Intercultural Pragmatics in Multilingual Ecologies

30 May 2024
15:00 - 16:00
Conference Room

Intercultural Pragmatics in Multilingual Ecologies

Kecskes (2022) describes the concern of Intercultural Pragmatics as “social encounters between human beings who have different first languages, but communicate in a common language, and, usually, represent different cultures.” Struggling to maintain common ground, interlocutors resort to “synergistic” strategies that combine available pragmatic norms and co-constructed routines.

In my lecture, I offer a survey and typology of the various multingual situations that can underlie such challenging pragmatic encounters. International streams of migration have led to a tangible increase in linguistic diversity and language encounters in many cities of the Global North. I provide some recent evidence from Toronto, Vancouver, London, and Hamburg. Building on own project work, my survey then contrasts these newly multilingual Western cities with evidence from Singapore, Dubai, and Cebu City, altogether urban spaces with extensive histories and patterns of multilingualism and migration. In a third step, my lecture considers heritage multilingualism in Germany illustrating the current European situation.

This global survey reveals that the concepts of first, native, second, and third language are often difficult to apply in multilingual ecologies. The very boundaries between languages easily blur. Multilingual speakers may conceptualize their language repertoires as aggregates that together function like a single language. Language status can change and language dominance becomes the better predictor for contact-induced effects. There is convergence on bilingualism and trilingualism of different kinds. My lecture is an invitation to reflect on the pragmatic implications of this new multilingual normalcy.


Aronin, Larissa. 2016. Multicompetence and dominant language constellation. In Vivian Cook & Li Wei (eds.) Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Multicompetence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 142–163.

Kecskes, Istvan. 2022. The rise of Intercultural Pragmatics. In Istvan Kecskes (ed.) The Cambridge Handbook of Intercultural Pragmatics. Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–8.

Siemund, Peter. 2023. Multilingual Development: English in a Global Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.