Brutt-Griffler, Janina. World English : A Study of Its Development. Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Clevedon, UK: Buffalo [N.Y.], 2002. Print.

  • franca.  While not their “mother tongue,” English is their tongue and serves their purposes.
  • B. criticizes Canagarajah and Pennycook’s view that political control over a population is equal to linguistic control (viii).
  • B.’s central claim:  English owes its existence as a world language in large part to the struggle against imperialism, and not to imperialism alone.  Rather than dismissing the significance of evidence that shows the active historical role of non-mother tongue English speakers in the development of a world language, the theoretical framework developed here emphasized their agency and historicizes their will.  In this conception, World English is not simply made through speakers of other languages but by them” (ix).
  • Goal of study:  the investigation of agency of non-mother tongue English speech communities through two processes:  language spread and language change (ix).  These two processes are interrelated and must be studied together.
  • B. sees the spread of World English as a phase in the history of the English language.  This phase is characterized by the fact that most speakers of World English don’t belong to a “national speech community” or “mother tongue speech community” but instead belong to “bilingual speech communities” (ix).  This movement will not result in a consolidation and unification of English in time; rather, the development of World English is a part of a larger movement toward the “creation of the multicultural identity of English” (ix).
  • Chapter Overview:
    • 1 – what is the meaning of world English?  Argument:  World English should be considered in linguistic analytics, not sociopolitical considerations (ix).  This means that English spread is not territorial expansion of the language but 2nd language acquisition by speech communities.  This acquisition is referred to as macroacquisition.
    • 2 – emphasis of linguistic analysis should be on the speech community, not on the individual, idealized speaker.  This will help answer questions of language spread and change.  This is an examination at the level of the communal in order to trace language acquisition.
    • 3 – this chapter considers the objectives of empire and the role of ideology versus economics in the formation of British colonial policy in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Language policy by the British was the result of a complex intertwining of ideology and economics.
    • 4 – B. challenges the idea that speech communities were passive recipients of language (Canagarajah).  By looking at historical documents from British language policy, B claims that the Brits were reactive in their quest to limit access to English (which suggests that the community had a choice/power/agency in the matter).  Chapter also connects access to English language with the preservation of social class stratification.
    • 5 – details how English education was reserved for the colonial elite and kept out of the hands of the majority of the population throughout the history of British empire.  This was in the interest of maintaining a population incapable of trafficking in the discourse of empire toward their own benefit.
    • 6 – offers an explanation why English – not other colonial languages – became the world language by linking British dominance of the world market and non-settler colonies of capital as the primary means of language dissemination (and macroacquisition) in the colonial period.  Four positions on WE are presented:  econocultural functions, transcendence of the role of an elite lingua franca, stabilized bilingualism, and language change.
    • 7 – Develops macroacquisition (second language acquisition by speech communities) in order to link language change to language spread.  This involves the creation of bilingual speech communities and is differentiated into macroacquisition A (creation and development of a new speech community) and macroacquisition B (transformation of a monolingual mother tongue speech community into a bilingual speech community).
    • 8 – Uses two kinds of bilingual speech communities to explain the degree of stabilization of language change as new varieties.  Macroacquisition B communities have a versatility and flexibility seen in code switching while macroacquisition A communities fail to stabilize because of a lack of a “common medium to express culture bound knowledge” (xii-xiii).
    • 9 – considers why WE has maintained and essential unity by considering the emergence of a “world language speech community.”
    • 10 – suggests that applied linguistics is tied to the history of language and suggests the need to “reclaim the role and contributions on non-mother tongue teachers of English within the international history of ENglish” (xiv).
  • B. notes that a problematic point of view for English development is that the current state is somehow in an infinitely suspendable present. . . that right now English is finished.  Obviously this isn’t true; however, this position makes talking about English usage and spread a teleological enterprise with the now as the logical end point (3).
  • English as an International Language (Smith 1976):  English being operationalized as a second language. . . not an auxiliary language deployed for internal communications in a multilingual society (5).  According to S., this was characterized by:  1) no need of the speaker to adopt the cultural norms of the culture of linguistic origin; 2) a language that is denationalized and no longer the property of the mother tongue speakers; 3) the pedagogy for such an instrumentalized language is merely to facilitate communication of the students’ ideas and culture in an English medium (5).  This is a denationaliztion of language toward functional deployment in cosmopolitan situations.
  • Linguistic Imperialism (Phillipson 1992):  “English attained its current ‘dominant’ position through its active promotion ‘as an instrument of the foreign policy of the major English-speking states” (6).  This sees the development and spread of WE as another form of imperialist domination of the world by England and the US and positions the spread of WE as another form of subjugation and oppression alongside the political, economic, cultural, etc. (6).  This is a historical argument that works itself forward by correlating WE spread with imperialism and the modernist colonialist project.
  • B. wants to reorient the project away from the functional aspects (imperialism and internationalism) and instead consider it from a linguistic perspective:  what sort of linguistic system does WE represent?  As such, she turns to SLA (second language acquisition) as a place to begin her investigation into the linguistic aspects of WE development.   This means a turn toward the standard and variety of WE use to understand that WE might be another language entirely.
  • Quirk’s tripartite varieties of English:  1) imperial – language is spread through political control over colonized peoples; 2) demographic (speaker migration) – this is the migration of English speaking peoples to other areas of the world (America & Australia/NZ); and 3) econocultural – these varieties are the result of economic and commerical reasons as well as cultural/intellectual reasons (Phillipson folds all 3 into “imperial”).
  • Macroacquisition:  the process of second language acquisition by speech communities (11).
  • Recent stats claim that 80% of the 1.5-2 billion people in the world who speak English are bilingual (12).
  • “Indigenization” and “nativization” are the terms used to describe the development of seperate English varieties and relies on the establisment of separate linguistic and sociolinguistic identities through processes of decolonization and deanglicization (12).  Mufwene has argued that the development of these “New Englishes” should be placed alongside the “old” englishes and “native” englishes/mother tongues because they are structurally different. . . not because one is more “genuine” or has a better “pedigree” than another (12).
  • Pennycook’s work establishes the “cultural politics” of English on a global scale as the sites wherein new forms of English have developed.  As he notes, “language has meaning only within definite contexts” and New English development must be considered formally/structurally but can be read within the cultural-political constraints of the context it develops inside (13).

Chapter 2:  The Representation of the Social in a Social Science – Methodology in Linguistics

  • B. joins folks like Halliday, Hymes, and Cameron in critiquing Chomsky’s view that linguistics must procede from an idealized, individualized, and abstract starting point in order to function (19).  This is a criticism of transformational generative linguistics:  it can’t account for change and development.
  • B. notes that language is inherently a social realm, not an individual.  As she notes, “The very fact that a particular speaker cannot be held to know the entirety of her language shows that language is a social phenomenon” (21).  In a sense this means that the idealized individual speaker-listener is synonymous with the speech community as the idealized individual relies on the social as its basis (21).  The speech community, then, is the unit of analysis for B.’s work because it is the social unit that corresponds to a particular language and “it is also the subject of the process of macroacquisition” (22).
  • Instead of studying the speech community through the conceptual lens of “culture” B. recommends instead considering the category of “shared subjective knowledge” (23).
  • B. claims that language spread isn’t commensurate with international histories of migration.  This is because B. sees the spread of English to speech communities not on the migratory scale but as a literacy necessary to interact with the non-migratory colonizations of markets during the 19th century.
  • B. claims that linguistic imperialism wasn’t the cause of the spread and development of WE because the English never established 1) a universal and exclusive education in English for the colonized; and 2) a replacement of the indigenous languages with English (as was the case in Ireland) (29).  This leads B. to critique Phillipson on the grounds that he attempts to prove his linguistic imperialist thesis not by substantiating the requisitites of linguistic imperialism but by acknowledging that the requisites exist? (30).

Chapter 3:  Ideological and Economic Crosscurrents of Empire

  • B. uses the Phillipino context of US language policy as an example of ideological linguistic imperialism (35) toward the consolidation of Empire.
  • The British context interwove political ideology and economics as central to language planning and policy.  This is observed in their desire for local language training in civil servant bureaucracy.  This resulted in the development of a system of bilingualism wherein “indirect rule” through colonial administration (run by locals) used both English as the language to speak back to Empire and the local language to carry out daily tasks.  This is why B. critiques Phillipson’s theory of linguistic imperialism in the British system.  Twin this with the spread of English as the lingua franca of capitalism and commerce and you get a complex ideological/economic explanation for the development of WE in the British colonial complex.

Chapter 4:  The Contested Terrain of Colonial Language Policy

  • B. argues against the idea of a centralized language policy as the sole source of agency in SLA for speech communities.  This hierarchical view sees the native language speakers as passive recipients of policy.  Rather, B. argues that “Speech communities are not the passive recipients of language policy that they are often implicitly assumed to be.  They should not be conceived as victims on whom language policy-making authorities codify prefabricated plans.  Rather, they are active shapers of the language policy environment who at the least codetermine the context and at the most seize the initiative from institutional planners, thereby forcing the latter into a reactive mode” (63).  This means that the codevelopment of language policy is a two-sided process that highlights the interplay of conflicting historical wills.  This position reintroduces the postcolonial in the colonial by highlighting how the “colonized peoples” and their use of English have shaped the lives of the colonizers in profound ways.
  • This new way of thinking about codevelopment is most apparent – according to B. – when considering the ways that the British reacted to the actions of African ans Asians who exercised agency and forced colonial administrators to adjust their policies.  The “containment policy” of the British was not an “ideologically-driven imposition of imperial will” but a response on the part of Empire to anticolonial struggle.  When the natives began to acquire English and transform it to their purposes it became the language of resistance . . . the appropriation of the colonial discourse in order to use it against itself (65)[1. This is the same movement as the Scottish Belletrists in the 18th century and the pirates you study today.].
  • B. is making an argument about colonialist education policy in the vernacular as a way to manage future labor and keep natives from accessing the discourses (and liberal humanist values) of Empire (70).
  • Thesis of the Chapter:

Chapter 5 – Access Denied:  Containing the Spread of English

  • B. argues that the spread of capitalism and commercial interests of the Empire advocated the teaching of English for functional purposes. . . this was at odds with the administrative goals of keeping people from accessing English so they would continue to be suited for labor-intensive agricultural production (86).
  • B. does a lot of historical archival work to demonstrate that the British colonial project did not want colonial subjects to learn English.  (Chapter 5 data included in an appendix).

Chapter 6 – The Becoming of a World Language

  • B. challenges the idea that Britain and the US “spread” English throughout the world as this presents a one-sided, imperial narrative of English spread.  This view or “conceptual lens of linguistic imperialism obscures the role Africans, Asians, and other peoples of the world as active agents in the process of creation of WE” (107).  B. argues that instead the empirical data she has provided in previous chapters demonstrates that Africans and Asians profoundly influenced the spread of English.  This is not a model of English spread from center onto periphery; rather, this view argues that the non-Western nations are not peripheral but take an equal part (often through resistance) to the creation of the “world econocultural system and its linguistic expression, WE” (108).
  • Chapter thesis:

  • Three concepts that undergird B.’s theory of WE:
    • language spread must be understood in the context of language change, in a unified conception of language spread and change;
    • the understanding of the development of WE requires a theoretical approach employing a world, rather than a national, scope;
    • there is a need of a paradigm shift from monolingualism to bilingualism reflecting an historical shift in language use (109-110).
  • Monolingualism is actually in the minority in the world; however, those with capital tend toward the monolingualist perspective on language.
  • Four central features of the development of a global language:
    • Econocultural functions of language:  the combination of economic or commercial centrality and its cultural/intellectual role in the world community.  This includes the world market, business community, technology, science, and cultural and intellectual life on the global scale. [2. Are there connections to be made between the economcultural functions of language and Appadurai’s electronic mediated social imaginary?]  B. sees the spread of English as a fundamental tendency toward global econocultural integration (relies on Wallerstein, et al.).  This also includes the spread of English as the lingua franca for scientific endeavor and technical work.  Three settings of English language spread:  ENL (English National Language), ESL (English Second Language), and EFL (English Foreign Language).  B.’s model of English spread and change:

    • The transcendence of the role of an elite lingua fracta:  WE is more than a language of the politico-cultural elite; rather, it has an economic role in the world that goes beyond the political and cultural hegemony of any one nation or nations.  “WE language combined economic and cultural/intellectual roles” (120).
    • The Coexistence of the World Language with Other Languages in a Multilingual Context with Bilingual Speakers:  This means that WE can spread and develop in concert with other languages. . . not at their expense or diminuition.  This might be because a world langauge like WE isn’t bound up in nation-state ideologies about pureness (Appadurai).
    • Language Change via the Process of World Language Convergence and World Language Divergence:  National and global language spread and change is the result of sociohistorical pressures, not linguistic reasons.  The global is often the result of the development of the global economy (Wallerstein).  This concept means that world language develops in divergence (creation of new varieties of English) and convergence (maitenance of unity in the world language like WE) (124).

Kinds of macroacquisition

Language Convergences that Produce World English (178)



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