Alastair Pennycook Presents: Metrolingual Assemblages

NOV 15, 2018 | 4:30 PM TO 6:30 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


November 15, 2018: 4:30 PM-6:30 PM





Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC)


Several trends are visible in contemporary sociolinguistics as we witness a shift from a “macro- sociolinguistic” orientation to “whole languages and their distribution and usage within society” to “critical- constructivist sociolinguistics” wherein language is understood as a “social practice, with speakers drawing on all kinds of linguistic resources for their own purposes” (Bell, 2014: 9). This change has been accompanied by both a rise in new terminology (translanguaging, metrolingualism, superdiversity) as well as a reconfiguration of older terms (repertoire, register, resources). The applied/educational agenda of translanguaging, and the social/ anthropological bent of superdiversity point in the direction of studies of sociolinguistic complexity, while the reworking of older terminologies suggests alternative ways of thinking about how translingual practices are grouped together, entailing a broadening of the semiotic purview, especially in areas like linguistic landscapes, to include multimodal and multisensory analysis. As a result, we can identify five current trends in sociolinguistics: the growth of linguistic ethnography to account for the complexity of language practices; a focus on as wide a spectrum of semiosis as possible that includes people, bodies, things, senses and places; an emphasis on semiotic processes as they happen in the moment, rather than regularity of structure over time; a view of cognition, agency and language as distributed beyond human actors; and an understanding of language as an integrated aspect of embodied and embedded semiotic resources. This seminar will look at recent research in Bangladeshi corner shops that exemplify these trends, taking up the notion of assemblages to show how we can account for the ways in which things, language, people and places come together in particular momentary constellations (Pennycook and Otsuji, 2017). This will be framed within the notion of globalisation and multilingualism from below, with a particular focus on things, words and practices. This also raises the question of what is lost and what is gained in these transitional times.

Alastair Pennycook is Distinguished Professor of Language, Society and Education at the University of Technology Sydney and Adjunct Professor at the MultiLing Centre at the University of Oslo. He is the author of numerous books, including Metrolingualism: Language in the city (with Emi Otsuji), Language and Mobility: Unexpected Places, Language as a Local Practice, Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows, Critical applied linguistics: A critical introduction, and The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language (now a Routledge Linguistics Classic). His most recent books are Posthumanist applied linguistics (Routledge) and Popular culture, voice and linguistic diversity: Young adults on- and offline (with Sender Dovchin and Shaila Sultana; Palgrave Macmillan).