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Multilingualism: problems of definition and main research trends in contemporary linguistics

Liberal Arts in Russia. 2018. Vol. 7. No. 3. Pp. 232-240.
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Ostapenko T. S.
Perm State Pedagogical-Humanitarian University
24 Sibirskaya Street, 614990 Perm, Russia


The end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries are marked by globalization and migration processes. These processes stipulate active language contacts between nations; as a result, a great expansion of multilingualism and its most widespread varieties, bilingualism and trilingualism, is observed worldwide. This led to a shift from bilingual research paradigm (which dominated linguistic science in the 20th century) to the multilingual one, wherein multilingualism is considered as a basic object of study, while bilingualism and trilingualism are treated as its forms. The author of the article reviews different types of multilingualism singled out within the frames of sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic approaches: national (social) multilingualism and individual multilingualism manifested in different forms. The authors discuss various problems connected with different definitions of multilingualism, multilingual individual, and basic components of individual multilinguality: linguistic proficiency, linguistic competence, and developmental trajectories. The article gives a brief review of the Dynamic Multilingual Model designed by P. Herdina and U. Jessner, its main principles (theoretical-systematic and holistic), and its main points. It is generally considered that the Dynamic Multilingual Model offers an effective way of approaching and analyzing a multilingual system of an individual irrespective of the number of languages it contains, as well as language proficiency. The scholars argue that the “ideal” model of multiligualism should satisfy the requirements of plasticity, adaptivity, and universalism that will allow applying it for studying various types of multilingualism.


  • • multilingualism
  • • social and individual multilingualism
  • • additive and subtractive multilingualism
  • • multilingual individual
  • • trilingualism
  • • bilingualism
  • • Dynamic Model of Multilingualism


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