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LINGUIST List 23.5287

Sun Dec 16 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Seargeant (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 16-Dec-2012
From: Steffen Schaub <steffen.schaubuni-marburg.de>
Subject: Exploring World Englishes: Language in a Global Context
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-3056.html

AUTHOR: Philip Seargeant
TITLE: Exploring World Englishes
SUBTITLE: Language in a Global Context
SERIES TITLE: Routledge Introductions to Applied Linguistics, Vol. 4
PUBLISHER: Routledge
YEAR: 2012

Steffen Schaub, Department of English Linguistics, Philipps University
Marburg, Germany.

INTRODUCTION

‘Exploring World Englishes: Language in a Global Context’ is the fourth volume
in ‘Routledge Introductions to Applied Linguistics’, a series of introductory
level textbooks covering core topics of Applied Linguistics. The series is
primarily aimed at “those beginning postgraduate studies or taking an
introductory MA course, as well as advanced undergraduates” (p. i). This
textbook is an introduction to the challenges and problems posed by Englishes
in a globalized world, and how these problems are addressed. By adopting the
plural noun, the author subscribes to the position that the English language
should be seen “not as a single, monolithic entity, but as something that has
multiple varieties and forms” (p. 1). The book follows a practice-to-theory
approach by first discussing real-world problems caused by the forms and
functions of World Englishes (WE) before relating these problems to the
theoretical frameworks developed in academic discourse.

SUMMARY

The book includes 14 chapters, a commentary section, a glossary, an annotated
further reading section, a list of references, and an index. The book is
divided into two parts: Part I, ‘English in the world today’, deals with the
problems and practical issues connected with World Englishes; and Part II,
‘World Englishes as an academic discipline’, discusses theoretical issues that
have emerged in academic discourse. Part I is comprised of sections A and B.
The first four chapters (section A) introduce the reader to the history and
current status of English in the world, and the problems it poses for language
practitioners. Section B (chapters 5 to 8) presents strategies for dealing
with these problems. Part II (Section C; chapters 9 to 14) relates the
problems explored in the preceding sections to theoretical frameworks. Each
chapter (except chapters 1, 5 and 9) includes study questions for which
feedback is provided in a separate commentary section at the end of the book.
In the following I will briefly review the chapters individually (chapters 1,
5 and 9 are not reviewed, as they simply act as short introductions to each of
the three sections).

Chapter 2, ‘English in the world today’ is a concise introduction to the
central terms and concepts necessary for the study of global English
varieties. This is achieved by focusing on those aspects of linguistics and
sociolinguistics that are immediately relevant for a basic understanding of
variation in WE. Starting with a discussion of three authentic examples of
English language usage in various contexts, the author illustrates how English
interacts with or “rubs up” against other languages in order to meet the needs
of its speakers. This is followed by a brief outline of the levels of
linguistic description -- phonology, lexis, grammar, and orthography -- at
which this interaction occurs. The author highlights that “these various
differences are not, in themselves, a ‘problem’ -- they only become
problematic when they occur within social situations which make them a
problem” (p. 23). To support this, the reader is introduced to various
sociolinguistic parameters, including standard language, register,
intelligibility and cultural identity.

Chapter 3, “The context and history of World Englishes”, provides statistics
on the use of English worldwide, and briefly summarizes the historical
development of global English. Individual sections are devoted to colonialism
and its linguistic outcomes, pidgins and creoles.

Chapter 4, “Problems for practitioners in World Englishes”, is a discussion of
practical issues posed by Englishes in two social areas, language education
and language policy. With regard to language teaching, a core problem lies in
the decision to rely on an exonormative or an endonormative model, i.e.
whether English language teaching is based on an external standard such as
British or American English, or on a local variety. This choice has
implications for the variety used in instruction and assessment, and,
consequently, for teacher selection. The author stresses that the decision has
to be made individually, and offers a neutral comparison of various factors
involved to facilitate this decision. The same factors also play a role in
language policy strategies on a national scale: Governmental language
initiatives, particularly in post-colonial settings, often struggle to strike
a balance between the external pressures of globalization while, at the same
time, forming and maintaining a national identity.

Chapter 6, “The global language paradigm”, critically assesses the potential
of English as a global lingua franca. Prior to the era of English as a global
language, the idea of having a universal means of communication had been
approached by devising artificial and auxiliary languages or by simplifying
existing ones. Although these endeavors were never fully embraced by
significant numbers of speakers, the ideas informing them are now being
transferred to English; that is, to have a politically and culturally neutral,
non-proprietorial language ensuring communication on a global scale. The
author discusses whether English meets these expectations, and points out that
the neutrality of English is not undisputed, given its past as the language of
the British Empire and of American imperialism. Furthermore, the question
remains how world-wide intelligibility can be achieved if even native speakers
have difficulties understanding each other. As a result, the author recommends
that the role of English as a global lingua franca be viewed as a state of
mind, a willingness to adapt to one’s interlocutor, rather than a shared set
of linguistic features.

Chapter 7, “Codification and legitimation”, contrasts with the preceding
chapter by providing arguments for embracing the linguistic diversity of World
Englishes, particularly in practical contexts. It starts off by presenting two
contemporary methods of documenting and corroborating local varieties, namely
the compilation of variety-specific corpora, and the creation of national
dictionaries. Both are strongly tied to the idea of nation-building in that
they codify a discrete national standard. This leads to localized teaching
models which are no longer oriented towards external norms. The author
considers this an important development, particularly as the demographics of
English move from native-speaker to non-native speaker predominance. In other
words, in the case of English, the typical lingua franca situation is no
longer that of a non-native speaker communicating with a native speaker, but
with another non-native speaker. The English used in such situations differs
from exonormative standards; non-native speakers “naturally repair the
irregularities and redundancies” (p. 101) of the native standards (e.g. the
omission of ‘-s’ from third person singular present tense forms), and these
regularizations should be considered part of the language system. Educators
need to be able to distinguish between these innovations (which are shared
among a larger speech community) and individual errors.

Chapter 8, “Policies and cultural practices”, looks at the role of English in
national and institutional contexts. By discussing three case studies, the
author illustrates how different agendas in language policy can lead to
opposing dynamics in language use. The first case study is Singapore, in which
a non-indigenized version of English is openly promoted, while the indigenized
variety, Singlish, is campaigned against. The second case study is a critical
discussion of programs promoting English language learning in developing
countries as a bridge-builder to world economy. The third case study looks at
the multilingual language policy of the European Union, showing that practical
communicative needs often do not agree with idealistic conceptions about
language.

Chapter 10, “World Englishes as an academic discipline”, assesses the status
of World Englishes Studies (WES) as a discrete discipline drawing on
linguistic, sociopolitical and cultural aspects. Following a short discussion
of what makes an academic discipline, the author outlines the four major
stages in which the WE paradigm developed, and which other disciplines and
research traditions have influenced it. Of these, the sociolinguistic
tradition receives prominent treatment with a summary of the Quirk-Kachru
debate of the early 1990s.

Chapter 11, “English as an object of study” highlights one of the core
problems of WES, namely to define what constitutes English. The author argues
that English as analyzed by WES is a discursive construction; instead of
presenting a clearly definable external object of study, it is academic
research (and the researchers) shaping what we perceive as English. This is
exemplified by pidgins and creoles, which may or may not be considered part of
the larger English-language complex, depending on one’s perspective. The
second part of the chapter discusses the two major language ideologies
associated with WES. The ideology of authenticity holds that language is an
identity marker of a particular speech community, while the ideology of
anonymity stresses the neutrality of (the English) language and its potential
to ensure barrier-free communication. The author attributes numerous of the
conflicts presented in the book to this opposition, and points out that
English -- as a single, monolithic entity -- can never fulfill both
ideologies, while a varied and diversified, pluralized English can.

Chapter 12, “Models and theoretical frameworks”, provides concise overviews of
some of the most influential models and theories of WES. The author compares
Kachru’s Three Circles model (Kachru 1988) and Schneider’s Dynamic Model
(Schneider 2007), summarizing advantages as well as major points of criticism.
By doing this, the reader gains an understanding of how theoretical frameworks
are adapted to meet the requirements of a shifting academic discipline. While
the remainder of the book portrays the spread of English mainly as positive,
this chapter includes theories which take a highly critical, politically
motivated position, such as the theory of linguistic imperialism.

Chapter 13, “Naming and describing the English language”, looks at the
multiple names that have been given to English in academic discourse. The
chapter is based on Seargeant (2010), but is slightly rewritten to accommodate
a beginner readership. The author offers a taxonomy of six categories into
which different names of (varieties of) English can be grouped: On the basis
of function, community, history, structure, ecology, and English as multiplex.
Two trends are discernible: 1) the use of the plural noun ‘Englishes’
indicates the discipline’s interest to stress the diverse forms of English in
use around the globe, and 2) political and social factors are more relevant in
the coinage of names than linguistic ones. In all, the chapter cuts a way
through the complex terminological situation in WES, while at the same time
showcasing the wealth of research directions it offers.

Chapter 14, “Conclusion: The state of the discipline”, emphasizes the
connection between WES and education which dominates a large portion of
current research and debate. In addition, the author condenses the insights of
the book to two central questions: How does human language express reality?,
and what role does it play in our everyday lives? These, the author concludes,
are questions that “go to the very heart of how human language operates” (p.
179).

EVALUATION

This book is an excellent introduction to World Englishes. What distinguishes
it from most introductory textbooks in this field is its applied approach.
Instead of presenting the reader with the wealth of descriptive and
sociolinguistic knowledge that has accumulated over the past 30 years, the
author focuses on the problems World Englishes cause in the sectors of
education and language policy, and how these problems have been approached.
This secures ‘Exploring World Englishes’ a unique position in the selection of
textbooks available in the World Englishes discipline.

A major advantage of the textbook is its suitability for both beginners and
advanced readers. It is written in a clear and accessible style, and new
terminology is defined in the text. In addition, the same terms and
definitions are collected in a glossary in the back of the book. The study
questions at the end of each chapter and the commentary section assist the
reader in working out the key points. Finally, the annotated further reading
section is a concise guide to influential works in WES.

Owing to these advantages, ‘Exploring World Englishes’ proves to be a valuable
resource for instructors and students. It is suitable as primary reading in a
course on World Englishes, particularly if the audience is comprised of
students with basic or little linguistic background. It is valuable to
students of linguistics, aspiring English-language educators, and students of
communication studies. Individual chapters may be used as contributions to
courses in applied linguistics and English language teaching.

A point of criticism concerns the study questions at the end of each chapter.
Their main purpose is to support the reader in reflecting upon the chapter’s
content. This being a textbook, the reader might have benefited from
additional transfer tasks involving further examples and language data.

In conclusion, ‘Exploring World Englishes’ is an excellent resource for
teachers, students and linguists wishing to gain a better understanding of the
relations between education, politics and language in a globalized world.

REFERENCES

Kachru, Braj B. 1988. The sacred cows of English. English Today 7: 3-13.

Seargeant, Philip. 2010. Naming and defining in World Englishes. World
Englishes 29:1, pp. 99-115.

Schneider, Edgar W. 2007. Postcolonial English: Varieties Around the World.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Steffen Schaub is a Research Assistant in the Department of English
Linguistics at Philipps University of Marburg, Germany. He holds a degree in
English Linguistics, Linguistic Engineering and American Studies, and is
currently working on his PhD thesis on noun phrase variation in New Englishes.
His research interests include variation in World Englishes, corpus
linguistics and language typology.
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