Brazil, Florianópolis

UNESCO Chair on Language Policies for Multilingualism


Description and Mandate of the Chair

The UNESCO Chair Language Policies for Multilingualism (LPM) is a research network of universities, institutes, national committees, specialized networks and academies from different countries to generate knowledge on the different contexts of multilingualism, on the language policies developed in these contexts, and their implications for the sustainable development of citizens, linguistic communities, regions and countries. The Chair’s products – publications, events, academic mobility, training of masters and PhD students, advisory services to linguistic communities and governments – will dialogue centrally with the concept and guidelines for sustainable development, as foreseen in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations (2015-30). In addition, the Chair will carry out relevant research, establishing relationships on several axes, to help the development of UNESCO policies, such as the Promotion of Multilingualism in Cyberspace, and the development of the UNESCO Atlas of the World Languages, now under way.

In July 2023, the chair has 31 associated universities from 17 countries, which teach and research in 13 different languages.

Domain(s) or discipline(s)

The area of research called today Multilingualism stems from efforts made in different moments and geographies, involving mainly (1) the taxonomic and cartographic concerns with the languages of the world, (2) the observation of the phenomenon of individual bilingualism and its consequences, (3) the analysis of languages in conflict and the proposal to manage of these conflicts through language planning, 4) the relationship between languages and identities, and finally, 5) the concerns on languages and education. More contemporaneously, two new concerns have further broadened the area. On the one hand the question of linguistic rights and on the other the digitalization of languages and the Internet revolution have brought to the field new concerns on access/accessibility and, at the same time, on the digital equipment of languages.

The area of Language Policy and Planning (LPP) connects the historical demands of language communities for the use of their languages with the governance needs of the States and, at the same time, with the economic needs of the Market. In this axis connecting Society, State and Market, LPP analyses the major decisions that are made about languages and how the measures to concretize these decisions are developed.

In the twenty-first century, languages are increasingly ceasing to be seen as problems and increasingly are seen as rights or, beside rights, as resources. It is with this vision of languages as resources that the Chair’s proposal established the following domains / axes for research:

  1. Multilingualism and internationalization
  2. Multilingualism and intercultural mediation
  3. Multilingualism and language education
  4. Multilingualism, translation and accessibility
  5. Multilingualism, economy and linguistic rights
  6. Multilingualism and information and communication technologies
  7. Multilingualism, borders and diasporas

These domains allow the Chair to consider a series of projects under development in the partner universities/institutions. Each research group, therefore, pointed out in which domain it works / intends to work in the Chair, thus enabling the development of concrete projects and expertise for each axis. In this way, the Chair will be an inter- and transdisciplinary effort encompassing the humanities, technologies, economics and education, with languages and multilingualism as hubs.

Projects corresponding to UNESCO’s priorities

The document offered by the United Nations, Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the world’s leaders in 2015, and described as “an Agenda of the people, by the people, and for the people,” includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets that determine the basic ways of transforming our world toward prosperity, greater economic opportunity, higher living standards, and environmental protection

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is very important, particularly for cultures and languages. This is a first-ever international development program to regard culture as a necessary condition and motive force of the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development, thus recognizing it as an essential factor of achieving the posed goals in education, urban development, environment, economic growth, and sustainable models for production, consumption and the building of peaceful and inclusive societies. In this sense, thinking about languages and their diversity is can contribute to the sustainable development of multilingual societies, protecting and valuing their citizens. The problems related to multilingualism and the protection and maintenance of languages are also human rights problems, related to UNESCO’s general goals for the millennium.

Projects corresponding to the Millennium Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals document, adopted in 2015 by the United Nations, mainly concerns a part of the economic and social rights of human beings and is intended for developing countries. In all these objectives, there are no direct references to the question of languages, but it is understood how fundamental they are to ensure the social, economic and human development of countries, especially those in need. From the national, as well as from the regional point of view, the proposed LPM Chair will contribute to sustaining and promoting human, linguistic and cultural diversity through languages and their management, aiming at the construction of intercultural dialogues that help the exchange and cooperation between peoples and institutions, in building social development for all.

The headquarters of the Chair, at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, as well as all the other partners that integrate it, develop their research and design their actions understanding their great responsibility for regional and national development, with important transnational reach, through the specialized cooperation network that it represents.

Context and justification

The UNESCO Chair Language Policies for Multilingualism is a “federation of projects”. Each Project, developed by the member institutions, will be included in one of the seven domains / axes of research describe above.

In a perspective of Language as a Resource, the projects will study the contexts of multilingualism (languages, behaviors, practices, etc.), and collaborate to the efforts of mapping multilingual situations, as well as analyzing the ongoing language policies in each situation. The projects help to identify to what extent languages, behaviors and linguistic practices, and also the organization of geolinguistic spaces, are connected to the sustainable development of the linguistic communities involved.

(UNESCO No. 2018BR1302)
(Ver. 07-2023)

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