World Englishes: A Critical Analysis

World Englishes: A Critical Analysis In the preface to this book, Saraceni reminds us that the field of World Englishes was originally seen as being anti-conventional and rule-breaking, but he feels that it has become more conventional and he urges that the field needs to rekindle its anti-conventional position; and, happily, that there are signs that this is happening. The major distinction he draws is that the conventional side of the field of World Englishes tends to see language as a system; something that is relatively stable and which can be described and compared. This view sees language as an object. Saraceni himself, however, sees language as a form of social practice, where language is a process characterized by perpetual change and regulated by contextual factors. I think he may make too much out of this distinction as many of us who agree that language is a social practice and constantly changing also recognize that it is regarded by its speakers as something that can indeed be described and taught. After all, if a person knows French and Japanese that person can easily distinguish between the two languages and recognize when someone is speaking Japanese and when someone is speaking French. Indeed Saraceni himself does recognize this too. He quotes (p. 133) Joseph: ‘[S]o long as people believe that their way of speaking constitutes language in its own right, there is a real sense in which it is a real language’ (Joseph 2006: 27). At the same time he also cites Bolton (p. 7), saying that: ‘[I]t would be unfortunate if the world English paradigm remained static at a time when new patterns of language contact and linguistic flow are emerging and gaining recognition’ (Bolton 2013: 249). In one sense, therefore, the book debates these two positions—that of language as a relatively stable system and that of language as a form of social practice—and comes down on the side of language being a form of social practice. In addition to the Introduction, this informative and thoughtful book, which was the winner of the 2016 British Association of Applied linguistics (BAAL) prize, is divided into four parts, namely: history (comprising Chapters 2 and 3), language (comprising Chapters 4 and 5), ideology (comprising Chapter 6) and pedagogy (comprising Chapter 7). In Chapter 2, Saraceni challenges the conventional wisdom of the claim that English developed as a language from the language(s) brought to Britain in around 450 AD. He believes that this is a myth promoted by those who want to present the idea of an English nation and an English language. He wonders whether Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales can really be said to have been written in the same language. This is an interesting idea. As Saraceni notes, languages change over time and contact with other languages is a common cause of such change. To what extent the contact with other languages makes the language a ‘new’ or ‘another’ language is a fascinating question and one that the field of World Englishes has been debating for many years. In Chapter 3, he moves on to talk about New Englishes. He quotes (p. 44) from the founder of the field of World Englishes, Braj Kachru, explaining that one reason for the ‘dominance of English is its propensity for acquiring new identities …, its adaptability to decolonisation as a language … and above all, its provision of a flexible medium for literary and other types of creativity across languages and cultures’ (Kachru 1987: 222). At the same time, he criticizes Kachru’s influential ‘three circles’ classification of Inner, Outer and Expanding Circle Englishes as being too geographically constrained and for being a nation-based model, whereby one talks, for example, about Malaysian English and Indian English. But it is a mark of how thoughtful and fair the author is in his criticism that he also acknowledges the outstanding debt made to the field by Kachru in the way that the three-circles model made English a plural noun; it ‘helped push the boundary from singularity to plurality’ (p. 53). Chapter 3 also contains a thoughtful description and discussion of other influential models of English, including Schneider’s ‘Dynamic Model’ and the classification of World Englishes proposed by Melchers and Shaw. The chapter also includes a very interesting discussion of the development of American English and he quotes Thomas Jefferson (pp. 61–62)—indeed, one of the strengths of the book is the way the author is able to bring a historical perspective to many contemporary debates—on the way new varieties develop. As Jefferson’s view pre-dates much current thinking on the development of varieties, it is worth quoting here at some length. Against those who ‘set their faces against the introduction of new words into the English language’ and who are ‘particularly apprehensive that the writers of the United States will adulterate it’, Jefferson notes that: ‘The new circumstances under which we are placed, calls for new words, new phrases, and for the transfer of old words to new objects. An American dialect will therefore be formed; so will a West Indian and Asiatic, as a Scotch and an Irish are already formed.’ Saraceni then describes how postcolonial writers have been able to stretch and adapt English so that it can describe their own circumstances, contexts and cultural values and gives interesting examples of this. What is missing in this treatment, however, is the view of those postcolonial writers, such as the Sri Lankan poet, Lakdasa Wickkramasingha, who view writing in English as a form of betrayal, of cultural treason. In Chapter 4, the first in the section on language itself, he criticizes the standard approach which measures new varieties against the norms of British or American English, noting that: ‘[I]t is difficult to reconcile the special emphasis devoted to difference in World Englishes with its general ethos which promotes equality’ (p. 104). He asks who decides what the difference is between an error and a new linguistic feature. He would like the field to be ‘prepared to sever the umbilical cord between local manifestations of English and idealised notions of an ancestral home’ (p. 105). In this, he is arguing that new varieties of English be described in their own right. The chapter also includes a review of recent research into English as a lingua franca, which he rightly sees as complementary to work in World Englishes rather than antagonistic towards it. He also rightly stresses (p. 104) that English as a lingua franca is not a variety, but, as Seidlhofer (2011: 10) explains, a ‘variable exploitation of linguistic resources’. In Chapter 5 he gives an illuminating example of how different varieties of English need to be described in their own right. He cites work on Singaporean English by Alsagoff which shows that Singaporean English follows its own rules with regard to the use of the plural marker ‘s’ on what, in standard English, are referred to as uncountable nouns. In Singaporean English, ‘s’ is added to such nouns when the speaker is being specific and not added when the speaker is being more general. For example: All our furnitures are on sale this Christmas (specific). Cheap and good furniture is not easy to find (general). The remainder of Chapter 5 is given over to how World Englishes can begin to accommodate linguistic diversity; Saraceni thoughtfully reviews and acknowledges work by scholars such as Pennycook and Blommaert; and he quotes Bolton again (p. 120), who calls for a move from World Englishes to language worlds. Quoting Blommaert and Rampton (p. 133), Saraceni notes that: ‘Research … has to address the ways in which people take on different linguistic forms as they align and disaffiliate with different groups at different moments and stages’ (Blommaert and Rampton 2011: 5). Thus the study of World Englishes needs to shift from a geographical perspective to a personal one (Yano 2009). Chapter 6 is entitled ‘Linguistic Imperialism and Resistance’, in which the fundamental question he addresses is: ‘What does having ownership of the language mean?’ He reviews a range of key texts and summarizes Robert Phillipson’s criticism of David Crystal’s view, as presented in his 2003 book English as a Global Language, that English has somehow, of its own volition, engineered its own spread. English did not spread itself. It was spread by and/or adopted by people for a range of different motivations. Phillipson, however, is somewhat wary of the role of human agency, taking the view that it is influenced by ideology. People choose English because it is the dominant language. The question here that Saraceni poses is ‘Are people empowered or disempowered when they choose English?’ (p. 156). The review of the literature surrounding the notion of linguistic imperialism is even-handed as the author gives space to scholars’ various criticisms of the theory. He concludes by agreeing with Pennycook (2012: 26) that it is not English per se that has caused the problem but the discourses that surround English. This distinction fits with the overall theme of this book: English is not a stable linguistic system; it is a form of social practice. And Saraceni wonders whether education can ‘finally help permanently uncouple the English language from England in the minds of those who learn to use this language as part of their social practice?’ (p. 167). Chapter 7 and the section on pedagogy make up the final chapter of the book. Saraceni’s concern here is that, despite the decades of scholarship and research into World Englishes that has illustrated how new varieties of English have developed and become owned by their new speakers, many ministries of education and, it has to be said, learners of English still see the native-speaker model as the one to aim for and that native speakers of English are, by definition, best placed to teach English. One answer is that ‘One-English fits all and monolingualism’ (p. 179) are seen as more efficient and easier to package. The crucial question remaining for the field of World Englishes is how can an epistemic shift be implemented within a World Englishes framework? In answering this question from the point of view of pedagogy, Saraceni revisits the six suggestions first proposed by Kachru (1992), arguing that these are ‘eminently sensible and can be adapted to the twenty-first century’ (p. 186). Kachru’s original six suggestions were: Sociolinguistic profile—providing students with an overview of English in its world context. Variety exposure—providing materials of different varieties of English, both native and non-native. Attitudinal neutrality—for teaching purposes focus on one variety but raise awareness of other varieties. Range of uses—include educated varieties and basilectal varieties and their appropriate uses. Contrastive pragmatics—describe how discourse reflects cultural traditions and values and how these can differ across varieties. Multidimensionality of functions—introduce different genres, registers, etc. and their functions. This is a timely reminder of the many contributions Braj Kachru made to the field as many younger scholars are now considering similar ideas. To these suggestions I would add recent advances in the development of an ELF-aware approach to language teaching (see Sifakis and Tsantsila, forthcoming) where context of the teaching and learning of English is all important so it must be ‘open, inclusive and flexible’. In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book both to students of World Englishes and to general readers who want a well-written, accessible and up-to-date overview of the field. Andy Kirkpatrick is Professor in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Griffith University, Brisbane. He is the author of World Englishes: Implications for ELT and International Communication (CUP) and English as a Lingua Franca in ASEAN: A Multilingual Model (Hong Kong University Press). He is the editor of the Routledge Handbook of World Englishes. His most recent books are English as an Asian Language: Implications for Language Education, coedited with Roly Sussex and published by Springer, and Chinese Rhetoric and Writing, coauthored with Xu Zhichang and published by Parlor Press. References Blommaert, J. and Rampton B.. 2011. ‘ Language and superdiversity’. Diversities  13/ 2: 1– 21. Bolton, K. 2012. ‘ World Englishes and linguistic landscapes’. World Englishes  31/ 1: 30– 33. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Bolton, K. 2013. ‘ World Englishes, globalisation and language worlds’ in N. Johannesson, G. Melchers, and B. Bjorkman (eds.). Of Butterflies and Birds, of Dialects and Genres: Essays in Honour of Philip Shaw . Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis (Vol. 104, pp. 227– 51). Joseph, J.E. 2006. Language and Politics . Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Kachru, B. 1987. ‘ The spread of English and sacred linguistic cows’ in P. Lowenberg (ed.). Georgetown University Roundtable on Language and Linguistics 1987 . Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press (pp. 207– 28). Kachru, B. 1992. ‘ Teaching world Englishes’ in B. Kachru (ed.). The Other Tongue , 2nd edn. Champaign: University of Illinois Press (pp. 355– 65). Pennycook, A. 2012. ‘ Afterword: could Heracles have gone about things differently?’ in V. Rapatahana and P. Bunce (eds.). English Language as Hydra . Bristol: Multilingual Matters (pp. 255– 62). Seidlhofer, B. 2011. Understanding English as a Lingua Franca . Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sifakis, N. and N. Tsantila (eds.). forthcoming. ELF for EFL Contexts . Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Yano, Y. 2009. ‘ The future of English: beyond the Kachruvian three circle model?’ in K. Murata and J. Jenkins (eds.). Global Englishes in Asian Contexts: Current and Future Debates . Basingstoke: Palgrave (pp. 208– 25). Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png ELT Journal Oxford University Press

World Englishes: A Critical Analysis

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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved.
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Abstract

In the preface to this book, Saraceni reminds us that the field of World Englishes was originally seen as being anti-conventional and rule-breaking, but he feels that it has become more conventional and he urges that the field needs to rekindle its anti-conventional position; and, happily, that there are signs that this is happening. The major distinction he draws is that the conventional side of the field of World Englishes tends to see language as a system; something that is relatively stable and which can be described and compared. This view sees language as an object. Saraceni himself, however, sees language as a form of social practice, where language is a process characterized by perpetual change and regulated by contextual factors. I think he may make too much out of this distinction as many of us who agree that language is a social practice and constantly changing also recognize that it is regarded by its speakers as something that can indeed be described and taught. After all, if a person knows French and Japanese that person can easily distinguish between the two languages and recognize when someone is speaking Japanese and when someone is speaking French. Indeed Saraceni himself does recognize this too. He quotes (p. 133) Joseph: ‘[S]o long as people believe that their way of speaking constitutes language in its own right, there is a real sense in which it is a real language’ (Joseph 2006: 27). At the same time he also cites Bolton (p. 7), saying that: ‘[I]t would be unfortunate if the world English paradigm remained static at a time when new patterns of language contact and linguistic flow are emerging and gaining recognition’ (Bolton 2013: 249). In one sense, therefore, the book debates these two positions—that of language as a relatively stable system and that of language as a form of social practice—and comes down on the side of language being a form of social practice. In addition to the Introduction, this informative and thoughtful book, which was the winner of the 2016 British Association of Applied linguistics (BAAL) prize, is divided into four parts, namely: history (comprising Chapters 2 and 3), language (comprising Chapters 4 and 5), ideology (comprising Chapter 6) and pedagogy (comprising Chapter 7). In Chapter 2, Saraceni challenges the conventional wisdom of the claim that English developed as a language from the language(s) brought to Britain in around 450 AD. He believes that this is a myth promoted by those who want to present the idea of an English nation and an English language. He wonders whether Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales can really be said to have been written in the same language. This is an interesting idea. As Saraceni notes, languages change over time and contact with other languages is a common cause of such change. To what extent the contact with other languages makes the language a ‘new’ or ‘another’ language is a fascinating question and one that the field of World Englishes has been debating for many years. In Chapter 3, he moves on to talk about New Englishes. He quotes (p. 44) from the founder of the field of World Englishes, Braj Kachru, explaining that one reason for the ‘dominance of English is its propensity for acquiring new identities …, its adaptability to decolonisation as a language … and above all, its provision of a flexible medium for literary and other types of creativity across languages and cultures’ (Kachru 1987: 222). At the same time, he criticizes Kachru’s influential ‘three circles’ classification of Inner, Outer and Expanding Circle Englishes as being too geographically constrained and for being a nation-based model, whereby one talks, for example, about Malaysian English and Indian English. But it is a mark of how thoughtful and fair the author is in his criticism that he also acknowledges the outstanding debt made to the field by Kachru in the way that the three-circles model made English a plural noun; it ‘helped push the boundary from singularity to plurality’ (p. 53). Chapter 3 also contains a thoughtful description and discussion of other influential models of English, including Schneider’s ‘Dynamic Model’ and the classification of World Englishes proposed by Melchers and Shaw. The chapter also includes a very interesting discussion of the development of American English and he quotes Thomas Jefferson (pp. 61–62)—indeed, one of the strengths of the book is the way the author is able to bring a historical perspective to many contemporary debates—on the way new varieties develop. As Jefferson’s view pre-dates much current thinking on the development of varieties, it is worth quoting here at some length. Against those who ‘set their faces against the introduction of new words into the English language’ and who are ‘particularly apprehensive that the writers of the United States will adulterate it’, Jefferson notes that: ‘The new circumstances under which we are placed, calls for new words, new phrases, and for the transfer of old words to new objects. An American dialect will therefore be formed; so will a West Indian and Asiatic, as a Scotch and an Irish are already formed.’ Saraceni then describes how postcolonial writers have been able to stretch and adapt English so that it can describe their own circumstances, contexts and cultural values and gives interesting examples of this. What is missing in this treatment, however, is the view of those postcolonial writers, such as the Sri Lankan poet, Lakdasa Wickkramasingha, who view writing in English as a form of betrayal, of cultural treason. In Chapter 4, the first in the section on language itself, he criticizes the standard approach which measures new varieties against the norms of British or American English, noting that: ‘[I]t is difficult to reconcile the special emphasis devoted to difference in World Englishes with its general ethos which promotes equality’ (p. 104). He asks who decides what the difference is between an error and a new linguistic feature. He would like the field to be ‘prepared to sever the umbilical cord between local manifestations of English and idealised notions of an ancestral home’ (p. 105). In this, he is arguing that new varieties of English be described in their own right. The chapter also includes a review of recent research into English as a lingua franca, which he rightly sees as complementary to work in World Englishes rather than antagonistic towards it. He also rightly stresses (p. 104) that English as a lingua franca is not a variety, but, as Seidlhofer (2011: 10) explains, a ‘variable exploitation of linguistic resources’. In Chapter 5 he gives an illuminating example of how different varieties of English need to be described in their own right. He cites work on Singaporean English by Alsagoff which shows that Singaporean English follows its own rules with regard to the use of the plural marker ‘s’ on what, in standard English, are referred to as uncountable nouns. In Singaporean English, ‘s’ is added to such nouns when the speaker is being specific and not added when the speaker is being more general. For example: All our furnitures are on sale this Christmas (specific). Cheap and good furniture is not easy to find (general). The remainder of Chapter 5 is given over to how World Englishes can begin to accommodate linguistic diversity; Saraceni thoughtfully reviews and acknowledges work by scholars such as Pennycook and Blommaert; and he quotes Bolton again (p. 120), who calls for a move from World Englishes to language worlds. Quoting Blommaert and Rampton (p. 133), Saraceni notes that: ‘Research … has to address the ways in which people take on different linguistic forms as they align and disaffiliate with different groups at different moments and stages’ (Blommaert and Rampton 2011: 5). Thus the study of World Englishes needs to shift from a geographical perspective to a personal one (Yano 2009). Chapter 6 is entitled ‘Linguistic Imperialism and Resistance’, in which the fundamental question he addresses is: ‘What does having ownership of the language mean?’ He reviews a range of key texts and summarizes Robert Phillipson’s criticism of David Crystal’s view, as presented in his 2003 book English as a Global Language, that English has somehow, of its own volition, engineered its own spread. English did not spread itself. It was spread by and/or adopted by people for a range of different motivations. Phillipson, however, is somewhat wary of the role of human agency, taking the view that it is influenced by ideology. People choose English because it is the dominant language. The question here that Saraceni poses is ‘Are people empowered or disempowered when they choose English?’ (p. 156). The review of the literature surrounding the notion of linguistic imperialism is even-handed as the author gives space to scholars’ various criticisms of the theory. He concludes by agreeing with Pennycook (2012: 26) that it is not English per se that has caused the problem but the discourses that surround English. This distinction fits with the overall theme of this book: English is not a stable linguistic system; it is a form of social practice. And Saraceni wonders whether education can ‘finally help permanently uncouple the English language from England in the minds of those who learn to use this language as part of their social practice?’ (p. 167). Chapter 7 and the section on pedagogy make up the final chapter of the book. Saraceni’s concern here is that, despite the decades of scholarship and research into World Englishes that has illustrated how new varieties of English have developed and become owned by their new speakers, many ministries of education and, it has to be said, learners of English still see the native-speaker model as the one to aim for and that native speakers of English are, by definition, best placed to teach English. One answer is that ‘One-English fits all and monolingualism’ (p. 179) are seen as more efficient and easier to package. The crucial question remaining for the field of World Englishes is how can an epistemic shift be implemented within a World Englishes framework? In answering this question from the point of view of pedagogy, Saraceni revisits the six suggestions first proposed by Kachru (1992), arguing that these are ‘eminently sensible and can be adapted to the twenty-first century’ (p. 186). Kachru’s original six suggestions were: Sociolinguistic profile—providing students with an overview of English in its world context. Variety exposure—providing materials of different varieties of English, both native and non-native. Attitudinal neutrality—for teaching purposes focus on one variety but raise awareness of other varieties. Range of uses—include educated varieties and basilectal varieties and their appropriate uses. Contrastive pragmatics—describe how discourse reflects cultural traditions and values and how these can differ across varieties. Multidimensionality of functions—introduce different genres, registers, etc. and their functions. This is a timely reminder of the many contributions Braj Kachru made to the field as many younger scholars are now considering similar ideas. To these suggestions I would add recent advances in the development of an ELF-aware approach to language teaching (see Sifakis and Tsantsila, forthcoming) where context of the teaching and learning of English is all important so it must be ‘open, inclusive and flexible’. In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book both to students of World Englishes and to general readers who want a well-written, accessible and up-to-date overview of the field. Andy Kirkpatrick is Professor in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Griffith University, Brisbane. He is the author of World Englishes: Implications for ELT and International Communication (CUP) and English as a Lingua Franca in ASEAN: A Multilingual Model (Hong Kong University Press). He is the editor of the Routledge Handbook of World Englishes. His most recent books are English as an Asian Language: Implications for Language Education, coedited with Roly Sussex and published by Springer, and Chinese Rhetoric and Writing, coauthored with Xu Zhichang and published by Parlor Press. References Blommaert, J. and Rampton B.. 2011. ‘ Language and superdiversity’. Diversities  13/ 2: 1– 21. Bolton, K. 2012. ‘ World Englishes and linguistic landscapes’. World Englishes  31/ 1: 30– 33. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Bolton, K. 2013. ‘ World Englishes, globalisation and language worlds’ in N. Johannesson, G. Melchers, and B. Bjorkman (eds.). Of Butterflies and Birds, of Dialects and Genres: Essays in Honour of Philip Shaw . Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis (Vol. 104, pp. 227– 51). Joseph, J.E. 2006. Language and Politics . Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Kachru, B. 1987. ‘ The spread of English and sacred linguistic cows’ in P. Lowenberg (ed.). Georgetown University Roundtable on Language and Linguistics 1987 . Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press (pp. 207– 28). Kachru, B. 1992. ‘ Teaching world Englishes’ in B. Kachru (ed.). The Other Tongue , 2nd edn. Champaign: University of Illinois Press (pp. 355– 65). Pennycook, A. 2012. ‘ Afterword: could Heracles have gone about things differently?’ in V. Rapatahana and P. Bunce (eds.). English Language as Hydra . Bristol: Multilingual Matters (pp. 255– 62). Seidlhofer, B. 2011. Understanding English as a Lingua Franca . Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sifakis, N. and N. Tsantila (eds.). forthcoming. ELF for EFL Contexts . Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Yano, Y. 2009. ‘ The future of English: beyond the Kachruvian three circle model?’ in K. Murata and J. Jenkins (eds.). Global Englishes in Asian Contexts: Current and Future Debates . Basingstoke: Palgrave (pp. 208– 25). Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved.

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ELT JournalOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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