Language at the margins: the case of somali in Liverpool

J. Arthur

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Drawing on a recent ethnographic research project conducted in an urban neighbourhood of Liverpool, England, this paper focuses on Somali speakers, relating the experience of members of this minority language community to the local linguistic and cultural ecology of the city. The community forms part of a Somali diaspora created largely as a consequence of civil war in Somalia towards the end of the twentieth century. The paper opens with an account of the context of the languages and cultures of Liverpool, going on to explore the communicative roles of languages and literacies — Somali, English and Arabic — in the lives of members of the Somali community. Also reported are insights, gained in interviews, into the symbolic values which these languages and literacies hold for them. These data indicate unresolved tensions felt by the interviewees in relation to issues both of cultural identity and of social and educational aspirations — tensions which are closely linked to widespread concern in the community over what is perceived as inter-generational language shift, from Somali to English. This concern has led to the setting up of Somali literacy teaching for young people in the community, and the study included observation of these classes. The paper considers the contribution of such affirmative action to the maintenance and valorisation of Somali, as the language of community heritage, before concluding with discussion of the implications of the Somali community experience in Liverpool — of both marginalisation and resistance — for the management of multilingualism in this modern city.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)217-240
    JournalLanguage Problems and Language Planning
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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