Diversity and Multilingualism in a Megacity

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More than half of New York City’s 8.6 million residents have roots in a different country and 3.4 million are foreign born. Half of all New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home, and in total there are about 200 languages spoken in New York City.

Did you know that every year on February 21st the UN International Mother Language Day is celebrated? This year we mark the occasion with a two-part event: In a panel discussion experts will discuss about multilingualism and be open for your questions. Scholars, students, and professionals are invited to participate in our afternoon workshop.

1:30-6:00 pm – Workshop:
Multiculturalism and Multilingualism in a Megacity

The aim of this scientific workshop is to focus attention on sustaining linguistic diversity and promoting multicultural and multilingual approaches in sociolinguistic research. It will bring together sociolinguists who work on issues of language contact, variation, and change in diverse linguistic communities.  A number of the contributions will focus on New York City, but other cross-linguistic perspectives will be represented.

Presenters and Presentations:

  • Philipp Angermeyer, York University: Multilingual Society, Monolingual Ideologies
  • Isaac Bleaman, New York University: Maintaining Mame-Loshn in a Megacity
  • Naomi Nagy, University of Toronto: Promoting Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Through Heritage Language Sociolinguistics
  • Michael Newman, City University of New York: Multilingualism in One Language: NYC English in Contact
  • Arthur Spears, City University of New York: Multilingualism, Multidialectalism, Creoles, and Dominance Relations
  • James Stanford & Zachary Cooper, Dartmouth College: Voices that need to be heard: Collaborative research on language variation in less-commonly studied communities

Faculty and graduate students in the field of sociolinguistics are invited to this scientific workshop. If you would like to participate, please send an email to the DWIH.

7:00-8:30 pm – Panel Discussion:
Empowering Mother Languages – Sustaining Diversity 

In keeping with the theme of International Mother Language Day, the panel discussion will focus on how educators, policy makers, and community members can work to maintain and sustain the many mother tongues present in multilingual communities like New York City. What are the challenges and opportunities of diversity and multilingualism in megacities? These topics, relevant far beyond scholarly interests, will be discussed in an interdisciplinary approach, including perspectives from representatives of the New York City Council and the UN.

On this occasion, the scientific organizers, Prof. Aria Adli (University of Cologne) and Prof. Gregory Guy (NYU) will be presenting their ‘manifesto’ calling for an expansion of cross-cultural perspectives in sociolinguistics beyond the examination of mostly Indo-European languages in Western societies, which has characterized the field, to the full tapestry of the world’s languages.

With welcoming remarks by:

Yasemin Pamuk
Consul, Head of the Cultural Affairs and Science Department
Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in New York


Prof. Dr. Aria Adli
Professor of Linguistics
University of Cologne

Dr. Lisa M. Coleman
Senior Vice President for Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation
New York University

Prof. Dr. Ofelia García
Professor in Urban Education and Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures
City University of New York

Prof. Dr. Gregory Guy
Professor of Linguistics
New York University

Benjamin Kallos
NYC Council Member

Moderated by:

Dr. Rosemary Feal
Executive Director Emeritus Modern Language Association, Wilbur Marvin Visiting Scholar
Harvard University

Check out the event recording below:

Check out the event recording below:

To play the video, click the thumbnail. Once activated data will be transmitted to the respective provider. Watch on YouTube

Event Information

February 21, 2019

New York, NY
Organizer(s): German Center for Research and Innovation (DWIH NY), University of Cologne New York Office, New York University (NYU), Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany


German Center for Research and Innovation (DWIH) New York

Address: 871 United Nations Plaza New York, NY 10017, USA
Phone: +1 (212) 339 8680