AUTHOR: Schneider, Edgar W.
TITLE: Postcolonial English
SUBTITLE: Varieties around the world
SERIES: Cambridge Approaches to Language Contact
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
Eric A. Anchimbe, Department of English and American Studies, University of
The study of English varieties has seen a display of ''colorful'' and also
''colorless'' names: non-native Englishes, second language (L2) varieties, World
Englishes, New Englishes, nativized, indigenized, localized, domesticated
Englishes, etc. And now Edgar W. Schneider comes up with yet another name:
Postcolonial Englishes. The expression “Postcolonial Englishes” had been used
before in books and articles, e.g. Moore (2001), Mair (2003), Hickey (2004) and
in courses at various universities, e.g. Edgar Schneider - University of
Regensburg, Lisa Lim—University of Amsterdam, Eric Anchimbe, University of
Bayreuth, and although this appellation had been mentioned before by Hickey
(2004) - though not in the title of his edited work _Legacies of Colonial
English: Studies in Transported Dialects_ – Schneider's use of the term focuses
more on the second wave of British colonial expansion in the 19th century to
Africa, the Caribbean and South East Asia (however, he includes America more or
less to prove the applicability of the Dynamic Model developed in the book),
which did not involve the settlement of British people in these areas. Hickey
(2004) rather pays more attention to the first colonial expansion, which
involved settlement of British people in Australia, New Zealand, North America,
South Africa, South Asia, especially. In proposing what is ''the first unified,
coherent theory to account specifically for the evolution of PCEs [Postcolonial
Englishes] around the globe'' (p.4), Schneider adopts this name ''not only because
it is more neutral but also because it focuses precisely on [...] a specific
evolutionary process tied directly to their colonial and postcolonial history''
The variation in names mirrors the ever increasing interest in the field of
varieties of English in a way similar to the ever increasing attraction of
speakers of other languages to English. While this interest has increased over
the years, the disparaging views prominent in the discourse in the 1980s and
1990s seem to be converging with fewer and fewer scholars still emphasizing that
non-native varieties of English, especially those that emerged after the second
colonization (i.e. exploitation colonization), are degenerate and sub-standard
due to several factors, among them, the interference of indigenous languages and
poor acquisition patterns. Schneider's ''Dynamic Model'' therefore comes in handy
to consolidate this convergence, uniting the often isolated analysis of
individual Postcolonial Englishes into a more compact framework from which
generalizations could be made that trace a somewhat uniform evolutionary
trajectory for these Englishes (see the case studies, chapter 5 & 6).
This model is intended to illustrate how the foreign language, English, sheds
off its foreignness to become an indigenous language in the areas to which it
was transported by the forces of colonialism. The model identifies five phases
in this process: 1) Foundation, 2) Exonormative stabilization, 3) Nativization,
4) Endonormative stabilization, and 5) Differentiation. The case studies (i.e.
countries) presented in chapter 5 find themselves at different positions on the
model, which draws on extra-linguistic ecological factors to account for the
evolution of varieties English. To test the applicability of this model,
Schneider plots the life cycle of American English on it, which as he says,
''provides an almost unique opportunity to observe the entire developmental cycle
in hindsight, as it were'' (p. 251).
This book takes up, in a larger and deeper manner, the ideas and facts reported
in Schneider's earlier paper ''The dynamics of New Englishes: From identity
construction to dialect birth'' published in _Language_ 79 (pp.233-81, 2003).
Although maintaining the core issues discussed in that paper, it ''presents a
wide range of new data and case studies'' while at the same time developing,
modifying and expanding certain elements of the core hypothesis (p.xiii).
The book is made up of seven chapters including the introduction (chapter 1) and
conclusion (chapter 7). The introduction presents the author's aims, justifies
the name ''Postcolonial English'', and summarizes the other chapters. It also
discusses, briefly, the complex nature of English: a language of international
communication that links people across the globe but one that has diversified,
Schneider adds ''contrary to expectation'', and has developed local, ''homegrown
forms and uses in many locations'' (p.1); a language imposed by colonizers in
certain areas but still adopted in postcolonial times as a neutral code for
official national business, without any resentment to it as a symbol of ''foreign
dominance and loss of political and cultural sovereignty'' (p.2). The core thesis
of the book is that, in spite of the seeming dissimilarities—historical,
linguistic, and social—between locations to which English spread, there is a
fundamental uniformity in the developmental process of the language in all these
postcolonial areas, shaped variously by ecological (mostly external ecological
or extralinguistic) factors.
Adopting Mufwene's (2001) concept of the feature pool, Chapter 2, ''Charting the
territory: Postcolonial Englishes as a field of linguistic investigation'',
traces the origins of PCEs, their evolution as discussed by theorists in the
past few decades, and the linguistic disciplines that served as precursors in
studying variation in PCEs. These include dialect geography, sociolinguistics
and contact linguistics (Pidgin and Creoles studies, especially). Schneider,
like Mufwene and others, declares as misguided the popular idea that there is
just one standard of the language from which other varieties, especially
non-native (i.e. New Englishes or PCEs) are simply deviant, broken and incorrect
realizations. In classifying Pidgins and Creoles together with PCEs and combing
through the major divergent views on their origins and development, Schneider
makes the claim, consistent with the thesis of this book and with recent
scholarship (see Mufwene 2001, Degraff 2003), that both Creoles and PCEs ''are
largely products of language contact, albeit to varying degrees, which provides
a common framework for them to be investigated'' (p.11). Contact, he insists, is
ubiquitous in the evolution of languages and language varieties even though
historical linguists have tended to overemphasize the purity of languages by
playing down the impact of contact on them.
The chapter identifies two widely adopted theoretical models of PCEs: the
distinction of English as a native language, English as a second language, and
English as a foreign language (EFL) (see McArthur 1998), and Kachru's (1985)
''The Three Circles'' model. Both models however are fuzzy and superficial since
they neither exhaustively list countries that belong to each of the categories
nor provide linguistic features identifiable with each of them. The Dynamic
Model hopefully would fill this theoretical gap. Schneider groups the approaches
into four categories: theoretical, political, descriptive and applied, arranged
on two dimensions: ''attention to linguistic structure'' and ''level of generality''
The focus of Chapter 3, ''The evolution of postcolonial Englishes: The Dynamic
Model'', is largely on the ''Dynamic Model'', which the author in the first section
of the chapter situates within relevant and supportive theoretical models viz
Mufwene's (2001) feature pool idea and Thomason's (2001) language contact
hypothesis/theory. Emphasizing the uniformity of underlying processes in the
evolution of PCEs, the Dynamic Model, motivated largely by language contact,
upholds that in the course of selecting features from the feature pool,
''speakers keep redefining and expressing their linguistic and social identities,
constantly aligning themselves with other individuals and thereby accommodating
their speech behaviour to those they wish to associate and be associated with''
(p.21). The model has five phases that follow each other on a progressive,
historical plane: foundation (the arrival and initial widespread use of English
in a previously non-English-speaking location), exonormative stabilization
(stable usage of English dictated predominantly by settler native speakers and
based on the native variety they brought with them), nativization (both settler
and indigenous realities are reflected in the new hybrid co-existence),
endonormative stabilization (an indigenous linguistic norm takes root and is
accepted by members of the community), and differentiation (members of the
community display linguistic independence and pride in the variety they speak).
Each of these phases is marked by the sociopolitical background at the time,
speakers' identity constructions, the sociolinguistic conditions that shape
them, and the linguistic effects that result from all these. The author
exemplifies these in greater detail in the case studies (chapter 5).
Chapter 4, ''Linguistic aspects of nativisation'', investigates the structural,
linguistic properties of PCEs and their possible origins. Schneider makes a
thorough presentation of major linguistic features (phonology, lexis and
grammar) of PCEs from Jamaica right across to Singapore in a peculiar manner
that accentuates the process of structural nativization, which he confesses, is
''the core component and the most interesting parameter of the Dynamic Model''
(p.71). Using many examples, he identifies the major linguistic processes on the
road to nativization, evaluating them, among other things, from the perspective
of internal and external factors in language change, and the nature of features
contributed to the feature pool. So, features of PCEs are the outcome of
continuity, innovation and exaptation, and contact. These features, especially
competing equivalents, go through diffusion and selection (Mufwene 2001) before
arriving at the norm of the variety through the aid of factors like: demography,
frequency of usage, historical depth, markedness of forms, salience of forms,
transparency and regularity, status of speakers, identity-marking functions of
linguistic forms, and similarity and difference between L1 and L2 forms and
patterns (p. 110-111). Ironically, external rather internal factors are more
powerful in the selection of competing features.
In chapter 5, ''Countries along the cycle: Case studies'', the Dynamic Model is
applied to specific postcolonial countries (and also to the language varieties
spoken there): Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, The Philippines,
Malaysia, Singapore, India, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Cameroon,
Barbados, Jamaica and Canada. In a systematic manner, the author presents
characteristics of the phases of the model the country has gone through, the one
in which it is, and those it may potentially go through in the future. Plotting
these phases into historical dates is for convenience and orientation because
overlaps exist and transitions generally occur over long periods of time.
Fiji, with English as a de facto official language (p.116), is plotted in phase
2 of the cycle. Though there are signs of nativization, i.e. phase 3, it is
difficult to say this phase and later phases would be reached. This is because
the two major populations of the country do not seem to work in the direction of
a joint national identity. Similarly, Cameroon has moved into phase 3 but may
remain stuck there because of the lack of statehood in the two provinces where
English is spoken and competition from French (co-official language). The
Philippines is placed in phase 3, with indications that it may cross to phase 4.
But this is also uncertain due to changing external ecological realities,
specifically, non-attachment to English, linked with opulent, politically strong
elite and socioeconomic stagnation. Nigeria is in transition from phase 3 to 4.
In the absence of ''stabilization of a more homogenous concept of a Standard
Nigerian English'' (p.212), English (and even Pidgin English) have nevertheless
gained respectable statuses among ordinary Nigerians. India, with its long
history of contact with English, occupies phase 3 but also shows early symptoms
of phase 4. Though thawing, there is still resentment to English considered a
class-pruned language; and this is not about to change, except Indians'
raison-d'être for using English changes from a utilitarian to a community
solidarity code (p.173). Currently in phase 3, Malaysian English has some signs
of later stages, but as it stands ''it would be futile to claim that Malaysia has
moved or is moving beyond phase 3'' (p.152) due to unacceptability and the
prevalence of an exonormative norm.
With up to 80% assumed speakers of English, Kenya occupies phase 3 as well. Due
to language mixing, competition from other languages, Kiswahili especially,
Schneider explains that nativization is still ongoing in Kenya and since English
is spreading rather gradually, ''its potential scope seems largely confined''
(p.196). Very similar to Kenya historically, Tanzania has a different linguistic
experience given that English went through a ''repression phase'' (Schmied 1991),
which has left it stuck in early stages of phase 3. English seems to have been
reduced from the English as a second language to the English as a foreign
language status. Hong Kong is one of the last outposts of British colonialism,
having received independence only a decade ago (1997). This recent contact with
colonialist English does not seem to have an added advantage for Hong Kong
English completing the Dynamic Model cycle. It is still in phase 3 - Hong Kong
is perhaps ''an interesting test case for the predictive implications of the
Dynamic Model'' (p.139). Singapore, contrary to the above countries, is already
in phase 4 of the cycle. Singaporeans show communion in their local variety,
which for them is a ''symbolic expression of the pride [...] in their nation''
(p.160). If this trend continues unperturbed, then Singapore is a sure candidate
(among exploitation ex-colonies) to complete the Dynamic Model cycle (like
Australia, Canada and New Zealand).
Jamaica occupies phase 4 and in spite of strong competition from Jamaican
Creole, the language of daily interpersonal communication, Jamaican English
seems poised for phase 5 signaled by symptoms of diversity. Also a Caribbean
country and a plantation colony like Jamaica, Barbados is also in phase 4
characterized by, among other things, ''the growth of an indigenous literature
that prides itself in local traditions and language'' (p.226).
The settlement colonies, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, have completed the
cycle albeit at different historical periods and under divergent political and
linguistic circumstances. Complex as it is and fitting into both English as a
native language/English as a second language and Inner/Outer Circle
classifications, South Africa is in phase 4 even though ''it is not justified to
talk of a single, stabilised, variety'' (p.188). The ''rainbow revolution'' that
ended apartheid and brought Nelson Mandela to power in 1994 changed South
African identities and rekindled interest in English, raising prospects of phase 5.
After the succinct application of the Dynamic Model to the so-called New
Englishes, Chapter 6, ''The cycle in hindsight: The emergence of American
English'', concentrates on American English, plotting it on the five phases of
the model and setting right the misguided conception that American
English—though functioning as one of the two reference accents—is indeed a
Postcolonial English. Contrary to, but along the same lines as, the Postcolonial
Englishes surveyed in chapter 5, American English ''has already come full cycle,
experiencing a fragmentation into new regional and social identity carriers'' (p.
308). Schneider illustrates the place of adstrate and substrate influences on
the emergence and evolution of these regional varieties. Presently, American
English is diversifying into a ''host of new varieties [that] have emerged or
intensified their distinctive features'' (p.307).
While emphasizing in chapter 7, ''Conclusion'', that ''[t]he globalisation of
English will continue'', Schneider submerges the Dynamic Model deeper into social
networks between people who live together for good and must therefore socialize
and adjust to each other (p.317). This does not mean that the model would
continue to be as consistent as it is today given, as the author insists, that
social realities are constantly changing and, like many other earlier theories,
it might also ''meet with certain difficulties when faced with the messy
realities of real life situations'' (p.310).
Increasingly and authoritatively so, studies of language contact phenomena in
the so-called colonial world are pulling them from the peripheral, other,
exceptional, abnormal evolutionary patterns they have been misguidedly or
prejudicially classified into, back into mainstream linguistic agenda. On the
heels of Mufwene's (2001) Feature Pool Idea comes Schneider's Dynamic Model,
both of which, though designed on colonially-induced language contact
situations, could be conveniently applied to all situations of language
evolution - whether plagued by colonial-style power relations and
multilingualism or not.
Schneider's Postcolonial English appears at a very suitable time when most
studies of varieties of English were/are treating them as individual specifics
of given regions. Tracing, and excellently so, a uniform underlying evolutionary
path for all of them, in spite of differences in the ''settler'', ''adstrate'' and
''indigenous'' strands in the transmission of English, is going to radically
reshape the research agenda in this discipline. His uniformatarian hypothesis,
opens the way for cautious generalizations on the internal ecologies of
Postcolonial Englishes from Cameroon across to Malaysia and over to Jamaica. The
author is however cautious to point out the possible restrictions to the
application of the model.
The book is without doubt an invaluable companion for not only linguists but
also cultural theorists, anthropologists, sociologists, political analysts
(although Schneider vehemently states he is avoiding political undertones of as
touchy a topic as colonialism - though ironically impossible for the type of in
depth research he carries out), and other scholars interested in language
spread, contact and change. The often contradictory aspects of postcolonial
contexts, e.g. nationhood, identity, multilingualism, and ethnicity, are well
sewn into the Dynamic Model. The core hypothesis comes through very convincingly
helping the reader to grasp some of the misguided assumptions held of language
speciation in postcolonial contexts. The use of extensive data to back the model
leaves no doubt as to its applicability and usefulness in explicating complex
processes that had hitherto been discussed in isolation. This book is therefore
a recommended reading for students, researchers, specialists and non-specialists
alike and will certainly revolutionize research agendas in the field of
varieties of English.
DeGraff, Michel (2003). Against Creole exceptionalism. _Language_ 79: 391-410.
Hickey, Raymond (ed.) (2004). _Legacies of Colonial Englishes: Studies in
Transported Dialects_. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kachru, Braj (1985). Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The
English Language in the outer circle. In Quirk, R. and H. G. Widdowson (eds.)
_English in the World: Teaching and Learning the Language and Literatures_. pp.
11-30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mair, Christian (2003). Linguistics, literature and the Postcolonial Englishes:
An introduction. In Mair, C. (ed.). _The Politics of English as a World
Language. New Horizons in Postcolonial Cultural Studies_. pp. ix-xxi. Amsterdam:
McArthur, Tom (1998). _The English Languages_. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Moore, Bruce (ed.) (2001). _Who's Centric Now? The State of Postcolonial
Englishes_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mufwene, Salikoko (2001). _The Ecology of Language Evolution_. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Schmied, Josef (1991). _English in Africa: An Introduction_. London: Longman.
Schneider, Edgar W. (2003). The dynamics of New Englishes: From identity
construction to dialect birth. _Language_ 79: 233-81.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Eric A. Anchimbe is Assistant Professor of English Linguistics at the University
of Bayreuth, Germany. His most recent book is _Linguistic Identity in
Postcolonial Multilingual Spaces_ (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007). His
research focuses on: postcolonial pragmatics, linguabridity (hybrid linguistic
identities), sociolinguistics, and indigenized varieties of English in Africa.