Introduction World Englishes is a multi-volume survey of the many and varied forms of English used throughout the globe. Of the twelve books planned for this series, the first three were published in hardcover in 2013, and will be released in paperback in 2017. Each of the first three volumes focuses on a specific Anglophone region: The British Isles (Volume I), North America (Volume II), and Central America (Volume III), and is comprised of several chapters that offer a linguistic, historical, and sociocultural overview of the varieties of English that have evolved in these geographical areas. These chapters are authored by a diverse, international group of linguists, sociolinguists, and dialect scholars, including Jane Stuart Smith, Jack Chambers, Ian F. Hancock, and the late Bill Griffiths. World Englishes takes a clear geographical approach to its subject, presenting English varieties on the basis of the territories in which they are spoken, regardless of type or context of use—whether established or emerging, dialect or creole, or used as a first, second, or foreign language. This geographical focus can also be seen in the detailed illustrative maps that supplement all chapters. The series also takes a multidisciplinary view, looking not only at the structural features of each variety, but also at the historical events that led to their development, as well as the wider social and political implications of the global diffusion of English. The breadth of coverage of these volumes is impressive. It includes chapters on better known varieties such as Scottish English, Irish English, and Canadian English, but also puts the spotlight on less studied varieties such as Alaskan English and Bay Islands English; on smaller English-speaking areas such as Britain’s Channel Islands and Colombia’s San Andres Archipelago; and on less known creoles such as Texas Afro-Seminole Creole and Belize Kriol. Several individual chapters are dedicated to varieties belonging to regions such as the Caribbean, which is usually treated in a single chapter in similar publications. Description of the contents The first volume of the series centres on the British Isles and consists of thirteen chapters. It is edited by overall series editor Tometro Hopkins, and by John McKenny, who wrote the introduction to the book. He describes Volume I as ‘a key to the entire series to follow’, given that it tells the story of the linguistic forebears of all the world’s Englishes. The book’s geographical approach is complemented by the chronological arrangement of its chapters. It opens with Paul Cavill’s brief yet informative summary of the history of the English language from its earliest beginnings a millennium and a half ago through to the Early Modern English period, a time of rapid political, economic, and linguistic change in which English found itself at the cusp of becoming a global language. This historical overview gives the reader some useful insights with which to understand later chapters and volumes, as the processes that English underwent in its earlier stages of development, such as territorial expansion, language contact, dialectalization, and standardization, are the same processes that drive the evolution of today’s world varieties of English (Seargeant, 2012). The first volume continues with Chapter 2, which discusses some of the most dominant varieties of English—those of Southeast England, including Standard British English and the increasingly prominent new dialect of Estuary English. Chapters 3 and 4 head north, addressing the distinctive dialects of Yorkshire and the Northeast, respectively. The next couple of chapters proceed westwards, with Chapter 5 examining the dialects of the West Midlands, and Chapter 6 the rhotic varieties of the Southwest. Later chapters focus on two other highly influential varieties, Scottish English (Chapter 7) and Irish English (Chapter 10)—massive emigration from Scotland and Ireland took these dialects to different parts of the world, which thereby left recognizable traces in new English varieties that later emerged. Chapter 8 tackles the idiosyncratic dialects of the Northwest, whose major cities of Manchester and Liverpool have played such a leading role in modern music and popular culture, while Chapter 9 deals with the Celtic-influenced English of Wales. The final three chapters shed light on the English varieties spoken in Britain’s smaller islands: the Isle of Man (Chapter 11), the Orkney and Shetland Isles (Chapter 12), and the Channel Islands (Chapter 13). The eight-chapter Volume II, the slimmest of the three volumes, is edited by Hopkins, and covers the English varieties of North America. It begins with a chapter on Canadian English, one of the oldest surviving colonial varieties of the language, while the rest of the book concentrates on the dialectal regions of the United States. Three chapters offer portraits of different varieties spoken in the linguistically and ethnically complex American South— Chapter 2 on white varieties; Chapter 3 on the Afro-Seminole Creole of Texas; and Chapter 5 on Chicano English, a Spanish-contact variety spoken by Mexican Americans in the Southwest. Chapters 4 and 7 zoom in on the American Midwest and West respectively, detailing the common features that make the English used in these heterogeneous regions identifiable variants of the language. Chapter 6 is unique among these chapters in that it discusses African American English, a variety that cannot be pinned down to one particular area of the United States, as its usage is widespread throughout predominantly black communities across the country. As the chapter argues, African American English is more of a social variety, which differentiated from mainstream American English because of the barriers of slavery and colour caste imposed on Americans of African descent. The volume concludes with a chapter on the various forms of English spoken in the largely overlooked but no less dialectally diverse American state of Alaska. The last of the currently available books in the series is Volume III, dedicated to the Englishes of Central America. According to the introduction by Ken Decker, who co-edited the volume with Hopkins, the varieties selected for this collection are those considered to differ most from Standard English. The seven chapters in this volume describe the distinctive use of English in the Spanish-dominant Central American countries of Mexico (Chapter 1), Honduras (Chapter 2), Panama (Chapter 6), and Colombia (in particular the San Andres archipelago, Chapter 7), and give accounts of three English creoles: Belize Kriol (Chapter 2), the English Lexifier Creole of Nicaragua (Chapter 4), and Limonese Creole English (Chapter 5). This volume offers a view into a particularly interesting language-contact situation between English and Spanish, in which native Spanish-speaking Central Americans continue to use English as a way to connect to the wider world, creating dynamic new variants of the language in the process, while the region’s Afro-Caribbean peoples constantly choose between an English creole that expresses their local identity, Spanish that embodies a national identity, and standard English that projects an international identity. As acknowledged in the series preface, although each chapter in the three volumes follows a general template, authors were given the liberty to structure and develop their contributions according to their specific research interests and the particular needs of their subject. All chapters consist of a linguistic description of the English or Englishes of the region being described, examining such components of language as phonetics and phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. The chapters can also include demographic data; an account of the historical and sociocultural milieu of these English varieties; an explanation of their use in literature and in the media; and an analysis of their social, political, and economic impact on their regions, both in the present and in the future—all of this supported by detailed maps, tables, figures, and bibliographies. This editorial approach results in high-quality scholarship that takes full advantage of the expertise of its contributors, albeit one that sacrifices a level of consistency expected in a series that aims to serve as a reference book. The chapters vary in length as well as content, and within the chapters, the coverage of the abovementioned sections is also uneven—for instance, while Volume I’s chapter on the Englishes of London and the Southeast of England provides an extensive phonological description of these dialects that takes up most of the chapter, with sociolinguistic aspects only mentioned in connection to linguistic features as they are explained, the chapter on English in Ireland in the same volume devotes most of its pages to the region’s sociocultural background and language contacts, dedicating only a few short sections to the description of linguistic features. Given that its chapters have been written as self-contained essays, the series will also greatly benefit from establishing more links between its chapters and volumes that will enable readers to make connections between varieties and regions that have followed similar patterns of development or have had some degree of influence on each other, as for example, Scottish English and Northeastern English, and Liverpool English and Manx English. This will be especially crucial as the series is completed with subsequent instalments on World Englishes in the Outer and Expanding Circles, to use Kachru’s (1985) terminology, as it will make it possible to compare and contrast varieties of similar colonial histories, language contacts, and substrate and superstrate influences. Such links can be made by including a cumulative index for the whole series or adding cross-references, even by using hyperlinks in an electronic version of the series or in a companion website. Concluding remarks In summary, the first three volumes of the World Englishes series are a detailed, comprehensive exploration of English in its varied origins, forms, and contexts of use. The series' chronological and geographic approach makes it easy to follow the evolution of English, from its birth and early development in the British Isles, to its spread to North and Central America, and its rise as a global lingua franca. It focuses attention not only on well-documented English varieties, but also on lesser known and emerging dialects and creoles spoken in regions that have not been the object of extensive study. It goes beyond mere linguistic description, and delves into the historical, political, economic, social, and cultural issues that underpin every variety of the language. This multidisciplinary view on World Englishes relates this field to other social sciences and may make the series appealing to an audience beyond linguists. The first three volumes of the series show promise for a truly outstanding contribution to the study of global varieties of English, and anyone with an interest in the subject should look forward to its completion. References Kachru B . 1985 . ‘ Standards, Codification and Sociolinguistic Realism: The English Language in the Outer Circle ’ In Quirk R. Widdowson H. (eds), English in the World: Teaching and Learning the Language and Literatures . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 11 – 36 . Seargeant P . 2012 . Exploring World Englishes: Language in a Global Context . London : Routledge . © 2016 Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: email@example.com
International Journal of Lexicography – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 24, 2016
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