AAAL 2023: Wilga Rivers Invited Colloquium

Wilga Rivers Language Pedagogy Colloquium: Codeswitching, Translanguaging, and Language Naming: The Psychological Reality and Social Significance of Multilingualism



Jeff MacSwan, University of Maryland

Christian J. Faltis, Texas A&M International University

Colloquium Abstract

Bringing together an interdisciplinary group of scholars, the proposed colloquium critically assesses the deconstructivist turn in translanguaging, which asserts that “named” languages, linguistic communities, and other aspects of linguistic diversity – such as codeswitching, second language acquisition, heritage language, and bilingualism itself – do not exist. Contributors explore important topics in relation to the deconstructivist turn in translanguaging, including epistemology, language ideology, bilingual grammar, bilingual language use, codeswitching, the significance of language naming to Indigenous language reclamation efforts, and implications for linguistic social justice advocacy. Presenters converge on support for a multilingual perspective on translanguaging which affirms the pedagogical and conceptual aims of translanguaging but rejects deconstructivism. 

The proposed colloquium will include five presentations, each 20 minutes in length, followed by 20 minutes reserved for discussion at the end of the session. Presenters include Rakesh Bhatt, Agnes Bolonyai, Christian J. Faltis, Jeff MacSwan, Teresa L. McCarty, Stephen May, and Sheilah E. Nicholas.

Bilingual Creativity, Meaning Potential, and Codeswitching
Rakesh Bhatt, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign,
Agnes Bolonyai, North Carolina State University,


Ever since Kachru (1983, et passim), bilingual creativity has been discussed variously as the ability of multilingual speakers to recruit resources from their linguistic repertoire to exploit the meaning potential of their utterances/texts. Theoretical concepts such as variability, hybridity, and complexity were all conceptualized within a theoretical framework which took multilingualism as object of (socio)linguistic description (Ferguson 1978). As such, the focus on codeswitching, especially the myriad social functions this practice engenders, became a productive research domain of multilingualism.

Following the earlier works of Kachru, Ferguson, and Gumperz, among several others, we present empirical evidence from codeswitching to claim that the production, circulation, and recognition of creativity in meaning-making is contingent on the indexical-potential of the different codes of the multilingual’s linguistic repertoire. Specifically, we will argue that meaning in hybridity – codeswitching – is bound by contextual coherence; i.e., the relation of linguistic archives (cf. Foucault 1972, Blommaert 2005) — codes, from which the resources are summoned — to the specific context of situation (Halliday 1978).  Several implications follow that will be discussed in this presentation: (1) Social actors are rational actors, not sociolinguistic dopes; (2) Linguistic codes are discrete, referencing indexical biographies (i.e., archives); (3) Language use is porous, fluid, and hybrid; (3) Meaning in codeswitching is constrained by the limits of metapragmatic awareness.

In the bulk of the presentation, we will address each of these implications, providing robust empirical evidence from different multilinguals contexts of use, showing explicitly how codeswitching, via resource-mobility and practices of hybridity, affords the production of (indexical/symbolic) meaning and organizes social actions and relations — such as difference, sameness, authenticity, (il)legitimacy, normativity, etc. — in multilingual contexts.  We will conclude by arguing, ultimately, that a sociolinguistic grammar of multilingualism must provide an explicit account of the linguistic virtuosity we notice in bilingual language use (Bhatt & Bolonyai 2011).

“To Think In a Different Way”— Naming and Relationality in Indigenous Language Rights and Reclamation
Sheilah E. Nicholas, University of Arizona,
Teresa L. McCarty, UCLA,

Abstract: This presentation centers Indigenous ways of knowing and being that inform understandings of language(s), language rights and reclamation. We focus on Native America, a sociolinguistic landscape encompassing 564 Indigenous nations and Native Hawaiians in which coloniality is the historical legacy and daily reality. Building on Indigenous ground-up experiences with language reclamation (Leonard & De Korne, 2017), we propose a relational paradigm for language rights that foregrounds Indigenous practices of mutuality and responsibility to generations past, present, and future and reckons directly with settler colonialism. The ground-up, anticolonial character of Indigenous language movements is foundational to a relational paradigm and a concomitant rejection of arguments for nondistinct “un-named” Indigenous languages and “language without rights” (Wee, 2011). To explore a relational approach in practice, we examine the cases of myaamia (Miami), Hopi, and Mohawk. The cases illuminate the role of distinct languages and reclamation movements in (re)building community, (re)claiming collective linguistic and epistemic memory, and fostering linguistic and educational self-determination. As noted by Oneida elder Gerald Hill (2019), the fact that Indigenous communities are sites of ongoing colonialism compels us “to think in a different way” about language rights and reclamation—carving out Indigenous-language-only space and embracing a power-conscious pedagogy that resists (re)invasion and erasure and asserts the importance of distinct named languages.  Language names and naming are critical connectors to lands/waters, people, and territories. Un-naming has been a prime tactic of displacement through settler seizure of re-named/re-branded Indigenous homeplaces (wa Thiong’o, 2009). This analysis urges renewed attention to Indigenous understandings of language(s), relationality, and language rights, and to questions of who benefits and what is at stake in our understandings and representations of language (Meek, 2015). Our intention is to expand language rights discourses in scholarship and practice, and to support vital and growing Indigenous community-based language reclamation movements.

Concurrent Language Pedagogy and Translanguaging Pedagogy in Bilingual Schooling Contexts: Bilingual Teacher Education Critical Practices 

Christian Faltis, Texas A&M International University,

Abstract: College students who wish to become classroom teachers with a bilingual teaching certification to teach in public school bilingual and dual language programs typically take coursework in the foundations of bilingual education and teaching English learners, along with biliteracy, and content area courses that are taught mainly in the language of the certification.  With the relatively new multilingual turn in language studies (May, 2013), teacher educators who are bilingual and biliterate themselves can teach and unteach the ways that language is often presented as perfect, academic, and using monolingual learning standards (Bale, 2015) to engage with students about concurrent language pedagogies AKA codeswitching (Jacobson, 1981) and multilingual translanguaging (MacSwan, 2017), both of which, I argue, intend to disrupt hegemonic monolingualism in bilingual and dual language classrooms and require additional support for biliteracy to expand spoken and written languaging practices (Palmer, 2018).  

I present two approaches to bilingual pedagogy for bilingual teaching and learning – the New Concurrent Approach, which I now refer to as Concurrent Language Pedagogy (Jacobson & Faltis, 1990) and Translanguaging Pedagogy (García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017).  With a critical eye, I compare and contrast the two approaches in terms of how each approach attends to engaging students with the language and display of ideas (Bunch & Martin, 2020), classroom community building, the equitable use of languaging practices, the development of vibrant language assemblages, including biliteracy (Palmer, Cervantes-Soon, Dorner, & Heiman, 2019), and the disruption of monoglossic ideologies for teaching and learning (Menken & Sánchez, 2019).  As these ideas are presented, I offer classroom examples of interaction in Spanish and English by young children in small groupwork and in conversations with teachers for each of the areas mentioned above.  

The Deconstructivist Turn: Codeswitching, Translanguaging, and Bilingual Grammar

Jeff MacSwan, University of Maryland,

Abstract: While early translanguaging theory (García, 2009) affirmed linguistic and sociolinguistic research on codeswitching and other dimensions of language contact, postmodernist and poststructuralist proposals supporting deconstructivism subsequently motivated a turn which rejected any construct predicated on the idea that bilingualism is psychologically real. In a critique focused specifically on codeswitching, García and colleagues (García & Otheguy, 2014; Otheguy, García & Reid, 2015, 2018) made two distinct claims, namely, that (1) codeswitching scholarship supports a Dual Competence Model of Bilingualism and, therefore, reinforces standard language ideology; and (2) bilinguals have an internally undifferentiated grammar for the languages they know. This presentation will address these claims. First, it will provide a historical overview of research on codeswitching to illustrate that codeswitching scholarship supports an Integrated Model of Bilingualism which posits that bilingual grammars have both shared and discrete internal resources corresponding to distinguishable linguistic communities. Second, the presentation will provide empirical evidence from codeswitching research supporting the conclusion that some internalized representation of linguistic discreteness is inevitably required to account for the data of language mixing. 

The presentation will also address the ideological aspects motivating García and colleagues’ claims pertaining to language naming, making the case that an empirical approach to linguistic social justice holds numerous advantages over a post-structuralist deconstructivist approach, which undermines advocacy for racialized and minoritized speakers across a wide range of critical issues. The presentation concludes by advocating for a multilingual perspective on translanguaging (MacSwan, 2017), which affirms the conceptual and pedagogical aims of early translanguaging scholarship but challenges the deconstructivist turn evident in more recent work.  The multilingual perspective affirms the psychological realty and social significance of bilingualism.

Translanguaging: The rush from heterodoxy to orthodoxy

Stephen May, University of Auckland,

Abstract:  Over the last decade, we have seen a significant shift in applied linguistics and sociolinguistics toward the acknowledgement of (urban) bi/multilingualism as the norm, along with a related critique of the monolingual bias that (still) underpins so much language policy and pedagogy. These developments are welcome (and long overdue). However, they have also been marked by an increasing adoption of a broader deconstructivist position that repudiates any recognition (and/or demarcation) of individual language varieties. This progression toward an increasingly entrenched deconstructivism is clearly evident in advocacy of translanguaging as a pedagogical approach. While initially constructed as complementary (albeit an extension of) e.g. codeswitching and additive bilingualism, the latter are now dismissed as inherently racialized and monoglossic. 

In this presentation, I argue that this evolution is problematic. First, the wider recognition of urban multilingualism within which these developments are situated is resolutely ahistorical (as well as ethnocentric). Second, the repudiation of additive bilingualism and codeswitching is misinformed and misplaced. Third, advocacy of translanguaging is dominated by the US context – reflecting an unacknowledged methodological nationalism. Fourth, a deconstructivist position fails to address the significance of biliteracy (in standardized language varieties) as a key indicator of long-term academic success for bi/multilingual students. Fifth, the fetishization of complex, fluid, individual linguistic repertoires, and language use, over-emphasizes the potential of individual linguistic agency and underestimates structural conditions of linguistic inequality. Sixth, there is virtually no critical reflection among translanguaging advocates concerning their own command of (standardized) academic language registers as a key part of their linguistic repertoires.

All of this suggests that the increasingly de rigueur dismissal of non-deconstructivist understandings of bi/multilingualism by translanguaging advocates is both unnecessary and unhelpful – narrowing and hardening disciplinary boundaries, rather than expanding them – and thus actively militating against translanguaging claims to inter- and transdisciplinarity. 

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