Language Ideologies in/and Supranational Organisational Spaces: A Discourse-Ethnographic Analysis of Multilingual Communication in European Union Institutions

Michał Krzyżanowski
Professor, Department of Media and Communication Studies, Örebro University, Sweden

My plenary lecture at the forthcoming 2013 Autumn Symposium of the Finnish Association of Applied Linguistics will be devoted to the analysis of various ways in which language ideologies play a prominent role in shaping and constructing multilingualism in complex organisational spaces. Focussing on the key European Union (EU) institutions, the lecture looks at the ways in which language ideologies underlie constructions of the role, ‘value’ and use of different languages in the EU context as well as the means by which EU multilingualism is practiced as well as imagined/envisioned and regulated. The lecture draws on results of extensive fieldwork and ethnography as well as of analyses conducted in line with the Discourse-Ethnographic Approach at the intersection of, inter alia, anthropology of organisations and critical discourse studies (cf. Krzyżanowski 2010 and 2011). The presentation starts with an outline of the recent dynamics of the EU institutional and political system as well as explains how it relates to the ways in which multilingual communication is or should be practiced in the EU. After a brief discussion of such concepts as, inter alia, language ideologies as well as of the key tendencies in the existent including critical scholarship on EU multilingualism (cf., inter alia, Krzyżanowski and Wodak 2011; Wodak, Krzyżanowski and Forchtner 2012), the lecture turns to the presentation of the key elements of its analytical approach. Following on that, and moving to the results of the highlighted discourseethnographic analyses, the lecture first focuses on meta-discourses about multilingualism in the EU based on interviews with key EU officials responsible for shaping and implementing provisions and policies regarding EU multilingualism. On the other hand, the lecture also highlights results of the analyses of multilingual practices (of, e.g., code switching) in meetings at various levels of institutional hierarchies of the key EU institutions, notably the European Commission and the European Parliament. As the presented studies show, the EU-institutional multilingualism is often conditioned by a multitude of factors. The latter are to large extent rooted in path dependence of efficiency-driven institutional practices or organisational cultures of the different EU institutions but also, or perhaps predominantly, they rest on an array of very peculiar and often intersecting language ideologies which shape discourses both about and within practices of multilingualism in the EU.



Krzyżanowski, Michał. (2010). The Discursive Construction of European Identities. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Krzyżanowski, Michał. (2011). Political Communication, Institutional Cultures, and Linearities of Organisational Practice: A Discourse-Ethnographic Approach to Institutional Change in the European Union. Critical Discourse Studies 8(4), 281-296.

Krzyżanowski, Michał and Ruth Wodak. (2011). Political Strategies and Language Policies: The ‘Rise and Fall’ of the EU Lisbon Strategy and its Implications for the Union’s Multilingualism Policy. Language Policy 10(2), 115-136.

Wodak, Ruth, Michał Krzyżanowski and Bernhard Forchtner. (2012). The Interplay of Language Ideologies and Contextual Cues in Multilingual Interactions: Language Choice and Code-Switching in European Union Institutions. Language in Society 41(2), 157-186.


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