Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities - RUEG

Workshop "Do we practice what we preach?"

RUEG-Workshop (11th July, 2022) on the construction of multilinguals as Others in public discourse and academia

The picture shows four colored lollipops with googly eyes and a painted mouth. Three of them are standing close together with smiling or astonished facial expressions. The fourth lollie stands alone and has a sad face expression.



  • Workshop “Do we practice what we preach? The construction of multilinguals as Others in public discourse and academia”
  • On July 11th, 2022
  • At Humboldt Labor, in Humboldt Forum, Schloßplatz, 10178 Berlin
  • The event will be hybrid (participation online or on site possible)
  • Registration by 5th July via e-mail to coordination-rueg@hu-berlin.de
  • Organisers: Artemis Alexiadou, Christoph Schroeder, Heike Wiese
  • Coordination: Pia Linscheid, İrem Duman Çakır


We know that multilingualism is ubiquitous, and linguistics emphasises that it is a normal condition, both for societies and for speakers. But do we practice what we preach? Let’s talk about the construction of multilinguals as Others in public discourse and academia in a workshop on July 11th 2022 at Humboldt Labor. We look forward to talks by international researchers, and we welcome everyone who is interested in multilingualism to join the discussion. Participation is possible both online and on-site. There is no conference fee, but in order to participate, you need to register by July 5th by sending an email to coordination-rueg@hu-berlin.de where you state your name and your preferred participation format (on-site or online). For on-site participation, it will be first come - first served, given the limited space.







Judith Purkarthofer (Essen):

Who’s there? In/Exclusively addressing the other in disseminating linguistic results



Claudio Scarvaglieri (Ghent):

The societal context of Othering in linguistics



Tea break


Jana Gamper, Dorothee Steinbock, Christoph Schroeder (Potsdam):

Constructing a clientele in need: the field of German as a second language



İnci Dirim (Wien):

The concept of “linguistic identity” as a reinforcement of nationalism and countermeasures





Antonella Sorace (Edinburgh):

Deconstructing the monolingual norm in research on multilingualism



Artemis Alexiadou (Berlin):

Methodological Othering through “monolingual controls”



Tea break


Friederike Lüpke (Helsinki):

(M)other tongue: creating the Other through monolingual lenses in descriptive and documentary linguistics



Heike Wiese (Berlin):

Labelling multilinguals as Others: common topoi in linguistic publications



Closing discussion






In Linguistics and its neighbouring disciplines, it is generally acknowledged that multilingualism is a normal part of language competence and practice. We routinely point out that the majority of speakers worldwide are multilingual and expose the idea of a monolingual society as a counterfactual ideological construction going back to European nation-state building.

Linguistic diversity is commonly regarded as the normal state, and a closer look at dialectal variation, registers, and style shifting suggests that there is in fact no such thing as a true monolingual, but rather that every speaker accesses diverse repertoires.

The consensus on this topic in academia is often in conflict with discoursive patterns in larger society. Ideologies of linguistic homogeneity and purism support a “monolingual habitus” (Gogolin 2001) that constructs multilingualism as deviant and multilingual speakers as an out-group (e.g., Grosjean 2008, Ortega 2009, Cook 2016), up to linguicism (Dirim 2010) and proxy-racism (Wiese 2015) which uses the arena of language to play out the discrimination of social groups (cf. also Zentella 2007).

However, a closer look at linguists’ professional practice (including our own earlier writings) suggests that the picture is not as clear-cut as this might suggest, between an enlightened academia and a public still stuck in outdated ideologies. We find evidence for a construction of multilinguals as Others in both linguistic terminology and practice, and such patterns cut across subdisciplines. This is perhaps not surprising, given that we do not live in a social vacuum, but are also part of society. However, this gap between what we preach and what we practice is something that, as linguists, we should address and reflect upon.

This workshop aims to initiate such a discussion and raise awareness in our field. Presenters will discuss the construction of multilinguals as Others in linguistics at levels of conceptual framing and labelling, methodology, and research bias.