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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

The 8th Annual Jenny Cheshire Lecture

8 June 2018

Time: 6:30 - 9:00pm
Venue: ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre

Hyperlingualism: How and why more might be less

Rapid advances in digital technology over the last decade have meant that it is now possible to produce more content in an increasingly large number of languages. Many search engines, websites, social networking sites and apps seek to offer more and more language options as part of their distinctive brand and customer service. A key feature of this is the attempt to tailor and even individualise language offerings – to create apps that ‘speak your language’ – and to involve the user in co-creating this language.

In this paper, I want to discuss the pros and cons of this phenomenon of ever-increasing online linguistic diversity and differentiation, which I’m calling ‘hyperlingualism’. On the one hand, it can be seen to be a democratising process, with control of language shifting from professionals to speakers; in addition, any increase in the presence of more languages online is surely a good thing, enhancing multilingualism and challenging the supremacy of English globally. On the other, analysing these practices suggests they may in fact be reinforcing monolingualism as normal and assuming an essentialised link between language and territory, which supports contemporary nativist public discourses.


Helen Kelly-Holmes is Professor of Applied Languages and is currently Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Limerick, Ireland. Her research focuses on the relationship between media and language and on the economic aspects of multilingualism with a particular interest in minority languages and the global political economy of languages. Recent publications include: Sociolinguistics from the Periphery: Small Languages in New Circumstances (co-authored with Sari Pietikäinen, Nikolas Coupland and Alexandra Jaffe, Cambridge University Press, 2016) and the four volume edited major work Language and the Media (Routledge Critical Concepts in Linguistics, 2015). Helen is Co-Editor of the journal Language Policy and of Palgrave's long-running Language and Globalization book series. She originally studied Business and Languages and previously worked as a Lecturer in German at Aston University, UK. She also holds an Adjunct Professorship in Discourse Studies at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

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