The family has increasingly come under scrutiny in sociolinguistics. The field of family language policy has evolved in recent years from an emphasis on language policies as planned language management on the part of the parent/caregiver to encompassing language practices in the family, as inherently implicit policy. Studies have investigated language conditions that provide affordances and constraints for multilingual development and what measures parents can take to ensure desirable multilingual outcomes. More recent shifts in family language policy research, however, consider questions that examine language as a means through which multilingual adults and children define themselves and their families, with studies employing methods that attend to meaning-making in interaction also bringing in the broader socio-political context.

In my presentation I will discuss the family as a space for language learning and use, bringing into focus both family language policies and practices. A myriad of methods has evolved to uncover the dynamics of family life and language. However, in the current digital age, the role of technology in communication still deserves further attention – not only how individuals use technology for communication but also how mediatization may affect language choice. The family as a space for language has in the digital age become linked with ideas of good parenting, and many parenting websites, online discussion forums, and blogs have evolved in which also multilingual families share representations online of parenting and raising children multilingually.

I will critically examine a trajectory of studies that illustrate the family as an important space for language learning and use, and will conclude with a discussion of the role of technology in communication and language learning in the family, particularly through an examination of some selected websites for multilingual families. Investigating the family as a space for language can provide vital insights into understanding young children’s orientation to learning and use of language in the classroom.


Elizabeth Lanza is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Oslo and Director of the Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan (MultiLing), funded by the Research Council of Norway's Centre of Excellence scheme. Lanza’s current research focuses on issues of language, culture and identity in multilinguals, with a particular focus on family language policy and language socialization. She has recently co-edited four special issues on multilingual families in International Journal of Bilingualism, Multilingua, International Journal of Multilingualism, and Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development.