Language and Mobility: Unexpected Places

Author: Alastair Pennycook

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Multilingual Matters
Number of pages:
210mm x 148mm

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This book looks at language in unexpected places. Drawing on a diversity of materials and contexts, including farewell addresses to British workers in colonial India, letters written from parents to their children at home, a Cornish anthem sung in South Australia, a country fair in rural Australia, and a cricket match played in the middle of the 19th century in south India, this book explores many current concerns around language, mobility and place, including native speakers, generic forms, and language maintenance. Using a series of narrative accounts – from a journey to southern India to eating cheese in China, from playing soccer in Germany to observing a student teacher in Sydney – this book asks how it is that language, people and cultures turn up unexpectedly and how our lines of expectation are formed.

This book offers Pennycook's always innovative theoretical insights in a brilliant, original blend of fine scholarship and personal narrative. It evocatively describes the author's retracing of his family's history in colonial India, draws on concepts from many disciplines, and makes unexpected and illuminating connections with language education.

In Language and Mobility Alastair Pennycook takes us, the readers, to new territories and domains of language - questioning, doubting and reflecting in new ways about what we do. In this fascinating and passionate journey we cross geographical and conceptual boundaries, places, spaces and time, mobilizing between India and Britain deeply embedded in family mobile and local histories. Along the journey, we deliberate with new meanings of nativity, hybridity, movement, mobility, localness, and meaning as these are anchored in rich pasts, in present functionality and unexpected futures. It is a passionate trip that touches the centrality of language in its broad context based on original documents, narratives and personal experiences, integrated together to argue for resistance and change. A powerful book that will not leave any readers un-changed.

This is a brilliant book…Alastair skilfully interweaves evocative parables drawn from his family's colonial past and his own history as a language learner with a meticulously developed theoretical framework. His thought-provoking book will prove to be a rich intellectual resource for anyone seeking to better understand the complex linguascapes of globalised cities such as Sydney and for those who wish to go beyond standard categories in order to explain the unexpected (and too often ignored) literacies that children bring with them when they commence schooling.

U: magazine, April 2013

Alastair Pennycook's thought-provoking book builds on previous research and explores language, culture and identity in eight chapters. Pennycook uses unexpected texts and contexts to illustrate a discussion of language and mobility, including what it is to have expectations of appropriate locations for particular languages, and how languages might be used in different places. This book, therefore, raises a number of questions about the fundamental concepts in language and linguistics such as the notion of the native speaker, the use of the term bilingual, and the notion of language hybridity.Overall, this book achieves its aim of confronting and challenging the reader to think about language expectations, locations and assumptions, and in doing so opens up a debate around some long-established traditions.

ARAL, Vol. 36, No. 1 (2013)

This original contribution to the fields of (critical) sociolinguistics and literacy studies aligns with very recent attempts to retheorize (or rethink) language against the backdrop of globalization as a set of resources, activated in various (un)expected contexts by leaving their spatiotemporal traces in interactions. One of its assets is the author's engaging writing style, which tries in an unexpected way to conflate academic prose with literary texts and epistolary writing style, and so bridges the robust academic analysis with lay people's linguistic and sociocultural choices. The book serves as a valuable source for everyone interested in understanding how language works in a globalized and globalizing environment, characterized by extensive mobility and movement of people, ideas and products. Exactly because it combines academic and non-academic prose I would recommend it not only to scholars in the fields of sociocultural linguistics and literacy studies but also to lay people who are interested in understanding globalization through the lens of language.

the LINGUIST List 24.2566

On a personal note, reviewing Language and Mobility has prompted productive thinking about some of the politically difficult – and unexpected – situations I have encountered in recent years…Pennycook's ideas about language as local practices that entail emotional affiliation can be brought to bear productively on not only these, but also other political issues in the TESOL field. I therefore recommend Language and Mobility to teacher educators, researchers and teachers who are thinking through critical dimensions of their pedagogic and scholarly practices.

TESOL in Context Journal, Vol 23, Issue 1 +

Alastair Pennycook is Professor of Language Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. He is widely known for his work on the politics of language, language and globalization, language and popular culture and language education. His current research is exploring urban multilingualism (metrolingualism). His recent book Language as a Local Practice was shortlisted for the BAAL book award, which he has won on two previous occasions for The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language and Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows.


Chapter 1 Retracing Routes: Manjari Seeds and Nutmeg Trees

Chapter 2 Turning up in Unexpected Places

Chapter 3 Through Others' Eyes and Thinking Otherwise

Chapter 4 Constrained Mobilities: Epistolary Parenting

Chapter 5 Resourceful Speakers

Chapter 6 Elephant Tracks

Chapter 7 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackboard

Chapter 8 Beyond the Boundaries of Expectation


Postgraduate, Research / Professional, Undergraduate
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