Linguistic repertoires

People have an individual repertoire of linguistic resources that changes throughout their lives: the languages we learn, forget or are able to recognise… because our skills are not the same in all the languages and varieties that are part of our heritage; the accents we know and which stick to us depending on who we are with; the registers with which we address others depending on whether we are talking or posting messages on social networks, whether we are addressing someone in our family, an older stranger or a colleague. The wider our repertoire, the better we can adapt to communicative situations with speakers from different social classes, educational levels, geographical backgrounds or age groups.

In EquiLing research

  • We organise seminars with learners to explore their linguistic autobiographies and trajectories ( In doing so, we reflect on the sociolinguistic relevance of repertoires and analyse what the languages and varieties we speak, the ones we would like to speak, the ones we are proud or a little ashamed of, in what contexts or with whom we use them, mean to us. In doing so, we become aware of the languages we live with and strengthen our linguistic citizenship.

If you want to know more

Blommaert, J. & A. Backus. 2012. Superdiverse repertoires and the individual. Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies 24

Blommaert, J. & A. Backus. 2013. Repertoires revisited: ‘Knowing language’ in superdiversity. Working Papers in Urban Language & Literacies 67

Council of Europe: The language biography

Kusters, A. & M. De Meulder. 2019. Language portraits: Investigating embodied multilingual and multimodal repertoires. Quantitative Content Analysis 20:3

These are all the languages and linguistic varieties (dialects, styles, accents) used by speakers in different situations and for different purposes. Their study is not limited to identifying the set of varieties that are active in a community, but also the relationships established between them, their distribution, often hierarchical, in the sociolinguistic space or how appropriate they are at a given moment.