What are recommended novice psycholinguistic resources

Claudia Maria Riehl. 2014. Multilingualism. An introduction

There are already quite a few introductions to the topic of second language acquisition, but Claudia Maria Riehl does it with her introduction to Multilingualism succeeded in closing a gap in the previous study literature. In the foreword, Riehl himself announces a sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic and text-linguistic perspective on multilingualism. Accordingly, this introduction goes well beyond an outline of theoretical and empirical foundations for second language acquisition and connects questions about multilingualism at the level of individual speakers with the topic of multilingualism at the societal level. One of the strengths of this introduction lies in this consistent combination. This is reflected in the structure of the book: After a brief general introduction, in the second chapter Riehl first turns to the empirical foundations of multilingualism research and explains the most commonly used empirical research methods (qualitative vs. quantitative methods, longitudinal vs. cross-sectional studies, sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic and neurophysiological methods). This part is kept very brief and in no way replaces an introduction to the empirical methods of second language acquisition research. But it gives a brief and easily understandable insight into the question of how the facts and information presented in the further course of the book were obtained at all.

The third chapter is devoted to the cognitive and neural basis of multilingualism. In it, Riehl first deals with the localization and representation of languages ​​in the brain in order to then approach the bilingual mental lexicon and models of bilingual language production on the basis of concrete examples. A discussion of the cognitive consequences of multilingualism rounds off this chapter. Compared to the others, it is kept quite detailed and also goes into details in many places. This may be due to the fact that self-study of the research literature summarized there would actually hardly be affordable for beginners.

The fourth chapter discusses the socio-political foundations of multilingualism. Accordingly, the focus here is not on individual speakers, but on multilingual societies. Different forms of multilingual societies are explained, language preservation and language switching are explained using a few examples and, finally, an insight into different types of language policy and language management on a societal level is given.

The transition from the third to the fourth chapter represents a considerable thematic leap, but it also shows how broad the spectrum of perspectives on the topic of multilingualism is. Since these different perspectives are often confused without reflection, especially in (educational) political discussions, it is good to draw the reader's attention at this point in the book to the fact that there are very different approaches, both theoretically and empirically deals with the topic of multilingualism. Likewise, in this chapter at the latest it becomes clear that the assessment of multilingualism as a "problem" that is often encountered in Germany has arisen not only on the individual but also on the social level through the context of a long tradition of strongly linguistically defined nation-statehood and is linguistically different as well as politically does not hold.

In the fifth chapter, the focus is again on individual multilingualism, but this time with the focus on development over the period of life. Accordingly, questions relating to the connection between language and identity are discussed, the fundamental differences and similarities between bilingual first language acquisition and early and later second language acquisition are explained, and finally questions about the development (and loss) of linguistic skills in later life and in old age are discussed. The last-mentioned topic in particular has so far been absent from many introductions to the topic of second language, as they often only deal with language acquisition by children.

The sixth chapter, with its thematization of multilingual language use, brings together the two side-by-side perspectives by explaining both individual forms of multilingual language use (including code switching and code mixing, but also different types of transfer and interference) as well as the effects of many more individual ones Multilingualism on the language system - this is where learner varieties and ethnolects are discussed.

The seventh chapter is devoted to the use of multiple scripts, and thus a topic that has so far mostly been left out of the second language acquisition research with its focus on the spoken language, at least in introductions. This chapter mainly presents the special features of acquiring different writing systems and orthographies. This chapter is not a didactic guide for the literacy of multilingual people, but above all a description of the current situation. Riehl also shows the effects of multilingual writing on different texts and types of text up to historical examples of multilingual texts and thus - as in the previous chapters - links the individual level of acquisition and use with the perspective on the language system.

Finally, the eighth chapter very briefly deals with questions of multilingualism in the German education system and points out the most pressing problems, but also mentions models that have already been tried and tested to promote multilingualism. Some readers interested in didactics may miss the mention of language-sensitive teaching methods - such as linguistic "scaffolding" - which could have been briefly explained at this point. Likewise, the various, for the most part not unproblematic, linguistic test and screening procedures could have been mentioned which are used in the German education system and which for the most part are either not or only inadequately designed for multilingual children and adolescents or which this group as " “problematic” and only test these accordingly. However, it is precisely these areas that are already very present in many introductions to the topic of German as a second language, so that it is understandable that this book does not deal with any further topics.

Each chapter concludes with a short summary and a few exercises - both helpful for reflecting on what has been read, but perhaps also as a suggestion for the design of the seminar. Suggested solutions are also provided at the end of the book. However, the annotated bibliography announced by the publisher on the back cover of the book is missing.

Basically - as with any overview - it would be possible to criticize the selection and arrangement of the topics and the respective weighting. But since every introduction is faced with the task of condensing complex relationships and leaving certain topics untreated, this criticism would certainly be different depending on the individual interests. From the perspective of multilingualismdidactics For example, one could regret that the relevant subject areas are largely left out. At other points, Riehl goes far beyond the subject of multilingual children and schoolchildren, which is often the focus of educational policy - for example when it comes to discussing multilingualism in old age or the mixture of languages ​​in texts. The fact that it covers a wide range and discusses both individual, speaker-related and social aspects of multilingualism makes the book interesting for a large target group - not only for linguists, but also for people who work professionally are confronted with multilingualism, such as teachers or other actors in the education system. Ultimately, the selection of the topics covered is transparent and easy to understand in terms of content, and each part offers points of contact for further in-depth reading. It is also possible to read only individual parts of the book without major comprehension problems, especially since the short summaries at the end of each chapter make it easier to skip or cursory reading of individual parts. The book is therefore ideally suited for students, both for introductory courses and for advanced students. For linguists it is suitable as a first overview or as a basis for seminar design. But this book is also recommended for school teachers or those interested in all types of educational institutions who want to familiarize themselves with the field of multilingualism. Not every part will be equally interesting or relevant for every target group, but in its entirety Riehl's introduction offers a comprehensive and at the same time solid overview. The language is appropriate to the complexity of the subject and is still clear and understandable. In my opinion, it should be particularly positively emphasized that, in contrast to other introductions, unnecessary theoretical background - for example in the form of general theories about the nature of language - is largely dispensed with, so that potential readers can firstly receive the book profitably even without prior knowledge.

Published online: 2016-1-14
In print: 2015-12-1

© 2015, Juliana Goschler, published by de Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.