Hostility towards immigrants’ languages in Britain: A backlash against ‘super-diversity’?

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Sociolinguists have adopted the concept of ‘super-diversity’ from cultural anthropology to analyse multidimensional changes in ethnolinguistic identities resulting from recent mass migration. Sociolinguistic super-diversity is thus understood as a central aspect of shifts in migration patterns that have increased the complexity of cultural identities beyond traditional, more static ‘multicultural’ diversity, both in Britain and globally. How is the presence of more complex and diverse linguistic identities viewed by the public? This paper explores attitudes towards perceived increased multilingualism and multiculturalism expressed in the BBC’s Have Your Say Internet forum. The majority of postings blame immigrants for communication problems with the British ‘home’ community and allege their unwillingness to learn English; many also assume that (only) a monolingual national community guarantees social coherence and they are dismissive of any language mediation services. In view of these ‘folk-sociolinguistic’ assumptions and linguaphobic attitudes, the notion of super-diversity needs to be reconfigured so as to include the (unintended) adverse impact of the migration-induced increase in the diversity and complexity of imagined ethno-linguistic identities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-266
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number3
Early online date11 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2019


  • Language attitudes
  • linguaphobia
  • migration
  • multiculturalism
  • super-diversity

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