Call for papers


Deadline for submission: EXTENDED until April 14th (Wednesday) at 11:59 pm CET

Notification of acceptance: Friday, May 21st 2021

Download call for papers here! (PDF)

The emergent field of Small-Scale Multilingualism (SSML) studies defines SSML as a type of rural language ecology widely attested throughout human history (Evans 2018). Small localities were and remain characterised by extensive internal heterogeneity and linguistic diversity motivated by a broad range of sociopolitical factors. Differently to superdiverse contexts (Blommaert & Rampton 2011) proliferating in the context of recent migration and globalisation, small-scale multilingual situations rely on the presence of highly multilingual individuals who speak, sign, or understand a high number of locally confined languages with low numbers of speakers and on the habitus of maintaining and sharing intricate multilingual repertoires. Such settings have become overshadowed by multilingualism in the more recent ethnolinguistic nation states of the Global North and by their monolingual language ideologies that expanded in the wake of colonisation. As a consequence, multilingualism is most commonly studied from a monolingual vantage point.

The second ever SSML conference aims to re-centre the notion of multilingualism as a natural and typical state of human societies, and to shift multilingualism to the fore of the academic field of linguistics. The theme of the conference is “Language is multilingual”. We think expansively about what constitutes SSML, and focus on the term “small-scale”: as paying attention to detail, zooming in on individuals and localised communities, and foregrounding concepts and ontologies that emerge from their language ideas and language use. Multilingualism is simultaneously a description of an environment and of individuals who create the tapestries of multi-modal interaction, including spoken and signed languages. It is in this spirit of inclusion and attention to individuals that we seek abstracts of contributions for the SSML 2 Conference.

Providing a foundation for the field, the first SSML conference in Lyon was based on SSML as referring to pre-colonial and/or rural societies. SSML 2 seeks a conceptual expansion, moving away from prevalent monolingual perspectives of linguistic description and documentation towards a multilingual turn grounded in epistemologies drawn from multilingual settings. We do this with the recognition that SSML settings are bound together by their highly complex and internally diverse patterns of multilingualisms, both in terms of settings and individuals’ repertoires in locally confined situations and in terms of site-specific sociopolitical motivations to upheld local multilingualism (Lüpke 2016, Singer & Harris 2016, Dobrushina & Moroz 2021, Vaughan & Singer 2018, Di Carlo, Good, & Ojong 2020, Stenzel & Epps 2013, Dobrushina, Khanina & Pakendorf 2021, Stenzel et al forthcoming)

Our conference will have three themes which pilot this broad and innovative approach to SSML:

  • New data from rural small-scale multilingualism. Contributions on small-scale, rural settings of the Global South (including minoritised settings in the Global North, for instance in Finland, Russia, or Australia) which provide insight into their historical development and evolution, into language ideas and ideologies, patterns of language acquisition and use, as well as issues of language rights and inclusive multilingual education stemming from them.
  • Recentering sign languages as part of multilingualism. Contributions which explore multilingual communication in SSML settings from a multimodal perspective, focusing on how sign and spoken languages co-evolve, co-exist and are shared.
  • Minoritised SSML in urban and national contexts. Concerning transformations of SSML settings and speakers through their participation in larger-scale processes that situate them at the periphery (Pietikäinen, Jaffe, Kelly-Holmes & Coupland 2016), from strategic essentialism (Spivak 1988) to the restructuring of repertoires and the emergence of new localised multilingual practices.

Scientific committee: Nina Dobrushina (HSE Moscow), Brigitte Pakendorf (CNRS DiLiS & DRCE Lyon), Hein van der Voort (Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi Belém) + organising committee

Abstracts can be submitted here.

Registration fee: The registration fee is 50 Euros for salaried participants from the Global North, and 20 Euros for student participants from the Global North. Registration is waived for participants from the Global South. The fee income will be used for the provision of sign language interpreting between International Sign and English, and for interpreting and subtitling of keynote talks to make them more widely accessible. We are currently applying for additional funding for the interpreting between International Sign and English.

Presentations: Presentations will be accessible asynchronously on the conference website from August 4th to August 20th. All session participants will be required to watch all presentations prior to synchronous session, during which presenters will provide a 5 minute summary of their main contribution, followed by discussion. Keynote addresses will be live-streamed. The synchronous sessions of the conference are scheduled for 9am-11am EET and 6pm-8pm EET in order to maximise accessibility from different time zones.


  • Abstract Due Date - EXTENDED until April 14th (Wednesday) at 11:59 pm CET
  • Notification of Acceptance - May 21st (Friday)
  • Registration opens - June 18th, click here to register
  • Registration closes - August 8th
  • Submission of pre-recorded videos - July 23rd (Friday), see detailed instructions here
  • Release of recordings to conference participants – August 4th - 20th
  • Conference Dates: August 16th - 18th

Abstracts (Due April 14th)

500 words (excluding references) or 5 minute video abstract in International Sign. Multiple submission welcome. HOWEVER, you may only be the main author of one paper.

Pre-recorded Paper (Due July 23rd)

20 minute recording. All presenters are requested to provide subtitling.

Registration fees

  • Participants from the Global South: Free
  • Students from the Global North: 20€
  • Salaried participants from the Global North: 50€


Blommaert, Jan & Ben Rampton. 2011. Language and superdiversity. Diversities 13(2), 1–22.

Dobrushina, N. & Moroz, G. (2021). The speakers of minority languages are more multilingual. In N. Dobrushina, O. Khanina & B. Pakendorf (Eds.). International Journal of Bilingualism Special issue ‘Typology of small-scale multilingualism’

Dobrushina, N., Khanina, O. & Pakendorf, B. (Eds.). (2021). International Journal of Bilingualism Special issue ‘Typology of small-scale multilingualism’

Di Carlo, P., Good, J., & Diba, R. O. (2020). Multilingualism in Rural Africa. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics (pp. 1–52). Oxford: Oxford University Press

Epps, P., & Stenzel, K. (Eds.) (2013). Upper Rio Negro: Cultural and Linguistic Interaction in Northwestern Amazonia. Rio de Janeiro: Museu do Índio-FUNAI.

Evans, N. (2018). The dynamics of language diversity. In R. Mesthrie & D. Bradley (Eds.), Plenary and focus lectures from the 20th International Congress of Linguists (pp. 11–41). Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press.

Lüpke, F. (2016). Uncovering Small-Scale Multilingualism. Critical Multilingualism Studies, 4(2), 35–74.

Pietikäinen, S., Jaffe, A., Kelly-Holmes, H., & Coupland, N. (2016). Sociolinguistics from the Periphery: Small Languages in New Circumstances. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Singer, R., & Harris, S. (2016). What practices and ideologies support small-scale multilingualism? A case study of Warruwi Community, Northern Australia. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2016(241), 163–208.

Spivak, G.C., 1988. Subaltern studies: deconstructing historiography. In: Guha, R., Spivak, G.C. (Eds.), Selected Subaltern Studies (pp. 3–32). London: Oxford University Press.

Vaughan, J., & Singer, R. (2018). Indigenous multilingualism past and present. Language and Communication, 62, 83–90.