WP187 Methodology in biographical approaches in applied linguistics

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In multilingualism research a shift of paradigm can be observed: the idea of languages as distinct categories is being abandoned in favour of the notion of linguistic repertoire, which seems more apt to grasp the complexity of heteroglossic practices. For the repertoire approach, biographical methods can be particularly interesting as they emphasize the perspective of the experiencing and speaking subject. They can contribute to an understanding of the linguistic repertoire as reflecting individual life trajectories, heterogeneous life worlds and discourses about language and language use referring to specific time-spaces. Benefiting from a strong tradition in phenomenological thought, biographical methods have developed particularly in the German speaking scientific space over the last decades.? The paper gives a brief overview of studies in multilingualism that employ a biographical approach, drawing on different kinds of data such as diaries, autobiographical texts, language memoirs, biographical interviews, and multimodal representations. It then situates biographical research within the interpretative paradigm in social and cultural studies. Schematically I shall contrast three theoretical positions within the interpretative paradigm: approaches based on interactionist, on phenomenological and on poststructuralist thinking. The paper also discusses aspects of data collection and interpretation as well as ethical implications. Referring to examples from my own research I will argue that such approaches can be particularly productive in addressing topics such as language and emotion, language and subject positions or identity constructions, or language attitudes linked to language ideologies and discourses on language and language use.