GLOBAL SPREAD OF ENGLISH

Graddol (2006) predicts that in 10 to 15 years, there will be as many as two billion people across the world learning English. He also predicts that, with the language spreading at a breathtaking speed, English will soon cease to be a foreign language in many of these countries and start to develop its own local characteristics. What does it mean for English to develop its own local characteristics? Localized varieties of English result from English coming in contact with other languages, and differ from British or American English in phonology, vocabulary, syntax, and usage. For instance, according to Gargesh (2006), the following are some features of English spoken in India:

Phonology. The vowels /e/ and /o/ as in face and goat are pronounced as monophthongs, not diphthongs, as in standard British or American English.

Vocabulary. Indian English uses innovations such as finger chips ‘French fries’, full-boiled and half-boiled eggs ‘hard-’ and ‘soft-boiled eggs’.

Syntax: In Indian English, there is often a lack of subject-auxiliary inversion in questions, e.g., What you would like to read? When you would like to come? Also widespread is the use of isn’t it or no in tag questions, e.g., You went there yesterday, isn’t it? You went there yesterday, no?

Usage: When you want to know anything you don’t say: “Please let me know.” Instead you say: Please enlighten us. Politeness in Indian society is highly conventionalized and is part of the conversational style of Indian English. The strategy of maintaining a positive face can be seen in the example: What is your good name, please? A similar strategy is exhibited through insistence when offering: Take only this much, just this much and Have some more, have some more. A request in American English such as Won’t you have more? would sound negative.

Research on the different varieties of English spoken in the world has led to various typologies based on the users and uses of the language. One such typology, originally proposed by Kachru (1985), divides the world’s English speakers into three groups known as the “three concentric circles of English” (see Figure 2.1). The “Inner Circle” represents countries where English is spoken as a native language by the majority of the population (e.g., U.K., U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Canada).

The “Outer Circle” represents countries where English is spoken as a second or additional language by multilingual speakers who use a localized variety of English (e.g., Indian English, Singaporean English) along with other languages found in those countries. In most of the Outer Circle countries, English has official status in the government’s language policies. For example, English is recognized as a national language along with Hindi in multilingual India where more than 200 languages are spoken. In Singapore, English is one of four official languages (the other three are Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil). In many countries in post-colonial Africa, English is recognized as one of the state languages and plays an important role in day-to-day social interaction (e.g., Nigeria, Zambia).

Finally, the rest of the world constitutes the “Expanding Circle” where English is learned as a foreign language (e.g., China, Russia, Brazil, Cuban). English has no official status in these countries and does not normally figure in the day-to-day interaction of the populace. However, it is increasingly valued as a medium of international communication and taught in schools.

The Three Concentric Circles of English Source

FIGURE 2.1 The Three Concentric Circles of English Source: Adapted from Kachru, 1985

A significant portion of the literature on World Englishes deals with the politics of colonization and the linguistic ecology of the former British colonies in the Outer Circle. As Omoniyi & Saxena (2010) argue, those accounts of the spread of English fall within a realm of “sociolinguistics of colonization” and represent disparities in power between the colonizers and the colonized. According to this approach, different varieties of English can be placed in a hierarchy with the native speaker Inner Circle varieties at the top. The Inner Circle varieties set standards for usage of English which are adopted to varying degrees by speakers in the Outer and Expanding Circles.

In contrast, “sociolinguistics of globalization” has prompted scholars of World Englishes to examine how globalization operates within a wider, more complex network of relationships of power and capital distribution among the three circles (Omoniyi & Saxena, 2010). This latter approach recognizes the multi-directional contributions of each circle to the other circles. For example, Bhatia & Ritchie (2006a) propose a model in which the three circles interact with one another through language mixing (Figure 2.2). This model takes into account the crisscrossing flow of linguistic contributions among the three circles without elevating the status of one over the others.

Bhatia & Ritchie’s (2006a) model captures the fact that Expanding Circle speakers import Inner Circle English, nativize it (i.e., repackage it using their local language phonology and syntax), and export the resulting product back to Inner and Outer Circle countries. For instance, the word karaoke, which represents a mixture of Japanese and English, is made up of two parts: kara, a Japanese word meaning “empty,” and oke, a truncation of the Japanese adaptation of the English word “orchestra” (okesutora). This Japanese adaptation of

Global English Typology

FIGURE 2.2 Global English Typology

Source: Bhatia & Ritchie, 2006a. Reproduced by permission of Blackwell Publishing

English has in turn been appropriated by Inner Circle English speakers. For example, many Americans apply American English phonology to Japanese [karaoke] and pronounce it as [kerioki]. Product names like Pokemon, highly popular with children in many countries, provide another example. Pokemon (literally “pocket monster”) is a contraction of Japanese phonological adaptations of two English words, pocket (poketto) and monster (monsuta). Both karaoke and Pokemon have become well established in Inner and Outer Circle vocabulary.

As we will see in the following sections, Bhatia & Ritchie’s (2006a) model of mutually feeding relationships among the three circles (Figure 2.2) is a useful tool in our understanding of the linguistic and cultural flows of the globalized world.

 
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