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Review of  World Englishes on the Web

Reviewer: Yuqi Gao
Book Title: World Englishes on the Web
Book Author: Mirka Honkanen
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 32.1865

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“World Englishes on the Web. The Nigerian diaspora in the USA” by Mirka Honkanen focuses on linguistic practices in the context of migration, integration and immigration. It investigates the language repertoires of Nigerians in the United States and provides a unique look at Nigerians’ negotiation of language use and identity. The book captures one of the outstanding studies in the VEAW (Varieties of English Around the World) series devoted to sociolinguistic analyses and descriptive surveys in the field of World Englishes. The study partially proposes a solution to examine the post-colonialism Englishes in the times of globalization and digitalization.

Right from Chapter 1 “Introduction”, the author offers us a brief overview of the motivation of, and innovation in conducting such an empirical corpus-based computer-mediated communication (henceforth CMC) study of Nigerians’ use of African-American Vernacular English (henceforth AAVE) on a non-thematic web forum with the socially situated approach (Androutsopoulos, 2006). Also, in this introductory chapter, the author makes terminological distinctions for some concepts (e.g., “Black” and “White” as identities, “Nigerian”, “U.S.- Nigerians”) as well as the critical constructs in this study (e.g., “repertoire”, “authenticity”). After the justification, a glimpse of this study comprising the key research topic, the background, the theoretical framework, data and methods, key findings and implications, is presented.

Chapter 2 “The sociolinguistics of the Nigerian diaspora” provides background information concerning “the demographics of Nigeria”, “English in Nigeria”, “the status of Nigerian Pidgin”(NigP, or the grassroots English), and “the educated Nigerian linguistic repertoire”. The author then briefly introduces the sociolinguistic profile of the target population - the highly educated Nigerian immigrants in the United States. The novelty of this chapter is the author’s justification and adoption of the better-educated and better-off Nigerian linguistic repertoire as a reference point for the later analysis and discussions.

In Chapter 3 “Resources, repertoires, and authenticity in times of globalization”, Blommaert’s (2010) “sociolinguistics of globalization” approach is introduced in detail and being critically evaluated before applying it to this study. As Blommaert (2010: 42) summarizes, “sociolinguistic phenomena in a globalization context need to be understood as developing at several different scale-levels, where different orders of indexicality dominate, resulting in a polycentric ‘context’ where communicative behaviour is simultaneously pushed and pulled in various directions”. This means, in this CMC study, there are also some norms about communicative behaviors of social actors (‘user’ or ‘account’) in a shared virtual space, i.e., Nairaland in this case. More importantly, some established concepts of sociolinguistics and multilingualism, e.g., Rampton’s (1995, 2000) “crossing”, Benor’s (2010) “ethnolinguistic repertoire”, Coupland’s (2001) “sociolinguistic authenticities” are also being cautiously examined to set the stage for the empirical part of this study. In addition, research questions and the research gap to be addressed are proposed in this chapter.

As the chapter heading indicates, data collection and methodology are introduced in Chapter 4 “Data and Methods”. This chapter describes the “web as corpus” approach, then introduces Nairaland, a Nigerian web forum broadly used by “U.S.-Nigerians” where data were collected, cleaned and partially manually tagged for location (“geotagging”). A subset of the data, stemming from selected diasporic individuals, acts as the primary Nigerian data that the author focuses on, that is, the core 50 subcorpus. This corpus’ searching function is enabled by the Net Corpora Administration Tool, which was developed during the “World languages - digital languages” project at the University of Freiburg. Besides, GloWbE (Davies 2013) is used as a secondary data set to find out which AAVE-related resources have already spread to Nigeria and to complement these when investigating items that characterize language use in Nigeria. The methods of analysis, i.e., corpus-based, ethnographically informed qualitative discourse analysis of CMC, are discussed in this chapter, along with limitations of this methodology and foreseeable challenges. The legal and ethical issues are emphasized at the end of the chapter.

The subsequent four chapters, i.e., Chapter 5 “African Americans and their vernacular English”, Chapter 6 “African-American linguistic resources in diasporic Nigerian repertoires”, Chapter 7 “Nigerian linguistic resources in diasporic Nigerian repertoires”, and Chapter 8 “Discussion” consist of the most significant aspects, that is, key findings and relevant discussions of this study. All the findings are demonstrated chapter by chapter in a progressive deepening process. Firstly, Chapter 5 offers background information about African Americans and their vernacular English, articulating the relations between U.S.-Nigerians and African Americans, and Nigerians’ attitude towards African Americans and AAVE backed up with the qualitative analysis of posted comments in the Nairaland 2 corpus. Additionally, the linguistic features of AAVE are concluded for further exploration of the corpus on the basis of three main sources: Green’s (2002) monograph which includes detailed discussions of verbal markers of AAVE; the electronic World Atlas of Varieties of English (eWAVE) (Kortmann, Lunkenheimer & Ehret 2020); and Wolfram’s (2004) description of urban AAVE. All the findings in the first two sub-chapters are based on the author’s investigation of and observation about metalinguistics in Nairaland 2 corpus. Meanwhile, the hermeneutical approach in the last sub-chapter helps restrict the further investigation to a closed list of linguistic features of AAVE. Chapter 6 then discusses the usage of AAVE by U.S.-Nigerians, describing AAVE linguistic features along with wider trends and practices in detail. The qualitative analyses mainly focus on the users in the core 50 subcorpus. Nevertheless, the author sometimes cautiously generalizes the analysis to the entire Nairaland 2 corpus. After the classification of user types (i.e., “consistent experts”, “inconsistent experts”, “occasional users”, “minimal users”, and “non-users”) based on the individual’s quantity and quality of AAVE usage, the readers are able to obtain an understanding of AAVE features and practices. Additionally, they can also develop an understanding of authentication of cultural identities by studying advanced AAVE users’ metalanguage, identity statements and users’ reactions towards their identity/linguistic performances in a bigger picture, stylistic variation in U.S.-Nigerians’ AAVE usage, verbal markers, lexical and orthographic AAVE features, and the practices of minimal usage and some other prevalent features. This chapter vividly depicts AAVE features and practices with full and accurate data as well as clear visualizations, which merits close reading. Chapter 7 concentrates on other significant languages and varieties in most of the examples discussed in Chapter 6, addressing the role of Nigerian Pidgin, ethnic Nigerian languages and Nigerian English in diasporic Nigerians’ repertoires. The perspectives of immigrant identities, language attitudes, and authentication are being adopted through the lens of sociolinguistics. A discussion section as a chapter follows. In Chapter 8, discussions are sparked on the functions of AAVE as well as the role of Nigerian Pidgin (NigP), ethnic Nigerian languages and Nigerian English (NigE) in U.S.-Nigerians’ online communication.

Chapter 9 “Conclusion” summarizes this study’s key findings and suggests directions for future research.


Herring (1996: 1) defines computer-mediated communication (CMC) as “communication that takes place between human beings via the instrumentality of computers.” Communication occurring within a computer-mediated format, e.g., instant messaging, email, online forums, and social network services, impacts many different aspects of the interaction of social actors, and this arouses the interest of researchers worldwide. Mirka Honkanen’s brilliance and innovation shines in new and unexpected ways with this study, which sets the example of how to investigate emerging linguistic practices and the study of CMC within the World Englishes framework. All in all, “World Englishes on the Web. The Nigerian diaspora in the USA” goes well beyond the topic of AAVE features and practices on Nairaland, and it could well form a basic understanding of Nigerian linguistic resources in diasporic Nigerian repertoires. Arguably, the book is an excellent resource to researchers, educators, students and linguistic enthusiasts - especially those interested in sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics, dialectology, and World Englishes.

The construction of the book meshes well with its organization and lends itself successfully to the study of the core 50 corpus under the research project of “World languages - digital languages” at the University of Freiburg, Germany. Each chapter of the book consists of several subchapters and provides a detailed account of WHY, WHAT, and HOW as well as the results and discussions of this study. A panorama of the AAVE features and practices in diasporic Nigerian repertoires is gradually but logically presented, even including Nigerian linguistic resources in diasporic Nigerian repertoires. The book’s orderliness conforms to the academic requirement while the writing style attracts the readers to unconsciously read with a strong interest, for example, the metaphorical use of language, the coherence between the chapters, and the vivid but careful wording and phrasing. One fine highlight of this study is the innovation reflected in the research design, in particular, the quantitative data collection and qualitative analyses on individual repertoires. Besides, the author’s profound insights into CMC, language use on the new media platforms, pidgins and creoles, and World Englishes probably contributed to this excellent work. Another noteworthy point in terms of research content is the rigorous data analysis. Nearly in every chapter, the author shows an exploring spirit as well as a cautious attitude towards the forthcoming reasoning. In this sense, the reliability of this study is enhanced. However, while each chapter creates a neatly parceled package, an Appendix section seems to be necessary for providing the coding scheme before the qualitative analysis, including the translation of some basic ethnic Nigerian languages (if possible), and displaying the image of Nairaland 2 corpus and core 50 subcorpus, for those readers who are interested in this aspect. Given that this book is part of the VEAW series, consistent editing or publication requirements may apply here to keep it coherent and concise.

The book narrates a detailed story of African-American linguistic resources in diasporic Nigerian repertoires in a readable and inspiring style. The main section, “discussion and results” makes use of tables and figures to classify and analyze every linguistic feature of AAVE drawn from the firsthand data on Nairaland. It is made clear that the U.S.- Nigerians’ linguistic repertoire and authentication of identities in the times of globalization shown in their digital communication is something more than what we had already known. The author presents a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of various aspects of AAVE, furnishing a panoramic sketch of the language situation in Nigeria as a reference point; this sketch contains unique insights into the thinking behind much of the contemporary linguistic phenomena. Its publication does build up the possibility of investigating linguistic practices at the intersection of social media and international immigration within the framework of World Englishes. This may attract linguists and other social scientists whose research interests include the sociolinguistics of globalization and CMC, corpus linguistics, World Englishes, and pidgin and creole languages. Linguistics majors will also probably benefit a lot from the research design and appropriate application of the tools like eWAVE (Kortmann, Lunkenheimer & Ehret, 2020) in this study.


Androutsopoulos, J. K. 2006. Introduction: Sociolinguistics and computer-mediated communication. Journal of Sociolinguistics 10(4): 419-438.

Benor, S. B. 2010. Ethnolinguistic repertoire: Shifting the analytic focus in language and ethnicity. Journal of Sociolinguistics 14(2): 159-183.

Blommaert, J. 2010. The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Coupland, N. 2001. Stylization, authenticity and TV news review. Discourse Studies 3(4): 413-442.

Davies, M. 2013. Corpus of Global Web-Based English: 1.9 billion words from speakers in 20 countries.

Green, L. J. 2002. African American English: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Herring, S. C. (ed.). 1996. Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social, and cross-cultural perspectives (Vol. 39). John Benjamins Publishing.

Kortmann, Bernd & Lunkenheimer, Kerstin & Ehret, Katharina (eds.) 2020. The Electronic World Atlas of Varieties of English. Zenodo. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3712132 (Available online at, Accessed on 2021-03-07.)

Rampton, B. 1995. Crossing: Language and Ethnicity among Adolescents. London: Longman.

Rampton, B. 2000. Crossing. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 9(1-2): 54-56.

Wolfram, W. 2004. The grammar of Urban African American Vernacular English. In Handbook of Varieties of English, B. Kortmann & E. W. Schneider (eds), 111-132. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Yuqi GAO is a master student specialized in linguistics at the University of Bremen, Germany. Her current research interests are World Englishes, corpus linguistics, language testing, translation and intercultural communication.She is a former linguist (editor/translator/English teacher) respectively in ASIAL(TEN)N Pte., Ltd and Beijing New Oriental Vision Overseas Consulting Co., Ltd in Singapore and P. R. China. She is also a CATTI Translation Test Examiner as well as a certified member of TAC and IATIS.