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ICFRC: How Mass Migration Is Changing Our Understanding of Language and Bilingualism

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With people, languages, and cultures in motion everywhere, sociolinguists are learning to take mobility rather than territorial language community as its baseline assumption. Services, information, networking and communication run teeming across all frontiers. Nothing stays put. Language-oriented social scientists are embracing a new frame known as the "mobility turn." We distinguish three interacting regimes of mobility: international refugee movement, international tourism or life-style travel, and labor flows. They morph into one another in patterns that aren't captured by our habitual terms migration and diaspora. As identities are renegotiated every element of dialogue among groups becomes more fluid. Linguists are working out how mobility reconfigures words, meanings, and multilingual practices down to details of daily neighborhood life. Mercedes Niño-Murcia illustrates some of the consequences for legal interactions in our Midwestern communities.

Mercedes Niño-Murcia is Professor of Hispanic Linguistics in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese and in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Iowa. She is a sociolinguist currently focusing on language ideologies as they affect bilingual communities in Latin America and the United States. She is also interested in language policy and in how sociolinguistic inequalities affect indigenous and/or migrant groups in both rural and urban settings. Her past work includes the ethnographic study of writers, archives, and vernacular literacies in Peru (The Lettered Mountain, Duke University Press, 2011, with Frank Salomon). In a comparative vein she studies histories of writing and debates about spelling in various languages worldwide. Her current research deals with language, migration, and hierarchies of class and among Spanish-speaking immigrants in the US

For more information on the Foreign Relations Council visit their website at www.icfrc.org.

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