English is, without question, the lingua franca of today’s world. But as Canagarajah points out, World Englishes are on the rise, asserting primacy in certain contexts over the former gold standards of British and American English. I was fascinated by his notion that even monolingual speakers must be conversant in varieties of nonmainstream Englishes to be “functional postmodern global citizens.”
I suppose the South Asian call center is one such platform in which ME speakers must engage with WE speakers. Even in the most homogeneous swaths of the American heartland, African American Vernacular English is immediately recognizable, luxuriating in the realm of pop culture and mass media. And, of course, there’s the internet. Strains of WE abound in the comment sections of Economist articles and YouTube videos alike. We’ve become remarkably adept at negotiating these inflections. But are there limitations to these lateral movements? Where might WE speakers have the upper hand? How much longer can/will ME hold onto its dominance in formal, “serious” contexts?
Canagarajah attempts to address this with his code meshing proposal, which calls for a continuing subversion of ME. He believes that the introduction of WE “into the dominant discourse will serve to both play the same game and also change its rules.” Geneva Smitherman may be one example, but she writes from a privileged position, being firmly entrenched in academe. What about composition students? Lu’s interrogation of the anomalous “can able to” phrase and the subsequent conversation it spurred didn’t strike me as particularly convincing. I agree that “[there] are many pedagogical benefits from teaching students to negotiate grammar for their rhetorical purposes.” Maybe I’m being narrow-minded, but code meshing in a composition course seems like it would create more problems than it solves.