A DLC paradigm for research
It is not a secret that, while the ideas of multilingualism gain currency, there is still a lot of instances when a monolingual perspective is in action. The "monolingual perspective" still reigns in research where multilingualism is often conceived of multiple monolingualism. By using Dominant Language Constellations as a starting point for the study of language practices, we de facto move from monolingual to a multilingual perspective.
What to research
A constellation of languages rather than a single language is the point of departure for mapping languages of the world. The traditional view actually succumbs to the monolingual perspective in that it sees each language separately in linguistic maps. Sociolinguists are then, visually compelled to describe the world in a ‘flat’ way. In the light of the majority of the world's population and the world's states is multilingual, it would be more accurate to present the linguistic makeup of the world according to DLCs, rather than according to single languages. The prerequisite for updating and restructuring the view, according to already theoretically accepted visions and theories, is gathering a pool of data on how sets of languages are distributed across territories and communities of the world, and create DLC lists and maps.
The first necessity is to gather more descriptive studies on Dominant Language Constellations. We would like to know which Dominant Language Constellations operate in the world. Which DLCs are there in a particular country? Which are the most numerous, and which are the rare Language Constellations? Which languages constitute these Dominant Language Constellations? Which Dominant Language Constellations are essential for the life of certain communities or individuals and which are less so? One of the first studies to outline and analyze Dominant Language Constellations in a country is the paper by Sjöholm, Björklund and Björklund (2016) describing DLCs in multilingual Finland. The authors looked into the diverse Dominant Language Constellations among student teachers with different language backgrounds and in differing language environments. In addition, the study yielded data on why and how some languages enter a DLC and leave it to return to their place as a part of a repertoire.
A description of the language makeup of counties, organizations, and communities can be done from politico-geographical, educational, economic or any other angles of view depending on the discipline of the researchers, research interests and reality demands. Among the questions posed can be: Which Dominant Language Constellations predominate numerically in particular countries? Which DLCs (if any) seem to correspond with the better financial and political societal status and success in a country and which seem to hinder social adaptation?
The next step would be to investigate characteristics of particular Dominant Language Constellations and identify the characteristic features common to all DLCs. In the field of Language Policy, it would be illuminating to look into the subject towards particular Dominant Language Constellations, especially those including minority languages. Which DLCs are supported by the state, which are not? What are the reasons for its support or neglect? What are the ways of managing Dominant Language Constellations in a community, country or organization?
In order to study individual Dominant Language Constellations and typical DLC configurations in more depth, one may also examine the configuration of languages and skills in a DLC, the distribution of practical functions in the DLC, and define how much time, effort and expenses are devoted to each language of the DLC and how these expenditures are coordinated in one DLC entity. Minority studies, ethics, ethnology of multilingualism, multiple language acquisition (SLA and TLA inclusive) are conveniently approached from the DLC perspective because, on the one hand, a DLC structure limits the number of agents to be researched, and on the other hand, adopts complexity methods and views which are especially appropriate for these lines of research. The work by Stela Letica Krevelj (2017), for example, focuses on the interaction of languages within a DLC of Croatian/Italian/English in Croatia with regard to emerging patterns and variation in linguistic behavior. A wide variety of studies can be performed and insights gleaned from comparative research. The search for correlations and comparison can be carried out in various directions. For example, it would be informative to check whether there is a correlation between individual and communal Dominant Language Constellations in a country. It is possible then to consider whether it is beneficial for a country or for a minority community when an officially encouraged DLC or DLCs correspond with individual ones.
Other studies can compare different kinds of DLCs. Dominant Language Constellations containing various particular languages, or languages with different writing systems. Do users whose Dominant Language Constellations contain two or three differing writing systems such as hieroglyphics, or Semitic languages (Hebrew/ Arabic) with their right to left writing and Latin (German, French, Spanish) and Cyrillic (Russian, Ukrainian) have significantly greater metalinguistic awareness? A relatively new kind of a DLC which appeared and spread all over the world is that with a combination of languages originating from geographically distant localities. The number of such DLCs (e.g. Chinese/ German/ English; Singhalese/ English/ German; or Korean/ English/ Spanish) has increased due to current mobility routes. Other research questions probe the Dominant Language Constellations, which may ensure or enhance the preferred teaching, learning and social outcomes. Which DLC configuration provides more cognitive and social advantages for the individual? Berkes & Flynn (2012: 21) have shown that “certain language constellations may be beneficial for the learner as they 10 facilitate the acquisition of syntactic features carried by functional elements”, and they discuss the important repercussions of their research for language teachers. Moreover, there is the question about whether DLC languages have a different or similar influence on the desired outcomes as compared to the languages of one’s repertoire. In her study on multilinguals with Polish, L2 English, and various L3-Ln from the Germanic, Romance, Slavonic and non-Indo-European groups, Agnieszka Otwinowska-Kasztelanic (2016) tried to determine whether all languages within the learner’s linguistic repertoire or only those in his/ her Dominant Language Constellation (DLC) have an impact on guessing unknown, formally similar words. Her results reveal that the sum of all languages in the repertoire does not predict that the multilingual will employ inference strategies.
How to research DLC
A Dominant Language Constellation reflects the real-life use of concrete named languages. At the same time, it is a mental construct, enabling us to think about multilingualism from a different angle. The Dominant Language Constellation approach emphasizes the two features of DLC that enrich the methodology of research in multilingualism. The first is “considering whole sets of languages as units, rather than focusing, one by one, on the specific languages used by given individuals or groups.” (Aronin & Singleton 2012: 69). The second feature which is important for research is seeing DLC as a pattern.