(In)visibility of multilingualism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The presence of multilingualism is also multimodal in our urban settings: what people speak and hear, read and see, write and present in both public and private spaces. When researching the presence of urban multilingualism, speech and sounds can be elusive, so written and photographic texts can provide more stable evidence. This chapter proposes an alternate geolinguistics approach to the use of census and online public access information to map the new urban diversities of multilingualism. Following historical migration patterns, earlier multilingualism studies tended to focus on European language speech communities in specific locales. These studies created a public impression linking specific languages to certain neighbourhoods, or ethnoburbs (e.g. Little Italy in Melbourne, Haymarket Chinatown in Sydney).

Such public imaginaries suggest a singular language use in a singular geographical location. Consequently, such public imaginaries of places and languages might have created stigmatization and discrimination. In addition, public imaginaries of place-based language use also tend to sanction the presence of multilingualism: only certain ‘ethnoburbs’, or suburbs with a of place-based language use also tend to sanction the presence of multilingualism: only certain ‘ethnoburbs’, or suburbs with a substantial ethnic minority population, are ‘multilingual’ but not the rest of Australia. However, urban linguistic diversity is a fact of life, for instance, 52% of all public school students in Greater Sydney areas have a language background other than English. This chapter uses a critical discourse analytical approach to examine the online representations of multilingualism in two Sydney suburbs: Fairfield and Eastwood. This chapter acts first to demystify ‘ethnoburbs’ or homogeneity of speech communities and shows multiple scales of multilingual heterogeneity. Second, while census data reveal multilingual heterogeneity, there is a noted absence of online visibility of multilingualism on local institutional and business websites. The chapter concludes with new directions for using a critical geolinguistic approach to research distribution of linguistic diversity and language policies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLangues & photographie
Subtitle of host publicationles langues (in)visibles et les enjeux sociaux dont elles sont l’image
EditorsElatiana Razafimandimbimanana
Place of PublicationParis
PublisherEditions l'Harmattan
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9782806637543
Publication statusPublished - 2022


Dive into the research topics of '(In)visibility of multilingualism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this