Edited by Helen Kelly-Holmes and Tommaso M. Milani
[Benjamins Current Topics 49] 2013
► pp. 121–147
Unity in disunity
Centripetal and centrifugal tensions on the BBC Voices website
This chapter takes as a point of departure the website of the “Voices” project, a large media enterprise on languages in the UK conducted by the BBC in 2003–2005. With the help of the notions of language ideology and the analytical tools of multimodal critical discourse analysis, the paper shows how representations of languages on the website are a discursive terrain on which negotiations of national identities are played out. Essentially, the argument is that there is a constant tension between centripetal (unifying) and centrifugal (particularising) forces which strive for the production of different, concomitant and often conflicting national identities. Whereas the BBC seeks to represent the UK as a happy and unified multilingual nation, the many postings on the website show how multilingualism is not always perceived by speakers as a happy and unproblematic phenomenon, but is a politically-fraught issue that creates strong disagreements about the values of different languages in British society as well as their functions as markers of different national identities.