LINGUIST List 30.2826

Fri Jul 19 2019

Review: English; Sociolinguistics: Deshors (2018)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 03-Apr-2019
From: Melanie Röthlisberger <>
Subject: Modeling World Englishes
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Sandra C. Deshors
TITLE: Modeling World Englishes
SUBTITLE: Assessing the interplay of emancipation and globalization of ESL varieties
SERIES TITLE: Varieties of English Around the World G61
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2018

REVIEWER: Melanie Röthlisberger, Universität Zürich


This volume is edited by Sandra C. Deshors (Michigan State University) and consists of nine research articles that empirically assess new (and old) theoretical models of World Englishes thereby testing their reliability, usefulness, and adequacy to classify 21st century World Englishes. By doing so, the contributions add to theoretical discussions related to the developments and current challenges in research on World Englishes at large. The volume brings together scholars working on English as a second language (ESL), English as a foreign language (EFL) and English as a lingua franca (ELF) varieties and on synchronic and diachronic data, using a variety of methodological approaches and different data sources. The volume itself is dedicated to the memory of Alexander Kautzsch who himself contributed considerably to recent modelling approaches in World Englishes.

The introductory chapter by Sandra Deshors provides the theoretical basis for the nine research articles. It starts off by highlighting the increased diversity of Englishes in today’s globalized world, which calls for new theoretical models to comprehend more fully the changes that English is undergoing in the 21st century. This increased diversity is not only due to a geographical spread of English into new areas but also due to a linguistic spread of English into new digital contexts. Since older models (e.g. Kachru’s circle model, Schneider’s Dynamic model) do not take the dynamism and complexity (e.g. attitudes towards English) of current World Englishes into account, other models have recently been proposed. These models pay attention to forces of globalization, for instance Mair’s World System of Englishes (Mair 2013) which views American English (AmE) as the most central variety, Schneider’s Transnational attraction model (Schneider 2014), which focuses on the Expanding Circle varieties, or Buschfeld and Kautzsch’ Extra- and Intra-territorial Forces model (EIF, Buschfeld & Kautzsch 2017), which takes hitherto neglected aspects – for instance, attitudes and language policies – into account. These later models and the extent to which they can account for the complexities in World Englishes still remain to be empirically verified, a gap that is largely addressed by the contributions in this volume.

The first chapter by Sarah Buschfeld, Alexander Kautzsch and Edgar W. Schneider – “From colonial dynamism to current transnationalism: A unified view on postcolonial and non-postcolonial Englishes” – argues for an integrated approach of both postcolonial and non-postcolonial Englishes to capture the current dynamism and spread of English. Since the distinction between ESL and EFL varieties has increasingly become blurred, the authors point out that colonialism cannot be a necessary condition for a variety to be categorized as ESL. Previous models have so far ignored important parameters, such as language-internal variability, proficiency levels of speakers or formality of the situation, when defining variety types, a fact that is remedied with the proposed Extra- and Intra-territorial Forces model (EIF). The EIF model extends Schneider’s Transnational attraction model by taking internal variability into account and by offering the granularity needed to compare and analyse individual varieties. The model is empirically tested in five case studies presented in the chapter: South-East Asia, English in Namibia vs Germany, English in Cyprus vs Greece, English Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Digital Englishes. With this, the authors show that varieties that are classified similarly due to their historical background (e.g. as EFL in the case of Namibia and Germany) can actually differ quite widely with regard to the use and spread of English, while varieties that are classified differently due to their sociolinguistic situation, can still share a number of structural features; the discussion of Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrates how English can become entrenched in a country due to other forces besides colonialism, such as the presence of international organizations. With the final case study, the authors highlight how the EIF model could theoretically also account for structural features in newly emerging Digital Englishes (e.g. facebook communication, fanfiction writing, and multiplayer online games) but they acknowledge that more validation of the model is needed.

Christian Mair’s contribution “Stabilising domains of English-language use in Germany: Global English in a non-colonial languagescape” focuses on the use of English by two non-elite groups, namely urban youth culture and recent arrivals in Germany from anglophone West Africa. Mair applies his World System of Standard and Non-Standard Englishes (Mair 2013) together with the concept of languagescape to an analysis of these two groups’ linguistic behaviour. He finds that popular song lyrics oriented towards Germany’s youth make substantial use of English slang words, especially also verbs and idiomatic chunks which originate in African American English. English is also used in creative language mixing in interviews with the second group, recent arrivals in Germany, who apply a layered communicative style drawing on all linguistic resources available. Both cases – song lyrics and the interviews – indicate highly mobile language practices that transcend national borders. Mair concludes that his World System of Englishes, which also allows for non-standard varieties to exert influence on a global scale, can account for the importance that some varieties carry outside of their national context.

Bertus van Rooy and Haidee Kruger’s chapter “Hybridity, globalisation and models of English: English in South African multilingual digital repertoires” focuses on the complex multilingual setting in South Africa which has, for this very reason, often defied classification with conventional models of World Englishes. They analyse data from commentaries that users posted online on summaries of popular South African television soap operas (“soapie teasers”). Using a bottom-up corpus-based approach they compare the most frequent keywords in the online comments to keywords obtained from the British National Corpus. Their findings indicate that online commentators draw most heavily first on a common shared knowledge of standard English in online communication, secondly on non-standard forms of English that are often also frequently used in Nigerian and Jamaican English, and thirdly on local forms that originate in indigenous South African languages. Their results suggest that speakers seem to draw on a multitude of different resources depending on the degree of intersubjective alignment. These resources may or may not be available on the net and do not necessarily overlap with the speakers’ own cultural background. The authors thus demonstrate the extent to which other languages besides English, non-standard Englishes, computer-mediated communication, hybridity, multiplex identities and transnationalism can be incorporated into a model of World Englishes. They conclude that future studies should analyse representative data which covers all ranges of hybrid and multilingual settings.

Turning to ELF, Mikko Laitinen’s chapter “Placing ELF among the varieties of English: Observations from typological profiling” applies Szmrecsanyi’s (2009) typological profiling to data sampled from contexts in which English is used as a lingua franca and compares the degree of analyticity and syntheticity between ELF, ESL, EFL and English as a native language (ENL) variety types. By comparing the aggregate number of analytic and synthetic markers in ELF settings (spoken and written) to the data in Szmrecsanyi (2009), Laitinen shows that ELF is structurally different from Learner Englishes, nativized L2 varieties and native L1 varieties. A closer look at the different modes and genres sampled reveals additionally that spoken ELF is comparatively lower on both scales of analyticity and syntheticity than spoken British English (BrE) indicating increased transparency and output economy in ELF varieties. Written genres of ELF (blogs, news, academic and fiction), however, clearly fall in line with written native (AmE and BrE) and L2 varieties. These findings suggest that second language acquisition (EFL) needs to be differentiated from second language use (ELF) as a distinct variety type. On the basis of these results, Laitinen endorses van Rooy & Kruger’s call for more representative data that reflect the whole linguistic ecology including multilingual settings.


Peter Siemund’s contribution “Modeling World Englishes from a cross-linguistic perspective” addresses the issue of modelling World Englishes from a cross-linguistic, typological perspective rather than from the view of dialect typology as in Laitinen’s chapter. In his contribution, Siemund explores the extent to which cross-linguistic patterns in implicational hierarchies (e.g. the animacy scale) are applicable to standard and non-standard varieties of English around the world. Siemund thereby compares the use of reflexive pronouns (e.g. myself), the hierarchy of animacy, the accessibility hierarchy (for relativization), the use of subject-verb agreement, multiple negation and copula absence/deletion between different variety types of English. His comparison highlights that non-standard varieties often follow the typologically expected pattern while Standard English is rather exceptional from a typological perspective. This suggests that the standard features can probably only survive because of the normative pressure exerted by the hierarchical organization of the World System of Englishes which has standard varieties at its centre (Mair 2013).

The paper by Alison Edwards – “’I’m an Anglophile, but…’: A corpus-assisted discourse analysis of language ideologies in the Netherlands” – explores the extent to which English is reappropriated in the Netherlands where it is not just an economic resource but seems to be locally embedded serving the purpose of meaning-making and identity construction. By way of a questionnaire Edwards sampled commentaries from 724 respondents to an open question regarding the respondent’s view about English in the Netherlands. Using keyword analysis and collocational tools to tap into language ideologies, Edwards finds that respondents perceive English as a communicative tool for international communication but are also concerned about the spread of English into the domains traditionally reserved for Dutch. This narrative conflicts with some respondents’ normative and critical view that Dutch speakers are not proficient enough in English. Since this critical view also extends to the way some Dutch speakers use English to appear cool, clever or cosmopolitan, Edwards concludes that English seems to play an important role in social positioning in the Netherlands. Schneider’s Transnational attraction model hereby constitutes a useful framework that can contribute to a shift in focus of more traditional models to include attitudinal behaviour also in Expanding Circle varieties.

With a similar interest in Expanding Circle varieties, Gaëtanelle Gilquin’s chapter “American and/or British influence on L2 Englishes: Does context tip the scale(s)?” aims to empirically test Mair’s (2013) World System of Englishes model, particularly its claim that American English is the hub variety influencing all other varieties. Sampling data from the Corpus of Global web-based English (GloWbE) and the EF-Cambridge Open Language Database, Gilquin explores 1) the extent to which this claim can be corroborated with the data, 2) to what extent the influence of AmE might be different on ESL and EFL varieties, and 3) whether the influence of AmE or BrE varies depending on the local context (historical background, economic relations/trade, geographic proximity to AmE/BrE). On the basis of 20 lexical items (e.g. have gotten vs have got), Gilquin shows that the influence of AmE is greater in EFL than in ESL or ENL varieties, providing at least partial support for Mair’s claim of an AmE hub. At the same time, EFL varieties display much more heterogeneity regarding the Americanness of lexical items with values ranging from 6% to 98% ratio of AmE vs BrE spelling compared to ENL and ESL varieties. Gilquin suggests that this points to an item-based preference of American items in ELF varieties, probably related to the learners’ level of proficiency. Results further highlight that the local sociohistorical context seems to exert influence on the degree of Americanness, albeit unsystematically. In all, the comparatively strong influence of AmE on EFL varieties would justify the inclusion of EFL varieties and other local contextual factors in Mair’s World System of Englishes model.

Focusing on ENL and ESL varieties, Marianne Hundt’s chapter “It is time that this (should) be studied across a broader range of Englishes: A global trip around mandative subjunctives” zooms in on mandative constructions (the alternation between subjunctive and should) and investigates variation in this alternation across some ten varieties of English (five ENL and five ESL varieties) and across written and spoken registers. The chapter focuses primarily on the language-external and -internal factors that constrain the choice between subjunctive vs should. Using data from the ICE-corpora representing the ten varieties, Hundt analyses the influence of these constraints with conditional random forests and inference trees. Results suggest that the lexical item triggering the mandative construction is the most important factor in the choice of variant, followed by variety. Support for these results is provided in a follow-up study that compares a sample of mandative constructions in AmE, BrE and Indian English using data from GloWbE. Hundt’s analyses further illustrate that Indian, Hong Kong and Irish English behave similarly to BrE in the British preference for should, while Australian, New Zealand, Singapore, Philippine, Canadian and Jamaican English seem to follow the American preference for subjunctives. Results do not fully fit with Schneider’s Dynamic model nor Mair’s World System of Englishes. Rather, Hundt suggests that there might be a network of local (norm providing) centres available which speakers orient towards.

The last research chapter by Stefan Th. Gries, Tobias Bernaisch and Benedikt Heller entitled “A corpus-linguistic account of the history of the genitive alternation in Singapore English” investigates real-time changes in factors influencing the choice of genitive variant (my father’s book vs the book of my father) in Singapore English (SinE) from the 1950s until the 1990s using data from the Historical Corpus of Singapore English, ICE-Singapore and ICE-Great Britain. The authors apply a recently developed method by Gries and colleagues – MuPDAR/F (Multifactorial Prediction and Deviation Analysis with Regression/Random Forests): First, they draw a synchronic comparison between BrE and SinE to assess the extent to which SinE speakers deviate from BrE speakers in their choice of genitive variant. Secondly, they apply MuPDAR on SinE data from the 1950s, 1960s and 1990s to trace the diachronic development in the factors governing genitive choice and to investigate to what extent the observed deviations in the synchronic data matches with the changes observed in real time. Their results show that not all changes observed in the apparent-time (i.e. synchronic study) matches real-time changes (from the diachronic study), which challenges the long-standing assumption in research in World Englishes that synchronic deviations from BrE equals structural changes in new varieties of English.

The concluding chapter by Sandra Deshors and Gaëtanelle Gilquin “Modeling World Englishes in the 21st century: New reflections on model making” brings together the nine contributions to the volume and the challenges that these contributions have highlighted in the model-making process of World Englishes. The authors propose that future theoretical models need to take the different modes of communication (especially computer-mediated communication), and the multilingual settings of communicative events into account, shifting the focus away from static boundaries, such as ENL, ESL and EFL, or genre distinctions, to acknowledge the fluctuations of the use of English in new (non-elitist) domains. Specifically, the authors propose the ‘communicative event’ as the new focal point for theorizing in World Englishes since such a focal point could account for the individual globalized speaker (and his/her linguistic background) as well as for the numerous functional factors that influence the development of Englishes. The authors conclude by pointing out some of the methodological implications this approach might have and the practical and statistical knowledge required of researchers who move in that direction.


The aim of this edited volume is to revise and update current theoretical models of World Englishes, a goal that the volume clearly accomplishes. The nine contributions highlight not only the diversity of communicative situations in which English is used in the 21st century but also the heterogeneity of speakers taking part in these communicative events. The volume is thus a perfect read for researchers interested in the hybridity and fluidity of speech situations in which English is used as a day-to-day medium of communication in the 21st century: it provides the research community with a desperately needed first attempt to move away from a homogenetic view of World Englishes and to probe these Englishes’ intravarietal heterogeneity (see the contribution by Buschfeld et al.). The volume constitutes thus a strong step forward in the typology of World Englishes by acknowledging and empirically investigating the multi-faceted nature of linguistic ecologies around the world.

Interestingly, the fluidity and hybridity of speakers’ linguistic repertoire referred to repeatedly by the various contributors fits in neatly with recent research in variationist sociolinguistics, specifically this field’s increased focus on shifting styles and performance and on the interplay between individual vs community-level grammars (see Eckert 2012; Guy & Hinskens 2016). This shift in focus from the linguistic practices of a stable, larger social group (the speech community) to an individual’s fluid, more dynamic use of language seems to lie at the core of both recent modelling approaches in World Englishes and current debates in variationist sociolinguistics. This also shows in Deshors & Gilquin’s final chapter where the authors propose to focus on the ‘communicative event’ to categorize English varieties and to “allocat[e] a central part of our theories to the speaker” (Deshors & Gilquin, p. 288). In that vein, this volume not only advances research in World Englishes but also adds to the ongoing discussion in other linguistic areas, indicating that it addresses pressing issues of our times.

Overall, while some chapters take a clear theoretical focus aiming to establish the usefulness of Schneider’s Dynamic or Mair’s World System of Englishes models, other contributions seem more interested in the linguistic phenomenon under study and only in a second instance discuss their findings against the backdrop of models of World Englishes. This creates a rather diverse, at times seemingly incoherent set of chapters, which only underscores the diversity of speech situations in which Englishes are used today. The last chapter (Deshors & Gilquin) successfully brings together the converging lines of argumentation and combines the chapters into a unified proposal as to how model-making in World Englishes should move forward in the future. Crucially, the final chapter by Deshors & Gilquin points out that new annotation schemes and a shift in focus from morphosyntactic phenomena to pragmatic, discourse-specific phenomena is clearly needed. It will be seen in future studies to what extent other researchers can address these suggestions and advance the field further.


Buschfeld, Sarah & Alexander Kautzsch. 2017. Towards an integrated approach to postcolonial and non-postcolonial Englishes. World Englishes 36(1). 104–126.

Eckert, Penelope. 2012. Three Waves of Variation Study: The Emergence of Meaning in the Study of Sociolinguistic Variation. Annual Review of Anthropology 41(1). 87–100. doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-092611-145828.

Guy, Gregory R. & Frans Hinskens. 2016. Linguistic coherence: Systems, repertoires and speech communities. Lingua 172–173. 1–9.

Mair, Christian. 2013. The world system of Englishes: Accounting for the transnational importance of mobile and mediated vernaculars. English World-Wide 34(3). 253–278.

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

Szmrecsanyi, Benedikt. 2009. Typological parameters of intralingual variability: Grammatical analyticity versus syntheticity in varieties of English. Language Variation and Change 21(03). 319–353.


Melanie Röthlisberger is a Senior Research and Teaching Associate at the University of Zurich. Her research interests include World Englishes, Cognitive Sociolinguistics, and language variation and change, especially with regard to morphosyntactic and pragmatic variation using corpus-linguistic methods.

Page Updated: 19-Jul-2019