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Book 2: English in
the World: history,
diversity, change
Chapter One
Dr A!el "alah
Chapter 1
English in the #orld today
11 $ntrod%ction:
Towards the end of the 20
century the linguist
Michael Toolan suggested that the English that is now
used as an international language around the world, is
so culturally removed from the traditional national
language of England that it should not be called
English. The name English , he argues, is no longer
appropriate it no longer re!ects the identity the
language has in the modern world. "e suggested that
the language should be renamed. "e proposes #lobal
English as it is used in the conte$t of international
communication, is becoming increasingly released
from a sense of rootedness in one or more ethnic
homelands %whether that is thought of as England, or
the &nglo'(a$on world, or the &nglo'&merican world).
%Toolan, *++,)

-n the other hand, the linguist .ra/ 0achru, for

e$ample, has suggested that because English
now has multicultural identities 1 the term
English does not capture the sociolinguistic
reality of the language. 2nstead, he suggests
that the plural form Englishes should be used.
%0achru, *++2, p. 34,). 2t is no longer possible
to spea5 of a single English language. 0achru
argues that around the world there are now
several di6erent varieties of English being
spo5en, each of which is distinct enough to be
accorded the status of a separate language. (o
while 0achru doesnt go as far as Toolan in
suggesting that a completely new name is
re7uired, he still feels that a fundamental
reconceptuali8ation of the language is

&ccordingly, we have this 7uestion9

#hat it is a&o%t the nat%re o' the
lang%age in the #orld today that
leads scholars like (oolan and
)arch% to !ake s%ch radical
s%ggestions A&o%t the need to
change the very na!e o' the

This chapter will ta5e an initial loo5 at

this comple$ 7uestion.
12 What is English*

2f we want to study English, its development,

its use and its status its worth clarifying
e$actly what it is.

2n the mid'eighteenth century :r. ;ohnson

de<ned English in his dictionary as the
language spo5en in England. -f course in
todays world, English is much more than this.
English has spread e$tensively in the two and a
half centuries since ;ohnsons time. Modern
dictionaries mostly augment ;ohnsons
de<nition by adding something about the
global scope of the language.

The Chambers Dictionary %**

for e$ample, de<nes it as 9
A Germanic language spoken in
the British Isles, USA, most parts
of the Commonwealth, etc.
=hile the -$ford English :ictionary
e$tends this slightly further9
Of or relating to the est
Germanic language spoken in
!nglan" an" also use" in man#
$arieties throughout the worl"

&s we can see, these de<nitions all

concentrate on a number of 5ey elements9
the communities with which the language
is most associated its history and the
way its now used in various places around
the world. 2n other words, all these
de<nitions lin5 the language with the
people who spea5 it now or who spo5e it in
the past. That means, language doesnt
e$ist as an abstract entity, it is something
people actually use. >or this reason any
investigation into the language will involve
an investigation into the social and
historical conte$t in which the language

&nyway, latest estimates suggest that English is

currently spo5en by between *400 and 2000
million people, in hundreds of countries. 2t is
because of statistics such as these that some
people feel the language has developed in such
a way that, conceptually, it is now a 7uite
di6erent entity from its pre'globalised
incarnation %manifestation).

"owever, this statement arises a number of

7uestions, for e$ample, what do we actually
mean when we say that English is spo5en by
almost two billion people in the world today?
=hat counts as English in this conte$t? &nd who
7uali<es as having the competence to be a
spea5er of it? &re there signi<cant di6erences
between the way it is spo5en in di6erent places,
at what point do we say that they are di6erent
$arieties of the language, or that perhaps they
are actually di6erent languages?

=hen you e$amine the three passages on pp.

+'** you <nd that the language is very diverse
@ that in di6erent communities it has developed
in such a way that its form is noticeably
di6erent. Aou may feel that some of the
e$amples are not real English at all. Ban we
consider these as varieties of English? 2f so, the
7uestion now is, at what point do we decide to
call these varieties a di6erent language? &t
what point they are no longer English? "ow
does one decide what counts as the core of the
language? 2s there a central version of the
language which we should thin5 as authentic
English? -r are each of these varieties e7ually
valid systems of linguistic e$pression which /ust
happen to be di6erent?

The answers for all these 7uestions will be

discussed throughout the boo5.

+ang%age, varieties and dialects

2n this section we will concentrate on what counts as

the English language. To do so you have to study
three related concepts such as variety, dialect and

,ariety refers to any distinct form of a language. 2t

is also more neutral than the others which can be
used to suggest that one form of a language is more
prestigious or legitimate than another.

Dialect refers speci<cally to a language variety in

which aspects of the vocabulary and grammar
indicate a persons regional or social bac5ground.
(tandard .ritish English is itself considered a dialect
by linguists, indicating a spea5ers social origin.

This is contrasted with the concept of accent, which

refers speci<cally to di6erences in pronunciation. (o
a Cew Aor5 accent refers to the distinctive and
systematic pronunciation which is associated with
the population of the city of Cew Aor5.

English thro%gh history

To what e$tent is modern'day English the

same language as that introduced to the
.ritish 2sles one and a half millennia ago?

(ee activity *.3 pp. *D'*,

=e can see that the language has

changed considerably over the last
thousand or so years. 2t has changed in
terms of its le$is %vocabulary), its
orthography %spelling) and its semantics
%meaning). &nd, its also changed in
terms of its synta$ %word order).

-ne of the reasons for the change that has

happened to English over the centuries is that
English has always been in contact with other
languages. The in!uence from this contact
can be seen most clearly in the way that
English is full of what are 5nown as
loan#ords. The term loanword, or borrowing,
is used to refer to an item of vocabulary from
one language which has been adopted into
the vocabulary of another. The process is
often the result of lang%age contact, where
two or more languages e$ist in close
geographical or social pro$imity %closeness).

The dominant language often absorbs new item

of vocabulary, either to cover concepts for which
it has no speci<c word of its own, or to generate
a slightly di6erent function or nuance for
concepts for which it does have e$isting words.

(ome loanwords 5eep their foreign appearance

when they are adopted e.g. je ne sais quoi = I
dont know. -ther loanwords become completely
naturali8ed, until spea5ers of the language no
longer notice their foreignness e.g. &a!&oo
from the Malay, bambu, *+E3 ketch%p from the
Bhinese ketchiap 1711 gho%l from the &rabic
ghul, an evil spirit, *,FE. (ee pp. *F'*+ for
further e$amples.

(o the point is English has, over its

lifetime, absorbed in!uences from
countless sources @ and so /ust as
English is now a presence in diverse
conte$ts all across the globe, so
diverse conte$ts from across the
globe also have a presence in the
language itself.
1- Who speaks English*
2t is important when we study English not to
forget that what we are actually studying is
the language as it is and was used by real
2n this section we will consider the role
English plays in the lives of people in various
parts of the world, and loo5 at how the
opinions people hold about the language are
related to their personal histories, to the
histories of their communities and to their
interpretations of the history of the
"ee Activity 14 pp 21.2-

&ctually, the attitudes people have towards

the language are a part of their own personal
history. .ut this personal history is always a
part of the wider history of the community in
which they live. 2t is often the case that not
only is the language of importance to the
individuals sense of identity, but that it also
plays a part in the cultural identity of a group
or nation. 2t is within this conte$t that the
history of English @ and especially the reasons
behind its global spread @ can be of great
signi<cance for the attitudes people have
towards the language.

&lso, the development of the

language is in!uenced by social
forces. :ecisions about the language
made by situations such as national
governments and education systems
have an impact on the form of the
language and on the way it is
perceived and used.

14 ho# do #e !odel the spread o'


2n this section we will consider how people

have modelled the e$istence of English
around the world, and to do so we should
study some 5ey concepts and terminology
which will be used in the rest of the boo5.

& <rst distinction that is mad by between

the English that is spo5en by native
spea5ers %C() and by non'native spea5ers
%CC(). The word native is derived from the
Gatin natus meaning to be born, so ones
native language is the language one
ac7uires from birth.

&n alternative term for this is mother

tongue, which again refers to the
language of ones early childhood
environment, in contrast to a non'native
spea5er, who will have learnt in later in
life. The signi<cance of the distinction is
that people ac7uire language in a
di6erent manner depending on the age
at which they learn it. Gearning a second
language later in life may result in
spea5ing it with an accent in!uenced by
ones native language.

Then the concept of the mother tongue or the

native spea5er %and the related notion of
English as a Cative Ganguage %ECG) countries)
is as much to do with the biography of the
spea5er as with the nature of the language

&nother long'standing distinction is that

between English as a (econd Ganguage and
English as a >oreign Ganguage. These are often
abbreviated as E(G and E>G refers to the use of
English in countries where it has some oHcial
or legal status, most often as the result of a
colonial history. >or e$ample, English is an
oHcial language in 2ndia @ and is thus used in
administrative and educational conte$ts @
although it is not the mother tongue for the
ma/ority of the population.

=e now have to add E2G or English as

an 2nternational Ganguage as a further
conceptuali8ation of how the language
is used in todays world. There is a
growing perception that English is now
the worlds lingua franca @ that it
operates as a means of communication
for people across the globe who do not
share a mother tongue and yet, given
the globali8ed society in which we now
live, have the need to interact.

(he (hree Circles o' English

& number of models for describing the spread

of English around the globe have been put
forward over the last few decades, but by far
the most in!uential has been the one devised
by .ra/ 0achru and 5nown as the %hree
Circles of !nglish.

>or each circle, 0archus model re!ects the

following three issues9

The historical process that has resulted in

English occupying its current position in
particular countries

"ow members of particular countries usually

come to ac7uire the language

The purposes or functions to which the

language is put in particular countries.

The 2nner circle of English'spea5ing

countries is composed of those places
where the language is the mother tongue
for the vast ma/ority of the population and
where it operates as the default language
for almost all domains of society.

The -uter Bircle also comprises countries in

which the current status of English is the
result of coloni8ation where English is
considered their (econd language.

>inally, there is the E$panding Bircle, which

refers to the rest of the world. 2n these
countries English is predominantly viewed
and taught as a foreign language.

(he strengths and li!itations o' the !odel

The Three Bircles model has several advantages,

but it also has its limitations. -ne of its strengths
has been the way it has advocated the need to see
the presence of the language around the globe as
consisting of several world Englishes rather than as
a single, massive entity. &s 0archu says9

=e must 1 cease to view English within the

framewor5 appropriate for monolingual societies.
=e must recogni8e the linguistic, cultural, and
pragmatic implications of various types of
pluralism that pluralism has now become an
integral part of the English language and literature
written in English in various parts of the non'
=estern world.

% 0achru, *++2,
p. 3E2)