Higher sem. Biling. Peter Auer: Translanguaging – old wine in new bottles, or more?


Date: Tuesday 8 February 2022

Time: 15.00 – 16.30

Location: On Zoom, see below.

Higher seminar in Bilingualism. Peter Auer, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany.

To the Zoom seminar

In this talk I will argue that the construction of translanguaging as opposed to codeswitching is based on a gross misrepresentation of research on bilingualism and code-switching since the 1970s. Both translanguaging and codeswitching are terms that refer to linguistic practices that are hybrid (when this term is used in its original sense, i.e. the use two or more languages as resources): whenever they use more than one language in an encounter, speakers by definition contest the clear mapping of languages onto situations and vice versa. I will present evidence that the sociolinguistic meanings ascribed to these practices are highly sensitive to the larger societal and political contexts in which they are embedded, but that the formal patterns of codeswitching (including token codeswitching into languages or varieties in which the speakers only have a limited competence), mixing, borrowing, etc. have largely remained the same, reflecting some more abstract (bi)lingual competence.

Despite this theoretical overlap, there is one major difference between research on codeswitching and on translanguaging. This is the latter’s insistence on the non-existence of languages from the bilingual speakers’ perspective. Even though codeswitching research has never equated the codes that are switched with national or standard languages, and has always pointed out that these codes must not be equated with their monolingual counterparts, it remains true that codeswitching as a discourse strategy is based on the availability of what the bilingual speakers perceive as different codes. Otherwise, as I will argue, the discourse functions of codeswitching could not be explained. It will be shown that the examples presented as evidence for translanguaging often fall in the category of classical codeswitching, i.e. the speakers rely on, and thereby construct, their status as languages.

Peter Auer

About the Higher seminar in Research on Bilingualism