Medium request: Talking language shift into being

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In his landmark contribution to the field of language shift/maintenance, Fishman maintains that, for language shift to be reversed, "face-to-face, small-scale social life must be pursued in their own right and focused upon directly." This article responds to this call to examine language shift at the level of face-to-face interaction. It describes a specific interactional practice, referred to as "medium request," observed in the Rwandan community in Belgium, where language shift is taking place from Kinyarwanda-French bilingualism to French monolingualism. The practice consists in the fact that younger members of the community, when in interaction with adult members, constantly (albeit indirectly) request the latter to "medium-switch" from Kinyarwanda to French. The article therefore describes the practice as a specific type of language/medium negotiation, examines its various strategies, and shows how, through this interactional practice, members of the community actually talk language shift into being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-270
Number of pages30
JournalLanguage in Society
Issue number02
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2010


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