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World Englishes Lesson 2

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1 World Englishes Lesson 2
Readings in World Englishes: The Discourses of Postcolonialism

2 Our marvellous tongue According to Alastair Pennycook (English and the Discourses of Colonialism, Routledge, 1998), colonialism still permeates both British discourses and those of the postcolonial territories. The same celebratory and triumphalistic tone of the days of the Empire can be found in more recent discourses on the spread of English, albeit in more neutral language.

3 Rolleston (1911) “The British flag waves over more than a fifth of the habitable globe, one fourth of the human race acknowledges the sway of the British Monarch, more than one hundred princes render him allegiance. The English language is spoken by more people than that of any other race, it bids fair to become the speech of the globe, and about one-half of the world’s ocean trade is yet in British hands.”

4 Crystal (1987) “English is either dominant or well established in all six continents. It is the main language of books, newspapers, airports and air-traffic control, international business and academic conferences. science, technology, diplomacy, sports, music….Over two-thirds of the world scientists write in English. Of all the information in the world’s electronic retrieval systems, 80 per cent is stored in English.”

5 “Linguistic deprivation”
According to Simon Jenkins (1995), “English has triumphed” over all other languages. “Those who do not speak it are at a universal disadvantage against those who do. Those who deny this supremacy merely seek to keep the disadvantaged deprived.”

6 “Destiny” Recent descriptions of the global spread of English are reminiscent of Victorian prose with their talk of “destiny” and of the inevitable spread of English being like a “mighty river flowing towards the sea”: an editorial in The Sunday Times (1994), responding to attempts in France to limit the use of English in society, claimed that to oppose English is pointless, as “English fulfils its own destiny as Churchill’s ever-conquering language”.

7 “Universal language in a shrinking world”
The spread of English seen as inevitable: “English marches on.” – “If you need it, you learn it.” – “Its growth is ineluctable, inexorable, inevitable.” (US News & World Report, 1985) Political colonialism seems to have been replaced by economic colonialism.

8 In praise of English Nineteenth century discourse claimed that the superiority of the English language was the reflection of a people and a culture of superior quality and vice versa. English was “a noble language”, “a highly accomplished language, used by a highly civilized race”.

9 The superior qualities of English
A key argument in the demonstration of the superiority of the English language was in the breadth of its vocabulary (still considered relevant today). English is an extremely flexible language, an infinitely adaptable language, a language that has achieved its hegemony thanks to “its propensity for acquiring new identities” (Kachru).

10 The superior qualities of English
The richness of English puts into play other images of English that are very important: the notion of English as a pure Anglo-Saxon language, the idea that English and English speakers have always been open, flexible, democratic and integrationist, and the belief that because of their vast vocabulary, speakers of English are the ablest thinkers.

11 Colonial evidence The notion of English as a great borrowing language also seems to suggest a view of the British intermingling and interacting with the people they colonized, which is not true according to Pennycook. This cultural construct is in direct conflict with British aloofness and snobbery towards the “Other” .

12 Flexibility and adaptability
Pennycook is critical of the notion that the English language and its speakers are particularly flexible and adaptable. What is your opinion? Do you have any evidence of this flexibility and adaptability or the lack of it?

13 Do you agree or disagree?
English is not merely a great language but the greatest. If you are a speaker of English, you are better equipped than speakers of other languages to think about the world. English is a window on the world. English has the right word for every concept and idea under the sun.

14 English as a “filter” Pennycook is also critical of the view that when people speak English as an L2 they dissect the world through the filter of the English language. Do you believe that your view of the world and perhaps your identity change according to the language you are speaking?

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