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Volume 11 Number 4, Winter 2014, Pages 1-134   

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Principled Polycentrism and Resourceful Speakers

    Alastair Pennycook

A central goal of language education is the development of resourceful speakers, people who have both good access to a range of linguistic resources and are good at shifting between styles, discourses, registers and genres. Communication becomes possible not because we adhere to global or even regional norms, but because language users are able to bring their communication into alignment with each other. Drawing on a series of studies of both online and face-to-face interaction in different cities in Asia, this paper suggests that to understand communication in contexts of diversity, we need to focus less on a supposed shared code and more on the interactions among language resources, activities and space. This in turn suggests that in order to pursue intelligibility in multilingual contexts we need a model of principled polycentrism, not the polycentrism of a World Englishes focus, with its established norms of regional varieties of English, nor the reduced communicative domain of the English as a lingua franca framework, but a more fluid yet principled approach to the diversity of contemporary contexts of communication.

Keywords: communication, multilingualism, polycentrism, intelligibility