The plurilingual tradition and the English language in South Asia

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There has been a plurilingual tradition of communication in South Asia since precolonial times. Local scholars consider pluringualism as 'natural' to the ecology of this region. In plurilingualism, proficiency in languages is not conceptualized individually, with separate competencies developed for each language. The different languages constitute an integrated system to constitute a repertoire. After distinguishing plurilingualism from other forms of multilingual communication, the article shows how English has been accommodated in this tradition. What I label Plurilingual English is not an identifiable code or a systematized variety of English. It is a highly fluid and variable form of language practice. Speakers negotiate their different Englishes for intelligibility and effective communication. The article goes on to define plurilingual competence. For communication to work across such radical differences, it is important that acquisition and use go hand and hand. Such a competence is always in a state of becoming and, therefore, acquisition is emergent. Plurilingual communication works because competence does not rely solely on a form of knowledge, but rather, encompasses interaction strategies. In the final section, the article discusses how learner strategy training and language awareness go some way toward facilitating such interactional strategies and repertoire development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-22
Number of pages18
JournalAILA Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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