2. Language
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55 2. Language Language is the ongoing outcome of practices. Writing is one such practice. Representations of language, like the one you are reading, are themselves language practices contributing to the ongoing social accomplishment that is language. I begin with this stark (re)presentation of language, entirely (if inevitably ) unoriginal, as a marker against which to place dominant representations of language with which composition must inevitably contend.1 Precisely because of its undeniable status as material social practice, composition, I will argue, is ideally situated to contribute usefully to meaningful reworkings of language, understood in the terms presented above, through intervention both in language practices as ordinarily understood and in practices of representations of language. To do so, however, requires rethinking the terms of language shaping our practices with language as these are manifested in our teaching, scholarship, and institutional arrangements. And as argued in the previous chapter, such rethinking requires that we work against both dominant conceptualizations in composition and what hegemonic ideology represents (within its terms) as that which would be alternative, new, or different from the dominant, lest we end up pursuing as different, new, or alternative what in fact is fully aligned with the hegemonic. I begin by considering the prevailing equation of language with English , both treated as mass nouns, and the alignment of this equation with the English-only variant of the ideology of monolingualism. Efforts to work against this that herald difference in language, I then show, tend to accept monolingualism’s representations of language difference that locate difference outside the spatial temporal realm, representations that serve as the dominant’s prescribed alternatives to English-only Language ______________________________________________________________ 56 monolingualism that leave unchallenged the tenets of monolingualism that support practices against which those pursuing these alternatives are directing their efforts. As a model counter to these, I pose a translingual orientation to language and language relations, an orientation that starts with recognition of the role of language practices, including practices in representing language, in constituting and shaping language and language practices, thus understood as always emergent and in co-constitutive relation to contexts and users of language. Such an orientation , I show, cuts through the horns of dilemmas a monolingualist orientation poses of having to choose between “one’s own” and a “standard ” language, while relocating language and languages, by virtue of their character as always emergent, as that which we are always necessarily (re)learning and rewriting. The emphasis of this orientation on the location of language in time—as “local practice,” in Pennycook’s phrase—also helps to address the difficulties and tensions in studies of language “beyond” the sentence: genres, situated literacy practices, activity systems, and those besetting current debate on “transfer.” By relocating these in time and thus as always emergent and subject to and in need of (re)production through practices, and thus recognizing difference as the norm of language practice rather than a deviation from the norm, a translingual orientation makes possible recognition of the labor and agency of language “users” in the ongoing (re)production of language(s) within and beyond the sentence. English/Language References to language in composition illustrate conceptualizations of language hegemonic within the academy and the larger public sphere. On the one hand, language seems to name a primary concern of composition : the production of “proper,” “correct,” or (somehow) “more effective” language in writing—the concern that leads laity to express the need to “watch their language” when within earshot of composition teachers. At the same time, in its teaching and scholarship, composition operates almost entirely within the framework of only one assumed language—English—making language in this sense invisible. Of course, the term “English” often appears in the ordinary discourse of composition teaching (as in the course “Freshman English” taught by “English” teachers). But English in such usages is understood not as 57 _____________________________________________________________ Language itself a language in relation to other languages (say, “Freshman French,” “Freshman Arabic,” “Freshman Chinese,” etc.) but, instead, simply as language tout court. This is in keeping with the practice in U.S. colleges and universities of allocating to the purview of “English Studies” areas of study far beyond those areas of study assigned to departments identified with the study of languages other than English (French, Arabic, etc.). These include not just the study of the history and practice of spoken and written English but all writing (“creative” and not) and often the study of mythology, genre and genres (poetry, drama, fiction), and so on...


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Subject Headings

  • English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching.
  • English language -- Composition and exercises -- Study and teaching.
  • Report writing -- Study and teaching.
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