English as a Lingua Franca: Descriptions, Domains and Applications

Alessia Cogo

There has been a remarkable growth of interest in the phenomenon of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) in recent years, and as a result this has become a productive field of research, which has now found its place in applied linguistics and sociolinguistics discussions. Interest in this area started with a couple of seminal publications: Jenkins (2000), an empirical study of phonology and related concepts of intelligibility and accommodation in English international contexts, and Seidlhofer (2001), which called for more empirical descriptions of ELF communication and effectively marked the foundation of VOICE (Vienna Oxford International Corpus of English), a corpus of ELF naturally occurring spoken data. This work signed the beginning of ELF research, which, in the 15 years that followed, has increased exponentially and has developed into a vibrant area of investigation. This field today includes numerous scholars from all over the world, a dedicated Research Network under the auspices of AILA (the ELF ReN, www.english-lingua-franca.org), the foundation of two more large-scale corpora (ELFA, English as a Lingua Franca in Academic settings, and ACE, Asian Corpus of English), an annual international conference (which started in 2008 in Helsinki and subsequently took place in Southampton, Vienna, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Rome, Athens and Beijing), and a journal dedicated to work in this area (Journal of English as a Lingua Franca) and book series (Developments in English as a Lingua Franca), both published by De Gruyter Mouton.

Since the early publications, developments have been fast and certainly not free of controversies and even heated debates. In this overview, I explore what ELF is, from different definitions, and I cover the empirical work of linguistic description in lexicogrammar and pragmatics, including the debates concerning the nature of ELF communication. I will keep this part relatively brief, as the main aim of this volume is to explore not the description but the applications of ELF research for ELT. So, in the last part, I review sociolinguistic applications of ELF research in professional and academic domains, and finally address implications and applications for English language teaching and teacher education.

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