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Review of  The Routledge Handbook of World Englishes

Reviewer: Dragana Šurkalović
Book Title: The Routledge Handbook of World Englishes
Book Author: Angela Kirkpatrick
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 22.2735

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EDITOR: Andy Kirkpatrick
TITLE: The Routledge Handbook of World Englishes
SERIES TITLE: Routledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2010

Dragana Surkalovic, Center for Advanced Studies in Theoretical Linguistics,
University of Tromsø, Norway


'The Routledge Handbook of World Englishes', part of the Routledge Handbooks in
Applied Linguistics series, covers a wide variety of current issues in the study
of world Englishes, such as the status and development of English as a worldwide
lingua franca, as a medium of instruction in schools and as a leading language
of academia, as well as ''the development of 'computer-mediated' Englishes,
including 'cyberprose''' (i).

As Andy Kirkpatrick, the editor of the volume, states in the Introduction, there
are now more speakers of English as a second language in the world than there
are native speakers of the language. Thus, when we talk about varieties of
English, we must go beyond the traditional focus on the dialectal variation of
the British Isles, North America, Australia and New Zealand (Kachru's (1992)
'inner circle' varieties), and embrace the varieties present in African
countries, Asia, the Caribbean, and elsewhere in the world where
English-speaking colonizers ventured (Kachru's 'outer circle' varieties).
Furthermore, due to the growing influence of English as a foreign language in
countries not related to it by colonization (Kachru's 'expanding circle'), a new
type of varieties of English is developing. For example, it is estimated that in
China alone there are as many learners of English as there are native speakers
of the language in the world. Besides geographical variation, English varieties
develop as a result of its function as the language of business, academia, pop
culture and electronic communication.

This 700-page handbook is a collection of 39 contributions from 47 specialists
within the field, intended to serve as a comprehensive introduction to the study
of World Englishes and an overview of the developments and debates in this
ever-expanding field. It is aimed at advanced undergraduates and ''postgraduate
students of applied linguistics as well as those in related degrees such as
applied English language and TESOL/TEFL'' (i). However, as Kirkpatrick states,
''There are simply too many Englishes and varieties of these to be covered in a
single volume. Instead, this handbook will provide an overview and description
of a selected number of Englishes, regional, national, functional and
international, along with a review of recent trends, debates and the
implications of these new developments for the future of English'' (2).

The contributions to The Handbook are divided into 6 sections, covering a wide
variety of issues in the field, from historical and current perspectives, and
presenting new directions within the discipline.

Section I - Historical Perspectives and 'Traditional' Englishes

This section consists of eight chapters addressing issues concerning the 'inner
circle' Englishes. In the first chapter, 'Standardized English: The History of
the Earlier Circles', Daniel R. Davis shows how, from a historical perspective,
English has ''always been heterogenous and has always involved extensive language
contact'' (31). Even the standardized 'inner circle' varieties are hybrid
varieties, influenced and created by contact with other languages. This makes
them World Englishes by origin.

The second and third chapters describe the variation of Englishes in the British
Isles. 'Grammatical Variation in the Contemporary Spoken English of England', by
David Britain, starts with the statement that ''Standard English is a minority
dialect in England'' (37) and shows how non-standard forms are much more
widespread than standard British English, and are greatly influenced by a wide
variety of ethnic communities. 'Phonological Innovation in Contemporary Spoken
English', by Gerrard J. Docherty, presents phonological variation and the key
innovative aspects present in vernacular British Englishes.

Chapters 4 to 8 focus on the non-British varieties of 'inner circle' Englishes,
which are those of Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia and New
Zealand. 'The Englishes of Ireland: Emergence and Transportation', by Raymond
Hickey, provides us with an account of the historical development of current
Irish English, as well as its expansion overseas and its influence on Englishes
elsewhere in the world, e.g. Britain, North America, the Caribbean, and Australia.

William A. Kretzschmar Jr., in 'The Development of Standard American English',
shows the emergence of Standard American English as well as some of its
features, and the key role Webster's 'American Spelling Book' and prescriptivism
had in the establishment of the idea of a single Standard English in America.

In 'The Englishes of Canada', Stephen Levey stresses the diversity of what is
considered to be Canadian English and provides examples of variation in
linguistic features and regional variation. He also explores the sociohistorical
contexts of Canadian English's development and points out the need for
investigating and embracing its diversity.

'English in Australia', by Kate Burridge, presents a number of distinctive
features of Australian English and the influences on their development, which
range from dialects of early settlers to indigenous languages and, more
recently, immigrant communities.

Margaret Maclagan's 'The Englishes of New Zealand' shows the historical
development of New Zealand English, privileged among the 'inner circle'
Englishes because we have access to recorded evidence of its history from its
start. She also addresses the Maori language, Maori English and Pasifika
English, and their cultural and historical interaction with New Zealand English.

Section II - Regional Varieties and the 'New' Englishes

This section, like the previous one, focuses on geographical varieties. It
covers a number of Englishes of the 'outer circle', such as postcolonial
Englishes of Asia and Africa, as well as some varieties of the 'expanding
circle', such as Englishes in China, Russia, Colombia, etc.

The first two chapters address the Indian subcontinent. In 'The Development of
the English Language in India', Joybrato Mukherjee discusses some of the
features of Indian English, showing how many of them originate not from L1
interference, but from 'nativised semantico-structural analogy', and argues that
Indian English has characteristics of a semi-autonomous variety.

The authors of 'Sri Lankan Englishes', Dushyanthi Mendis and Harshana
Rumbukwella, present the complexity of Sri Lankan English, brought about by the
different L1, religious, generational and social backgrounds of its speakers.
They also address the unusual status of English in Sri Lanka. Although it is not
an official language, but rather a 'link' language used as a neutral language in
society, it is still used in some official contexts, such as the Sri Lankan
Supreme Court.

The following two chapters focus on Africa. 'East and West African Englishes:
Differences and Commonalities', by Hans-Georg Wolf, compares the varieties of
English in the two regions, pointing out the influence of colonial policies on
their similarities and differences and stressing that the West African Englishes
display more varieties than those of East Africa. In 'The Development of English
in Botswana: Language Policy and Education', Birgit Smieja and Joyce T.
Mathangwane present the role of English in this nation and are critical of the
language policies which promote English over local languages.

Chapters 13, 14, 15 and 16 address the Englishes of East and South East Asia.
'English in Singapore and Malaysia: Differences and Similarities', by Low Ee
Ling, contrasts the similarities in the historical development of the two
Englishes with the differences in the roles English subsequently assumed in the
two countries, which, the author predicts, will result in further distancing of
the two.

In 'Periphery ELT: The Policy and Practice of English Teaching in the
Philippines', Isabel Pefianco Martin discusses the influence of American English
language and culture, which originates in the past colonial status of the
Philippines but is still dominant in the country's educational system.

'East Asian Englishes: Japan and Korea', by Yuko Takeshita, is a comparison of
the development, status and features of the two varieties, including recent
proposals for making English an official language in both countries. The author
also presents the dangers of striving towards a native-like variety at any cost
instead of embracing the varieties that naturally developed in Japan and Korea.

In 'Chinese English: A Future Power?', Xu Zhichang outlines existing views on
the definition of Chinese English, and then goes on to present a detailed
linguistic description of the variety with numerous illustrations, and concludes
by predicting that the current number of about 350 million Chinese learners of
English will result in this variety becoming a major one among World Englishes.

In Chapter 17, 'Slavic Englishes: Education or Culture?', Zoya Proshina presents
the current status and influence of English in education, popular culture and
literature. She further discusses the linguistic features of Russian English,
including what she dubs 'Ruslish', a less educated variety.

Hazel Simmons-McDonald, in 'West Indian Englishes: An Introduction to Literature
Written in Selected Varieties', gives an overview of the development of
Caribbean creoles and shows the great significance of West Indian poets and
writers in the promotion of these creoles and creole-influenced vernaculars and
their establishment as internationally accepted varieties of English.

Finally, 'English and English Teaching in Colombia: Tensions and Possibilities
in the Expanding Circle', by Adriana González, introduces the status of English
in Colombia and the linguistic characteristics of Islander, the English-based
creole of the San Andres and Providencia Islands, and further discusses the
growing influence and use of English, which is expanding beyond the domain of
higher education. González shows how the use of the term 'bilingualism' in
Colombia, as referring to only Spanish-English bilinguals, is leading to a
dangerous disregard of the indigenous languages of this country.

Section III - Emerging Trends and Themes

The six chapters of this section cover various trends and themes that are
emerging in the contemporary study of World Englishes. In the first chapter,
'Lingua Franca English: The European Context', Barbara Seidlhofer addresses the
conflict between the official policy of multilingualism in Europe and the fact
that, despite this, English has become the lingua franca of Europe. She argues
that the threat that English poses for multilingualism would be reduced if this
fact were officially recognized, thus making it, as a lingua franca, an addition
to the multilingualism of speakers, and not, as a language of one nation, a
competitor with other languages of Europe.

'Developmental Patterns of English: Similar or Different?', by Edgar W.
Schneider, starts with a historical overview of the geographic spread of English
and the resulting sociolinguistic situations, followed by a presentation of the
linguistic features of new varieties. Schneider proposes that these are results
of various specific linguistic processes, and discusses various developmental
frameworks, including his own 'dynamic' model.

Chapters 22 and 23 are companion chapters to Chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 22,
'Variation Across Englishes: Phonology', by David Deterding, compares the
phonologies of the Indian, Nigerian and Singaporean varieties of English, and
compares these three to the other outer circle varieties, with the aim of
assessing mutual intelligibility. He predicts that the pronunciation of outer
circle varieties will become more acceptable, leading to a broadening of
accepted standards, and that this pronunciation will significantly influence the
future development of English.

In Chapter 23, 'Variation Across Englishes: Syntax', Bernd Kortmann gives an
overview of grammatical variation in 46 varieties of English, including the most
common features across the varieties, and discusses the probable reasons for the
existing similarities and differences. He points out that, while in phonology
and the lexicon, geographical factors are relevant, in morphosyntax, it is the
type of variety that has greater influence.

Due to the fact that speakers of World Englishes are multilingual, code-mixing
is an important aspect of the study of these varieties, and is addressed by
James McLellan in Chapter 24, 'Mixed Codes or Varieties of English?'. He
explores the world of Brunei online discussion forums and shows how speakers of
English and Malay mix the languages in different ways depending on various
discourse factors, suggesting a high level of linguistic sensitivity and
sophistication in code-mixing among these multilinguals.

The final chapter in Section III, 'Semantics and Pragmatic Conceptualisations
within an Emerging Variety: Persian English', by Farzad Sharifian, gives a
semantic-pragmatic account of Persian English in relation to the expression of
various Persian cultural values. It stresses the importance of incorporating the
study of cultural values into the study of World Englishes in order to achieve
better intercultural communication when using English as the language medium.

Section IV - Contemporary Contexts and Functions

This section looks at World Englishes from the perspective of the function
English is used for, such as creative writing, online and business
communication, etc. The first two chapters are written by authors who are
creative writers themselves. Ha Jin is a Chinese novelist, and in Chapter 26,
'In Defence of Foreignness', he describes the challenges creative writers such
as himself, Conrad, and Nabokov face when choosing to write in English, which is
not their native language. He defends them from criticism of their 'solecisms',
insisting on their freedom to choose the language in which they desire to send
their message, and pointing out their valuable contribution to the English
language as explorers of its frontiers.

In Chapter 27, 'Writing in English(es)', the Nigerian poet Tope Omoniyi presents
the use of English by creative writers outside the inner circle. Using himself
and other writers as examples, he illustrates the development of 'multivariety
Englishes' as a medium of artistic expression that transcends language
boundaries. This, as he points out, goes hand in hand with the fact that the
world we live in is overcoming language and cultural boundaries and becoming a
global community.

In 'Online Englishes', Mark Warschauer, Rebecca Black and Yen-Lin Chou introduce
the growing presence of online communication in people's lives, and compare it
to other forms of interaction. They point out that, despite the evident
dominance of English as the language of choice in online communication, the
internet is still largely multilingual, with a significant presence of
mixed-language communication. They also illustrate different varieties of online
English and types of online communication these varieties are used in (email,
blog, wiki, etc.), which shows how some linguistic features are innovative while
others can be connected to certain historical developments.

Chapter 29, 'The Englishes of Business', by Catherine Nickerson, reviews studies
of the use of English in business-related communication in and across all three
circles, showing how the use of English as a business lingua franca (BELF) goes
well beyond the inner circle, connecting millions of international business
people as the neutral common ground for communication. Additionally, Nickerson
points out the disassociation of this variety of English from inner circle
varieties, as the focus of its speakers is not on perfect reproduction of the
inner circle standards but rather on successful communication and getting the
job done.

Similar to the topic of the previous chapter, 'Englishes in Advertising', by
Azirah Hashim, provides an overview of research on the topic, and presents the
advertising business as a mixture of languages used to achieve different goals
and effects, and to attract specific consumers. Hashim uses Malaysia to
illustrate how and why Standard English, its local variety, and other local
languages are used, and what effects this code-mixing has.

In Chapter 31, 'The Englishes of Popular Cultures', Andrew Moody stresses the
importance of studying English in popular culture because of the
transnationalism of popular culture and its ability to spread the use of English
across borders and cultures. He draws a line between the English of popular
culture, a variety of English in its own right, and English in popular culture.
The latter is the more studied one, despite its disregard for the influence of
popular culture on the language itself.

In the final chapter of this section, 'Thank You for Calling: Asian Englishes
and 'Native-Like' Performance in Asian Call Centres', Kingsley Bolton presents
his study of call recordings from a major call centre in the Philippines. He
explores the views of employers and employees towards native-like performance,
and ways in which performance is achieved and judged, while also addressing the
interaction between international operations and world globalisation, and local
lives and linguistic practices.

Section V - Debates and Pedagogical Implications

This section covers the effects and implications of such a large number of
English varieties on the practice of English teaching and scholarship. Chapter
33, 'Which Norms in Everyday Practice: And Why?', by T. Ruanni F. Tupas,
addresses classroom practice as the central aspect of the issue. He presents two
studies, conducted in Singapore and the Philippines, which illustrate a conflict
between the teacher's obligation to teach the standard and their openness
towards the use of different varieties and norms in situations outside the
classroom, when the purpose of interaction is not education but communication.

'Construing Meaning in World Englishes' addresses the same issue in the context
of university education. Ahmar Mahboob and Eszter Szenes use a systemic
functional linguistics tool to analyse three essays, one by an Australian
student of Sri Lankan background, one by a Singaporean student of Indian
background, and the final one by an Australian citizen of Indian background. The
results show that, while using the same linguistic tools to create their work,
all three have different approaches to expressing their different heritage and
identity, which leads the authors to conclude that research on World Englishes
needs to go beyond geography-based varieties, and focus more on the context of use.

In Chapter 35, 'Which Test of Which English and Why?', Brian Tomlinson presents
an evaluation of several widely-used English language tests, showing how most
tests in use nowadays judge the learner's proficiency in Standard British or
American English. He suggests that learners should instead be tested in the
varieties they use to communicate in their local environment, and offers eight
testing criteria that would achieve greater fairness and reliability in judging
the learner's proficiency in their variety of English.

Chapter 36, 'When Does an Unconventional Form Become an Innovation?', by David
C.S. Li, discusses the distinction between learner errors and innovations. The
author illustrates how certain illogicalities of the English grammar system lead
to many learner errors. These non-standard features are, however, becoming more
legitimate as the awareness of the many varieties of English grows and as these
varieties become more acceptable as alternatives to the inner circle standards.

Chapter 37, 'Academic Englishes: A Standardised Knowledge?', by Anna Mauranen,
Carmen Pérez-Llantada and John M. Swales, also addresses the issue of standards.
They look at the use of English for academic purposes and point out the
complexity of academic English and the existence of its varieties, e.g. British
vs. American, and male vs. female. They present existing tendencies to
streamline academic English towards the inner circle standards, which is evident
in the language preferences of major publishing houses. These tendencies are
compared with the alternative spread and acceptance of other varieties of
English as the academic lingua franca.

The final chapter of this section, 'Cameroon: Which Language, When and Why?', by
Augustin Simo Bobda, uses Cameroon to exemplify the issue of which language is
and should be used in the educational system. Cameroon was a colony of England
and France, and thus both English and French are used in schools, beginning from
a young age. This illustrates how colonial languages are still dominant in
Africa, shadowing the richness and variety of local languages. The author
predicts that this situation is not likely to change in the near future.

Section VI - The Future

The final section consists of a single chapter, 'The Future of Englishes: One,
Many or None?', by Alastair Pennycook. The author discusses the three possible
outcomes of the current state of the English language: the ''continuation of
English'', ''the plurality of Englishes'', and ''the demise of English''. He shows
how the future depends on a number of political and economic factors, as well as
on our theoretical views on language. In our study of the language, we need to
take into consideration the cultural and language ideologies that come with each
variety, and think of English as the ''translingua franca English'' in this
increasingly global, multicultural and hybrid world.


Considering the spread and development the English language has been
experiencing across the globe, the need for this volume is obvious. It is a
fascinatingly varied collection, covering familiar issues of historical and
geographical variation, standards and teaching, as well as new areas of study,
such as cultural and functional variation, e.g. online English, non-native
creative writing, and the English of call centres, to name but a few. It is well
structured in thematic sections, providing a wider perspective and easing access
to individual aspects of the field.

The book is indeed a useful reference tool, not only for advanced undergraduates
and postgraduate students of applied linguistics and English language, but for
any other researcher and practitioner in the field, including students new to
the area. It opens up a wide variety of study fields that might spark students'
interest and direct their future academic development. The chapters are clear
and short, presenting historical overviews of the topics discussed, ongoing
debates, and predictions for the future. They contain a large number of
important and useful references with regard to the topics under discussion and
offer suggestions for further reading. Furthermore, I would recommend it to all
English teachers. As a wonderful window into the many historical, cultural and
functional faces of English, this handbook will help improve their understanding
of the phenomenon of World Englishes and English as the lingua franca, and help
put their own teaching practices into a global communication context. For
teachers of applied linguistics it is a valuable source of texts to be assigned
as course readings and starting points of class discussions, as well as a way of
familiarizing themselves with areas that are not their primary research interest.

However, as the editor warns in the Introduction, ''There are simply too many
Englishes and varieties of these to be covered in a single volume''. Indeed, the
title, ''Handbook of World Englishes'', is slightly misleading, as it provides an
overview and description of only a selected number of Englishes, and focuses
more on recent trends and debates in the study of the phenomenon. It is not the
best choice for those teaching or taking a course on the varieties of English
that covers various phonological and grammatical features, as there are very few
chapters that address linguistic features (mostly just in Sections I and II, as
well as Chapters 22 and 23). However, although the coverage of linguistic
features of the varieties that are discussed is not as in depth as one might
wish, most likely due to reasons of space, the list of suggested readings and
references points us in the right direction, and thus fulfills the purpose of a
handbook as a reference tool.

'The Routledge Handbook of World Englishes', although not as comprehensive as
one might wish, is still impressive in managing to cover such a wide variety of
issues in such a broad field. It not only provides us with a historical
perspective of the issues, but also wonderfully captures the current state of
affairs in the field and predictions for the development of English. In this
way, while improving our understanding of the status of English in the present,
it is a 'time capsule', and will be widely referenced in the future as a source
of information and understanding of the status of English in the 'past'.


Kachru, B. B. (ed.). (1992). The Other Tongue: English Across Cultures. Urbana,
Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Dragana Surkalovic is a PhD student in Theoretical Linguistics at CASTL in Tromsø, Norway. She holds a BA in English Language and Literature and an MA in English Linguistics. She specializes in suprasegmental phonology, with special interest in the modularity of language and the syntax-phonology interface. In addition to linguistics, she finds great joy in teaching English, and has taught various English language courses at various levels over the years.

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