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Expert in the Spotlight in 2010: Glyn Williams

The expert in the Spotlight feature gives you the chance to interact one-in-one with our Ask the expert-section. The feature also provides interesting and insightful comments regarding the field of European minority languages or regional languages, bilingualism and multilingualism at school and at home, education, language learning, language policy and cultural participation in favour of linguistic diversity in Europe,  in-depth content and exclusive Q and A’s.

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Glyn Williams has been working as Research Professor at University Ramon Llull, Barcelona, at the University of San Francisco, the University of Bangor, Wales, University of Cardiff and University College Dublin. Since 2000 he has retired but still is working. He has written 14 books and over a hundred papers on a variety of topics including language and society, regional development, ethnicity, media and technology. His latest book is titled: “The knowledge economy, language and culture” and offers a thoughtful, original and often provocative interpretation of the mutual relationships between the linguistic, the political, the social and the economic.

Ask Glyn

Face to face with Glyn Williams

What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/multilingualism?

I would not say that I have ‘minority languages’ as a specific reference point. Indeed, my knowledge of linguistics, sociolinguistics and language studies is, I regret to say, very limited.  I am a Sociologist and as such work in a variety of fields – economics, law, politics and technology for example.  However, since the end of the 1960s I have been involved in trying to elaborate the shift away from a Sociology that analyzed industrial society via the preeminence of social class, by emphasizing the importance of other dimensions of inequality – gender, ethnicity, language groups etc. Being Welsh it was not possible to ignore what is referred to as ‘minority languages’ even though the term is self-demeaning.  I also have concerns about the right wing politics that seems to accompany ‘minority language movements’. 

What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?

Sociology is currently facing an immense crisis in that the advent of globalization and the shift from modernity to reflexive modernity is undermining not only the sovereignty of the nation state but also how Sociology , its theories and concepts was conditioned by the nation-state.  Post modernism challenges the various assumptions that have become axiomatic within the discipline.  The challenge involves coming to terms with these developments and forging a new form of sociological analysis within the new global context.

What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?

I hesitate to call it ‘work’, but I am currently re-exploring the legal and political dimensions of Europe.   The EU is striving to consolidate a new union of states with a new unity of citizens.  It does this by seeking to sustain diversity, claiming that a European dimension can stand side by side with other forms of identity.  Political theorists emphasize a discursive democracy which remains grounded in Kantian rationalism.  Yet the legal approach seems far removed from both the new academic understanding of how the nation state is being modified within a multi-layered democracy, and from normative social developments.  The Treaty of Lisbon promises much. Language is at the heart of such issues.

Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention?

My latest book ‘The Knowledge Economy, Language and Culture’ (Multilingual Matters) touches on such issues but it would be much better to consult the major intellectuals in this field, people like Habermas, Rorty, Rawls, Benhabib etc.

Do you have any questions on these topics?
Ask Glyn