L is for Language

31 03 2013

fayruzAt Easter it’s our custom (more out of nostalgia than out of any sense of religiosity, it has to be said) to listen to the Lebanese singer Fayrouz singing traditional Easter songs from that region.

Here’s a taster:

http://youtu.be/mmr1KR9kDUc

What language is she singing in, though?

Reading the comments thread on the YouTube site is revealing:

Fayrouz comments 01Fayrouz comment 02Fayrouz comment 03Fayrouz comment 04

In a new book, Suresh Canagarajah (2013) reminds us that this blending, mixing and meshing of languages, rather than being the exception, is the norm. Quoting Pattanayak (1984), he cites the example of south Asia, to the effect that, ‘if one draws a straight line between Kashmir and Kanyakumari and marks, say, every five or ten miles, then one will find that there is no break in communication between any two consecutive points.’ That is to say, a message passed down the line would reach its destination, irrespective of all the languages it traverses.

Nor is this linguistic intermingling and hybridization a purely Asian or Middle Eastern phenomenon. ‘All spaces are contact zones’ says Canagarajah (2013: 26), a view echoed in a recent article by Sewell (2013: 6):

It is important to appreciate that all language use – among whatever combination or grouping of native and non-native speakers – is situated, variable, and subject to hybridizing influences.

This has never been more true than now, where immigration, tourism, and globalization, among other influences, coerce communication between speakers of different languages, with all the blendings, fusions, pidgins and macaronics that result. However much the ‘language police’ struggle to enforce the integrity of languages like (to choose a local example) Catalan, their efforts are foredoomed.

It’s not just that languages vary from region to region; they vary from person to person – and even within one person. As Labov (1969, 2003: 234) long ago pointed out:  ‘One of the fundamental principles of sociolinguistic investigation might simply be stated as: There are no single-style speakers. By this we mean that every speaker will show some variation in phonological and syntactic rules according to the immediate context in which he is speaking.’

The fact of the matter is that none of us speaks the same language. Nor even a language. As Pennycook (2012: 98) argues,  ‘None of us speaks “a language” as if this were an undifferentiated whole. We do not learn languages as if these were discrete listings of syntax and lexicon (despite what years of schooling and tests may try to tell us). Rather, we learn how to do certain things with words, and with varying success.’

And, from a psycholinguistic view, too, as Block (2003: 39) argues, all is flux:

Linguistic competence is not stored in the mind in neat compartments with clear boundaries; rather, a more appropriate image is that of a mass with no clear divisions among parts.  Nor is linguistic competence in different languages stable over time as there is constant bleeding between and among languages as well as additions and losses in terms of repertoires.

Thus, the idea that we are primed to speak a preordained language from birth has given way to the ‘complex systems’ view that language acquisition is the ‘soft assembly’ of meaning-making resources, or what Larsen-Freeman and Cameron (2008: 17) call ‘a “statistical ensemble” of interacting elements… constantly changing’.  They add that ‘learning is not the taking in of linguistic forms by learners, but the constant adaptation of their linguistic resources in the service of meaning-making in response to the affordances that emerge in the communicative situation, which is, in turn, affected by the learners’ adaptability’ (2008: 135).

By these accounts, is it any longer valid to talk about ‘a language’ or ‘languages’ (countable) as opposed to simply ‘language’ (uncountable)? Canagarajah (2013: 6) thinks not:

“Languages” are always in contact with and mutually influence each other. From this perspective, the separation of languages with different labels needs to be problematized. Labelling is an ideological act of demarcating certain codes in relation to certain identities and interests.

So, to fence a language off and give it a name (Aramaic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Syrian, and so on) is less a linguistic decision than a political one, although, as Bourdieu (1992: 45) warns, linguists are often complicit:

To speak of the language, without further specification, as linguists do, is tacitly to accept the official definition of the official language of a political unit. This language is the one which, within the territorial limits of that unit, imposes itself on the whole population as the only legitimate language.

And, in order to legitimate it, squadrons of lexicographers and grammarians are recruited, not only to describe and prescribe the language, but to circumscribe it. But where do you set the limits? Where does one language end and another begin?  In a recent review of a history of the Oxford English Dictionary (Hitchings, 2013: 7), the reviewer notes that

When [the dictionary's editor, James Murray] asked members of the Philological Society, ‘At which Englishman’s speech does English terminate?’, he drew criticism for his unwillingness to provide an exact answer. One reason for doing so was his awareness that the British Empire was expanding. Murray and his paymasters differed on the question of how this should be recognised.

The same question might well be asked of any so-called language. At which Spaniard’s speech does Spanish terminate? At which Croatian’s speech does Croatian terminate? And so on.

So, if there are no languages, only language, what is it that we teach? Or, as Pennycook (2010: 132) puts it, ‘The question to ask is what language education might look like if we no longer posited the existence of separate languages.’

The short answer, perhaps, is that we would facilitate a kind of creative DIY approach – semiotic bricolage, perhaps – by means of which learners would become resourceful language users, cutting and pasting from the heteroglossic landscape to meet both their short-term and their long-term goals. Maybe it also means that we can dispense with the need to ‘teach the grammar’ of the language: if the language does not have a fixed shape, neither does the grammar that infuses it.

Or, as Larsen-Freeman and Cameron (2008: 198-9) sum it up:

Language as a separate entity is a normative fiction…; it only exists in the fluxes of language use in a given speech community. For the language classroom this implies that what has previously been taken as the goal of learning, the “target language”, ceases to exist in any simple form…. Inside the language classroom, the dynamics of language-using by teachers and students leads to the emergence of individual learners’ growing language resources and of classroom dialects, and, beyond the classroom, to the emergence of lingua franca varieties.

No longer are we Teachers of English as a Foreign Language. Rather, Teachers of Language as a Semiotic Resource, perhaps.

References:

Block, D. (2003) The Social Turn in Second Language Acquisition, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1991) Language and Symbolic Power, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Canagarajah, S. (2013) Translingual Practice: Global Englishes and cosmopolitan relations, London: Routledge.

Hitchings, H. (2013) ‘At which Englishman’s speech does English terminate?’, a review of Ogilvie, S. (2012) Words of the World: A global history of the ‘Oxford English Dictionary,’ Cambridge, in London Review of Books, 7 March 2013.

Labov, W. 1969. ‘Some sociolinguistic principles’. Reprinted in Paulston, C.B., & Tucker, G.R. (eds.) (2003) Sociolinguistics: The Essential Readings. Oxford: Blackwell.

Larsen-Freeman, D. & Cameron, L. (2008) Complex Systems and Applied Linguistics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pennycook,  A. (2010) Language as Local Practice, London: Routledge.

Pennycook, A. (2012) Language and Mobility: Unexpected Places, Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Sewell, A (2013) ‘English as a lingua franca: ontology and ideology’, ELT Journal, 67/1.

About these ads

Actions

Information

44 responses

31 03 2013
eflnotes

read this article recently http://t.co/QUywtvz8vr, which asks the same question of what we mean by language; the small study it uses to illustrate its stance is fascinating.

ta
mura

31 03 2013
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Mura, I’ll check that out. In fact, I have Richard Young’s book, Discursive Practice in Language Learning and Teaching (2009, Wiley-Blackwell), the central argument of which is that ‘language learning is viewed not only as the changing linguistic knowledge of individual learners but also primarily as learners’ changing participation in discursive practices: what is learned is not the language but the practice’ (p.135).

What is learned is not the language but the practice. Discuss. ;-)

31 03 2013
Rob

Thank you, Mura, the article you shared was well worth reading. Marx and Hegel are still wrestling, beyond the grave. Maybe Scott will consider H is for Habitus? :-)

Rob

12 05 2013
eflnotes

yr welcome :)

31 03 2013
sarah

Hi Scott,
What about the interrelationship language and culture or language and identity?
Sarah

1 04 2013
Scott Thornbury

Sarah, I’m not 100% clear on the thrust of your question, but it’s fair to say that, like the postmodern take on language (i.e. the line I was arguing), both culture and identity are also candidates for ‘problematization’ and both have a complex relationship with language. Like language, culture and identity are perhaps less unitary and more fluid than in the ‘modernist’ account – maybe they’re also losing their ‘singular countable noun’ status too!

On this subject, Pennycook (2010) invokes the notion of ‘metrolingualism':

‘Metrolingualism describes the ways in which people of different and mixed backgrounds use, play with and negotiate identity through language; it does not assume connections between language, culture, ethnicity, nationality and geography, but rather seeks to explore the contingencies of these categories’ (p.85). And he adds, ‘As language learners move around the world in search of English or other desirable languages, or stay at home but tune in to new digital worlds through screens, mobiles and headphones, the possibilities of being something not yet culturally imagined mobilises new identity options. And in these popular transcultural flows, languages, cultures and identities are frequently mixed. Code-mixing, sampling of sounds, genres, languages and cultures becomes the norm’ (Ibid).

And a postscript: the thesis of Pennycook’s book might be summed up in this sentence (on p. 16): ‘Language and identity are the products rather than the precursors of our language practices’. (Discuss!)

1 04 2013
sarah

Thank you for your informative answer (but things seem to be blurred in my mind; I need some time to process these new meanings).

31 03 2013
dingtonia

Love it – what is learned is not the language but the practice. Language is not a subject, it’s a skill we all play with varying degrees of success and proficiency, and we all have own our game and game plan. Someone once said, don’t let my language get in the way of my message.

31 03 2013
James Quartley

I think this notion of skill is critical to the development of communicative competence -the ability to adapt language output to a given context. In our current situation with regard to English – as a contact language (non-native to non-native) lingua franca English (LFE/ELF) – it is this dynamic and flexible ability to ‘negotiate’ the form or type of language to be used between two interlocutors that is most interesting. Canagarajah (2007) and Planken (2005) have noted particular features about ELF (which I think of as a proxy for contact communication). It is is characterised by: its dynamic qualities and is less fixed on NS norms of grammar, syntax, phonology. Its focus is on social aspects of language use – communication, solidarity, inclusion, etc, rather than the ‘target’ of proficiency, and it is strongly influenced by cultural and social context. ELF/LFE interlocutors adopt flexible practices that facilitate communication (Planken 2005), by borrowing structures and phonology, mirroring interlocutor errors, etc. Because of these qualities, ELF/LFE is more socially embedded, sensitive to the contexts where interactions take place and open and adaptable in the ways interaction happens (Canagarajah 2007). These are of course also qualities that multilingual speakers demonstrate.

The age of monolingual and Hegelesque pronouncements on language has long been unsupportable. It’s not to say that these features don’t also appear in monolingual communities, in differing contexts or between dialects, but it is the multilingual speakers who are best equipped to appreciate what is needed to communicate effectively. We should be educating monolingual English speakers to cope in the new world, by teaching them language skills like those that multilingual speakers have to use in order to communicate effectively….assuming that is the aim of native-speakers or are we still on the linguistic imperialism trip, in hock with the course book and grammar books publishers?

31 03 2013
duffyjordan

Maybe you should ask Scott.

1 04 2013
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, James. Yes, perhaps language teaching should be re-envisaged as simply ‘communication skills training’, irrespective of the language and identity (NS or NNS, for example) of the learners. (There was funny but strangely insightful video clip doing the rounds recently, in which an English native-speaker tries to sign up for a course in English as a Foreign Language. ‘But you speak English already!’ ‘Yes, but I want to learn English as a foreign language!’ she insists).

31 03 2013
Cindy Hauert

Not quite sure if I want to open this particular can of worms, Scott, but would this concept seem to support ELF? Personally I’ve just about given up trying to correct my students’ “Swinglish”…

31 03 2013
James Quartley

I posted above, but this type of behaviour in communication is indicative of language used in contact situations (NNS – NNS).

1 04 2013
Scott Thornbury

Yes, Cindy, good question (and thanks, James, for more or less answering it).

Both Canagarajah and Pennycook argue that ELF is less a variety of English than a social practice in which language is deployed resourcefully: ‘Without looking for a single uniform code, speakers will be able to negotiate their different Englishes for intelligibility and effective communication. In this sense, [Lingua Franca English] is not an identifiable code or systematised variety of English. It is a highly fluid and variable form of language practice. Meaning is an inter-subjective accomplishment. As interlocutors adopt negotiation strategies to align diverse semiotic resources, they will construct a hybrid form that meshes different languages for situated meaning’ (Canagarajah, 2013:69).

31 03 2013
duffyjordan

First, very beautiful singing. Thanks for introducing me to it – I was listening to “Always look on the bright side” when your blog notice arrived.

Second, as usual, you raise interesting issues, and, as often, you go a bit overboard, which makes it interesting and fun. But just how much can we learn from these rather motherese-like comments and wierd extrapolations about the changing and fluid nature of language?

Block (2003) typically takes a skewed view of the construct “linguistic competence” to echo the equally enigmatic mutterings of Heraclitus; Canagarajah (2013) blathers on, pushing a tired political agenda; and you take it all a step further into Humpty Dumpty land by talk of semiotic DIY, and claiming that here’s further evidence that we can “dispense with the need to teach the grammar’ of the language”.

So far, despite having published a number of books on grammar that are supposed to help ELT; published a books on CELTA that includes discussions of testing; given teacher-training programmes to thousands of teachers on various aspects of teaching what all your adoring acolytes supposed was a fairly-stable, recognisable subject, you have advocated unplugging teachers from most modern tools, doing away with testing, doing away with grammar teaching, and now doing away with any reliable definition of the term “Language” itself, which now becomes yet another relativist, ideologically-charged construct.

How long can it be before we get the definitive Scott Thornbury work on ELT: a lovely hand-crafted book, made from virgin wool, and consisting of 350 blank pages?

Best,

Geoff

1 04 2013
Scott Thornbury

Geoff, think of this blog as a series of thought experiments (cue for John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’), the current one being ‘Imagine what a language classroom would be like if there were no languages’.

If this does your head in, put on ‘Always look on the bright side’ again ;-)

1 04 2013
duffyjordan

Scott, It doesn’t do my head in at all, and I wasn’t being very serious – just harrumphing from afar. I know you don’t actually believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and, I repeat, I’m a great fan of both your books and articles and your blog.

31 03 2013
J.J. Almagro

Since languages seem to be cultural fictions for some authors, when classes resume next Tuesday, I will let my students know that this is a contact zone not a classroom, and that they actually registered for ‘Users of Flux Communication’, and that I am sorry I haven’t been hybrid enough all this time.

1 04 2013
Scott Thornbury

I know your comment was made with tongue firmly in cheek, but see my earlier comment about just teaching communication skills. What’s more, people do learn language(s) in contact zones perhaps more effectively than they do in classrooms, so why not turn the classroom into a contact zone? There would need to be, of course, some reason (other than language learning) to motivate the contact. Maybe homework should involve some kind of cottage industry, the products of which are bartered in the contact zone/classroom? (I have in mind the lovely hand-crafted book that Geoff mentioned) ;-)

31 03 2013
Rob

Easily one of my favorite posts thus far, Scott!

As with religion, which you’re careful not to espouse, language is a mixture of personal meaning-making, each idiolect more a bag of tricks than *the* book of truth. And, how ironic, at Easter, with its mix of rabbits, eggs, and resurrection, a truly hybrid holiday that many of us observe – or choose not to – by selecting patterns (rituals rather than lexico-grammatical ‘chains’?) to help us make meaning and identify with others.

Moreover, as with religion, your post seems to be bringing out the fundamentalists, who insist on dogma and reductionism rather than accepting a more worldly approach.

Good luck, and happy Easter!

Rob

31 03 2013
J.J. Almagro

Atomistic is not the same as reductionist. Fundamental, Mr. Rob…

31 03 2013
duffyjordan

Well said, JJ. And, we might add that critical rationalism isn’t the same as dogma, either.

31 03 2013
James Quartley

Unless adherence to critical rationalism is the dogma.

31 03 2013
duffyjordan

Which, by definition, it can’t be.

1 04 2013
James Quartley

By definition, duffyjordan? “You never can tell what some people will buy.” With apologies to Dr. Suess.

1 04 2013
Rob

Like atomism, a rather reductionist argument.

1 04 2013
duffyjordan

What is it with you and “reductionism” Rob? Is “reductionism” the bogey man, some kind of shorthand for scientific method?

1 04 2013
Rob

Reductionism is definitely not shorthand for scientific method, nor is it a bogey man to me. I’ll end my comments there, for Scott’s (not Pete’s) sake.

31 03 2013
Kathy

It’s healthy and interesting to take structures apart and attempt to rebuild them, perhaps with experimental ideas in place of some of the “proven” ones. This does not mean that the original structures are outmoded or useless. The exercise may, though, reveal weaknesses. It may uncover new areas for exploration. Taking something apart for the purpose of examination is not “doing away with” it. But I guess you could end up with a few mystery pieces lying on the floor when you put it back together again. Hate when that happens!

31 03 2013
duffyjordan

Is “dispensing with the need to teach the grammar’ of the language” the same as “taking something apart for the purpose of examination”?

31 03 2013
Kathy

When the sentence begins with “Maybe we can” it certainly has a flavor of exploration, not destruction.

1 04 2013
Scott Thornbury

Interesting that in the original draft of this blog I had written: ‘…It means that we can dispense with the need to ‘teach the grammar’ of the language, because, since the language as an entity does not exist, nor does the grammar that instantiates it.’

On reflection I decided to mitigate the force of this with some stance modality. (Perhaps I had a premonition of Geoff harumphing from afar!)

1 04 2013
duffyjordan

Good move! I agree with Kathy that the use of “maybe we can” certainly does give it more a flavour of exploration.

1 04 2013
Kathy

I’ve had similar discussions in a different context: what is the boundary between “me” and the rest of the universe? On close examination, I see that such a boundary doesn’t really exist. I am flux, too. But for practical reasons, conventions exist. If we share a lot of conventions, we speak the same language (more or less).

I agree with the idea of using real communication as the primary mode for learning (or at least approaching lessons from the perspective of strengthening communication skills rather than teaching “a language”). It’s closer to fact (the flux). Taking up on Geoff’s comments, though, documentation of conventions (grammars, dictionaries, etc.) may be incomplete, inaccurate, dated, etc. but they do offer some shortcuts to learners who don’t share a lot of conventions with the groups they want to communicate with. I guess one of the skills we should help to develop is how to identify which documentation is useful and how to use it intelligently?

1 04 2013
Jim. Kanzelmeyer

Why is it that all serious “discussions” of topics like “phoneme” or “language” seem to start with a muddle of attempts by “experts” to explain all creation from the various viewpoints of philosophers of all types, linguists of all persuasions (including semiotics), all kinds of educators, and even teachers of all things. No wonder we feel overwhelmed, more confused, and often a bit irritated in the end!
Why not start with the intention of explaining the nature of the target “thing” from its simplest elements in terms understandable to its primary users with the expectation of subsequently making the hows and whys of its “use” as clear and simple as possible.

I give you two “fer-instances.” PHONEMES—Word-elements used by individuals of a speech community to convey, receive, and otherwise facilitate information exchange. LANGUAGE—Words exchanged between members of a speech community in order to express and exchange information.

I can almost anticipate the wording of many of your reader’s responses, if they deign to notice this contribution. “That simplistic definition doesn’t fit all phonemes!” “That definition of language doesn’t explain anything!” Etc, etc.

My response is that this phoneme definition fits the kind of language element most elementary teachers and students intuitively recognize and obviously excludes the phonetician’s kind of phonemes (they insist must be some kind of sounds). Their phonemes are concerned exclusively with the pronunciation of words, not with making a language more accessible to those attempting to acquire it.

1 04 2013
Scott Thornbury

I agree, Jim, that practitioners need practicable ‘working’ definitions – and prototypical examples – of (often somewhat abstruse) linguistic constructs. At the same time, I personally need to be aware of the extent that these working definitions are only that: working definitions. And that there may come a point when they cease to work as effectively as they used to. The phoneme is a good example – and the astute reader (like yourself) will see a connection between ‘the phoneme problem’ and ‘the language problem’. In fact, once you unpick the phoneme and expose it as a myth, the rest of the edifice – grammar, genre, even language itself – comes tumbling down. (And all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again!)

1 04 2013
Luan Hanratty (@TEFL101)

Surely the best (or most laconic) definition of language is that it is simply a dialect with an army and navy. I’ve always liked that quote.

1 04 2013
Scott Thornbury

Yes, Luan, I had that line in mind while I was preparing this post. Thanks for mentioning it. (Who is it attributed to, I wonder?)

1 04 2013
cindyhauert

“A language is a dialect with an army and navy” is a humorous quip[1][2][3] about the arbitrariness[4] of the distinction between a dialect and a language. It points out the influence that social[5] and political conditions can have over a community’s perception of the status of a language or dialect. The facetious[1] adage was popularized by the sociolinguist and Yiddish scholar Max Weinreich, who heard it from a member of the audience at one of his lectures.

Thank you Google and Wikipedia!

1 04 2013
Scott Thornbury

And thank YOU, Cindy!

4 04 2013
Luan Hanratty (@TEFL101)

Spot on Cindy.

1 04 2013
J.J. Almagro

Thanks, everybody, for your thought provoking posts which always encourage me to reappraise my daily practice.

I truly believe that ‘small stories’ –theorizing what we practice, practicing what we theorize- have a tremendous pedagogical value. Scott, your ‘contact zone’ framework for instructed language learning, much entertaining as it is, calls for a different educational system and a different model of society, if you will.

I agree with Jim and this state of ‘definitional confusion’ that ripples through most blog contributions. Does LANGUAGE mean grammar, cognitive ability, L1, L2, speaking style, conversational competence, pidgin, idiolect, lingua franca, classroom dialects, socio-cultural flux?

One more example of confusion related to language as a complex system:
‘At which Spaniard’s speech does Spanish terminate?’ Here Scott conjures up a linearity metaphor of language use similar to those diagrams in which books illustrate how an ape became an hominid. Then, he goes on to envisioning language users as semiotic DIYers which, on the contrary, evokes a more atomistic metaphor to explain language learning and use, similar to those evolutionary accounts that explain that hominids were the serendipitous and unrelated result of ‘soft assembling’ around the globe.

1 04 2013
philipjkerr

Canagarajah’s suggestion that LANGUAGE does not directly correspond to any definable out-there reality (i.e. that ‘language’ is not an either-or category) is, frankly, very old hat. The same is true of all words in any language. All words are ‘normative fictions’. Canagarajah should have read his Wittgenstein and he should know a little more about how meanings are socially constructed, and about how words are used (to mean) by discourse communities. We could apply Canagarajah’s own attempt at logic to looking at English as a Lingua Franca (the subject of his recent book), and demonstrate that ELF doesn’t actually exist (which would beg the question of why he bothered to write another book about it).

However, ‘language’ clearly does have a meaning to people when they use the word (even if this meaning isn’t always – or ever – identical). The same is not perhaps true of ‘English as a Lingua Franca’, as nobody seems to agree on what it means exactly, and Canagarajah adds his ha’pennyworth by recasting ELF as FLE, redefining it as he goes (not that Jenkins and others are likely to agree with him).

Rejecting the term ‘languages’ and replacing it with ‘language’ won’t wash, either. There is no clearer demarcation between ‘language’ and ‘non-language’ than there is between, say, Catalan and Spanish. But where does all this get us? Not very far. It’s a pity that Canagarajah doesn’t heed Wittgenstein’s dictum ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’

Categorisation (whether of languages, species, colours or whatever) is problematic, but we can’t do or say without it. Canagarajah makes the mistake of rejecting one particular category (by questioning categorisation per se) and then substituting it with other equally problematic categories. His book is a roller-coaster ride of self-contradictions (since he cannot avoid using exactly the same language that he wishes to problematize), and his failure to apply his own critical framework to his own language veers from the sad to the comic.

So, yes, languages (plural) do exist, in the sense that Canagarajah himself exists – in our shared understandings of these words. Not as essentialized out-there realities, but as socially-constructed comprehensible categories that make some sense when we talk about them. They have prototypical meanings which are constituted by social, communicative interactions and serve a social, communicative function. The ‘target language’ does not cease to exist for learners or most teachers because an academic here or there has got their knickers in a philosophical twist.

Rant over. Sorry.

1 04 2013
Scott Thornbury

Love it when you rant, Philip!

In defence of Canagarajah, (1) his book is not about ELF (or LFE as he calls it). In fact, he makes a clear distinction between ELF (the so-called variety) and ‘translingual practice’ (a way of negotiating common ground between speakers who don’t share the same L1) and which I allude to in the response to Cindy above; (2) the fact that languages are categorized in ways that are socially-constructed cannot elide the fact that these categorizations are somewhat arbitrary, invariably politically motivated, and do not reflect the linguistic facts. What (apart from nationalism) is the defining difference between Urdu and Hindi, or between Serbian and Croatian, or between Dutch and Flemish, or between Catalan and Valenciano? Or, coming from the other direction, how many varieties are conflated under the label Chinese? Or Spanish? Or, for that matter, English?; (3) you say that ‘there is no clearer demarcation between ‘language’ and ‘non-language’ than there is between, say, Catalan and Spanish': I’m not sure that I was trying to distinguish between language and non-language (since I don’t know what the latter would be, except noise), but simply between ‘language’ (U) and ‘a language’ (C). Maybe, following Pennycook, all I’m saying is that, if we construe contact and/or communication as a social practice involving language, ‘language’ need not be defined (nor is always instantiated) in terms of discrete cultural, linguistic, ethnic or geographic entities. English, after all, started life as a creole, and – for all intents and purposes – is still one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,007 other followers