Linguistic epistemology and the notion of monolingualism


  • Jason Rothman University of Iowa



Monolingualism, Multilinguals, Comparative Fallacy, Normative Measures, Bilingualism


This article has several interrelated goals, all of which relate to an attempt at understanding why monolingualism is taken to be the default norm in linguistic inquiry (from sociolinguistics to formal linguistic theorizing). With others, I will take the position that comparing instances of multilingualism to so-called monolingualism is an unfair and inevitably inaccurate comparison since, among other variables, the social environments and access to input of multilinguals compared to monolinguals is most often unavoidably different (cf. Cruz-Ferreira 2006; Edwards 2004). Additionally, I will attempt to demonstrate that even so-called monolinguals have access to a variety of grammars related to different registers of speech and, therefore, are not truly monolingual in the sense that they poses one monolithic grammatical competence. Taken together, the present discussion questions both the default status of monolingualism as well as the functional adequacy of the term monolingualism.

Author Biography

Jason Rothman, University of Iowa

Assistant Professor of Hispanic Linguistics and Language Acquisition



How to Cite

Rothman, J. (2008). Linguistic epistemology and the notion of monolingualism. Sociolinguistic Studies, 2(3), 441–458.