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PLURILINGUALISM: WHAT IS KNOWN AND WHAT IS STILL TO BE KNOWN

S. Eleuch

Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (CANADA)
The rapidly changing demographic composition of European (e.g. Cenoz & Jessner, 2000; Lasagabaster & Huguet, 2007), Canadian (e.g. Hoffman & Ytsma, 2004) and American (e.g. De Bot & Makoni, 2005; Edwards, 2010) societies poses an increasing challenge not only for policy makers but also for teachers who are finding larger and larger numbers of students from various ethnolinguistic and racial backgrounds in their classrooms. Societies in general and school systems in particular are beginning to understand the need to better understand the phenomenon of plurilingualism. This better understanding will help a better teaching, an efficient use of linguistic resources and a linguistically and culturally rich society.
In this contribution that lies within a psycholinguistic framework, I will first define the concepts of plurilingualism and multilingualism. Second, relying on seven psychological dimensions, namely age, cognitive organization, language proficiency, presence of target language community, language status, group membership and cultural identity (Hamers & Blanc, 2000) and on empirical research in the field of plurilingualism (e.g. Dewaele, 2004; Kim, Relkin, Kyoung-Min, & Hirsch, 1997; Wattendorf, et al., 2001) I will put forward types of plurilingualism. While some of these types have been demonstrated empirically, some others still need validation.
With this typology of plurilingualism, I will emphasize the value of seeing plurilingualism holistically and seeing the multilingual speaker as a complex psycholinguistic system. The different types of plurilingualism I will present in this paper set the scene for future interdisciplinary studies on plurilingualism. Paths for future research should be of interest to graduate students, teachers and researchers working in the fields of second language acquisition, third language acquisition, multilingualism, psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics.

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