"Grandparents for the Next Generation"

Building on Alister Cumming’s History of L2 Writing in Canada


  • Christin Wright-Taylor Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Joel Heng Hartse Simon Fraser University




Second Language writing, writing studies, composition, translingualism, international students, multilingual students, internationalization, applied linguistics


Paul Kei Matsuda (1999) has written about the divide between U.S. composition and applied linguistics, which he attributes to an institutionalization of the division of labour between Applied Linguistics and composition in the early 1960’s. As such, when language concerns resurfaced in composition in the early-2000s, this division of labour led to a “lack of a community of knowledgeable peers who [could] ensure intellectual accountability” among compositionists (Matsuda 2013).  Did this same divide occur in a Canadian context, or has the field of second language writing developed differently in Canada? The goal of this paper is to construct a history of L2 writing scholarship, reading for any collaboration with writing studies as both fields “grew up” together in Canada.  

To this end, the paper extends the work of Alister Cumming who narrates the evolution of L2 writing scholarship in Canada. Using data from Cumming’s “Studies of Second-Language Writing in Canada: Three Generations,” this paper reports findings from archival research that traces the publication history of key knowledge-workers (identified by Cumming) from the 80s to the 2000s. These findings tell a story about how L2 writing developed as a field in Canada and the ways it was influenced by fields like education and applied linguistics. Ultimately, these findings contribute to the broader narrative of how L2 writing has professionalized in Canadian higher education. By investigating the historic formation of L2 writing in Canada, scholars, writing instructors, and writing program administrators can draw on historic relations to create writing pedagogy that best meets the needs of an increasingly linguistically diverse writing classroom.  




How to Cite

Wright-Taylor, C., & Heng Hartse, J. (2023). "Grandparents for the Next Generation": Building on Alister Cumming’s History of L2 Writing in Canada. TESL Canada Journal, 40(1), 11–40. https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v40i1/1383