Review of Still More Englishes
Date: Wed, 04 Dec 2002 09:40:22 -0700
From: E Winkler
Subject: dialectology: Review of Görlach (2002), Still More Englishes
Görlach, Manfred. (2002) Still More Englishes. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
hardback ISBN 1 58811 263 2 (US); 90 272 4887 7 (Eur). xii + 240 pps.
Elizabeth Grace Winkler, University of Arizona.
1. A description of the book's purpose and content:
Global Englishes is the fourth book in a series dedicated to the
investigation of lesser-known varieties of English used throughout the
world as well as the development of international varieties of English
used for global communication.
Görlach begins the text with a discussion of why this topic has consumed
him for twenty-five years and what are the issues that make its study
problematic including, but not limited to, what varieties can be
considered English and the institutional status of those varieties in
the nations in which they are spoken. He takes issue as well with the
many ways of classifying the different varieties of English pointing out
the shortcomings of many of the traditional approaches. Although it is
not explicitly stated, there really are two thrusts to his research: the
study of individual varieties of English and the study of the
globalization of English as the world^Òs lingua franca.
In the opening chapter, Görlach also discusses the reasons why we have
no really solid statistics on the number of English speakers worldwide.
Not only is it problematic to determine which varieties are to be
considered English, but who to count as an English speaker in the case
of people acquiring English as an additional language. He fears that the
figures of competency for this group are grossly inflated. Both of
these concerns reflect an even more significant issue: 'There is as yet
no objective method for determining a person's status as a speaker of
English' (p. 5). Nevertheless, he does endeavor to provide some very
tentative numbers and details how he arrives at the statistics he provides.
In the second chapter, "The problem of authentic language," Görlach
tackles the methodological problems that have plagued, and continue to
plague, the collection of the range of bona fide varieties in a
community including: problems with orthographic representations, the
mixing with English with other codes, and the lack of coverage of
situational and stylistic variation among speakers. He discusses the
problems that ensue from the fact that many descriptions of these
languages are written by nonnative speakers who possess varying degrees
of competence in them and understand not the many subtleties of the
language like contextual variation.
In the following chapter, "Language and nation: linguistic identity in
the history of English," Görlach begins with a brief discussion of the
many ways in which language has been used to define nationhood
including: the creation of a nation based solely on language borders
(Macedonia), ethnic cleansing based on language (Yugoslavia), the
formation of laws to protect the purity of the national language
(France), and the creation of legislation to make the national language
obligatory (former republics of the Soviet Union). Then he looks for
examples of similar experiences in both the historical English speaking
countries and the English diaspora. He begins with an historical review
of the rise of English, both in England and the rest of the British
Isles; then he shifts to English in the rest of the world. He divides up
this much larger entity into 5 groups based on how English is used in
each area. In the first group, which includes Scots, which were
'originally dialect communities in which linguistic elaboration and
geographical or political distance have led to the establishment of
separate language' (p. 54). The second group he calls 'immigrant
settler communities' like those of the United States and New Zealand. A
third group is made up of the ex-colonies in which pidgin and creole
languages developed which currently manifest a continuum of varieties
including an acrolect which in many ways approximates a standard of
International English. A fourth group consists of the colonies of the
British Empire in which British English became the national language and
was taught in schools and used in governmental administration. The final
group consists of countries in which English is commonly taught and used
as a foreign language with the main purpose being use of English for
international commerce and communication. This is a very detailed
chapter covering a wide scope of countries and linguistic situations.
The focus is on the socio-political situations in each country.
Next, Görlach focuses on Ulster Scots on which much of his own research
efforts have been concentrated. Though his stated intention is to
elaborate issues concerning Ulster Scots, other languages of a similar
type (including Low German, Croatian, and Serbian for example), are
discussed in detail. It is in this discussion that Görlach confronts
some of the most controversial issues that divide both linguists and the
general public, including trying to determine what constitutes a
language. He takes issue with some of the traditional criteria for
"language-ness" and suggests that Stewarts 1968 typology, which includes
"standardisation, autonomy, historicity and vitality" (p. 71), may
provide a better criteria for separating languages from dialects. There
is a particularly intriguing section entitled "Are Low German and
Jamaican useful parallels?" In this chapter he also deals with
revitalization of minority languages, codification and elaboration of
dialects, and the political implications for language planning.
In Chapter 6, Görlach centers on whether or not English is a native,
foreign or second language in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia,
and the Philippines countries in which both the political and linguistic
colonial histories are far more complex than other colonial nations
like, for instance, the United States and Canada. He provides a
framework within which these countries may be analyzed and compared. At
the onset of this chapter Görlach lays out the need for further
linguistic analysis in a number of key areas including (100-101 scan).
He also details many of the factors that will make it impossible to do
these studies well. (101).
Chapter 7 departs from the more generalized theoretical presentation of
the other chapters with a detailed look at a particular linguistic
practice: rhyming slang. This seems odd at first until Görlach makes
clear the historical nature of the practice and what it uncovers for us
about the modern day varieties in which it is still practiced and
speculations on why it seems to have disappeared from others.
In the eighth chapter, "English in Europe" Görlach outlines the slow
development of English as a lingua franca. He also details the ways in
which English has influenced the development of European languages in
spelling, pronunciation, inflections, the use of gender, case and number
markings, word formation, syntax, and pragmatics. The most enlightening
section here is the one on word formation, in particular calquing and
borrowing from English.
Görlach moves from theory and historical elaboration to practice in the
final chapter. What does all this mean for the teaching of English?
First, he points out that language teaching books all fail to provide
sufficient information about variation in English, at best only
providing some limited information about differences between standard
varieties from Britain and the United States. Understanding variation
is the first step. Instructors must understand the differences between
the different ways English is used in the 5 different classes of nations
as discussed in Chapter 3. Although a standard variety is probably the
goal of most programs, a recognition of and some instruction in some of
the pertinent regional variations can engender not only a respect of
other varieties and their speakers but a better understanding of these
varieties as well. He points out that students generally have no problem
understanding the linguistic diversity and complexity of their native
languages and that it is important that they understand the same about
English. Thus, when they confront distinct varieties of English, they
can recognize that it operates in the same way. He even provides
practical ways for this to be done in the classroom.
A Critical Evaluation:
Throughout the text, Görlach provides a wealth of supporting material,
historic, social, and linguistic, from a wide assortment of English
varieties from every continent. In addition, the inclusion of a fairly
extensive annotated bibliography covering many of the book's main topics
is quite useful.
My criticisms of this book are quite limited. For example, although
Görlach does connect up the chapter on rhyming and slang by indicating
what it can teach us about the spread of English, it is still an orphan
chapter in this book. It would have fit better in a full section
devoted to different types of language use and performance that would
elaborate Görlach's main points. In addition, after reading the chapter
on the use of English in Europe, I wondered why Görlach bothered to
include the exceedingly limited sections on inflection, gender and
syntax because the sections do no more than, in a very incomplete way,
describe the patterns found in some European languages and say nothing
about why these topics are significant to the development of the English
Nevertheless, Görlach's examination of the state of English provides a
useful summary of many of the issues that confront researchers in
dialectology and variationist studies. It is a very useful text for
anyone interested in the history and the development of English beyond a
simple analysis of structural change.
Stewart, William. 1968. "A sociolinguistic typology for describing
national multilingualism." In Joshua Fishman, ed. Readings in the
sociology of language. The Hague: Mouton, 531-45. .
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Elizabeth Grace Winkler teaches linguistics at the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA. Her research publications have concentrated on African substrate influence on Limonese Creole, and codeswitching between Spanish and Limonese Creole in Costa Rica and Spanish and English in Mexico. She has also authored a dictionary of Kpelle, a Mande language of Liberia.t