LINGUIST List 27.5256

Thu Dec 29 2016

Review: Ling Theories; Socioling; Corpus Ling: Edwards (2016)

Editor for this issue: Michael Czerniakowski <mikelinguistlist.org>


Date: 28-Jul-2016
From: Sven Leuckert <sven.leuckertgmx.de>
Subject: English in the Netherlands
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-1923.html

AUTHOR: Alison Edwards
TITLE: English in the Netherlands
SUBTITLE: Functions, forms and attitudes
SERIES TITLE: Varieties of English Around the World G56
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Sven Leuckert, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

SUMMARY

In the introduction to her book, “English in the Netherlands. Functions, forms and attitudes,” Alison Edwards first describes different World Englishes models that have been developed to account for the differences between varieties such as British English (traditionally referred to as ‘English as a Native Language’ or ENL), second-language varieties such as Indian English (‘English as a Second Language’ or ESL) and learner varieties (‘English as a Foreign Language’ or EFL). She finds that neither of the two most widely received models, i.e. Kachru’s Three Circles (1985) and Schneider’s Dynamic Model (2003, 2007), are suitable for the analysis of varieties without colonial background if no modifications are applied. However, she acknowledges Schneider’s (2012, 2014) attempts at reconsidering certain aspects of his model to make it applicable to non-colonial contexts. After a brief summary of publications on English in continental Europe and the (scarce) literature on English in the Netherlands, the author provides her two research questions: (1) whether English used in the Netherlands should be considered as a second-language variety or as learner English and (2) whether Schneider’s Dynamic Model can be extended to account for the situation in the Netherlands. The remainder of the chapter introduces the methodological framework which Edwards bases on Mollin (2006) and Buschfeld (2011, 2013).

Chapter 2, “The functions of English in the Netherlands”, looks at the role of English in Dutch media, education, commerce, science and research as well as public administration and governance. To this end, the author discusses survey results and findings from various sources (often the media), presents the results of small-scale studies she conducted (e.g. the evaluation of the English used in one week of Dutch radio programming) and provides pictures as evidence (for instance of the English word ‘POLICE’ on a Dutch policeman’s jacket, p. 45). She concludes, first of all, that there is widespread bilingualism across all of the areas mentioned above, and, secondly, that English in the Netherlands has moved past being a language used solely for international communication: in the present day, it also functions intranationally as a language of identification used, for instance, in bilingual puns in advertising.

‘Attitudes towards English in the Netherlands’ is the title of Edwards’ third chapter, in which the author presents and evaluates the results of a survey she conducted on Dutch people’s language attitudes. After sorting out unsuitable responses, for instance because the respondent had stayed abroad for too long, a total of 1939 completed questionnaires were included in the analysis. Based on the respondents’ answers, Edwards differentiates between a central, major group of people who see English as a useful instrument and two peripheral groups, namely an anti-English group with a negative attitude and an anglophile group with a very positive attitude towards the English language. The instrumental group is described as the least extreme in its perspective, but – given that it acknowledges the usefulness and importance of English – generally has a rather positive attitude towards English. A second important finding is that, contrary to popular belief, the Dutch language is still highly valued by the Dutch. Having at least a functional command of English is seen as necessary even by the anti-English group, but 9 in 10 respondents consider Dutch more important than English.

The compilation of the Corpus of Dutch English and a study on the progressive aspect in English in the Netherlands based on the corpus are the concern of the book’s fourth chapter, entitled “The forms of English in the Netherlands: A corpus study”. The Corpus of Dutch English is modelled in analogy to the written sections of the International Corpus of English (ICE) and consists of 200 texts from domains such as student writing and academic writing. Edwards compares the findings from her corpus to the ICE corpora for Great Britain, the USA, India, and Singapore and concludes that, at least with regard to the progressive aspect, English in the Netherlands exhibits characteristics of both EFL and ESL. The same can be said for the results of the second part of her empirical analysis, an acceptability study where respondents generally showed an exonormative orientation, i.e. an orientation towards British and American varieties, but also tended to apply changes to some of the sentences with a distinct Dutch ‘flavour’.

In Chapter 5, “The Dynamic Model and the Netherlands”, Edwards applies Schneider’s Dynamic Model (2003, 2007) to the case of English in the Netherlands. Developed with postcolonial varieties of English in mind, the Dynamic Model is only partially applicable to varieties without colonial background. This is substantiated in this chapter, with Edwards identifying both similarities and differences between a typical scenario in the Dynamic Model and the development of English in the Netherlands. The author concludes that English right now is in the third stage of nativisation in the Netherlands and might move directly to the fifth stage of differentation, i.e. the emergence of social and regional varieties.

The final chapter concludes Edwards’ findings by pointing out that English in the Netherlands is neither truly a second-language variety nor exclusively learner English. The conclusion also discusses some options for further research, e.g. longitudinal studies or studies focussing on the English used by certain speech communities such as academics or gamers. Finally, the author poses some questions on where English in the Netherlands might be heading.

EVALUATION

Edwards’ work is of highest relevance for World Englishes research as it contributes to a fairly new research paradigm which considers the traditionally strict separation into ENL, ESL and EFL as obsolete and instead asks for a dynamic, continuum-based view of variety status. By testing whether Schneider’s Dynamic Model of Postcolonial Englishes (which – as the name implies – was conceptualised with English in the former colonies of the UK and the USA in mind) holds for English in the Netherlands, Edwards follows in the footsteps of recent studies (e.g. Mollin 2006 on Euro-English and Buschfeld 2011 and 2013 on Cyprus English) which attempt to close what has been considered a research gap.

One of the greatest strengths of the present monograph is its accessibility. Due to the inclusion of various interesting sources, the second chapter in particular provides a reading experience that is both insightful and entertaining. At the same time, however, findings in this chapter sometimes feel impressionistic. Using interviews, newspaper articles or web pages as evidence is an understandable choice in the context of analysing the spread of bilingualism, but the problem of subjectivity inevitably becomes more visible than usual in data selection when potentially idiosyncratic material is presented. This is hardly a bigger problem (especially in the light of the amount of work put into this monograph), but can be seen as an incentive for conducting further, more systematic research in this field.

Regarding the high accessibility of the book, Chapter 3 on the attitudes of English also stands out very positively. Edwards’ gradually builds up the figure with the anti-English, instrumental and anglophile groups by adding new information step by step. Furthermore, she regularly refers back to her two research questions and, in doing so, establishes cohesion. The same is achieved by providing brief summaries at the end of each chapter.

Flaws in this book are minor. There are some typos (e.g. ‘gover0nment’, p. 47), missing words (e.g. ‘Knowledge of both languages needed to appreciate this’, p. 178) and mistakes in the bibliography (e.g. ‘Bolt: & Bolton, K.’ instead of ‘Bolt, P. & Bolton, K.’, p. 200), but problems of this kind are few and far between. Content-wise, including descriptions of Kachru’s and Schneider’s models in the introduction to the book seems an unusual choice at first, but makes sense in the bigger picture, as having knowledge of these models is indeed a key requirement to making sense of the remainder of the book.

Compiling and (partially) evaluating a corpus, conducting an attitudinal study, collecting material on the spread of bilingualism and evaluating all of this in a convincing and accessible manner are clear signs of the author’s great ambition and the passion she put into this project. Apart from the fact that the book is pleasant to read, it also needs to be seen as a highly valuable contribution to the field of World Englishes. Perceptions of and attitudes towards English are rapidly changing in a globalising and increasingly globalised Europe, and the Netherlands, together with the Scandinavian countries and, to a slightly lesser extent, Germany, has been considered as a frontrunner in embracing English for quite a while. Thus, it only makes sense that Edwards’ contribution challenges traditional assumptions that English in the Netherlands is a learner variety in the same sense as in, for instance, China, the Ukraine or Saudi-Arabia.

Overall, the book represents a crucial entry in World Englishes research, but is also potentially interesting for a wider audience with a general interest in the role of English in Europe. ‘English in the Netherlands’ presents the convincing results of a very ambitious, multi-faceted project in an accessible manner. In addition, the book – as Edwards herself suggests – opens the door to numerous follow-up studies not only on English in the Netherlands, but also on the complex issue of variety status.

REFERENCES

Buschfeld, Sarah. 2011. The English language in Cyprus: An empirical investigation of variety status. PhD dissertation. University of Cologne.

Buschfeld, Sarah. 2013. English in Cyprus or Cyprus English? An investigation of variety status (Varieties of English Around the World G46). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Kachru, Braj B. 1985. Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In Randolph Quirk & Henry Widdowson (eds.), English in the World: Teaching and Learning the Language and Literatures, 11-30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mollin, Sandra. 2006. Euro-English. Assessing variety status (Language in Performance 33). Tübingen: Gunter Narr.

Schneider, Edgar W. 2003. The dynamics of New Englishes: From identity construction to dialect birth. Language 79(2). 233-281.

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

Schneider, Edgar W. 2012. “Transnational attraction”: New reflections on the evolutionary dynamics of World Englishes. Paper presented at the 18th Annual Conference of the International Association for World Englishes. Hong Kong & Guangzhou, December 6-9.

Schneider, Edgar W. 2014. New reflections on the evolutionary dynamics of world Englishes. World Englishes 33(1). 9-32.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Sven Leuckert received his M.A. in European Linguistics from TU Dresden in Germany. He is currently employed as a research assistant in English Linguistics at the University of Regensburg and enrolled as a PhD student at TU Dresden. His PhD project is a study on topicalization strategies employed in four Asian varieties of English. His research interests include Asian Englishes, non-canonical syntax, English as a Lingua Franca, and historical linguistics.

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