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Scientific article
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English

Equal status, but unequal perceptions : language conflict in the bilingual city of Biel/Bienne

ContributorsElmiger, Danielorcid
Published inInternational journal of the sociology of language, vol. 2015, no. 235, p. 33-52
Publication date2015-08
Abstract

The city of Biel/Bienne is often cited as a model of a non-conflicting cohabitation between two language groups with a similar status: German (i.e. in a diglossic situation: Standard German and Swiss German dialects) and French both benefit from explicit political promotion and legal protection. In a qualitative study conducted in the city of Biel/Bienne, most of the 40 interviewees talking about their lives in this bilingual city confirm this consensual view of linguistic cohabitation. However, the apparent balance between both communities is challenged on different levels, including the relationship between language communities according to their respective minority and majority status, the status and the visibility of both languages in the public sphere, the conflicting loyalties of bilingual citizens, the use or avoidance of a language in certain contexts or the choice of a common language in (potentially) bilingual interactions. The results of the analysis reveal divergent – and potentially conflicting – perceptions regarding urban bilingualism: although most of the interviewees appreciate the linguistic cohabitation in Biel/Bienne, many of them refer to various zones of language conflict which they suffer from or which they allot to the other speech community.

eng
Keywords
  • Language conflict
  • Bilingualism
  • Biel/Bienne
  • German
  • French
NoteOpen Access - Licence nationale de Gruyter
Citation (ISO format)
ELMIGER, Daniel. Equal status, but unequal perceptions : language conflict in the bilingual city of Biel/Bienne. In: International journal of the sociology of language, 2015, vol. 2015, n° 235, p. 33–52. doi: 10.1515/ijsl-2015-0013
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ISSN of the journal0165-2516
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