Language and identity
In many countries around the world people are fighting to preserve minority languages. The forward momentum of European unification has only served to bolster these efforts. In the Netherlands, Frisian is the most relevant example of such a minority language, and the concern felt among Frisians is not surprising. Language does, after all, comprise an important part of one’s identity. The question that arises from this issue is whether the preservation of minority languages should be seen as having a destabilizing effect on society at large, or whether it should contrastingly be seen as having the potential to enrich and enhance its culture and social dynamic.
Up until now, research has suggested that bilingualism not only fosters stable relationships between groups, but can also lead to increased creative performance. The cognitive complexity that is involved in shifting between cultures and languages contributes to an individual’s creativity. Research of multilingual environments provides insight into the contact between languages in multilingual societies, the influence of majority on minority languages, and the relationship between language use and personal or collective identity. The influences of globalization and individualization also effect change on the identity of minority groups. By studying the way Frisians form their identity, it has been shown that they are not only fully bilingual, but cherish multiple identities which are, according to an individual’s context, developed to a greater or lesser extent.
The development of street language where Dutch is combined with another language (crossing) is a good example of new dynamic effects of multilingualism. These newly formed languages reflect the way in which a new identity is formed by the merging of older ones. This is most often observed among youth in multicultural neighborhoods. It is of interest to learn which conditions cause the combination of languages to lead either to instability or to innovation. It is also important to analyze the way in which the impact of multilingualism among immigrants in an educational setting can be mitigated or positively exploited.