Metrolingualism : Language in the City book cover
1st Edition

Language in the City

ISBN 9780415831659
Published March 2, 2015 by Routledge
216 Pages

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $56.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

This book is about language and the city. Pennycook and Otsuji introduce the notion of ‘metrolingualism’, showing how language and the city are deeply involved in a perpetual exchange between people, history, migration, architecture, urban landscapes and linguistic resources. Cities and languages are in constant change, as new speakers with new repertoires come into contact as a result of globalization and the increased mobility of people and languages.

Metrolingualism sheds light on the ordinariness of linguistic diversity as people go about their daily lives, getting things done, eating and drinking, buying and selling, talking and joking, drawing on whatever linguistic resources are available. Engaging with current debates about multilingualism, and developing a new way of thinking about language, the authors explore language within a number of contemporary urban situations, including cafés, restaurants, shops, streets, construction sites and other places of work, in two diverse cities, Sydney and Tokyo. This is an invaluable look at how people of different backgrounds get by linguistically.

Metrolingualism: Language in the city will be of special interest to advanced undergraduate/postgraduate students and researchers of sociolinguistics and applied linguistics.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Morning markets and metrolingual multitasking

The Produce Market: Salamu alaykum mate

Languages of the market: lingo-ing in their own language

Multilingualism from below

Metrolingual multitasking in a restaurant

Beyond monolingualism: Niemand ist Einsprachig

Research notes and emergent themes

Chapter 2: Constructing affiliations and growing foreign vegetables

Gwai Lou Coi: Growing foreign vegetables

Metrolingualism, the rural and the urban

‘People are basically from everywhere’: Ethnicity and language at work

Ethnic business and ethnolinguistic repertoires

Ethnography as process

Chapter 3: Mobility, rhythms and the city

Catching a train in Sydney

The breathing city

Metrolingualism, space and mobility: ‘chef, iedi efu iki kishu’

Research: Languages and the unexpected

Chapter 4 Kitchen talk and spatial repertoires

The Pizzeria: ‘it’s all part of the Greek culture’

Kitchen repertoires

Spatial repertoires: "Pizza mo two minutes coming"

Location and locution

Researching language, mobility and practices in place

Chapter 5: Convivial and contested cities

‘It’s too many languages’: Suburban diversities

Conviviality and the city

"I’ll fix you up, ya Lebs!": Everyday contestation

The contested city

Aussies and ‘the worst general Asian ever’

Research and stories: The chicken mime

Chapter 6: Talking food: Commensality and the city

The Fanta is always greener back home

Talking food

‘Makanai des pauvres’

"Ma fi fruit bi nom? (There’s no fruit at all?)"

Red celery and the negotiation of meaning


Multitasking and participatory research

Chapter 7: Layers, spaces, signs, networks

Out-of-place texts

The historical layers of cities

Port cities

Layered languages

Researching networks: The multilingual cucumber

Chapter 8 Metrolingua francas

Languages and the market

"乜language都有㗎!": From niche to metrolingua francas

Metrolingual pedagogies and policies

Conclusion: Writing it all together

View More



Alastair Pennycook is Professor of Language in Education at the University of Technology Sydney. He is the author of many titles, including Language as a Local Practice (2010) and Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows (2007).

Emi Otsuji is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney. She is the co-editor of the book Languages and Identities in a Transitional Japan: From Internationalization to Globalization (2015) and the Japanese editor for The Japan Journal of Multilingualism and Multicultuarlism.


"The authors end their exploratory journey into the variegated world of urban space with a discussion of some policy and pedagogical implications of their findings and a reflection on how the themes addressed in their book emerged from the research process and the writing and re-writing, the shaping and re-shaping of a text that, in my view, makes for fascinating reading." - Translation and Translanguaging in Multilingual Contexts 1:2 (2015)

"Alastair Pennycook and Emi Otsuji have produced a compelling and sophisticated account of everyday metrolingualism in action. This immensely readable book is crammed with examples which demonstrate how people communicate in increasingly diverse urban settings. Metrolingualism must be read by anyone who is interested in how we communicate in our changing towns and cities." Adrian Blackledge, University of Birmingham, UK

"The notion of Metrolingualism vividly captures the dynamic communicative practices in late modernity. In this new book, Pennycook and Otsuji further theorize the concept and enhance it with rich, everyday examples from diverse settings, making it ever more relevant to our understanding of the sociolinguistics of contemporary urban life. It is a landmark publication and will be read by a wide spectrum of researchers for many years to come." Li Wei, UCL Institute of Education, UK

"Metrolingualism is among the most provocative and intelligent books on multilingualism we will encounter for many years and will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in the study of language in all its aspects." Jerry Won Lee, Asian Englishes

"A fascinating and important book about the interrelationship between people, mobility, language and urban space." Janus Møller, Journal of Sociolinguistics