Migration Linguistics

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Migration Linguistics  



That communication through language has been very important to the lives and the integration of migrants has not escaped the notice of scholars. And while language is primarily the affairs of linguists, scholars of various persuasions themselves have contributed to the growing body of knowledge on studies on language and migration. Evidence of this are the anthology of Piller in 2016, the handbook of Canagarajah in 2017, and the book of Capstick in 2020. Migration continued to be more prevalent in the world today and, consequently, the momentum of studies on migration broadly and migration vis-a-vis language specifically has increased alongside the prevalence of international migration. Of course, linguists and non-linguists alike would be interested in any prevailing and pressing social phenomenon. It can be observed that various disciplines mentioned have contributed to the investigation of the nexus of migration and language using their own disciplinary frameworks, perspectives, and methodologies. Yet, this extant corpus of studies on language and migration remains unconsolidated. In applied linguistics in particular, Canagarajah (2017) bemoans, “[A]pplied linguists in diverse parts of the world studying this nexus [of migration and language] don’t necessarily enjoy a shared scholarly identity or disciplinary space” [emphasis added] (p.1).

In this light, a new sub-discipline of linguistics is being alluded to here — that which could be called 'migration linguistics'. Migration linguistics will be involved in the scientific study of language in the context of migration and, while it is a primarily a sub-discipline of linguistics, it borrows immensely from a number of other disciplines, sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, political science, education, and other related disciplines. That said, the nomenclatural transition from ‘language and migration’ to ‘migration linguistics’ signals the development and maturity of the research area and, consequently, the emergence of the new sub-discipline. Migration linguistics is clearly rooted in the broad discipline of linguistics, again, rather understandably, because the point of focus is language. Yet at the same time, migration linguistics also directs attention to a very clear and neat consolidation of these multidisciplinary efforts — though occasionally distant from one another — towards a more coherent academic endeavor.

It is important to point out here what migration linguistics hopes to be. First, it should theorize on language as it is used, acquired, and learned in the context of the migration process. Second, it must describe the various factors and patterns relating to language within the migration process. Third, it ought to investigate on language within the context of migration using interdisciplinary perspectives and methodologies. Fourth, it has to provide practical solutions to the issues and problems related to language confronting migrants. And lastly, it would engage various stakeholders of language and migration. Indeed,  the nexus of migration and language is a very important concern not only for the community of scholars (interdisciplinary) but also for the community of nations (international), too.

That said, a new research network for the International Association of Applied Linguistics has been organized and its focus is ‘migration linguistics’. The research network and its activities are very suitably headquartered at the Migration Linguistics Unit (MLU) of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, recently established by Ariane Borlongan. MLU will afford the proposed research network administrative resources and support in running its activities.