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CeLM seminar: “Linguistic issues surrounding refugees”

 “Linguistic issues surrounding refugees: a study of migrant Facebook posts”


Guest Speaker: Dr. Mohammed Ateek, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Code switching is a widely observed phenomenon, especially seen in multilingual and multicultural communities. Migration plays a large role in forming these communities. it is widely known that code-switching and translanguaging are common communicative practices within migrant communities. Therefore to understand migrant communities, such as the recent waves of refugees coming from countries like Syria and Iraq, we should gain a good understanding of their communicative practices, experiences and identity.

Social media has supported the emergence of global multilingual networks and facilitated unbounded spaces for interaction amongst diasporic groups. Research (e.g. Androutsopoulos 2006) shows how multilingual practices on social media functions to construct and negotiate diasporic experience and identities, and has illustrated how code choice and switching are strategically invoked to mark boundaries between in- and out-groups and to negotiate subject experience and rhetorical positions.

In this paper we will report on a pilot study of Facebook (FB) posts written by 7 Syrian refugees over the initial period (first year) of their settlement within the UK. Our study seeks to explore the dynamic and stable linguistic (and semiotic) practices of individuals as they integrate into life in the UK and to explore the (un)-bounded affordances of social media as a unique platform of communication amongst refugees. The study of language choice and translanguaging on FB provides a window through which to view how the practices of this particular group reflect and create a new set of identities specific to them. As such this material reinforces and complements other sources of data about the linguistic and identity-related issues which such groups face.

Other linguistic issues such as the use of Language Analysis for the Determination of Origin (LADO), the hierarchy of languages and the host country policies for language education are also discussed in the seminar.


Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
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Edith Morley, Room 175
Reading, RG6 6BL United Kingdom
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