portuguese and Spanish. Finally, a look at the linguistic repertoires in multilingual class (Streb 2016) highlights performative practices of exclusion and inclusion and negotiating collective constellations.
In all of these multilingual contexts, a special role is played not only by the processes of setting the social borders but also the processes of transcending and blurring social borders and creating multiple belonging. As Calhoun (2003) emphasised, belonging is always multiple. The speakers in multilingual contexts often belong to many groups simultaneously, which is highlighted through their language use. The aim of the panel is to discuss language as social practice in the processes of demarcation, border negotiations and dissolutions of social borders. How are social borders established, maintained, crossed and dissolved in trilingual contexts and what role does the language play in these dynamic processes?


Negotiating multiple linguistic identities: Iberoamerican migrants in multilingual French Guiana

Carolin Patzelt (Bremen)

Border transgression and dissolution: The case of Barranquenho

Maria Filomena Gonçalves (Évora)

Trentine or Italian Tyrolean? Pomerans, Hunsrükeans or Germans? The border between 'belonging to' and 'belonging with'.

Mario Luis Monachesi Gaio, Mônica Maria Guimarães Savedra (Rio de Janeiro)

Zur Komplexität und Dynamik sprachlicher Repertoires im mehrsprachigen Unterricht.

Reseda Streb (Fortaleza)