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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Review of  Language, Literacy and Diversity

Reviewer: Kathrin Kaufhold
Book Title: Language, Literacy and Diversity
Book Author: Christopher Stroud Mastin Prinsloo
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
General Linguistics
Issue Number: 26.3572

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Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


The edited volume contributes to a perspective in sociolinguistics and applied linguistics that perceives language and mobility as mutually constituting. In the light of this theoretical perspective, the contributions examine language and literacy in relation to power, migration, social mobility and technological change. The movement and hybridisation of multilingual language resources is discussed in a range of settings, such as health care, education, and interaction in multi-ethnic communities, across five continents. The majority of the studies draw on close observations of people’s everyday lived experiences. The contributors consider the implications of multilingualism, social mobility and hierarchical gate-keeping structures on language practices and policies.

In the “Preface”, Christopher Stroud and Mastin Prinsloo introduce the perspective of “semiotic mobility” (p. ix), or mobile language, by contrasting it with traditional static views of language as bounded, distinct from other languages and owned by delimited communities of experts. Referring to sociological notions of mobilities (Urry 2000) and conceptualisations of place and space in human geography (Massey 1994), the editors suggest that the term “semiotic mobility”in underlines that linguistic boundary crossing should be considered as normal. At the same time, how linguistic forms travel depends on power structures and processes of gate-keeping. The stated aim of the volume is to develop the approach to language as mobility and reconsider key concepts of sociolinguistics and applied linguistics.

In the first chapter “Truly Moving Texts”, Sjaak Kroon, Dong Jie and Jan Blommaert demonstrate how globalization processes require a rethinking of sociolinguistic concepts: “In a globalizing world, we need to consider language as a complex of mobile resources, shaped and developed both because of mobility – by people moving around – and for mobility – to enable people to move around” (p. 1). They illustrate this argument based on their analysis of four public-order signs found in tourist places in China that contain non-standard forms of English. According to the authors, the different ‘problems with English’ found in these signs point to three different semiotic layers that influence the signs’ communicative effectiveness. These layers relate to orthographic norms, the functionality of these text types and the discursive pragmatics of the signs. Moreover, the signs are situated in space and time, that is, they are intended to regulate behaviour in the specific areas where they are located. The authors further suggest that public signs allow insights into the conditions of their production, such as the access to language resources, in this case Standard English, and to their intended audience. The chapter concludes by indicating that the semiotic layeredness of signs has implications for English teaching and intercultural communication training.

In Chapter 2 “Classifying Migrants in the Field of Health: Sociolinguistic Scale and Neoliberal Statecraft”, James Collins and Stef Slembrouck investigate how national and regional institutions shape migrants’ access to health care provision in the USA and Belgium, two federal state systems. The cases describe the work of a bilingual healthcare professional, the support of language teachers mediating between their students and healthcare providers, and the role of interpreters in family health care. Drawing on the sociolinguistic concept of scales (Blommaert 2007), their analysis reveals how access to health care is influenced by the discursive categorisation of migrants at site-specific, regional and national levels. The cases show how language mediators working with migrants encounter and traverse social and sociolinguistic scales.

Suresh Canagarajah provides a further perspective on scale analysis in Chapter 3 “Negotiating Mobile Codes and Literacies at the Contact Zone: Another Perspective on South African Township Schools”. Canagarajah contrasts his study of English literacy in a South African township school with a similar study by Blommaert et al. (2010). Based on the analysis of student writing and literacy resources in a township school near Cape Town, Canagarajah underlines the students’ capacity to distinguish between different genres and the appropriateness of different norms. While he agrees that more powerful communities might be more successful in upgrading their norms to the trans-local scale, this does not exclude the possibility for hybrid and co-constructed new norms. He thus suggests a pedagogy of “shuttling between scales” (p. 49) where students encounter different literacy regimes and actively negotiate writing conventions that are appropriate for the task and situation at hand. While Canagarajah admits that people create their own local norms, he underlines the capacity of individuals to distinguish between situational normative requirements and trans-local codes to become competent communicators in local and trans-local settings.

In Chapter 4 “English as a Lingua Franca: Lessons for Language and Mobility”, Joseph Sung-Yul Park and Lionel Wee discuss the dynamic nature of language in a globalised world on the one side and power structures that afford or restrict the mobility of people and linguistic repertoires on the other side. They consider this tension in relation to recent debates about English as Lingua Franca (ELF) (for instance, see Applied Linguistics Vol 35(5) and 36(1)). Park and Wee suggest that ELF studies focus on the description of linguistic forms unique to ELF. Furthermore, they contest a view ascribed to ELF research that ELF interactions are usually supportive. Instead they maintain that the historically evolved dynamics of power shape attitudes towards languages and that these power structures influence interactions. They suggest that the focus on English as a distinctive lingua franca should be abandoned for a wider perspective that considers differences and promotes intercultural awareness while being aware of the “hegemonic hierarchy of native versus nonnative accents that are linked with national and social identities” (p. 69).

Catherine Kell considers in Chapter 5, “Ariadne’s Thread: Literacy, Scale and Meaning-Making across Space and Time”, the concept of scale and how it can be productive in studies on meaning-making across sequences of events. Kell adopts a dynamic methodology to follow written texts and spoken interactions that contribute to meaning-making. She illustrates this approach of “meaning-making trajectories” (p. 79) based on two case studies. The first study follows the trajectory of an incident report form at a building site, which is produced across separate geographical spaces and recontextualized from the local to the global context of the international company. The second case follows the trajectory of a petition for a housing project. In both cases people are presented with different possibilities to project their meaning beyond the local context. While following the texts on a horizontal level across time and space, the recontextualization of the texts from local to national or international contexts brought into relief processes of abstraction and the influence of power structures. For instance, the incident form gained a different meaning when received by the national health and safety officer at a higher level of the organisation. However, moving the petition text of the second case to a different organisational level did not necessarily mean that action would be taken. Kell thus argues for a dynamic scalar analysis where scales are not seen as categories of practices that are assigned a priori but are categories of analysis that emerge from the ethnographic data.

Chapter 6 “How one Reads Whom and Why: Ideological Filtering in Reading Vernacular Literacy in France” also deals with recontextualisations of texts. In this chapter, Cécile B. Vigouroux analyses the reading and discussion of Marabouts’ flyers by collectors of these texts. Marabouts’ flyers are business card like announcements of soothsayers of self-identified Africans in France. They often contain non-standard orthographic, grammatical and discoursal features. These flyers are collected by self-proclaimed enthusiasts of this text type, posted and discussed on dedicated internet forums. Vigouroux analyses the metalinguistic discourse on these internet sites and connects it to socio-historical processes that shaped ideologies of reading Marabouts’ flyers as inferior or amusing literacies.

The symbolic meaning of script choices in relation to ideological discourses on language is discussed by Rakesh M. Bhatt in Chapter 7, “Script Choice, Language Loss and the Politics of Anamnesis: Kashmiri in Diaspora”. Bhatt presents the case of Kashmiris in New Delhi who were forced to leave their country at the end of the 1980s,and their ambivalence towards their language. On the one hand, he finds a public stance towards preserving the language as marker of identity. On the other hand, the use of the language in the private sphere is reduced in order to avoid interference with the assimilation to the dominant English and Hindu speaking culture. The latter is related to a mix of ideological discourses connected to historical, political and linguistic reasons. Furthermore, Bhatt argues that the choice of script from among four different script systems is equally connected to these interrelated language ideologies. The choice of script thus attains further symbolic meaning for Kashmiris in the diaspora.

In Chapter 8 “Language Shift, Cultural Practices and Writing in South African Indian English”, Rajend Mesthrie investigates the use of multilingual resources by individuals and communities in ethnically diverse societies. Mesthrie discusses language shift and writing practices in South African Indian English (SAIE). He examines the hybridisation of Devanagari and Roman script in wedding invitations and event flyers. In the second part he investigates the impact of Indian food terms and metaphors in SAIE literature. These studies illustrate the effects of the mobility of languages, scripts and people. They underline the fluidity of cultural and linguistic boundaries.

In Chapter 9 “Superdiversity and Social Class: An Interactional Perspective”, Ben Rampton illuminates how superdiversity and social class are enacted and produced in interaction. Superdiversity here denotes an increased level of social and linguistic diversity deriving from accelerated globalisation processes since the 1990s (Blommaert and Rampton 2011). Rampton’s analysis is based on selected excerpts of interaction involving a London businessmen with Punjabi background. Depending on addressee and purpose, the informant employs features of Standard English, London vernacular, Punjabi and Creole to different degrees. At the same time interviews with the informant show that he is highly reflective about hierarchical rankings of dialects. Rampton argues that processes of increasingly diverse and complex migration patterns significantly influence urban spoken interaction. At the same time, long-term established social structures such as social class still have an influence on language use.

In Chapter 10 “Mobile Literacies and Micro-Narratives: Conformity and Transgression on a South African Educational Site”, Ana Deumert reports on a bilingual digital literacy project with teenagers in South Africa. A serialised novel was distributed to mobile phones in English and isiXhosa. While the medium was related to out-of-school literacy practices, the content and incentives for participation (prize, content questions by the project team) created a classroom-like context. Transgressions of standard orthographic norms were partly endorsed by the use of text-speak in the novel itself. The few transgressions in content that broke the widely accepted norm of heterosexual romance were, however, censored and thus the traditional classroom order reinstated.

Alastair Pennycook returns to the concept of superdiversity in Chapter 11 “Early Literacies and Linguistic Mobilities” and states that this has long been normal outside of Europe. He exemplifies this by referring to Togan Pacific Islanders who have a long history of migration for economic or educational reasons. He reports on an interventionist project on bilingual literacy in a preschool. The introduction of Togan literacy resources in the English-dominated school context resulted in bridging the gap between Togan dominated home activities and the educational practices of the school. Adult caregivers who used to socialise in Togan in one area of the playground started to move into the playground space and participated in educational practices through the medium of Togan. Instead of viewing bilingualism as dual language use, the study illustrates the usefulness of describing bilingualism as mobility of language resources across institutional and generational boundaries.

In the “Afterword: Turbulent Deflections”, Christopher Stroud provides a rereading of the preceding chapters through the concept of “turbulence”. This concept highlights the productive aspect of contingent encounters and dynamic orderings in language development. Starting from the concept of turbulence, he recaptures the chapters by looking at their contribution to a rethinking of theoretical approaches, a reintroduction of diachronic aspects to the study of sociolinguistics, and a reflection on practical and political repercussions of a view of language as mobility. He also emphasises the need for a detailed procedure of tracing entities and processes involved in this change.


The collection contributes and extends the theoretical and methodological debate in a growing field of research that re-considers sociolinguistic and applied linguistic concepts in a world of increased mobility and globalization (e.g. Blommaert 2010, Baynham and Prinsloo 2009, Coupland, 2011, Collins, Baynham and Slembrouck 2009, Pennycook and Otsuji 2015). It thus achieves its aim stated in the preface. The contributions are clearly connected by an underlying understanding of language as mobility. The volume provides an overview of perspectives on language and literacy as mobility for an advanced reader with some background knowledge in areas such as sociolinguistics and globalization, language and mobility, linguistic landscapes and literacy studies.

A particular strength of the volume is its combination of a range of complementary perspectives on language as mobility. Combining these approaches advances the development of recently introduced theoretical concepts such as sociolinguistic scale, notably in Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5, or superdiversity, the applicability of which is described in Chapter 9, while Chapter 11 contests its novelty status in relation to different geographical contexts. Most of the contributions illustrate and develop their theoretical points based on empirical case studies.

Park and Wee’s chapter stands somewhat apart from the other contributions as it is not based on a specific empirical case study but provides a critique on ELF research more generally, especially on earlier ELF work that focused on the description of linguistic features. Nevertheless, the authors contribute in their argumentation to the development of a perspective of language as mobility in pointing to the view of language as local practice (Pennycook 2010). This concept accounts on the one hand for the seemingly stable structures of languages and ideologies that are reproduced in people’s participation in practices. On the other hand, it highlights the constant change and shift that results from people adapting to situated purposes in their actions while accomplishing these practices. This intricate connection between structure and agency, macro and micro, is illustrated most clearly in Rampton’s analysis of business interactions in a multi-ethnic neighborhood (Chapter 9). The informant in this study draws on a range of linguistic resources depending on purpose and interlocutor but is at the same time aware of connotations of linguistic features related to social class.

The view of language as mobility opens up methodological and analytical questions. In discussing the juxtaposition of Devanagari and Roman script (Chapter 8) or the mix of spoken linguistic features that are traced to various origins (Chapter 9), the dynamic change seems to be frozen and static differences reintroduced. Yet this approach powerfully demonstrates the dynamic hybridisation of language features and that people are aware of socio-political connotations that scripts or linguistic varieties evoke. Moreover, the authors underline that the meaning is created in the specific communicative situations. Nevertheless, the question remains whether an epistemology of language as mobility requires a different analytical ontology. A starting point could be Kell’s approach in Chapter 5 of meaning-making trajectories or Stroud’s discussion in the Afterword of turbulent ontologies, that is, categories that are constantly in flux and being renegotiated.

By assembling various perspectives on language as mobility, the volume pushes the research in this field forward. Its various theoretical and methodological insights inspire further consideration and thus lay a fruitful ground for further debate. In addition various contributions provide insights into applications especially in the area of literacy and language education.


Baynham, Mike and Mastin Prinsloo (eds.). 2009. The future of literacy studies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Blommaert, Jan. 2007. Sociolinguistic scales. Intercultural Pragmatics, 4(1), 1-19.

Blommaert, Jan. 2010. The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Blommaert, Jan and Ben Rampton. 2011. Language and Superdiversity. Diversities, 13(2), 1-22.

Collins, James, Mike Baynham and Stef Slembrouck (eds.). 2009. Globalization and language in contact: Scale, migration, and communicative practices. London: Bloomsbury.

Coupland, Nikolas (ed.). 2011. The handbook of globalization. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Massey, Doreen. 1994. Place, space and gender. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Pennycook, Alastair and Emi Otsuji. 2015. Metrolingualism: Language in the city. London: Routledge.

Pennycook, Alastair. 2010. Language as a local practice. London: Routledge.

Urry, John. 2000. Sociology beyond societies: Mobilities for the twenty-first century. London: Routledge.
Kathrin Kaufhold is a lecturer at the Department of English, Stockholm University. She holds a PhD in Linguistics from Lancaster University/UK. Her research interests comprise literacy studies, academic literacies, linguistic ethnography, workplace communication, multilingualism and practice theory.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9780415819053
Pages: 224
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