Lehrstuhl für Englische Sprachwissenschaft

The discursive construction of centres and peripheries in megacities

The discursive construction of centres and peripheries in megacities

Within a megacity, urban sub-communities emerge and dissolve as residents move to, from and within the urban space trying to get access to “the symbolic centre of the city” (Saunders, 2011, p. 3)  but possibly ending up at the periphery. Acknowledging that centres and peripheries are not geographically stable but socially constructed, this project seeks to study the topics and stances that emerge in the discourses of residents in different megacities to identify local and global themes and attitudes.

In a first pilot study, we employ a web-based questionnaire in several megacities, e.g., Hong Kong and Moscow, to elicit perceptions of local accents, ratings of selected districts and longer stretches of discourse about living in the city. Combining our findings with large-scale sociolinguistic studies about language use and variation in these cities and districts helps to make visible the interaction of language, space and identity in the construction and evaluation of centres and peripheries. The second phase will involve the in-depth study of selected districts in those megacities and additional ones, also integrating insider and outsider perspectives. With our comparative approach, we aim at revealing patterns in urban dynamics and the local and global processes that shape megacities today.


Prof. Dr. Carolin Biewer    
Dr. Ninja Schulz
Lisa Lehnen
Dr. Elena Dieser


Lehnen, L., Schulz, N., & Biewer, C. English in the peripheries and centres of megacities: Exploring the case of Hong Kong. Paper presented at the 24th Conference of the International Association for World Englishes (IAWE), Limerick (Ireland). 20-22 June 2019.

Biewer, C., Schulz, N., Lehnen, L., & Dieser, E., Language use in the peripheries and centres of megacities: Comparing Hong Kong and Moscow. Workshop contribution at the 8th Biennial International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English (BICLCE), Bamberg (Germany). 26-28 September 2019. https://www.uni-bamberg.de/en/anglistik/chair-of-english-linguistics/biclce-2019/workshops/workshop-1-language-and-space-in-megacities/