LINGUIST List 23.5287

Sun Dec 16 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Seargeant (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

Date: 16-Dec-2012
From: Steffen Schaub <>
Subject: Exploring World Englishes: Language in a Global Context
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Philip SeargeantTITLE: Exploring World EnglishesSUBTITLE: Language in a Global ContextSERIES TITLE: Routledge Introductions to Applied Linguistics, Vol. 4PUBLISHER: RoutledgeYEAR: 2012

Steffen Schaub, Department of English Linguistics, Philipps UniversityMarburg, Germany.


‘Exploring World Englishes: Language in a Global Context’ is the fourth volumein ‘Routledge Introductions to Applied Linguistics’, a series of introductorylevel textbooks covering core topics of Applied Linguistics. The series isprimarily aimed at “those beginning postgraduate studies or taking anintroductory MA course, as well as advanced undergraduates” (p. i). Thistextbook is an introduction to the challenges and problems posed by Englishesin a globalized world, and how these problems are addressed. By adopting theplural noun, the author subscribes to the position that the English languageshould be seen “not as a single, monolithic entity, but as something that hasmultiple varieties and forms” (p. 1). The book follows a practice-to-theoryapproach by first discussing real-world problems caused by the forms andfunctions of World Englishes (WE) before relating these problems to thetheoretical frameworks developed in academic discourse.


The book includes 14 chapters, a commentary section, a glossary, an annotatedfurther reading section, a list of references, and an index. The book isdivided into two parts: Part I, ‘English in the world today’, deals with theproblems and practical issues connected with World Englishes; and Part II,‘World Englishes as an academic discipline’, discusses theoretical issues thathave 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 andcurrent status of English in the world, and the problems it poses for languagepractitioners. Section B (chapters 5 to 8) presents strategies for dealingwith these problems. Part II (Section C; chapters 9 to 14) relates theproblems explored in the preceding sections to theoretical frameworks. Eachchapter (except chapters 1, 5 and 9) includes study questions for whichfeedback 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 ofthe three sections).

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

Chapter 3, “The context and history of World Englishes”, provides statisticson the use of English worldwide, and briefly summarizes the historicaldevelopment of global English. Individual sections are devoted to colonialismand its linguistic outcomes, pidgins and creoles.

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

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

Chapter 7, “Codification and legitimation”, contrasts with the precedingchapter by providing arguments for embracing the linguistic diversity of WorldEnglishes, particularly in practical contexts. It starts off by presenting twocontemporary methods of documenting and corroborating local varieties, namelythe compilation of variety-specific corpora, and the creation of nationaldictionaries. Both are strongly tied to the idea of nation-building in thatthey codify a discrete national standard. This leads to localized teachingmodels which are no longer oriented towards external norms. The authorconsiders this an important development, particularly as the demographics ofEnglish move from native-speaker to non-native speaker predominance. In otherwords, in the case of English, the typical lingua franca situation is nolonger that of a non-native speaker communicating with a native speaker, butwith another non-native speaker. The English used in such situations differsfrom exonormative standards; non-native speakers “naturally repair theirregularities and redundancies” (p. 101) of the native standards (e.g. theomission of ‘-s’ from third person singular present tense forms), and theseregularizations should be considered part of the language system. Educatorsneed to be able to distinguish between these innovations (which are sharedamong a larger speech community) and individual errors.

Chapter 8, “Policies and cultural practices”, looks at the role of English innational and institutional contexts. By discussing three case studies, theauthor illustrates how different agendas in language policy can lead toopposing dynamics in language use. The first case study is Singapore, in whicha non-indigenized version of English is openly promoted, while the indigenizedvariety, Singlish, is campaigned against. The second case study is a criticaldiscussion of programs promoting English language learning in developingcountries as a bridge-builder to world economy. The third case study looks atthe multilingual language policy of the European Union, showing that practicalcommunicative needs often do not agree with idealistic conceptions aboutlanguage.

Chapter 10, “World Englishes as an academic discipline”, assesses the statusof World Englishes Studies (WES) as a discrete discipline drawing onlinguistic, sociopolitical and cultural aspects. Following a short discussionof what makes an academic discipline, the author outlines the four majorstages in which the WE paradigm developed, and which other disciplines andresearch traditions have influenced it. Of these, the sociolinguistictradition receives prominent treatment with a summary of the Quirk-Kachrudebate of the early 1990s.

Chapter 11, “English as an object of study” highlights one of the coreproblems of WES, namely to define what constitutes English. The author arguesthat English as analyzed by WES is a discursive construction; instead ofpresenting a clearly definable external object of study, it is academicresearch (and the researchers) shaping what we perceive as English. This isexemplified by pidgins and creoles, which may or may not be considered part ofthe larger English-language complex, depending on one’s perspective. Thesecond part of the chapter discusses the two major language ideologiesassociated with WES. The ideology of authenticity holds that language is anidentity marker of a particular speech community, while the ideology ofanonymity stresses the neutrality of (the English) language and its potentialto ensure barrier-free communication. The author attributes numerous of theconflicts presented in the book to this opposition, and points out thatEnglish -- as a single, monolithic entity -- can never fulfill bothideologies, while a varied and diversified, pluralized English can.

Chapter 12, “Models and theoretical frameworks”, provides concise overviews ofsome of the most influential models and theories of WES. The author comparesKachru’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 frameworksare adapted to meet the requirements of a shifting academic discipline. Whilethe remainder of the book portrays the spread of English mainly as positive,this chapter includes theories which take a highly critical, politicallymotivated position, such as the theory of linguistic imperialism.

Chapter 13, “Naming and describing the English language”, looks at themultiple names that have been given to English in academic discourse. Thechapter is based on Seargeant (2010), but is slightly rewritten to accommodatea beginner readership. The author offers a taxonomy of six categories intowhich different names of (varieties of) English can be grouped: On the basisof 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 inuse around the globe, and 2) political and social factors are more relevant inthe coinage of names than linguistic ones. In all, the chapter cuts a waythrough the complex terminological situation in WES, while at the same timeshowcasing the wealth of research directions it offers.

Chapter 14, “Conclusion: The state of the discipline”, emphasizes theconnection between WES and education which dominates a large portion ofcurrent research and debate. In addition, the author condenses the insights ofthe 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).


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

A major advantage of the textbook is its suitability for both beginners andadvanced readers. It is written in a clear and accessible style, and newterminology is defined in the text. In addition, the same terms anddefinitions are collected in a glossary in the back of the book. The studyquestions at the end of each chapter and the commentary section assist thereader in working out the key points. Finally, the annotated further readingsection is a concise guide to influential works in WES.

Owing to these advantages, ‘Exploring World Englishes’ proves to be a valuableresource for instructors and students. It is suitable as primary reading in acourse on World Englishes, particularly if the audience is comprised ofstudents with basic or little linguistic background. It is valuable tostudents of linguistics, aspiring English-language educators, and students ofcommunication studies. Individual chapters may be used as contributions tocourses 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’scontent. This being a textbook, the reader might have benefited fromadditional transfer tasks involving further examples and language data.

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


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

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

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


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

Page Updated: 16-Dec-2012