LINGUIST List 23.5146

Mon Dec 10 2012

Review: History of Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Crystal (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

Date: 10-Dec-2012
From: Christie DeBlasio <>
Subject: English as a Global Language, Second Edition
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Book announced at

AUTHOR: David CrystalTITLE: English as a Global Language, Second EditionPUBLISHER: Cambridge University PressYEAR: 2012

Christie M. DeBlasio, Alumni Graduate School of English, AssumptionUniversity, Bangkok Thailand


Crystals’ second edition of “English as a Global Language” mainly came aboutthrough his realization that far more studies are now available that should beincorporated into his book. In regards to this he first chose to change theformat of the book. He sates “things have changed, with very much moreliterature available to refer to, and more points of view to take intoaccount, so for this new edition I have adopted a more conventional academicstyle of presentation.” (p. xi). Second, more descriptive studies on newEnglish varieties are available which allow him to expand chapter 5 in thisrespect.

The book itself was written to ask three questions: “What makes a worldlanguage? Why is English the leading candidate? And will it continue to holdthis position?”. Chapter 1: “Why a global language?”, attempts to explain thewhat, why and how of a global language as well as the dangers of itsexistence. He lists several criteria for a language to be global. Mainly, thelanguage must “develop a special role that is recognized in every country.”(p. 3) He considers this to be qualified when the language has a special placein the community such as a native language, an official language bygovernmental terms or being made a priority in foreign language teaching.

Chapter 2: “Why English? The historical context,” discusses the origins ofEnglish and its path through history around the world. Crystal mainly coversthe regions of North America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, SouthAfrica, Asia and the South Pacific and colonial Africa. After individuallydiscussing these historic progressions he then produces a brief world view ofthe final historical result.

Continuing on in Chapter 3: “Why English? The cultural foundation,” Crystaldigs through political history, the availability of knowledge during the timeof the world’s rapid economic expansion and the lack of need in the developedworld to discuss the role of English. The lack of need has contributed to theuse of English being the automatic choice for communication as no otherlanguage came close in reach of use.

Chapter 4: “Why English? The cultural legacy,” discusses English in a worldview in respect to its effects on culture through exposure and lingua francause. This chapter covers different forms of international relations such asorganizational bodies like the UN, and various forms of media. It also coversthe effects of international travel, safety procedures and education. Crystalsums up the chapter by tying together the history of English’s spread throughthe world and its solid place in the daily functioning of the globalizedworld.

Chapter 5: “The future of global English,” discusses the impact the currentsituations in the world have on the global use of English. Specifically,Crystal asks “What kind of development could impede the future growth ofEnglish?” (p. 123) Several possible scenarios are discussed covering a rangeof areas such as politics, economic changes, technological advances andcultural shifts. Crystal touches on concepts such as the rejection of Englishaltogether as a way to preserve national identity, and political turmoil as towhether English should be governmentally pushed as an official language incountries such as the US or handled as a common language creating unity in acountry while supporting minority languages as well. This chapter touches oneverything from racism, multilingualism and education to stress-based speechand domains of use. Further on in the chapter the phenomenon of “newEnglishes” is thoroughly explored. The realization that the number of L2English users is increasing at a much higher rate than L1 users has lead tothe creation of different regional types of English. These types reflectdifferent use of grammar, word formation and word definition. The areas towhich these variations spread can be country-wide such as American English andBritish English or regional such as West African English. The act ofcode-switching also adds to the dynamic of new Englishes not only in terms ofloan words but also entire utterances combining two or even three distinctlanguages at once.

In closing chapter 5, Crystal poses many questions as to factors that couldcontinue to change English as well as possible outcomes of those changesaround the world. He maintains that, as history has shown, no one can reallyguess what will happen to the language.


Crystal does an excellent job in achieving the goals he laid out for thisbook. One goal, as mentioned above, is to answer the following threequestions: “What makes a world language? Why is English the leading candidate?And will it continue to hold this position?”. As the summary above shows, hethoroughly discusses each of these questions in detail and provides, in excesseven, historical and factual information to support his opinions. Most notableis the extent to which the future of new Englishes is discussed in chapter 5.Here, he not only explains the circumstances at play that could affect Englishin multiple ways now but also possible future circumstances that have yet tobe seen.

Another one of his goals/reasons for creating this second edition, to updateit with current studies and new ideas, is also achieved. Crystal takes greatcare to present multiple viewpoints on issues of language ideologies.Specifically, his overview of American “English only” policies paints a veryclear picture of the many conflicting opinions on the subject without any biastowards one opinion over another. Similarly, the new research he presentswhich outlines many of the current developments in the study of new Englishesis used as examples for his own opinion. However, he makes it clear that thesestudies are still not sufficient to fully understand the nature of newEnglishes.

This book is perfect for those just starting to learn about the world ofglobal language. It introduces the basics of globalization from a linguisticperspective as well as the significant events taking place through historythat have brought us to the current situation. The book’s chapter organizationand use of a clear, simple writing style make the development of the Englishlanguage easy to follow. The progression of the chapters creates a smoothtransition from introduction to historic beginning to current situations andfinally to future projections. Frequently, Crystal refers back to priorchapters, which further strengthens the cohesion of the book. Similarly, allthe diagrams have a clear purpose and are appropriate to aid in the readers’understanding as the book progresses.

Since this book is meant for beginners, it would be best used in conjunctionwith other introductory type linguistic and sociolinguistic material. Forexample, deeper understanding of the migration of language through Europe andof linguistic phenomenon such as code-switching and speaker identity couldhelp to create an even clearer understanding of many points presented in thebook.

Another outstanding aspect of this book is Crystal’s frequent recommendationsfor further research. This book touches on many areas of research that are onthe cutting edge of current developments. One example is his discussion of thelack of research in the study of many new Englishes in specific domainsinstead of broad areas and in relativity to whether those collocations orvocabulary choices are considered to be appropriate by the relevant society orconsidered poor English. The closing paragraphs of his last chapter ask veryspecific theoretical questions as to the future of English as a globallanguage. These questions are quite thought-provoking and end the book on anintriguing high note.

Despite being a very well made book, there are some shortcomings worthmentioning. First, the expanded chapter five is very long. Normally this isnot necessarily a problem, but the chapter’s latter half could easily havebeen put into another chapter. That is, the first half of chapter 5 discussescurrent situations and then switches to examples of new Englishes and then tothe future of new Englishes. Perhaps a more logical choice would be to createa chapter 6 only for discussion of the future.

Another small, but strange enough to mention, occurrence in the book, isCrystal’s opinion that Americans mistake Canadian English for British English.As an American, or if one were ever to watch an American television showmaking fun of Canadian accents, it would be obvious that in no way doesCanadian English sound British. It is commonly portrayed as American Englishwith emphasis on the different pronunciation of the diphthong “ou” or with aFrench accent if one is referring to French-speaking people of Quebec.

Aside from these minor issues, this book is a thorough introduction to Englishas a global language. It could inspire its readers to seek out furtherinformation about many of the subtopics covered in this book and asks amultitude of questions that reflect the dynamic and ever changing environmentof English today.


Christie DeBlasio is an alumni of the Masters of English Language Teachingprogram in the Graduate School of English at Assumption University. Her thesisinvestigates the unique culture-based characteristics of lexical bundles inThai Business English Lingua Franca (BELF) using a corpus of business storiesfrom Bangkok English newspapers. She is currently doing independent researchon intercultural communication and linguistic landscapes.

Page Updated: 10-Dec-2012