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Regular version of the site

Call for papers

The conference "Typology of small-scale multilingualism" will take place April 15-17 2019 at the research unit ‘Dynamique du Langage’ (CNRS & Université Lumière Lyon 2) in Lyon (France).

Dear colleagues, abstract submission for the conference has been extended to December 22, 2018.


Small-scale multilingualism (Lüpke 2016) is typical for small socio-political groups which have no overarching hierarchical political structure joining them (Singer & Harris 2016); it has also been termed reciprocal by Jourdan 2007, balanced by Aikhenvald 2007, traditional by Brandl &Walsch 1982, Di Carlo 2016, Wilkins & Nash 2008, and egalitarian by Francois 2012. This type of societal multilingualism is characterized by the absence of power or prestige relationships between languages; it thus differs notably from colonial and post-colonial multilingualism, in which a dominant colonial/state language exerts pressure on local minority languages.

After being overshadowed by studies of urban multilingualism for a long time, small-scale multilingualism started receiving more attention in recent years (Lüpke 2016, Singer & Harris 2016, Vaughan & Singer 2018, di Carlo et al., forthcoming). The increased interest in the domain of small-scale multilingualism is boosted, first, by the recent realization of its significance for reconstructing social conditions which favoured linguistic diversity in the pre-colonial world (e.g. Evans 2010: 10, Evans 2013, Lüpke 2016), and second, by the growing understanding that traditional multilingual settings are highly endangered. Indeed, the competence in small local languages is being displaced by the use of lingua francas (Pidgin English in Cameroon - Lüpke 2016; Pijin in the Solomon Islands - Jourdan 2007, Hicks 2017; Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea - Romaine 1992, Aikhenvald 2010; Tukano in the Brazilian Vaupes - Aikhenvald 2003; Russian in Daghestan – Dobrushina et al. 2018, and Siberia – Khanina & Meyerhoff 2018, Khanina forthcoming).

The conference aims to provide a forum for linguists and anthropologists to discuss issues concerning small-scale multilingualism (Lüpke 2016, Singer & Harris 2016), which is typical for pre-colonial societies with small socio-political groups. The aim of the conference is to develop a set of parameters for comparing different sociolinguistic settings across the world. Topics to be covered include the (in)equality of languages (egalitarian language ecology is usually considered to be a feature of areas with high linguistic diversity), linguistic ideologies, marriage patterns as they are related to the spread of L2s, the sources of second language acquisition, the domains where languages are used, the existence of lingua francas in the context of small-scale societies, and methods for studying multilingual patterns of the past. For further details see The typology of small-scale multilingualism.


We welcome abstracts from researchers working on all areas where high linguistic diversity in traditional indigenous settings is attested. We are interested both in reports on current language ecologies involving societal multilingualism and diachronic studies of (pre)historic stages of such ecologies. Please note that the conference explicitly excludes studies of urban multilingualism in result of relatively recent mobility as well as applied linguistic aspects concerning multilingualism, such as interactions between professionals and immigrants and spontaneous interpreting.

BA, MA and PhD students are especially encouraged to apply. We have some additional funds to support students and researchers from low-income countries. In order to apply for financial support (max. 1000 euros/applicant), please include a letter of motivation outlining why it is important for you to participate in the conference, an explanation why your home institution cannot support your attendance, and an overview of the expected expenses.

The conference will consist of oral presentations and a poster session. Abstract submitters may choose to have their abstract considered either for a poster only, for a talk only, or for a poster or a talk.


Abstracts (PDF, 12 point font, max 1 page text + 1 page figures and references) should be submitted to the address smallscale.multilingualism@gmail.com before December 15, 2018. You may submit no more than one abstract as first author.

Adjacent workshop

Note that there will be a workshop on "Noun categorization: from grammar to communicative interaction" taking place at DDL on 18-19 April, i.e. immediately adjacent to this workshop.


Nina Dobrushina

HSE, Moscow

Olesya Khanina

Institute of Linguistics RAS, Moscow & Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki

Brigitte Pakendorf

CNRS & Université Lumière Lyon 2, Lyon


Scientific committee

Thiago ChaconPierpaolo Di CarloNina Dobrushina, Mark DonohuePatience EppsJeff GoodOlesya KhaninaBrigitte Pakendorf

Secretary of the conference

Vasilisa Zhigulskaya

Research Assistant