Linguistic Diversity and Social Inclusion in Australia

By September 5, 2012News

Michael Clyne, Australia’s Language Potential. UNSW Press, 2005.

***Update 03/10: Program and all details now available at****

***Update 25/09: RSVPs are now open. Attendance is free but you have to RSVP for catering purposes by Monday, Oct 08 to agnes.terraschke  at***

The Linguistics Department at Macquarie University is pleased to announce a one-day workshop on Friday, October 12

Human Sciences Perspectives in Linguistic Diversity and Social Inclusion in Australia

Abstract: It is the aim of this workshop to highlight the intersection between linguistic diversity (as language proficiency, language practices and language ideologies) and social inclusion (employment, education, health, information etc.) in Australia. According to the recently released 2011 census, Australia is an increasingly linguistically diverse society with almost a quarter of the population speaking one out of more than 300 home languages other than English.

Linguistic diversity is highly relevant to social inclusion as the languages someone speaks (or not) influence which jobs they can get, which information they can access and who they can socialize with. However, there is currently a gap in the knowledge between the sociologies of inclusion and language.

This is a remarkable state of affairs given the fact that the question how language serves to reproduce social inequality was actually a foundational concern of the modern discipline of sociolinguistics and is associated with the work of most of the founding fathers of the field, Joshua Fishman, John Gumperz, Dell Hymes, Bill Labov, and, in Australia, Michael Clyne. As these men passed away, retired or directed their efforts elsewhere, the field, in keeping with the zeitgeist, took a post-modern turn in the 1990s and ‘identity’ in particular emerged as the central category to replace ‘inequality’ (Collins, 2009). This situation has recently started to change (e.g., Piller, 2011; Piller, 2012; Piller, forthcoming; Piller and Cho, in press; Piller & Takahashi, 2011a; b; in press). Even so, the remarkable fact remains that ‘social inclusion’ has rarely been used as the central lens through which an understanding of linguistic diversity has been attempted. The workshop will serve to disseminate existing work and broaden the conversation in contemporary Australia.

Broadly speaking, the situation described above for linguistics is mirrored in sociology. There, too, we find that ‘language’ was central to the work of at least two of the major theorists of social reproduction, Basil Bernstein and Pierre Bourdieu. However, today, even such eminent theorists of social justice as Barry (2005) largely ignore the linguistic dimension of social reproduction and policy makers in social inclusion around the world almost consistently ignore language. If they do consider language as mediating social inclusion, assumptions about language learning tend to be naïve and simplistic, prescribing linguistic assimilation and reducing it to a simple matter of individual responsibility.

In sum, it is the key aim of this workshop to build on foundational interdisciplinary work exploring the intersection between language and inequality in a new era of global social transformations and with specific attention to the Australian national context. The overall aim of the workshop is to put the intersection of linguistic diversity and social justice on the map, both as the central challenge for a sociolinguistics of mobility for the 21st century and as a central policy challenge for Australia, as it is for all other internationalizing and globalizing societies. Bridging the gap between the sociologies of language and inclusion is essential to inform language policies that serve the common good.

Speakers: Keynote speakers include Professor Richard Baldauf Jr., University of Queensland and A/Professor Val Colic-Peisker, RMIT. There will also be featured presentations by Dr Donna Butorac, Curtin University of Technology and Dr Kimie Takahashi, Assumption University of Thailand as well as an overview of the AMEP Longitudinal Study devoted to the intersection between language learning and settlement outcomes of recent migrants.

Call for papers: We invite abstracts (200 words maximum) for short presentations featuring current research on linguistic diversity and social inclusion in Australia. Ongoing PhD research will be particularly welcome. There will be no parallel sessions in order to enable a coherent and consistent conversation. Therefore the number of papers we can accept will be quite small. Please submit enquiries and direct abstract to shiva.motaghi-tabari at her e-address at by Sept 19.

Scientific committee: Professor Ingrid Piller, Dr Agnes TerraschkeShiva Motaghi-Tabari, Hanna Torsh

Updates: Watch this space for regular updates and further information as it becomes available. We’ll also host a blogging carnival devoted to linguistic diversity and social inclusion in Australia here on Language on the Move to accompany the actual workshop.

Sponsor: Faculty of Human Sciences, Macquarie University


Author Ingrid Piller

Dr Ingrid Piller is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Ingrid’s research expertise is in the fields of intercultural communication, bilingual education and the sociolinguistics of language learning and multilingualism in the contexts of migration and globalization.

More posts by Ingrid Piller