Canagarajah, A. Suresh. “The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization Continued.” College Composition and Communication 57 4 (2006): 586-619. Print.

Summary (from Article):

Contesting the monolingualist assumptions in composition, this article identifies textual and pedagogical spaces for World Englishes in academic writing. It presents code meshing as a strategy for merging local varieties with Standard Written English in a move toward gradually pluralizing academic writing and developing multilingual competence for transnational relationships.

  • Canagarajah – following Trimbur and Horner – notes that the modernist ideology of “one language/one nation” has permeated English (and Composition) pedagogy; however, in the face of a globalizing world all three authors envision “that postmodern globalization might require us to develop in our students a multilingual and polyliterate orientation to writing” (587).  Following up on this questions, Canagarajah asks what he can do to promote this particular vision of English instruction in his own classroom right now.  C. will “outline some ways of accommodating in academic writing diverse varieties of English” in the hopes of moving toward the more radical project that Horner and Trimbur advocate: engaging multiple languages in English comp (587).
  • C. – relying on British linguist David Graddol – notes that since the 1970s there have been more WE speakers than ME speakers.  Because the number of WE speakers is tipping the balance away from ME C. argues that we should think of English not as a native/non-native binary but rather as a plurality.  Englishes of different kinds are spoken different places and the language itself isn’t “owned” by anyone.  This might be thought of as a heterogenous system of Global English (589).
  • C. argues that the use of “expert” and “novice” might be a better way to describe facility with English language use as these terms don’t bring to bear issues of race, kinship, or ethnicity.
  • Canagarajah goes on to note that because WE’s are the norm – even in ME nation-states – we must prepare students to negotiate a variety of these language systems in order to prepare them for being successful global citizens (591).  At present these other forms of English are usually picked up in informal social environments; however, C. wants to bring those Englishes into the composition classroom.  C. notes that “Thus it is outside the classroom that students seem to develop communicative competence and negotiation strategies for ‘real world’ needs of multilingualism.  Classes based on monolingual pedagogies disable students in contexts of linguistic pluralism” (592).  Pedagogically speaking, C. is advocating a turn away from monolingualism (joining a speech community) toward English plurality (the ability to shuttle between speech communities) (593).  This means teaching strategies (creative ways to negotiate the norms of discourse) rather than rules.
  • Ideally, what does this sort of pedagogy do?  It prepares students to deploy their metalinguistic, sociolinguistic, and attitudinal preparedness to negotiate differences even as they use their own dialects (593).
  • At present C. sees the binary of ME/WE operating thusly (594):
WE for literary texts ME for ‘serious’ texts
WE for discoursal features ME for grammar
WE for informal classroom interactions ME for formal productions
WE for speaking ME for writing
WE for home ME for school
WE for local communication ME for international communication
  • Canagarajah notes that SRTOL does a bit to advocate for students use of a WE; however, the national minorities – in the US this means African Americans and Chicanos – have a linguistically privileged position over ethnic minorities or newly arrived immigrant groups (596).  This means that SRTOL doesn’t provide the kind of ethics that WE needs – especially in light of the problematic relation between singular language and singular nation-state identity.  Enter Horner’s 2011 piece “Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach.”
  • Revising Elbow’s approach to incorporating WE into the composition classroom C. poses another model of composition pedagogy:  Canagarajah recommends code meshing as opposed to code switching as a way to incorporate both ME and WE into singular compositions (composed of a variety of Englishes) (598).  This results in multidialectalism rather than monodialectalism.
  • As C. notes, this means that to be an effective WE/ME code mesher requires more not less from the student.  “They have to not only master the dominant varieties of English, but also know how to bring in their preferred varieties in rhetorically strategic ways” (598).  This means that the writer of an WE/ME texts socializes the reader into new “rules” in the language game. . . in other words, it revising the hegemony of ME from within by meshing it with WE.  (This could be thought of as a metaphor for Comp/Rhet in English departments as a whole).  Canagarajah explains the process in the conclusion thusly:  “Though not directly confrontational as to reject the dominant codes or to flaunt the vernacular codes in established contexts, multilingual students will resist ME from the inside by inserting their codes within the existing conventions.  The activity serves to infuse not only new codes, but also new knowledge and values, into dominant texts” (611).
  • Academic publishing in Sri Lankan and Indian journals often expect a bilingual reader capable of understanding the English/Tamil fusion that occurs in much scholarly literature (600-1).
  • C. again indicts the concept of “interlanguage” as it is articulated in Bhatt.  For C. the code meshing activity that occurs around the intersections of multiple languages doesn’t hinder English acquisition because there is no single universal English that is desirable; rather, it actually facilitates quicker English language acquisition.   (602)
  • C. notes that it is a good idea to teach students to negotiate grammar for their rhetorical purposes (a sentiment certainly shared with the Belletristics) so that their grammatical choices are contextual and relay particular intentions of the writer while also taking into account the assumptions of their readers (610-11).
  • C. finishes by highlighting how the internet is actually making very real the process of code meshing for huge numbers of people.  He states that “To be literate on the Internet, for example, requires competence in multiple registers, discourses, and languages, in addition to different modalities of communication and different symbol systems.  To capture these changes for textual processing and production, scholars have started using the term multiliteracies (612).


1.     Metropolitan Englishes (ME) – Englishes traditionally spoken by the communities that claimed ownership over the language in England, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (588).

2.     Multimodal indigenous textuality – the blending of words, images, symbols, icons, and other modalities of communication from a variety of languages (from Mignolo, 600).

Leave a Reply