An Insight into the Development of World Englishes

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2011

10 Pages, Grade: 71%




This article seeks to shed light on the current linguistic panorama of the English language with the aim to encourage modern educational practices adapted to real-world needs. To fulfil this task, firstly, a brief description of the emergence of new Englishes will be given so as to cast doubt upon the traditional concept of English ownership. Secondly, recent linguistic developments of English will be exposed to support the internationalization of new Englishes and the global necessity to consider them as equal partners that are fully stable and operative. Thirdly, a shift in pedagogical practices will be suggested focusing on the renewed required English language teaching (ELT) attitudes. Finally, a general conclusion will summarize the key points and will supply the hypothesis for this article.

1. English is changing: World Englishes

Differently from most English studies, there is no longer sovereignty of one ‘kind’ of English over the others (Jenkins, 2009). New English varieties have emerged (e.g. Indian English), others are emerging (e.g. Chinese English) and others are still to emerge (e.g. Euro-English). The term ‘variety’ entails an enormous dimension that Schneider defines as ‘[not only] standard languages and national varieties, but also regional, social and ethnic dialects, group-specific language forms, contextually and stylistically defined expressions, and so on, for use their respective cultural contexts’ (2011: 18).

The linguistic norm (as it is understood among English language learners) has changed and English does not belong anymore to one prominent variety –that has distinctive features at all linguistic levels (phonological, syntactical, lexical and semantically). Subsequently, terms such as supremacy or prestige of a definite variety (generally associated to British English or American English) seem to be no longer valid in our current international linguistic context (D’Souza, 1999). Hence, the reality of English has become rather complex. Currently, it constitutes a scenario comprised by a wide range of self-evolving varieties used in diverse sociolinguistic settings [globally] which are juxtaposed rather than subordinated. That is to say, contrary to what it is extensively assumed, the English varieties –such as American, Australian, Irish, Nigerian, Indian or Malaysian– happen to be brothers and sisters rather than the children of the oldest varieties (i.e. British English & American English).

Therefore, the ownership of English has changed and each speech community has become the owner of their own English (Kachru, 1992). As Canagarajah states, ‘English has gained a life beyond its land of origins, acquiring an identity and currency in new geographical and social domains, as it gets localized for diverse settings and purposes’ (2005: xxiii). In this view, the label World Englishes –alongside other less generic terms such as New Englishes (Platt et al. 1984) or Postcolonial Englishes (Schneider, 2007) – has appeared to cover all the localized manifestations of English around the globe (Bolton, 2005). Thus speakers whose first [or native] language is English (ENL) and those whose English is a recently developed second-language variety (ESL) (e.g. Africa, Asia, India, etc.) are grouped together under this umbrella term. However, there is still a [giant] third group commonly identified as speakers that use English potentially as a lingua franca (ELF) or as a foreign language (EFL) that sometimes (in the sociolinguistic debate) tends to be left out of the World Englishes for not being an indigenized variety of English (Berns, 2009). Notwithstanding, this group is better known as the Expanding circle labelled by Kachru on his model of the spread of English (Kachru, 1992). Kachru categorises World Englishes in three circles corresponding with the two diasporas of English and the EFL countries. As a result, he includes in the first circle (called Inner circle) the ‘English fathers’ as the first countries in acquiring English as a mother tongue language (i.e. USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Secondly, he classifies in the Outer circle the countries in which English is official but not essentially the first language of the country that McArthur (1992) defines as ‘recently emerging and increasingly autonomous variet[ies] of English, especially in a non-western setting, such as India, Nigeria, or Singapore.’. Finally, in the Expanding circle he localises those countries in which English does not play a governmental role but it is however [understood and] used as a lingua franca.

Projections foreshadow that the hegemony of Inner-circle Englishes will be overthrown by Outer-circle and Expanding-circle communities by the year 2050 (Canagarajah, 2005). As a matter of fact, a large number of English learners belonging to the Expanding Circle study English in Outer-circle countries such as India, Singapore or Philipines (Berns, 2009). Consequently, special attention must be paid to the aforementioned circles since they [will] play a defining role in the upcoming development of English. Especially, the Expanding circle is gaining ground and unstoppably continues to increase among Asian and European countries. As far as Europe is concerned, Berns notes that:

‘The interpersonal use of English is represented in social contacts between and among Europeans of all ages in various settings – while travelling, socializing after work, participating in school or student exchanges – as well as between and among Europeans and non-Europeans in these very settings.’ (2009: 195)

Bearing this in mind, it must be assumed that English is operating in new geographical and social domains. The postmodern society is encouraging multilingual contexts through the ‘New International Economic Order’. In other words, the global economy framed by novel postmodern work settings is connecting people from diverse linguistic backgrounds (Canagarajah, 2005). The language of the business is bringing together distinct English varieties as a result of transnational business-related interaction. Additionally, within this scenario English speakers from the three circles are migrating in the search of work to other [English-speaking] countries carrying their local identities with them and thereby boosting the polycentricism of their regional varieties.

2. Recent linguistic developments of English

World Englishes are developing through other channels of communication at a macro-social level. Thanks to the mass media, World Englishes have become tangible in the every-day lives of most of the intercontinental population. Thus this omnipotent broadcaster is in charge to stretch the different English varieties around the globe (Tollefson, 2000). To put it in a nutshell, diverse English dialects, sociolects, vernacular features, local identities, examples of code-switching/code-mixing, etc., are exposed daily to a worldwide audience through massive industries such as television, radio, internet and newspapers. Hence, it is common to come across films which encompass actors from different English speaking L1 or L2 [even L3] countries whereby they interact together showing the viewer contrasting Englishes in situ. As means of example, [children-oriented] films such as Chicken Run are representatives par excellence of this phenomenon –since it harbours a rich array of World Englishes. As a result, the spectator might come across varieties such as American English, British English and Scottish (Extract 1).

Rocky: Ouch! What happened to my wing?

Ginger: You took a rather nasty fall.

Mac: [very fast, in strong Scottish accent] And sprained the anterior tendon connecting your radius to your humerus. I gave her a wee bit of a tweak, Jimmy, and wrapped her up.

Rocky: Was that English?

Extract 1: Excerpt from the film Chicken Run

Conversely, the music industry is another of the communicative instruments involved in the spreading of English dialects (Berns, 1995) at a global level (amongst English speaking [and non-speaking] communities). As a result, hundreds of multivocal songs come out every day worldwide with the aim to reach the biggest possible number of addressees. In so doing, distinct World Englishes rapidly scatter taking part of the international context –and therefore ascending from their regional area. As means of evidence, widely-known hit songs such as I’m Gonna Be by The Proclaimers put the listener in contact with the Scottish dialect. Listening to this song, both the Scottish accent and use of its terminology are clearly disernable. As Figure 2 displays, the term haver meaning ‘talking foolishly’ is employed in the song thus becoming a defining featured characteristic of this variety.


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An Insight into the Development of World Englishes
Coventry University
BA Contemporary Studies
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ISBN (Book)
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544 KB
english, international, dialects, language, outer circle, inner circle, expanding circle, education, lingua franca, international language
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2011, An Insight into the Development of World Englishes , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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