Language in the Mines

L. Cornips (Guest editor), P.C. Muysken (Guest editor)

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalSpecial issue (editorship)Scientific

2 Citations (Scopus)


All over the world the language practices surrounding mining activities pose a particular challenge for sociolinguistics, since mining activities create a number of very specific social ecological circumstances. This special journal issue is labeled ‘Language in the Mines’ and not ‘Mining languages’. Even though some cases involve a specific mining language, the phenomena involved turn out to be highly complex and go much beyond language use in underground working conditions. The present volume presents the contributions of an international symposium on Language in the Mines, comparing mining languages in Africa, South America, and North Western Europe, held at Maastricht University, the Netherlands.
The aim of our project is to study the social practices and structural features of mining languages in a comparative perspective. Mining languages have a unique social ecology. Factors involved are often labour shortages and various recruiting strategies, rapid expansion and migration, the multi-ethnic composition of the workforce, power hierarchies between unskilled and skilled workers, various ethnic groups, gender and male bonding, concerns for danger and safety, special technology, job specialization, life underground as distinct from above ground, non-verbal communication also play a role, and the darkness of the mine makes explicit oral communication mandatory. There are often center-periphery dynamics between places where mines are exploited and power centers in the nation-state. Generally, the language underground is not that of the owners of the mines but a lingua franca spoken by a large chunk of the workforce. Also, there is always special vocabulary and new words being formed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-145
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language.
Issue number258
Publication statusPublished - 02 Aug 2019


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