Englishes in the World


Sources include

Crystal, English as a global language;

Jenkins, World Englishes

McArthur, The English languages


-English is far more widespread than Latin was in the age of the Roman Empire

            -written English is fairly uniform

                        -written language is conservative, and literacy widespread

-but it has developed many different sub-varieties, just as spoken Latin developed into French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese

            -writing: you’d notice differences especially in lexicon

            -speech: differences in phonology, especially vowels

-influence from other languages spoken (or formerly…) in that region


-Strevens map in Crystal schematizes the spread of English

            -the spread of English within Britain

            -the spread of English beyond Britain

                        -two diasporas (broadly)

            -the influence of both Britain and American on other varieties

                        -does show influence of both British and American in the Caribbean

-doesn’t show other complexities: influence of Irish, Scottish on (many dialects of) North American English

                        -doesn’t show the chronology so well


-different ways of classifying varieties

-Jenkins’ “first diaspora”

            -(a) from Britain to America in the 17th century (read: Crystal reader-friendly)

                        -rhotic, /ae/

            -(b) in the late C18th and C19th, from Britain to colonies like Australia

                        -reflect subsequent developments: non-rhotic, distinguish pat and pass

                                    -development of new mother-tongue varieties

-Jenkins’ “second diaspora”

            -C18th and C19th: colonization of Asia, Africa

                        -development of second-language varieties of English


NB: English has spread for historical reasons

            -British colonization (peaked C19th)

                        -used by colonizers: government, administration, law, education, etc.

-taught to colonized (some of them), e.g. some Indians well educated to streamline colonial government

            -Britain hub of telegraph: communication, trade, news

                        -1866: transatlantic cable

                        -1864-5: cable through Turkey to India

                                    -Turkish clerks had to know English

-League of Nations (post WWI) first of modern international alliances to promote English (and French): docs printed in both

            -remember who won the war...

-reinforced in former British possessions by the emergence of economic and technological power of US:

-British and American are the two international “standards” for non-linguistic reasons, not because those varieties are intrinsically any better

-new issue: why not use a native variety for teaching?


‘The triumph of English’ wasn’t inevitable in the late 19th century (or at least was being resisted!)

-Esperanto (1887) one of a number of artificial languages invented for international communication

            -by a Polish medical doctor

            -vocab: roots common to chief European languages

            -grammar: endings normalized


-Kachru (Crystal, Jenkins’ A16) has schematized the spread of English as “three concentric circles”

            -reflects different ways in which the language has been acquired and is being used

            -circles a metaphor (cf. language family “trees”)


The three circles

-“inner circle”: where English is a native language and is used (basically) for all functions (UK, USA, Canada)

            -of course there are other native languages too

-traditionally, immigrant languages disappeared within a few generations

            -may be changing

-“outer circle”: where English is there for historical reasons and is not a native language, but alongside (or instead of) native languages is an official medium of communication in e.g. government and education

            -esp. former colonies like India

-not always cast off with independence: useful neutral ground if there are competing ethnic groups and languages

-e.g. Indo-European language Hindi is an official language, but it’s spoken only by about 35% of the population, in North India

vs. e.g. Dravidian languages in South India

-English the “associate official language”, but is the official language of some states and territories and esp in the south “is generally considered to be a necessary pan-Indian medium long since shorn of its imperial associations”)

-but other languages could fill these roles too

-sometimes alongside other colonial languages:

-in countries like Canada and Cameroon, the official use of French and English reflects former colonial rivalries

-“expanding circle” (or “expanded”, since it’s been argued that the market is more or less permeated now!): countries without a history of colonization and where English doesn’t have any institutional functions, but where English is still taught as a foreign language (Poland, Japan, Vietnam, Brazil)

            -this too requires state support

                        -e.g. what languages get taught at school

-e.g. in Japan, “regular study normally begins in the first year of lower secondary school” though “some private kindergartens and elementary schools provide English instruction)


Divisions aren’t straightforward

-e.g. in inner circle countries

-e.g. urban enclaves: immigrant languages remain native into next generation

            -e.g. in some outer circle countries, English a native language for a few

-e.g. with “decolonization” (read Crystal for all the dates of independence), some countries that were historically “outer” are blurring with “expanding”

            -e.g. Tanzania: first East African country to get independence (1961)

-English joint official language with Swahili until 1967, when Swahili became the sole official language

-e.g. Malaysia: after independence in 1957, a Malaysian language was adopted as the national language and the medium of education

-had to extend the range of the language, develop new textbooks, etc., but it was possible

-e.g. even in ‘expanded circle’ countries like Sweden, English pushing in

            -use in imported TV shows, higher education, etc.

            -reading and speaking knowledge of English essential for academia and business


Expansion of English is never in a vacuum:

            English has displaced other languages

                        Cornish in UK,

First nations languages in North America

            And other world languages

                        French in places like Vietnam

                                    -French is spoken, but the socially mobile learn English


“If English is not your mother-tongue, why should you want to learn it, or give it special status in your country?” (Crystal)

-historical reasons (in ex-colonies it may remain the language of education, politics, law, so for professional success you’ve got to master these languages early)

-internal political reasons (not to favour one language over another where there are different ethnic groups)

-external economic reasons (tourism, business: organizations that need to do business internationally would encourage their representatives to learn English: Vicki’s brother works in English for a German drug company, Italians in Dhanesh’s company moving around the world)

-practical (need to have a common language for air traffic control, Channel tunnel, shipping, sports)

-Canada 1976: pilots and air traffic controllers strike highlights problems of implementing bilingual policies...

-intellectual reasons (language of science, technology—original internet characters were English)

-entertainment (you can dub movies but not pop songs)

            -market dominated by US, British, Australian (and Japanese) companies

            -the more people know English, the more you can distribute

            -and “international illegal activities such as pornography and drugs”

-links to the outside world for oppressed countries (the Dalai Lama didn’t learn Swedish)


So in countries like Malaysia, even though English was demoted post-independence, ambitious individuals still want to learn it, and the government has had to acknowledge this

            -so it’s “retained as the compulsory second language in primary and secondary schools”

-and “some 20% of the present population understands English and c25% of city dwellers use it for some purposes in every day life”

-“It is widely used in th media and as a reading language in higher educaiton and for professional purposes.”


More negative views set out by Phillipson in Linguistic Imperialism

-e.g. even if English contributes to a country’s economic and technological progress, its promotion over indigenous language and culture alienates students from their culture and encourages elitism and increases socioeconomic inequalities

-e.g. when it’s taught in countries where the mass of students will have no need for it, there have been disastrous consequences

            -prioritization of English means that

                        -many students with no prior exposure to it will drop out

-and those who stay in the system don’t get trained for what they do need

            -Cameroon: argument to teach pidgin English in primary schools, not English

                        -at least more useful and more central to Cameroonian identity


-classifies the pro-English arguments to show how the world has been persuaded...

            -English-intrinsic arguments, what English is

-civilizing, vehicle for human progress, linguistically flexible/responsive to change, not ethnic or ideological, world’s truly global language (even spoken on the moon)

            -persuasion: it’s better than your language!

            -English-extrinsic arguments, what English has

-material resources like trained teachers, textbooks, dictinoaries, multinational publishers, computer software

-immaterial resources: it’s the vehicle for scientific and technical knowledge

            -promise: you’ll get rich

            -English-functional arguments, what it does:

-unites multi-ethnic states, streamlines government, brings knowledge and prosperity and international development, shrinks the world

-threat: your country will self-destruct with civil war and then be impoverished

Regional varieties tend to emerge in outer circle countries where English continues to be USED for things

-i.e. India before independence, English had been language of administration and education

-Hindi is now official, but English is an “associate” official language and is the official language of some states and territories

-since the English had been there for so long (entrenched in C18th, but there before), lots of time for a distinctive Indian English to develop


Process called ‘nativization’

-vocabulary: new words from local indigenous languages, new meanings or formations of English words

-phonology: influenced by indigenous languages

            -syllable rather than stress timing

            -dental fricative (spelled <th>) often realized as something else: /t/ and /d/, /s/ and /z/

            -vowel sounds often very different


            -some transference of features from local languages

            -some overgeneralizations of English structures

-overgeneralization of progressive aspect: “I am having a headache”, “I am understanding it now”

-noncount nouns made countable: luggages, furnitures

                        -or vice versa: trouser

-some unidiomatic structures

-article use: a good advice, a luggage, There’ll be traffic jam, She was given last chance

            -other patterns: specific vs non-specific

-different prepositions: investigate into, ask from him, discuss about politics

-code-switching into local language


-so, just as in countries where a creole exists alongside the standard, you get a continuum developing

-use the ‘acrolect’ for official functions –close to standard English

-and the ‘basilect’ in other situations – farthest away from standard English

            -might be stigmatized, but also important for identity


What is the status of regional varieties relative to British, US English?

-have a history of stigmatization (if UK disdain for US is strong, imagine for regional)

            -e.g. Nigerian English called “broken English”

-somewhat redressed by academic study of them

            -some pride, nationalism, importance (if objectification)

-though because standard English remains the point of reference the relative status is sustained


A current issue in EFL teaching is which standard to use: “internationalism” vs “identity”

            -not just a choice between British and American (“internationalism”)

            -but whether the regional variety should be taught (“identity”)

-especially the spoken variety: why spend years trying to refine an RP accent when the regional accent is intelligible

-generally: -the kind that most students will go on to use in that country


An issue for postcolonial literary authors: write in English? their own language?

            -if English

   -some have no choice?

               -poets whose parents have migrated cut off from their culture’s language

               -or who have been educated in English and cut off from their language/culture

   -some to reach a wider audience?

               -within your country: Nigeria has a number of local languages

               -internationally: South African protest poetry

   -problem: the imprisonment in an ideology that English competence is a measure of intelligence and achievement (postcolonial eduactions)


-Kenyan writer formerly James Ngugi stopped writing literature in English in 1977

                     -now writes in Gikuyu

-felt the only way of provoking social and political reforms after Independence

                        -still writes non-fiction in English


-other authors argue that the English language can be used to attack Englishness

                        -it has now been made the vehicle for cultures other than England’s

               -and can be used to attack it (“the empire writes back”)


-some use a regional English?    regional varieties have been “permissible” in literature for a long time

-is intelligible to English-speaking readers, but still expresses the author’s identity

            -e.g. Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, a mixing of Indian words, registers that wouldn’t ever coexist in India

 -e.g. Nigerian writer Achebe transliterates proverbs and similes from

local language into English, adapting English so that it can “transcreate” African culture and its values

            -Chief Priest tells one of his sons why it’s necessary to send him to church

-“I want one of my sons to join these people and be my eyes there (“I am sending you as my representative among those people, just to be on the safe side”) If there is nothing in it you will come back. But if there is something then you will bring back my share. The world is like a mask, dancing. If you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place.” (“One has to move with the times or else be left behind”)

            -only a Nigerian writer could do this

            -but this isn’t Nigerian English!

                        -it’s a literary register


                     -a new way of making it new

                     -extends the cultural load of English

                                    -makes it carry historical and cultural information that aren’t English


Language politics more complex

-some Indian-born writers resent Rushdie’s use of a literary non-standard register since he has mastered standard English and is appropriating the authority of ‘native speakers’


Some definitions


post-creole continuum. When people in a creole-speaking community are taught in the standard language to which the creole is related, they form a post-creole continuum. For example, in Jamaica and Guyana, an English-based creole is spoken and standard English is taught in schools. Those with higher levels of education speak something close to standard English, the acrolect. Those with little or no education speak the creole or something close to it, the basilect, and the rest speak a range of varieties in between, the mesolect. The use of the terms ... has recently been extended. They are now sometimes used in describing any range of speech varieties from the most prestigious to the least prestigious.


speech continuum. A range of speech varieties. Although it is common to think of a language as being divided into separate regional dialects or social dialects, there is often no clear division between them but rather a continuum from one to another.


decreolization. The process by which a creole becomes more like the standard language from which most of its vocabulary comes. ... If educational opportunities increase in a region where a creole is spoken and the standard language is taught, then there will be a range from the creole spoken by those with little or no education to the standard language spoken by those with high levens of education. This has been happening in countries like Jamaica and Guyana where there is a range from an English-based creole to a variety closer to standard educated English.


non-native varieties of English. A term sometimes used for varieties of English used in countries where English is a second language, such as Singapore English, Nigerian English, Indian English.


nativization also indiginization. The adaptation a language may undergo when it is used in a different cultural and social situation. English in India for example is said to have undergone nativization because changes have occurred in aspects of its phonology, vocabulary, grammar, etc. so that it is now recognized as a distinct variety of English.