Actualité scientifique |

Conférence Ng Bee Chin et Francesco Cavallaro

Understanding Identity through Interactions: Language choice and strategies in a dynamic multilingual context

Vendredi 19 janvier 2018


This study explores Accommodation Theory in a multilingual context. The general assumption is that speakers who are invested in achieving a harmonious outcome in communication are usually motivated to converge to their interlocutors in language choice and strategies (Giles et al. 1973, Giles et al, 1987). Accordingly, bilingual speakers who expend more effort in accommodating to the interlocutor in a speech event are likely to be evaluated more positively.
Many earlier studies mainly focus on intergroup accommodation using evaluative judgement. These studies typically focus on bilinguals whose loyalty is clearly grounded with one language and not with both. Despite the fact that the Accommodation Theory in its many facets has been explored extensively in the west, it has never been studied in Asia, where plurality of identity is often a norm (Cavallaro and Ng 2014). The backdrop for this study is Singapore which provides an interesting contrast to Canada due to the difference in the bilingual profiles of the speakers. This study focuses on evaluating language choice and strategies in a multilingual context,  consisting of different subgroups of bilinguals who share one common language (English), which is also commonly accepted as the lingua franca.
This presentation will discuss the results from a series of separate studies on use as well as evaluations of accommodation strategies within and across three ethnic communities (Chinese, Malay and Indians) in Singapore. The first study is an anonymous street survey focusing on accommodation strategies. The second study is an evaluation of pre-recorded interactions in a sales context. The third study looks at language stylistic variation in a sales context. The findings indicate cross-group differences in accommodation strategies. Different ethnic groups perceive the speech events differently, with the Malay participants reacting more negatively to divergence in in-group members and Chinese participants being more accepting of in-group divergence. The findings indicate the interplay of in-group and out-group expectations as well as the importance of social norms in the Singapore context. These observations are discussed in the context of formation of language attitudes and identity in bilingual Singaporeans.


Ng Bee Chin works mainly in the area of bilingualism and multilingualism with a focus on the impact of language contact on individuals and the community they live in. Her research approach is to explore both cognitive and social aspects of language acquisition and use. Currently, she is working on language identity, attitudes and use and language and emotion in multilinguals. She also works in the area of language as a source of intangible heritage with collaborators in art and design studies. She currently works in the Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies in Nanyang Technological University where she is also the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Francesco Cavallaro is an Associate Professor in the Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies, Associate Chair (Graduate Studies) and Director of the Centre for Modern Languages at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His research interests are in sociolinguistics and the social aspects of bilingualism, especially of minority groups in multilingual contexts. He has published on language maintenance and shift, the demographics of the Italian community in Australia, language attitudes in Singapore and on language as intangible heritage. He is the author of the book Transgenerational language shift: From Sicilian and Italian to Australian English (2010).His main research focus is the survival of minority languages and the factors that influence both language maintenance and shift.

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