WP254 On the theoretical and empirical bases of translanguaging

Bhatt & Bolonyai


Studies in the 1960s-70s (and continuing later) produced a systematic and sustained understanding of codeswitching but this now seems to be unravelling under the weight of the new term, Translanguaging. It is therefore imperative that we closely examine (i) what new generalizable knowledge is offered by the theoretical construct of translanguaging, and (ii) what new empirical coverage it provides. Addressing these questions, this paper argues that translanguaging does not take our theoretical understanding of bilingual language use beyond what the sociolinguistic studies of code-switching have offered, and that there is a lack of empirical support for its claims to move ‘beyond’ named languages, creating ‘new language practices’ that are different from ‘a synthesis of different language practices’ or ‘a hybrid mixture’. Instead, the paper (re-)claims the theoretical status of code-switching as an active, agentive, socio-cognitive mechanism employed by social actors to produce and interpret the ‘meaning potential’ (Halliday 1985) of linguistic symbols/acts/utterances/features in the multilingual universe we inhabit, drawing on indexical biographies of linguistic resources (Blommaert 2015) organized as archives (languages) of epistemic communities, deployed in various social-indexical meanings in interaction.