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Review of  Varieties of English

Reviewer: Jakob R. E. Leimgruber
Book Title: Varieties of English
Book Author: Rajend Mesthrie
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 20.2281

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EDITOR: Mesthrie, Rajend
TITLE: Varieties of English
SUBTITLE: Volume 4: Africa, South and Southeast Asia
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
YEAR: 2008

Jakob R. E. Leimgruber, School of Linguistics & English Language, Bangor University

This volume is the fourth and last in a series of paperbacks describing
varieties of English world-wide. The series itself is a rework of the ''Handbook
of Varieties of English'' (Kortmann et al 2004), rearranged by geographical area
(vol. 1: The British Isles, vol. 2: The Americas and the Caribbean, vol. 3: The
Pacific and Australasia, vol. 4: Africa, South and Southeast Asia) where the
''Handbook'' had a volume each for phonology and grammar.

The present volume keeps this distinction by being split into two parts: Part I,
''Phonology'', comprises eighteen articles on individual varieties' phonologies.
Part II, ''Morphology and Syntax'', revisits seventeen of these varieties from a
grammatical point of view -- Philippine English is not considered in Part II;
however, Butler English is, which isn't described in Part I. Both parts end with
a synopsis by the editor. Each article ends with a few ''Exercises and study
questions'', highlighting the series' declared aim to be used as a general textbook.

The book starts with a list of features, both phonological (xix-xxiv) and
grammatical (xxv-xxix), and with a ''General introduction'' (1-22) by Bernd
Kortmann & Edgar W. Schneider. This introduction sets out the aims of the series
and places it within the field of studies on varieties of English. It explains
the series' emphasis on cross-varietal comparability, achieved by each author's
concentration on major structural properties in the domains of phonology
(systems, phonotactics, prosody, etc) and morphology and syntax
(tense/aspect/modality, auxiliaries, agreement, etc). The general introduction
concludes with a description of the accompanying CD-ROM and with a list of
''General references'' on the topic of English varieties.

The editor's ''Introduction: varieties of English in Africa and South and
Southeast Asia'' (23-31) sets the historical, geographical, and theoretical
background against which the volume is written. The first section outlines a
typology of the Englishes found in the area (referred to as ''Africa-Asia''): ENL
(English as a Native Language), ''spoken by British settlers and/or their
descendants'' (23), ESL (English as a Second Language), resulting mainly from the
education system and used typically as a lingua franca of the educated, and
Pidgin English, described as a variety arising ''outside of the educational
system'' and ''only partly derived from English'' (23). ESLs being the major object
of study in this volume, Mesthrie adds a section on ''Second language
acquisition'', where he outlines the necessity to focus on mesolectal speakers,
and the problems associated with using RP and Standard British English as basis
for comparison. His introduction ends with an overview of the articles in the
volume's two parts.

Ulrike B. Gut begins ''Nigerian English: phonology'' (35-54) with an account of
the country's linguistic ecology and the use of English within the population
and as a non-declared official language. An overview of the history of British
colonization follows, with special reference to the languages used in education.
Gut emphasizes the heterogeneity of Nigerian English (NigE), reviewing studies
that explain it with factors such as ethnic first language (Hausa, Igbo,
Yoruba), level of education, and geographic-historical considerations, including
the origin of English language teachers. She concludes this first section with
an overview of (the lack of) Nigerian language policy. The section on phonology
draws on ''impressionistic'' (41) findings, due to the absence of corpora or
empirical data: much of it is drawn from previous studies (particularly Jibril
1986, Jowitt 1991). In the sub-section on vowels, the repertoires for Educated
Hausa English and for Educated Southern NigE are given, followed by a detailed
phonetic description for each lexical set; the sub-section on consonants,
however, shows the realizations of phonemes for the three major ethnic groups,
again based chiefly on Jibril (1986) and Jowitt (1991). The sub-section on
prosody draws on more recent findings, among which Udofot (2003) and Gut (2003),
and ends the chapter with an overview of tone.

Ben Elugbe's chapter (55-66) on the phonology of Nigerian Pidgin English (NigP)
begins with a short discussion on the linguistic ecology present in early
colonial times, particularly on the question of a pre-existing Portuguese
Pidgin. After an overview of the regional varieties of NigP, the consonant
inventory is given; however, the sources quoted (Mafeni 1971, Omamor 1991) list
24 phonemes and the author recognizes 25, while Table 1, listing them, shows 23
plus three bracketed ones (/tS/, /Z/, /N_w/), for which no explanation is
supplied. In the sub-section on vowels, it is the use of ''Standard British
English'' (59) for comparison of pronunciation that is most perplexing, along
with Elugbe's use of vowel numbers rather than the lexical sets outlined in the
introduction (xix-xxii). There are some consistency problems with phonetic
transcription, too: /y/ is occasionally used for IPA /j/ (59), and vowel length
is sometimes indicated with a reduplicated symbol (/EE/, 60). After an account
of NigP's nasalized vowels and their assimilatory effect on preceding
consonants, Elugbe reviews discussions on tone and pitch and seems to argue for
Mafeni's (1971) view, concluding that NigP is not that different from English as
far as intonation is concerned.

In ''Ghanaian English: phonology'' (67-92), Magnus Huber begins with a thorough
history, followed by an extensive account of the current sociolinguistic
situation. Maps are used to illustrate the distribution of the country's several
indigenous languages, and their sociolinguistic status is explained. Ghanaian
English's (GhE) position within this multilingual setting is then explained. Its
phonology is then investigated in detail, focusing on the most ''Ghanaian''
features -- a sensible choice, given the heterogeneous character of GhE, touched
on briefly in the concluding section. The in-depth account treats vowels and
consonants in different sub-sections, explaining vowel mergers and
monophthongization in great detail, including considerations of spelling
pronunciation, ethnicity, and age. Consonants are given a similarly thorough
treatment, broken down into (deletion of final) plosives, nasals, fricatives
(particularly RP /T/ and /D/ as well as /S/ and /Z/), affricates, and
approximants. (The absence of a recapitulatory table with the complete consonant
inventory is, however, deplorable.) The section concludes with a look at
suprasegmentals, including stress and creaky voice. Huber then concludes the
chapter with a section on ''major issues in current GhE research'', primarily
considering the prescriptive vs descriptive views on the variety, and its very
status as a variety in its own right.

Huber then describes the phonology of Ghanaian Pidgin English (GhP, 93-101), in
a chapter that follows much the same structure as his previous one: the
introductory section on GhP's history and sociolinguistic status is followed by
the phonological description, which focuses on the differences between GhP and
GhE -- with the result that the sub-section on vowels repeats the same inventory
as for GhE, referring the reader to the previous chapter for comments. The
chapter concludes with a discussion of the stigmatization of GhP. (However, one
wonders if GhP warranted a separate chapter: the author himself refers to GhP as
using ''the more basilectal variants'' (97) of GhE.)

In ''Liberian Settler English: phonology'' (102-114), John Victor Singler focuses
on the English of the Settlers, African Americans who resettled Liberia in the
19th century. After an extensive account of history and sociolinguistic
background, the phonology section treats vowels, consonants, and suprasegmentals
in sub-sections of similar lengths. The chapter concludes with a mention of the
variety's rate of speech (though, unfortunately, empirical support for the
gender differences mentioned is absent).

Augustin Simo Bodba's chapter on Cameroon English (115-132) is extensive, and
offers an in-depth account of both phonology and phonetics. For the vowels, each
lexical set is individually described in a separate paragraph, concluded by a
comprehensive table listing the sets' realizations. (A minor error is in NEAR,
where /iE ~ iE/ should be /iE ~ [email protected]/ (123)). The treatment of consonants is
shorter, focusing on those that differ from RP. Stress is discussed at length,
including stress movement and rules of stress placement. The chapter finishes
with an overview of the ''Trilateral Process'' proposed by the author (1994),
which underlines the variety's autonomous status. The sociolinguistic history of
Cameroon, absent from this chapter, is given in the one on Cameroon Pidgin
English (Kamtok) by Thaddeus Menang (133-149), where processes of restructuring,
in particular vowel mergers, are given prominent treatment.

Josef Schmied then considers ''East African English'' (EAfE, 150-163), which is
defined as covering varieties in its ''heartland'' of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
The introduction covers their colonial history, language policies, historical
and current sociolinguistic situations, and language attitudes. Three ''reasons
for East African forms of English'' are listed (157-158): substrate influence,
language learning strategies, and written language influence. The remaining five
pages are devoted to phonology, with comprehensive inventories, including
phonotactic patterns. Schmied's explanation of the importance of EAfE phonology,
that ''African varieties'' feature ''the most persistent [...] non-standard
pronunciation'' (158), might however need to be put into perspective.

Four chapters on South African English (SAfE) follow: White SAfE (Sean Bowerman,
164-176), Black SAfE (Bertus van Rooy, 177-187), and Indian SAfE (Rajend
Mesthrie, 188-199), as well as Cape Flats English (Peter Finn, 200-222). The
first of these gives substantial historical information on the country and its
languages (with particular reference to English and Afrikaans), whereas the
second and the third chapters limit themselves to an explanation of their
analytical framework, and include a history of Indian migrations into the
country in the latter case. Their phonological sections differ, with Bowerman's
chapter having a good vowels-consonant balance, whereas von Rooy includes
suprasegmentals. Mesthrie's comprehensive account concludes with a section on
current research issues, in which he concentrates on the aspiration of /p, t,
k/, surprisingly represented by . The chapter by Finn on Cape Flats
English (CFE) considers the variety spoken in Cape Town's multiracial and
multilingual district of that name. The phonological description is preceded by
a useful account of the speakers' origins and the district's settlement history.
This is a thorough account of CFE phonology, and particularly useful due to it
not being very widely known.

Sheila Wilson's chapter on St. Helena English (223-230), though short, gives a
succinct overview of the island's history, followed by a description of each
vowel's lexical set. The KIT set is confusingly described as having two
realizations, both of which are represented by [I].

South Asian varieties are then investigated in Ravinder Gargesh's (Indian
English, 231-243) and Ahmar Mahboob & Nadra Huma Ahmar's (Pakistani English,
244-258) chapters. Gargesh, begins with a typology of literature on Indian
English (IndE), rather than with the more common socio-histories, and moves then
straight into the phonological system of IndE. The chapter attempts a
description of Pan-Indian English, taking regional and social variation into
account. This results in the list of lexical sets incorporating information,
e.g., on the geographical distribution of individual variants. Prosodic features
are covered in detail. Mahboob and Ahmar's chapter on Pakistani English (PakE)
begins with a historical overview, followed by an explanation of the country's
linguistic ecology, before embarking on a ''preliminary description of PakE
phonology'' (247). Vowels fall into two groups: invariant and varying in quality.
No explanation is offered for the variation observed, something the authors
acknowledge in the conclusion (257).

The last three chapters of this first part are on Southeast Asian Englishes.
Lionel Wee's chapter on Singapore English phonology (259-277) begins with the
history of English in the island-state, and with an explanation of the current
linguistic ecology and language policies. Two factual errors spotted (Brunei is
hardly one of the countries that ''surround'' Singapore [261], and Lee Kuan Yew is
no longer Senior Minister [262]) do not diminish the importance of the section.
Wee then introduces the two main approaches to English variation in Singapore
(lectal continuum vs diglossia), however without reference to recent work on the
topic (Alsagoff 2007). The phonemic inventory is largely and explicitly based on
Bao (1998), although Wee's vowel system contains three more than Bao's.
Phonological processes are discussed extensively, although l-vocalization (see
e.g. Tan 2005) is absent. The chapter concludes with an account of prosody,
including an overview of stress assignment. A mention of tone (Goh 1998, Lim
2007) might have been of interest.

Malaysian English (MalE) phonology is introduced by Loga Baskaran (278-291). An
account of the ethnic make-up of the country is followed by the author's
classification of MalE into three lects (''official'', ''unofficial'', and ''broken'',
282). The phonological description that follows does not, unfortunately, specify
which of these lects it considers, except where consonant substitution is
concerned (287).

Ma. Lourdes G. Tayao begins her chapter on Philippine English (PhlE, 292-306)
with an account of the country's language policies, before reviewing the
literature on PhlE phonology and explaining its regional/social varieties. The
vowel and consonant systems given in table form (296-299) take this variation
into account, showing the realizations for acrolect, mesolects, and basilect
where appropriate. Lexical stress is given ample treatment.

Part I concludes with the editor's ''Synopsis: the phonology of English in Africa
and South and Southeast Asia'' (307-319). It has a strong typological element,
with the short vowel systems of Africa-Asia's Englishes being classified
(6-vowel system and two types of 5-vowel systems). All lexical sets are listed,
recapitulating the various varieties' realizations. Final obstruent devoicing
and cluster reduction are highlighted as the most common processes, as is the
tendency of these varieties to lean towards syllable-timed rhythm. The chapter
ends with a note on the phonological similarity of these varieties.

Part II, ''Morphology and syntax'', begins with M.A. Alo & Rajend Mesthrie's
chapter (323-339) on Nigerian English grammar. It avoids a repetition of the
phonology's extensive historical background, and sets out to explain why NigE is
the way it is. A list of contributing factors, mostly sociolinguistic, is
followed by an overview of the variety's inherent variation. The section on TAM
(tense, aspect, modality) concentrates mostly on modality, and to a lesser
extent, aspect. What follows is a summary of primarily Jowitt (1991),
considering auxiliaries, negative, variable relative markers, and
complementation, before a section each on word order, HAVE and phrasal verbs,
reduplication, and lexis.

Nicholas Faraclas' chapter on Nigerian Pidgin English morphology and syntax
(340-367) calls NigP a ''dialect of Afro-Caribbean English Lexifier Creole''
(340), and starts with an explanation of its internal variability. The TAM
system is given in-depth coverage, particularly the analysis of anterior tense.
Using plenty of examples from the author's fieldwork, the section on noun
phrases is extensive and well structured. The ''range of meanings'', apart from
realis mode of sentence-final ''o'' (366), could have benefited from more explication.

The chapter on Ghanaian English by Magnus Huber & Kari Dako (368-380) begins
with a section on the verb phrase, considering phrasal verbs, transitivity, TAM,
auxiliaries, and negation. Sections on relativization, adverbial subordination,
and agreement follow, as well as a longer one on the noun, with particular
reference to articles. A section on topic-prominence and one on lexis, including
idioms, concludes this chapter.

Magnus Huber investigates the syntax and morphology of Ghanaian Pidgin English
(381-394), contrasting it to NigP, with which it shares ''many similarities''
(381). TAM, pronoun, and article systems are usefully presented in table form. A
longer subsection explains various types of reduplication, and the chapter
concludes with focus and topicalization.

John Victor Singler's chapter on Liberian Settler English (395-415) begins with
a summary of the more extensive historical and sociolinguistic account provided
in his phonology. The chapter is divided into four large sections: the verb
(TAM, copula, and negation), adjectives, the noun (plurals, possessives, and
demonstratives), and relativization and complementization. A section on the
African American diaspora and one on local influences help explain the origin of
some of its structural features.

The chapters on Cameroon English by Paul Mbangwana (416-427) and on Cameroon
Pidgin English (Kamtok) by Miriam Ayafor (428-450) both start their analysis
with lexis: CamE idioms in creative writing are considered, as are processes of
borrowing and word-formation, followed by an extensive overview of the lexis in
Kamtok. Mbangwana then concentrates on CamE syntax, interrogatives, and
pronouns, relying mostly on Sala (2003), whereas Ayafor has a large section on
parts of speech, including nouns, pronouns, verbs, modifiers, prepositions, and
conjunctions. She concludes the Kamtok chapter with a discussion of sentence

Josef Schmied's chapter on East African English (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania,
451-471) begins with an acknowledgement that the grammar of a variety of this
kind can at best be described in terms of tendencies, rather than in terms of a
uniform or even independent norm. The data used is from ICE--East Africa, and
illustrates ''broad categories of word class type'' (451), into which the
remainder of the chapter is subdivided: morphology (VP, NP, pronouns, modifiers,
and question tags), word order, discourse, and lexis (borrowings, semantics, and
idioms). The chapter concludes with a section on further research, particularly
with reference to the sparse data (with a suggestion the world wide web might
provide a useful database), language teaching, and intercultural communication.

Four chapters on South African English follow: White SAfE by Sean Bowerman
(472-487), Black SAfE (488-500) and Indian SAfE (501-520) by Rajend Mesthrie,
and Cape Flats English by Kay McCormick (521-534). In terms of internal
structure, Mesthrie's chapters follow the same pattern of
TAM-negation-relativization-complementation-agreement-NP structure-pronouns-word
order also found in the chapter on NigE. Bowerman's chapter is slightly
differently organized, but addresses the same issues; more emphasis is put on
lexis, with a two-page list of borrowings. Similarly, McCormick has a section on
the lexicon, including borrowings and calques (particularly from Afrikaans), as
well as a list of English words whose use is different in CFE from Standard English.

Sheila Wilson & Rajend Mesthrie begin the chapter on St Helena English (535-546)
by arguing for StHE's origin in contact between non-standard southern British
varieties and a pidginized variety. The section on TAM is largest, followed by
agreements and auxiliaries. Plenty of examples illustrate each feature. A
section on vocabulary concludes the chapter.

Indian English morphology and syntax is analyzed by Rakesh M. Bhatt (547-562).
An introductory section explains his analytical framework, including an attempt
at qualifying IndE as diglossic. A historical overview precedes a list of data
sources. Wh-movement is analyzed first, followed by tag questions and
topicalization (with particular reference to the particle ''only'', 554-556).
Pro-drop processes and a brief account of null expletives follow, before a list
of ''other miscellaneous features'' (559-560).

Priya Hosali then analyzes Butler English (563-577), a pidgin variety used
predominantly by domestic classes in India. The introduction presents its
historical background and current sociolinguistic status. A section on reduction
and one on simplification follow, before the main section on syntax. The latter
focuses on negation, interrogatives, and dislocation. The conclusion briefly
mentions ButlE's rule-governed status, which may however not prevent it from

The chapter by Ahmar Mahboob on Pakistani English (579-592) consists of two
major sections, one on syntax and one on lexis. The former includes aspect,
complementation, and word order, followed by a subsection entitled ''syntax and
morphology'' -- this structure can be confusing (Part II: ''Syntax and
morphology'', chapter 16: ''Pakistani English: syntax and morphology'', section 2:
''Syntax'', subsection 2.7: ''Syntax and morphology''), and it is not immediately
obvious why do-support, articles, and prepositions are not simply part of
section 2. The section on lexis conveniently differentiates between borrowings,
affixation, preposed phrases, and semantic shift.

Singapore English is described by Lionel Wee (593-609), who divides his chapter
into five sections: the verb phrase (generally uninflected verb, lexical tense
and aspect, little agreement, copula-deletion), the noun phrase (articles,
mass/count distinction, relativization), the clause (pro-drop, topic-prominence,
interrogatives, passives), reduplication (nominal, adverbial, and verbal), and
particles (focusing on ''lah'', ''wat'', and ''lor''). In each case, examples
illustrate the feature described, although their source is not always clear
(e.g. (1)-(10)).

The final chapter is by Loga Baskaran on Malaysian English (610-623). An
introduction presents the country's ethnic composition and cites the various
substrate languages present, and lists the data sources. A section on the noun
phrase (articles, pronouns, and mass/count distinction) and one on the verb
phrase (tense, modals, and progressive) are followed by one on ''clause structure
variation'' (including wh-movement an interrogatives) and one entitled ''other
syntactic variational features'' (pronoun copying and ellipsis, adverbial
positioning, and discourse particles). The chapter concludes with a section on
lexis, focusing on a typology of loanwords and on ''Standard English
lexicalisation'', i.e. StE lexical items used ''in novel ways'' (620) in MalE.

Part II concludes with the editor's synopsis (624-635), which begins with the
observation that the similarity between chapters in this part warrants a
classification into three broad categories: L1 Englishes, L2 Englishes, and
Pidgins and Creoles. The problematic nature of this categorization is
acknowledged, particularly the shift of some varieties from L2 to L1, and
similarities with other varieties from other continents are highlighted. The
chapter then sets out to bring the observed features together in individual
sections: TAM, the verb phrase, negation, subordination, the noun phrase,
pronouns, adverbs, and word order and discourse. These essentially list the
varieties, summarizing their treatment of these features. Occasionally, patterns
that confirm the proposed three-way classification are highlighted (628, 629, 633).

This volume, together with its companion volumes, is an invaluable addition to
the bookshelf of anyone interested in the varieties of English. Students and
scholars alike will find it a useful reference tool; its stated audience of
students makes it a perfect textbook resource for teachers. The minor flaws
observed do not compromise its status as one of the great publications in its field.

Particularly the comparability that was maintained across chapters deserves
mentioning. Having twenty-four authors conform to the same conventions regarding
abbreviations, lexical sets, and phonetic transcription, is remarkable. The
features under investigation were clearly set by the editors, and adhered to.

As far as the structure of the book is concerned, its division into two parts
(labeled ''phonology'' and ''morphology and syntax'') is not ideal to my mind. While
this has enabled experts in the field to give detailed accounts of the
individual varieties' phonologies and syntactic features respectively, it might
have been a wiser choice to present each variety in a slightly longer single
chapter, with the division between phonology/syntax made within each chapter.
This would have enabled students of a particular variety to get a complete
picture of that variety, and prevented some of the overlap in introductory
sections. More importantly, it would have avoided the regrettable fact that
Philippine English only has a section on phonology, and Butler English only one
on morphology and syntax.

These and other minor issues (such as an unusually high number of monospaced IPA
symbols, which clash visually with the other, variable-width characters), do
nothing to diminish the volume and the series' importance within the discipline.
The interactive CD-ROM that comes with the volume contains information and
recordings for all the varieties described in the four volumes. This addition
makes even a single volume an amazing teaching and reference tool.

At USD/EUR29.95 for the four volumes, this paperback series is much more
affordable than its ''Handbook'' predecessor, and is one of these milestones that
is bound to become a standard reference work in the field.

Alsagoff, Lubna (2007) Singlish: Negotiating culture, capital and identity. In
Vaish, Gopinathan & Liu, eds. _Language, Capital, Culture. Rotterdam: Sense
Publishers_. 25-46.

Goh, Cristine C. M. (1998) The level tone in Singapore English. _English Today_
53(1). 50-53.

Kortmann, Bernd & Edgar W. Schneider & Kate Burridge & Rajend Mesthrie & Clive
Upton, eds. (2004) _A Handbook of Varieties of English. Vol. 1: Phonology. Vol.
2: Morphology and Syntax_. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Lim, Lisa (2007) Mergers and acquisitions: On the ages and origins of Singapore
English particles. _World Englishes_ 26(4). 446-473.

Tan, Kah Keong (2005). Vocalisation of /l/ in Singapore English. In Deterding,
Brown & Low, eds. _English in Singapore: Phonetic Research on a Corpus_.
Singapore: McGraw-Hill. 43-53.

Jakob R. E. Leimgruber is completing his D.Phil in English language at Oxford,
and is a Lecturer in Sociolinguistics at the School of Linguistics and English
Language of Bangor University. His main research interests are contact
linguistics and the varieties of English, as well as sociolinguistic typology.
His D.Phil research involves the modeling of variation in Singapore English.

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