Language Maintenance and Shift in Highly Multilingual Ecologies: A Case Study of the Chinese Communities in Brussels

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Abstract

Brussels is an officially French-Dutch bilingual city, yet in reality, it is profoundly and increasingly multilingual. Earlier research on the linguistic situation in Brussels has predominantly focused on the competing dominant languages, resulting in very limited scholarly attention to smaller language communities. This paper addresses this blind spot by exploring the language repertoires, proficiencies and practices of members of the Chinese communities. Linking insights from language ecology to the study of language maintenance and shift, and informed by the questionnaire data, we discuss how the changing sociodemographic backgrounds of the participants affect the language maintenance and shift of the whole Chinese communities. Our results do not reveal a traditional pattern of shift toward the dominant majority languages, but rather hint at a community-level shift toward more complex multilingual repertoires with an increased role for English and Mandarin, in tune with Brussels’ increasingly international and multilingual context at large.
Original languageEnglish
Article number18
Pages (from-to)31-61
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Chinese Overseas
Volume18
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • language ecology – language maintenance and shift – multilingualism – Brussels – Chinese communities

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