The thesis provides a counter narrative to the prevailing discourses in Bangladesh that have shown increased concern about the detrimental effect of English on Bangla, the national language, and Bangladeshi identity. It is commonly assumed that young adults are subjugated by the colonial legacy of English, and they are consequently portrayed as passive recipients of popular culture. They are also criticized for their failure to maintain a domain-specific demarcated use of language, that is, English for academic purposes and socioeconomic advancements, and Bangla for local, cultural, and national activities.
Identifying that these key assumptions understate the complexities of young adults’ language practices and identity, the thesis offers a critical understanding of the role of English and Bangla in young adults’ lives. Drawing on insights from Pennycook’s transgressive approach to language and Bakhtin’s ‘heteroglossia’, the thesis proposes the notion of transglossia. Going beyond the overt dependence on linguistic features, transglossia appears to have the potential to reveal a sophisticated understanding of language. On the one hand, it provides a theoretical grounding to address the transgression observable in language in the mixing of codes, modes, genres, and a variety of cultural semiotic resources. On the other hand, as a conceptual proposition, it has the capacity to untangle the social, historical, political, ideological, and spatial nature of language. In addition, with its analytical framework, transglossia brings out the values, vested interests, and politics behind language-, class-, and gender-based identifications.
The data are drawn from a three-month long ethnographic research project which included observations, casual face-to-face conversations, virtual conversations on Facebook, interviews, and focus-group discussions of 29 students at a university in Bangladesh. Based on the analysis, the thesis argues in favour of understanding language and identity not in terms of formal systems, such as English or Bangla per se, but in terms of transglossia. Young adults actively and reflexively engage with mixtures of codes, modes, genres, and stylisation and pragmatically recontextualise popular cultural texts in their transglossic language practices within the historical and spatial realities of their lives. Ultimately, this thesis advances the recent theorisation of translingual practices in applied linguistics. It also contributes to the field by providing glimpses of the sociocultural dynamics of language in the post-colonial context of Bangladesh, a country very much under-represented in sociolinguistics research.