Comparative Multilingualisms: Paradigms, Disciplines, Landscapes

A special issue of Critical Multilingualism Studies ( Submissions of 5000-8000 words requested by Dec. 31, 2013.

Over the past fifteen years, political and academic uptake around the concept of multilingualism has been ambitious, swift, and yet profoundly uneven around the world. Governmental endeavors around language plurality that have become standard, and even hegemonic, in Europe are still hardly imaginable in the United States. Meanwhile, the very concept of “languageness” in modern Africa corresponds only awkwardly with the presumed characteristics of West Europe’s vigorously nationalized languages. Simultaneously, various disciplines are honing their own new visions of language plurality—whether in comparative literature, applied linguistics, translation studies, or AI, and these disciplinary divisions often dovetail with distinct geopolitical landscapes and their educational / institutional priorities. This combined (i.e. disciplinary as well as geopolitical) unevenness seems to result in a ‘state of the discourse’ in which, for example, Europeans are increasingly pondering ex post facto the “dangers” of state implementation schemes around trilingualism, while US scholars continue to struggle to secure even an affirmative social image for bilingualism on the public stage.

All in all, the ways scholars and policy-makers dialogue about multilingualism along transpacific, transatlantic, and global axes are increasingly centrifugal in trajectory and prone to misunderstanding—creating new, revealing disparities in how policy implementation, scholarly focus, and institutional anchoring are managed and pursued.

Critical Multilingualism Studies is currently seeking submissions for a volume on Comparative Multilingualisms: Paradigms, Disciplines, Landscapes. Prospective contributions to this special issue of CMS will place regional, hemispheric, disciplinary and local multilingualisms in an explicitly comparative dialogue with one another, in order to provide a more adequate composite picture of how, and how well, ideas about multilingual practice are circulating from place to place, from language to language, and from scholarly field to scholarly field.

Contributions might include:

  • essays considering how pairs of fields—such as comparative literature and applied linguistics, or translation studies and geography—can improve the way they interpret and respond to each others’ enduring questions about multilingualism
  • historical, theoretical, or ethnographic studies on how multilingualism is perceived and practiced in one context/locality, as contrasted with another
  • critical interventions on how models of language plurality are exported, circulated, or trafficked globally, and whether these are implicitly based on a set of regional and or disciplinary premises
  • accounts of how and why scholars, policy-makers, SLA methodologists, or software developers may misapprehend the multilingualism of another geopolitical context
  • studies of how “multilingualism” is treated as a concept or phenomenon in various languages, dialects, or cultural traditions—and what these differences reveal about the emerging axia of “multilingualism studies”

Contributions of 5000-8000 words are welcome, in any language. Chicago citation style recommended, multimedia components encouraged. Please inquire or submit manuscripts at:


Contact the editors, David Gramling and Chantelle Warner at

About livelongday

Associate Professor of German Studies, Director of Graduate Studies Co-Editor of Critical Multilingualism Studies | Co-Investigator, Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law, and the State (2014–2017)
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