Defining Translinguality


  • Bruce Horner University of Louisville
  • Sara P. Alvarez Queens College, City University of New York



translinguality, plurilinguality, translanguaging, code-meshing, language commodification, labor theory of language


This article reviews the history of conflicting meanings for translinguality in composition studies, locating that history in the context of other competing terms for language difference with which translinguality is sometimes affiliated and competes, and conflicting definitions of these, and in the context of perceived changes to global communication technologies and migration patterns. It argues for approaching translinguality and the confusion surrounding it as evidence of an epistemological break and explains confusions as a response to the challenges such a break poses. It demonstrates the residual operation of monolingualist notions of language in arguments for “code-meshing,” “plurilinguality,” and “translanguaging” and outlines a labor perspective on translinguality that highlights the role played by the concrete labor of language use, as work, in sustaining and revising language as well as the social relations language contributes to (re)producing.

Author Biographies

Bruce Horner, University of Louisville

Bruce Horner is Endowed Chair in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville. His research interests include: relationships between the globalizing English, the globalizing economy, the U.S. “English Only” movement, and composition studies; labor, class, and composition; histories, theories, and pedagogies of basic writing; critical forms of literacy ethnography; the politics of literacy instruction; the cultural study of musics.

Sara P. Alvarez, Queens College, City University of New York

Sara P Alvarez is Assistant Professor of English at Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY) and a Cultivating New Voices Fellow at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Sara’s qualitative research focuses on the multilingual and academic writing practices of self-outed U.S. undocumented young adults. Her past research ethnographically examined the multilingual social media literacy practices among second-generation Latin@ youth and their transnational families in Kentucky. Her publications have appeared in the journals Equity and Excellence in Education and The International Journal of the Sociology of Language, among others.




How to Cite

Horner, B., & Alvarez, S. P. (2019). Defining Translinguality. Literacy in Composition Studies, 7(2), 1–30.