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Intelligibility in World Englishes
“I have waited for over 20 years for a volume such as this. What is most exciting is that it brings together all the scholarly discussions, pedagogical implications, and academic issues in one single volume … satisfying the interests of academics, language teachers, and scholars of World Englishes.” Kamal K. Sridhar, Stony Brook University, USA “A very interesting and serious attempt to revisit and discuss a number of issues surrounding the well-known debate in applied linguistics, namely the intelligibility of English(es), particularly in the present-day context of the globalization of trade and commerce.” Vijay K. Bhatia, City University of Hong Kong “I’ve been waiting for this book … a long time … . No one is better able to write it. … It is highly instructive to have the question of intelligibility across the three Circles of English be constructed not only in terms of traditional pedagogical norms and economic advantages but also taking into consideration linguistic ecology, interactional pragmatics, and sociocultural realities.” Larry E. Smith, From the Foreword Intelligibility is the term most generally used to address the complex of criteria that describe, broadly, how useful someone’s English is when talking or writing to someone else. Set within the paradigm which posits that the Englishes of the world may be seen as ﬂexibly categorized into three Circles (Inner, Outer, Expanding) in terms of their historical developments, this volume is the ﬁrst to provide a comprehensive overview of the deﬁnitions and scopes of intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability in World Englishes, addressing key topics within this paradigm: Who—if anyone—provides the models and norms for a given population of English users? Hybridity and creativity in world Englishes Evaluating paradigms: Misinformation and disinformation Practicalities of dealing with the widening variety of Englishes Is English “falling apart”?
The much-debated issue of intelligibility touches not only sociolinguistic theory but all aspects of English-language teaching, second language acquisition, language curriculum planning, and regional or national language planning. Designed for students, teacher educators, and scholars internationally in these areas, each chapter includes Topics for Discussion and Assignments, and Suggestions for Further Reading sections. Cecil L. Nelson is Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics at Indiana State University.
ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series Eli Hinkel, Series Editor Nelson Intelligibility in World Englishes: Theory and Practice Nation/Macalister, Eds. Case Studies in Language Curriculum Design Johnson/Golombek, Eds. Research on Second Language Teacher Education: A Sociocultural Perspective on Professional Development Hinkel, Ed. Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning, Volume II Nassaji /Fotos Teaching Grammar in Second Language Classrooms: Integrating Form-Focused Instruction in Communicative Context Murray/Christison What English Language Teachers Need to Know Volume I: Understanding Learning Murray/Christison What English Language Teachers Need to Know Volume II: Facilitating Learning Wong/Waring Conversation Analysis and Second Language Pedagogy: A Guide for ESL/EFL Teachers Nunan/Choi, Eds. Language and Culture: Reﬂective Narratives and the Emergence of Identity Braine Nonnative Speaker English Teachers: Research, Pedagogy, and Professional Growth Burns Doing Action Research in English Language Teaching: A Guide for Practitioners Nation/Macalister Language Curriculum Design Birch The English Language Teacher and Global Civil Society Johnson Second Language Teacher Education: A Sociocultural Perspective Nation Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing Nation/Newton Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking Kachru/Smith Cultures, Contexts, and World Englishes McKay/Bokhosrt-Heng International English in its Sociolinguistic Contexts: Towards a Socially Sensitive EIL Pedagogy Christison/Murray, Eds. Leadership in English Language Education: Theoretical Foundations and Practical Skills for Changing Times McCafferty/Stam, Eds. Gesture: Second Language Acquisition and Classroom Research Liu Idioms: Description, Comprehension, Acquisition, and Pedagogy Chapelle/Enright/Jamison, Eds. Building a Validity Argument for the Text of English as a Foreign LanguageTM Kondo-Brown/Brown, Eds. Teaching Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Heritage Students Curriculum Needs, Materials, and Assessments Youmans Chicano-Anglo Conversations: Truth, Honesty, and Politeness Birch English L2 Reading: Getting to the Bottom, Second Edition Luk/Lin Classroom Interactions as Cross-cultural Encounters: Native Speakers in EFL Lessons Levy/Stockwell CALL Dimensions: Issues and Options in Computer Assisted Language Learning Nero, Ed. Dialects, Englishes, Creoles, and Education Basturkmen Ideas and Options in English for Speciﬁc Purposes Kumaravadivelu Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod McKay Researching Second Language Classrooms Egbert/Petrie, Eds. CALL Research Perspectives Canagarajah, Ed. Reclaiming the Local in Language Policy and Practice Adamson Language Minority Students in American Schools: An Education in English Fotos/Browne, Eds. New Perspectives on CALL for Second Language Classrooms Hinkel Teaching Academic ESL Writing: Practical Techniques in Vocabulary and Grammar Hinkel/Fotos, Eds. New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms Hinkel Second Language Writers’ Text: Linguistic and Rhetorical Features Visit www.routledge.com/education for additional information on titles in the ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series
Intelligibility in World Englishes Theory and Application
Cecil L. Nelson INDIANA STATE UNIVERSITY
First published 2011 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Simultaneously published in the UK by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2011. To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.
© 2011 Taylor & Francis The right of Cecil L. Nelson to be identiﬁed as author of this work has been asserted by him/her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identiﬁcation and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Nelson, Cecil L. Intelligibility in world Englishes : theory and application / Cecil L. Nelson. p. cm. – (ESL & applied linguistics professional series) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. English language–Foreign countries. 2. English language–Variation–Foreign countries. 3. English language–Social aspects–Foreign countries. 4. Intercultural communication. I. Title. PE2751.N45 2011 420.9–dc22 2010046783 ISBN 0-203-83257-4 Master e-book ISBN
ISBN13: 978-0-415-87181-5 (hbk) ISBN13: 978-0-415-87182-2 (pbk) ISBN13: 978-0-203-83257-8 (ebk)
To Braj B. Kachru and Yamuna Kachru
Foreword, Larry E. Smith Preface Acknowledgements
viii x xii
“Understanding” and Intelligibility in World Englishes
Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability
Hybridity, Creativity, and Intelligibility in World Englishes
Other Conceptualizations of Intelligibility
Intelligibility in English-Language Teaching
Intelligibility and the Ongoing Expansions of Englishes
Notes Annotated Bibliography Index
112 115 130
I’ve been waiting for this book. A long time. I met Cecil Nelson in the summer of 1978 at the Linguistic Institute of the Linguistic Society of America which was held that year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was completing a PhD under the supervision of Professor Braj B. Kachru. Professor Kachru knew of my interest in the area of crosscultural intelligibility and he said I should meet a promising young scholar who had a very good understanding of the research that had been done in this ﬁeld. Because of Professor Kachru’s endorsement I had great expectations. After meeting with Cecil, not only was I not disappointed, I became a great admirer of his analytical ability, his terriﬁc sense of humor, and his tremendous skill with words. Since that time it has been my privilege to work with Cecil on several projects. We worked together on the journal World Englishes, Journal of English as an International and Intranational Language. We co-authored papers and were co-presenters at international conferences. We, to my beneﬁt, have had many conversations, in person and online. In all of our work we have emphasized that English represents a repertoire of cultures, not a monolithic one and that so called “native speakers” of English are not the sole owners of English nor are they necessarily the best judges of what is or is not intelligible when English is used across cultures. From our research we know that they are not always found to be the most intelligible when the listeners are from diﬀerent cultures and are speakers of diﬀerent languages. We have also stressed that understanding is not speaker- or listener-centered, but is interactional between speaker and listener. I have waited for this book, believing that no one is better able to write it. Cecil of course has been busy with other very worthy projects, including his wonderful book, World Englishes in Asian Contexts (2006), with Professor Yamuna Kachru, and
the most impressive Handbook of World Englishes (2006), co-edited with Professor Braj B. Kachru and Professor Yamuna Kachru. The book is now completed. I consider it well worth the wait. It is highly instructive to have the question of intelligibility across the three Circles of English be constructed not only in terms of traditional pedagogical norms and economic advantages, but also taking into consideration linguistic ecology, interactional pragmatics and sociocultural realities. Because of this book, I am convinced that in the future when the classic scholars of intelligibility are listed, i.e. Catford (1950), Bansal (1969), and B. Kachru (1976), Cecil Nelson (2011) will be among them. Larry E. Smith Honolulu, Hawaii
References Bansal, R. K. (1969) The Intelligibility of Indian English: Measurements of the Intelligibility of Connected Speech, and Sentence and Word Material, Presented to Listeners of Diﬀerent Nationalities. Hyderabad: Central Institute of English. Catford, John C. (Ian) (1950) Intelligibility, English Language Teaching 1, 7–15. Kachru, Braj B. (1976) Models of English for the Third World: White Man’s Linguistic Burden or Language Pragmatics? TESOL Quarterly 10, 221–39.
The present work is set within the context of ongoing debates over the natures, statuses, and functions of varieties of English in regions and nations across the world. Its point of view is that of the world Englishes paradigm, which was established in the 1970s and ’80s under circumstances and in venues that are outlined by, for example, Kachru and Smith (2008, p. xiii) and Bolton (2006, pp. 248–251). Brieﬂy, this approach holds that “new” varieties of English (some of them not so new, at that), such as those in India and Singapore, were established and have continued to develop following exactly the same sociolinguistic principles that have been shown to bring about present-day “native speaker” varieties of the language. The founding scholars of this interpretive framework began using the plural form “Englishes,” perhaps jarring to the ears of those who are encountering it for the ﬁrst time, to avoid any hint that there is an English (however “international”) that is or that should be used everywhere for all purposes, or that is or that should be the baseline for comparative judgements about correctness, eﬃcacy, and so forth for all varieties. This book is intended to present in one accessible volume the key concepts of and surrounding intelligibility—brieﬂy, making sense of what we produce, hear and see in Englishes around the world today. There are various good treatments of intelligibility in the extant literature on world Englishes, for example chapter 5 in Kachru and Nelson (2006, pp. 65–75) and chapter 4 in Kachru and Smith (2008, pp. 59–70). This work, it is to be hoped, at least matches those in terms of explicating and exemplifying the basic constructs, and then goes on to discuss attendant concepts, including the aspect of hybridity that is so much a part of today’s far-ﬂung Englishes. The author seeks to present the issues and approaches to analysis of intelligibility for graduate students, advanced undergraduate students, and investigators of the world’s varieties of English. This volume is for English teachers and teacher
educators internationally, and for those teachers and teacher educators in, for example, the UK and USA who may be stuck on or clinging to conceptions about the nature and status of English across the world that can be shown to be invalid (if indeed they ever were). I hope that these, and perhaps other readers, may ﬁnd what is presented here a useful supplement within such broader-based areas of investigation. The six chapters of the volume work from an overview of the world Englishes paradigm within which this perspective on intelligibility is situated to a consideration of how to approach teaching such a worldwide language of wider communication in its multiple contexts. Chapter 1 addresses “understanding” language within the world Englishes frame, presenting as it develops fundamental necessary constructs such as context of situation and nativization. Chapter 2 picks up the central component of the work which is introduced in Chapter 1, developing the vague notion “understanding” into the imminently more useful intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability as developed by Larry Smith. Chapter 3 treats the mythological notion of a language uncluttered by other-language inﬂuences such as borrowing, working in the construct of hybridity as developed by, e.g., B. Kachru (1983) and Y. Kachru (1992). Chapter 4 presents some examples of various authors’ deﬁnitions of the same words that may be used in the Smith Framework (most notably intelligibility and comprehensibility, or some variant of that latter), introductions of other terms into the ﬁeld of study (e.g., accentedness; Munro et al., 2006), and the kinds of investigations that they have pursued. Chapter 5 treats English-language teaching (ELT) from a broad perspective, with the focus on guiding learners in achieving intelligibility across varieties. Chapter 6 ends the discussion with a look at whether the natural evolutions of various Englishes constitute a dissolution of “English,” and how future attitudes toward intelligibility might be framed in sociolinguistically realistic ways (to coin a phrase). Each chapter presents my suggestions for Topics for Discussion and Assignments. Instructors in English-using regions diﬀerent from mine will undoubtedly tweak, revise or replace these starting points. Suggestions for Further Readings will, likewise, serve just as prompts, and students will proﬁt from attending to their instructors, who will have a closer view of the context in which their courses are being oﬀered.
This work comes out of my professional, lifelong association with Professors Braj and Yamuna Kachru, evolving through my years as one of their fortunate graduate students in the Linguistics Department at the University of Illinois to the present, when I remain their student and have also received the gift of their friendship. All that I needed to know, I learned from them. Having said that, it is impossible to rank-order such relationships; I am fortunate to have become associated with Larry Smith, than whom there is no clearer observer, thinker and writer, nor more truly and thoroughly decent human being. To these three especially, among the many people who have helped me along my way in this big old world, I owe more gratitude than I can readily express. I oﬀer my thanks to those of my students (whom I cannot easily name now) who asked me the tough questions. I have not forgotten them. I regret the inadequacy of my responses at the times; portions of this writing are my attempts to work out those topics and issues. Thank you for bringing them to my attention. My wife JoAnn has been my support throughout this long process, as in all else. Thank you to Carmen and Bill, too. I am indebted to Naomi Silverman, Senior Editor at Routledge, and to the Series Editor, Eli Hinkel, for their patience above and beyond, and for their continued encouragement. The anonymous reviewers of the proposal for this work (from which I trust I have not deviated too far) provided constructive and optimistic support. Finally, I am continually the recipient of strikingly insightful observations from friends and colleagues, literally too numerous to mention. And I thank the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at Indiana State University for granting me the sabbatical semester during which this project was begun. All the weaknesses and outright errors that will be found in this volume are my own responsibility.
Acknowledgements for Use of Copyright Material The author gratefully acknowledges the kind permission of the copyright holders for use of the named sources: William Staﬀord, excerpts from “Choosing a Dog” from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1998 by the Estate of William Staﬀord. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org. Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., dialogue excerpt from Lethal Weapon 3. Copyright © 1992. Used by permission.
1 “UNDERSTANDING” AND INTELLIGIBILITY IN WORLD ENGLISHES
I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. Robert McCloskey, US State Department spokesman (attributed)
Introduction The variety of words used to talk about kinds of “understandings” and “meanings” in the epigraph above is undeniably troublesome. The possibly apocryphal interaction presumably took place between native speakers of English who seem not to have been receiving the speaker’s intentions exactly satisfactorily. Since English in recent decades has become ever more a worldwide language, a “language of wider communication,” its forms and uses across groups have become ever more topics of debate. These exchanges, not infrequently heated, go on not only among academic specialists, but also in the media and among people concerned with all aspects of linguistic productivity and creativity. Discussants may attribute opponents’ stands on given issues to ideology instead of a desirable pragmatism, or to one or another kind of “liberalism” instead of a reasonable acquiescence to top-down guidance from professionals, particularly language educators. Whatever the motivations for the arguments are, and whatever evidence is amassed for them, and whatever interpretations are imposed on that evidence, the controversies promise to rage on for a long, interesting time. The ﬁeld whose participants concern themselves with language as it works in societies and cultures is usually called “sociolinguistics.” Sociolinguists are not interested in teaching a language as such, but they are concerned with the complicated and complicating results of that resultant learning on individuals, on groups, and on
2 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
a society. Sociolinguistic investigations range very widely, from analyzing and reporting on elements and structures in a variety of, say, English that is unique to one locality or population to concerns about the societal and economic elitism that may become associated with being “an English speaker.” It is not hard to imagine that this intersection of language and society will produce many various sets of questions that call for resolution as we seek to better understand ourselves, and our relationships to others.
Intelligibility—A First Pass “Actually, one can easily make a case for four diasporas of English,” as Y. Kachru and Smith succinctly present the situation of varieties of English today (2008, p. 5). From within what we now call the British Isles, out to the present USA and Canada, to Australia and New Zealand, to parts of Africa and to South Asia, and to the Paciﬁc Rim nations, the English language has spread more widely and more rapidly than any other tongue has before. This appearance in the widest imaginable context of cultures and other languages has brought about an immense degree of variation in all aspects of English’s forms and functions. For the moment, probably anyone would agree that what people call “English” in one place is likely to sound or function diﬀerently from the “English” in another place. This lack of predictability raises all sorts of concerns about whether my “English” will work for you and vice versa. Some writers take the approach that an English which will serve the needs of everyone should be promulgated. Otherwise, they believe, the utility of the language across borders will be lost. Questions about the present and future utility of English as a language of wider communication arguably constitute the key issue in the global squabbles about what or which English people should learn and use. The usual phrase is the comparative “wider communication,” which a composition instructor might criticize as an “incomplete comparative—you need a than here.” It is used consistently in the literature to designate a language that has spread outside its homeland and its historically basic population of users. Thus, the extent of such a language has become “wider” than it was in its geographic distribution and its number of speakers, but perhaps more importantly in the diverse range of peoples who come to employ it. Well-known examples of such languages are Arabic, French, Greek, Sanskrit, and Spanish (in alphabetical order, not chronologically as to the eras of their respective spreading), and in our present times, English. Although Mandarin Chinese and Hindi, to name two prime examples, are languages with very many users, they are not included in lists of languages of wider communication because they have not spread out in the way that Arabic did or that English has. Presentations of this concept may be found in Burchﬁeld (1994b, especially pp. 7–8), B. Kachru (1982a, and 2005, pp. xv–xviii), Fishman (1982), and Trudgill and Hannah (2002, pp. 3–8). The necessary criterion of a language, that it be usefully communicative, is often termed “intelligibility,” and concerns about intelligibility both inform and fuel
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 3
discussions of which English and whose English should be models and standards for teaching, learning, and acquisition across the world. (See a set of focused treatments of this basic issue in Greenbaum, 1985; Quirk and Widdowson, 1985b; and Svartvik, 1985.) Questions of “Standard English” and “good English” are often set in terms of ease, directness or eﬀectiveness of communication, which are all presumed to require an at least largely common code. We agree a priori that no two varieties of English are exactly alike: they are “varieties,” after all. So the question becomes how much they have to have in common in order for us to consider them so. Users want to know whether their English will serve them with other users who are not of their immediate neighborhood, circle, region, or nation. Teachers of English want to be sure that they are teaching their students English that will meet their needs, or perhaps that they are teaching “right” English, without any particular regard for or investigation of learners’ perceptions of their needs. This concern about utility and acceptability across diverse populations is not a problem that arises for speakers of less widely distributed languages, and might not be a problem for languages that have an established single authority to arbitrate “correctness,” whether that standard is written down or is geographical or class centered. This is the situation often attributed to French, because of its conservative Académie, though even that might be argued by someone knowledgeable about the uses of French in “the provinces” and in the Francophone countries. But for English, anyway, questions and worries such as the following always come up: “If I pronounce this vowel this way, will it cause me to be misunderstood?” “I could understand her better if she didn’t cut oﬀ her end-of-word consonants,” “How slowly (or fast) do I have to talk before these people will stop looking at me like that?” We could think of many more features and criteria to wonder about. It is clear from everyday observation that there is no such thing as completely congruent pan-language intelligibility across the varieties of any widespread language, or even within a single given variety of a language. With exposure and practice, most speakers acquire more open-mindedness and “comfort” regarding the usage of others, as has been pointed out, for example, by Catford (1950), who wrote of lowering the “threshold of intelligibility.” In this, Catford was referring to the degree of exposure to another language or variety of a language which made a speaker familiar with it. More familiarity lowers one’s intelligibility threshold, i.e., makes the speech in question more accessible, reduces resistance, and thus allows or evinces greater intelligibility. As did Firth in his conception of a context of situation, Catford brings out the importance to intelligibility of criteria outside of the language proper, such as relevant objects and elements in the speech situation, including “perceived attitudes” of the participants (pp. 13–14; the same sorts of criteria are noted by Smith, e.g., 1992). Stereotyping undoubtedly plays some part in language users’ broad acceptance of other varieties; to US English speakers, for example, an Irish or a French accent may be regarded as having an appealing “sexiness” that an Eastern European one does not, while Hispanic accents are often openly disparaged in North America (by non-Hispanic English speakers).
4 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
We frequently encounter broad generalizations about Englishes that are made without addressing issues related to registers, genres, and discourse styles. One does not have to go to exotic locales to ﬁnd that this is true. (And by “exotic,” I intend that an Indian user of English need not look to its forms and uses in the far-away USA any more than the North American needs to look to Britain.) Lexical elements, for example, take on quite diﬀerent meanings and uses depending on where you ﬁnd them; for example, “net,” an ordinary and easy word, means quite diﬀerent things in conversations about information technology and commercial ﬁshing. Simple demonstrations of this kind of polysemy may be seen in this excerpt from a newspaper column about bridge (the card game): South wanted to open one no-trump. With a decent heart holding, he overcalls one no-trump. And North raises to game. Against three no-trump, West leads the heart four, low from a low tripleton in a suit partner bid that he has not supported. Phillip Adler, Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 23 July 2007, B While presumably transparent to any bridge player, this passage is entirely opaque to me, though I am “a native speaker” of English. Its usages range from the esoteric, like the item tripleton and the phrase a suit partner bid, to the apparently technical uses of ordinary words such as raises and supported. Those who are only narrowly prepared in the observation of natural-language phenomena may commonly base linguistic analyses and discussions on decontextualized properties of lexical items and of grammar. However, experience and attention quickly reveal that almost any language device or element may be used in eﬀective ways between participants who relate what is being said to the context of situation, to use Firth’s term. Firth, an early proponent in Britain of considering the contexts in which a language exists and is used, wrote that each of us “carries his culture and much of his social reality about with him wherever he goes” (1935, p. 27). In this conception, virtually anything might be relevant to making a communicative event eﬀective—that is, for a speaker and receiver to apprehend messages, nuances and each other’s attitudes about what is being said in compatible ways. Context may be determined more narrowly, as in diﬀerentiating types of social situations, or more broadly, as in the usages of speakers who are from a particular culture and those who are not. A dinner guest who says “I can’t eat that” in response to being oﬀered a particular dish may be motivated by religious or other ideologically determined restrictions on what she considers edible, or by health concerns, or may just intend to indicate “Thank you, but I couldn’t eat another bite (of anything)!” Pronunciation plays its part in working communication, to be sure, and it can be aﬀected noticeably by the context of situation. For example, I can talk to a small pet animal or a very young child in a high-pitched voice and even with altered productions of segments (“widdle” for “little,” for instance) and get away with it in almost any circumstances in which those encounters might occur, but it would
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 5
never do for me to speak in that way in a class in anything but a demonstration of just this point. “Where is she?” will work without any previous spoken reference to “her” as long as both the speaker and hearer share various bits of knowledge—that “she” is someone whom we both know about, who might reasonably be expected to be here or nearby at this time of day, that there is no other “she” in the plausible context who readily matches this one, and so on. Other categories of examples will occur readily to the reader. So, in fact, almost nothing we can say is communicative without its situation. When beginning students of English are taught and led to practice “How are you? … Fine, thank you very much,” they must have some sort of meeting and greeting situation in their heads. It is unlikely that these phatic phrases are ever introduced in a classroom without some reference to their utility and the ways they are carried out in just such situations. We can leave aside for our present purpose the intricacies of arguments about “Fifty Thousand Innate Concepts” (the title of the chapter in which Pinker discusses this and related issues) versus polysemy versus “conceptual semantics” (the theory “that word senses are mentally represented as expressions in a richer and more abstract language of thought”). It is clear from everyday observation that “[Word meanings] can be precise because the concepts zero in on some aspects of reality and slough oﬀ the rest” (Pinker, 2007, p. 150). Thus, examples such as “one waitress tells another The ham sandwich wants his check” (p. 150) and the narrative voice in The Hobbit saying of Gandalf that “Wizards after all are wizards” (Tolkien, 1938, p. 20) are not gibberish—and no one thinks that they are. Their contexts of use sort out the users’ intentions for us. Perhaps most early treatments of intelligibility, such as that of the Indian phonetician Bansal (1969, The Intelligibility of Indian English), treated pronunciation exclusively, and regularly invoked comparisons with received pronunciation (RP), as did Bansal’s, or with some other “standard” and “native” variety of English. For example, Bansal (1969, p. 171) wrote about “further details of divergences [in Indian English] from RP,” and asserted that “The sentence stress, rhythm, and intonation patterns in Indian English are not always in accordance with the normal RP patterns. … The location of the intonation nucleus is not always at the place where it would be in normal English” (emphases added). Bansal started from the presumptions that the RP British variety of English was the “correct” one and that anyone who was not speaking correctly—as thus deﬁned—was trying to, but was straying more or less far from the target. These assumptions are not cogent, given the world context of Englishes today. As the Nigerian language scholar Ayo Bamgbos.e (1998, p. 10) wrote on this point: It used to be thought that such intelligibility was a one-way process in which non-native speakers are striving to make themselves understood by native speakers whose prerogative it was to decide what is intelligible and what is not. This attitude is shown in pejorative judgements on some varieties of non-native Englishes, such as Prator’s (1968).
6 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
The article by Prator that Professor Bamgbos.e refers to is now rather old in years, but the attitudes and orientations it expressed are still very much alive in various corners of the English-using and especially English-teaching worlds. Prator’s title was “The British Heresy in TESOL,” and his paper outlined his arguments against what he saw as an untoward permissiveness in not requiring learners far abroad to be held close to a good British English model. B. Kachru responded at length to this presentation in an article entitled “Models of English for the Third World: White Man’s Linguistic Burden or Language Pragmatics?” in which he referred to Prator’s commission of “seven attitudinal sins” (1986 [originally 1976], pp. 100–114). As B. Kachru wrote, this argument is important because it touches us in our professional lives; as he put it, with a subtle tongue-in-cheekness, this is “a typical language attitude which continues to be nurtured by several educated native speakers and educators of English” (1986, pp. 100–101). If there were only “several” people with such views, we could perhaps ignore them, but such prominent voices continue to be heard. Kachru characterized Prator’s article as “a good example of linguistic purism and linguistic intolerance,” stances that are hard to maintain in the face of the global situation in which we ﬁnd English today. Since Prator used “heresy,” Kachru appropriately discusses the paper using the similarly metaphorical religious term “sins”; these are “ethnocentricism” (p. 102), “wrong perception of the language attitudes on the two sides of the Atlantic” (p. 103), “not recognizing the non-native varieties of English as culture-bound codes” (pp. 103–4), “ignoring the systemicness of the non-native varieties” (p. 104), “ignoring linguistic interference and language dynamics” (pp. 104–5), “overlooking the ‘cline of Englishness’ in … intelligibility” (pp. 105–6), and, ﬁnally, “exhibiting language colonialism” (pp. 106–7). This list constitutes an outline of major issues that continue to foment debate in the ELT profession. The labels are perhaps suggestive enough to speak for themselves in an overview such as the present one, but a couple of them will bear some brief explication. The “cline of Englishness” and the “cline of intelligibility” are closely related to one another, and Kachru combined them in this class of sin. (For treatment of the scalar concept cline of intelligibility by itself, see, e.g., B. Kachru, 1986, pp. 119–20, and B. Kachru 2005, p. 215; see also Nelson, 1982.) Englishness may readily be understood to be that aggregate of qualities that make English what it is, or, to put it the other way, to distinguish it from what it isn’t. We might usefully think about aspects of English that are not, in their origins, completely English. For example, there are elements in English that are recognizably German, or anyway congruent with German: “hand” is like Hand and “ﬁnger” is like Finger, Hund (“dog”) is similar to “hound” and kann is like “can.” But there is not enough “Germanness” in English to make the languages analytically identiﬁable as very close descendants of their common source (we know, of course, that they are diachronic “sisters”), and neither will work very well as a substitute for the other in a given practical communicative event, and certainly not in an instructional situation in either language. However, if we look at Indian English, the extent of Englishness is very
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 7
high, particularly if we do not fret overmuch about pronunciation. It would be fatuous to try to claim that the communicative code we label “Indian English” is not (an) English: the facts of lexicon and grammar are overwhelming. Closer to the present writer’s home, this approach has actually been attempted in another context for purposes that must have seemed reasonable to those involved at the time. In 1996, the public school board of Oakland County in the state of California adopted a resolution which asserted in part that African American English (AAE, called “African Language Systems” at this point in the evolution of the Oakland document) was “not a dialect of English.” Early in the following year, as one among various revisions, the word “merely” was introduced in this line: “are not merely dialects of English.” The document is reproduced in Baugh (2004, p. 312). This assertion of the absolute separateness is simply not defensible, despite the salient diﬀerences between such a “vernacular” form of English and the standard with which it was virtually always compared in the ensuing debates, such as in pronunciation features, AAE’s use of “non-ﬁnite be” (Labov, 1998; see discussion of this and other categories put forward by Labov in Y. Kachru and Nelson, 2006, pp. 215–18), and so on. It remains a fact that the AAE word for a table (to put it that way) is “table,” the verb for motion toward the speaker is “come,” and so on to a degree of “Englishness” approaching 100%, no matter what standard is used for the comparison. A claim that Indian English is somehow broken or defective (like that famously made by Selinker, 1972, see also 1992, asserting that it was an “interlanguage”) is only slightly easier to try to defend: someone who wished to argue for this could at least take a strong a priori position set in “standards.” There is, naturally, a “cline of proﬁciency” among Indian English speakers, as there is among speakers of any variety (see Y. Kachru and Nelson, 2006, p. 29, and B. Kachru, 1986, p. 121). But no one tries to claim that US Appalachian-region English, as diﬀerent from the written standard as it might be, is not “English.” It goes without saying that a language called “English” has to be recognizably English enough to be eﬀective with other English users. But it is impossible to discuss Englishness or intelligibility without reference to participants and other relevant aspects of the context of situation (which considerations may be very broad, as noted above; e.g., knowledge of a speciﬁc event many years in the past which is shared among participants and so does not have to be explained to anyone present, but can simply be referred to as a natural part of the discourse). The context of situation determines what is considered appropriate, whether, for example, in topic, terms of address to others, or word choices. It is a common point of comparison across cultures, for example, to note that US university-department colleagues may come to address one another by their given names after some length and depth of association and acquaintance, while similarly situated professionals in other cultures, such as that of Japan, will rarely if ever come to that usage. Bamgbos.e (1992, p. 110) notes that in the context of Nigerian letter writing, “it will be considered impolite to address an older person by his surname [so “Dear Sir” is used as the salutation],
8 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
and positively disrespectful, if not impudent, to use his ﬁrst name.” It is a “sin” not to realize that the very kinds of diﬃculties that may call for some attention among members of the same close speech fellowship (see discussion of fellowship below), say US English, are encountered across varieties within the English-using community. This interrelation of Englishness and intelligibility is closely related to that of failing to take “culture boundness” into account (B. Kachru, 1986, pp. 103–4). As B. Kachru (1983, p. 49) wrote, “The acculturation of [South Asian English] has crucial linguistic implications; the more culture-bound it becomes, the more distance is created between SAE and the L1 [ﬁrst-language] varieties of English.” The choice of “distance” here may be a little oﬀ-putting, but the context of its occurrence in the body of Kachru’s work prevents its being taken negatively. Certainly the lexical options available in a variety mark that variety’s distinctiveness. For example, English varieties of small areas of extreme eastern North Carolina in the US are diﬀerent from other varieties in the availability of the verb “mammock” (there are various spellings used by diﬀerent observers), which means “to annoy severely,” and of its participial form used as an adjective, as in a parent’s scolding comment and order to children: “Young’uns, I am mammocked! Now go outside and play!” We should certainly not be surprised when we ﬁnd that geographically farther-ﬂung varieties have developed their own usages, particularly when those will necessarily have been inﬂuenced by other languages in people’s repertoires. Kachru gives the example of the kinship term “co-son-in-law used for wife’s sister’s husband (cf. Tamil cakalan)” (1983, p. 46). The concepts of speech community and speech fellowship, as discussed by B. Kachru (1995), are helpful in addressing this area of the topic. They must be said to be “relative terms”; the varieties that they subsume will be seen in relation to the question they are being used to address. From one point of view, everyone who would claim to speak English, an English, any English, would be asserting their belonging to the worldwide English speech community. However, this claim is not very informative, since it does not diﬀerentiate any groups within the huge global population of users. So we may easily think of the more limited American English speech community, the Australian English speech community, and so on. When we come to discuss even smaller divisions within larger ones, we may want to think of fellowships; there may be said to be a Southern English speech fellowship within the larger American English speech community. At each level, associations are seen to exist in terms of shared features and uses of English. See also Y. Kachru and Nelson (2006, pp. 26–27) and Y. Kachru and Smith (2008, p. 58 and elsewhere) for discussions and illustrations of these concepts. One might also appeal to the high-context and low-context culture constructs of Hall (1976) in this regard. In a society whose members exhibit a high degree of homogeneity in terms of understandings and expectations in all aspects of living together, including such sets of criteria as family relationships, the importance of culturally special occasions, good table manners, and so on, less needs to be said explicitly in interactions among participants within the population. The Japanese culture, people
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 9
and language are typically cited exemplars of such a high-context situation. As Hall puts it: People raised in high-context systems expect more of others than do the participants in low-context systems. When talking about something that they have on their minds, a high-context individual will expect his interlocutor to know what’s bothering him, so that he doesn’t have to be speciﬁc. The result is that he will talk around and around the point, in eﬀect putting all the pieces in place except the crucial one. Placing it properly—this keystone—is the role of his interlocutor. To do this for him is an insult and a violation of his individuality. Hall, 1976, p. 98 In this sort of context, according to Hall, a much larger responsibility is assumed to be shouldered by a hearer in a given language interaction than in a typical English-language-and-culture conﬁguration. Where a population is diverse (whether ethnically, socially, culturally, or in any or all of these ways), that variation is likely to be reﬂected in people’s use of language in that more needs to be made explicitly clear between participants in a speech event. (This could of course be in a written or spoken mode, but discussions usually address conversation.) For example, a Muslim student from Saudi Arabia who wanted to invite an American professor to a party to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, might want to include all that and even more information in the spoken invitation: something like, “We’re going to have a party to celebrate what we call Eid al-Fitr, which comes at the end of Ramadan, which I think you know about, and … .” To a fellow Muslim (not necessarily an Arabic speaker), he would be more likely just to say something like, “Why don’t you join us this Saturday evening?” With an interlocutor who can reasonably be expected to know what season, month and day it is, an overload of explicitly presented information would be pragmatically very odd, and might even be taken as rude, as Hall says. This cultural perspective casts some light on the notions of speech communities and fellowships. The more that participants in a language event have in common in terms of their world knowledge and awareness, the less detail they need to present in inviting, apologizing, accepting a gift, or in any kind of interaction. Imagine, for example, a man turning a page of the morning newspaper toward his wife and pointing with his ﬁnger to a headline about some happening at her university. She may be able to get away with “Hm!” as a response which he will not only comprehend but will also interpret, for example, as an unexceptional indication that “I see what you’re showing me, I understand why you think it was worth showing to me, and I’ll read that article when you’ve ﬁnished with that section of the paper.” That is a lot of communicative load for a one-syllable reply. If a student brought in a paper which I had marked up to confer with me about improving it,
10 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
I would expect her to do more than point to a bit of it, and she would certainly expect me to go on and say something else after I had looked at it and said “Hm!” These are matters not only of how much information we share, but also how many assumptions we take as “givens” in our socially and culturally determined relationships. The very use of English may be taken as a salient example of another aspect of this language–culture connection. In my own day-to-day professional and personal dealings, my use of English is unremarkable: English is the only language that I command to any useful degree of proﬁciency, and virtually everyone I ever have to deal with can use it. What else am I going to speak? If I were a Hispanic American, though, or an even somewhat Spanish-proﬁcient Anglo, then I would have a choice of languages when interacting with certain people, and my choice could be governed or inﬂuenced by such things as the topic or my perception of other participants’ degrees of proﬁciency in English or Spanish. In the highly multilingual contexts of Asia and Africa, choosing English may have noteworthy implications in a given situation. As B. Kachru (1983, p. 215) wrote, “In addition to providing a code, in the interpersonal function, English may also symbolize elitism, prestige, and modernity.” If English is seen as the language of an educated elite group and a speaker addresses another person using it, that choice bespeaks including that person in “the club.” However, English may necessarily be the language of profession or business, but not of group solidarity and comradeship, so hurt feelings may result from its being chosen in a given situation. There are endless possible variations on this sort of conﬁguration of linguistic situations. K. Sridhar (1996, p. 145), explicating a study situation involving young Indian women reporting the forms they would use to ask a friend’s mother for some water, wrote: English is not always appropriate for many types of transactions. Often, the mothers, being typically less well educated than men, might not be comfortable using English in this situation. In many situations English is more appropriate for use with friends than with elders, and the native language seems more appropriate with the latter. So English is a communication instrument that may be employed by individuals within groups across the world. Its use varies when there are other languages that may be chosen, and when it is chosen, its forms will almost certainly not be the same as an English used by another person in another situation or in a diﬀerent part of the world. There is nothing surprising to common sense here; but it seems to need to be said.
World Englishes The view of English around the world that this book’s discussions are contextualized in goes by the designator world Englishes (with “world” not capitalized). As it was hinted at above, there is a point of view, not without a certain intuitive appeal,
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 11
which holds that there is English and then there are derivations of it. And derivatives are always less than the original in some way or another—perhaps only in labeling, but that is suﬃcient for them to be noted as “other.” An opposing view to this one holds that uniformitarian principles of language spread and change have applied in the past and continue to apply now to English, as they did to Sanskrit, Arabic, and Latin in worlds now ancient. Adherents of the ﬁrst view would say that adherents of the second are “giving in”; adherents of the second would say that things in the world are as they are, whether we might like them or not. The labelings “prescriptive” and “descriptive” as used in linguistics might conveniently be applied to the two schools of thought, respectively, with the caution that there are naturally likely to be individuals and groups who are prescriptivists within any descriptively construed language community. The school of thought, point of view, or interpretation of the situation of varieties of English across the globe which is the paradigm followed in the present work is that of world Englishes (as represented in the title of the journal World Englishes and the name of the professional organization International Association for World Englishes). It may be said to have had its public beginnings in a paper by Braj B. Kachru in 1965, “The Indianness in Indian English” (revised and republished in B. Kachru, 1983, pp. 128–44 as “The Indianness”). Rather than following what came to be called a “deﬁcit” model, which would have considered Indian English (IE hereafter) to be a less-than-perfect attempt at “correct” English, Kachru took the language from a descriptive perspective, as he found it in its new social and linguistic environment. (And not so “new,” at that, the language having gotten its toe ﬁrmly planted on the South Asian subcontinent in the early 1600s with the ﬁrst of the British merchants and missionaries to begin working there.) Examples such as ﬂower bed (“nuptial bed”; p. 131), Government (as an address term to a man with an oﬃcial position; p. 133), and you cock-eyed son of a bow-legged scorpion (abusive address; p. 132) would not have been familiar to many readers of the journal Word at the time of that publication, and might be only slightly better known outside of India today. The pervasive attitude of scholars and teachers of English at the time would have categorized them, at best, as “quaint,” and after an indulgent shake of the head, those observers would have relegated them to the category of dead-end idiosyncratic usage by people who “should know better,” or who should be helped to know better. It is this stance on the part of the less experienced that made presentations such as Kachru’s papers on contextualization and nativization necessary, and indeed sparked the whole school of world Englishes thought. As has been recounted in the literature (see, e.g., B. Kachru, 1997, pp. 209–10, and B. Kachru and Smith, 1988), two conferences were held in 1978, organized independently by Braj B. Kachru and Larry E. Smith, who would become the leaders of the world Englishes research paradigm and the founding editors of the journal World Englishes (begun in 1985 as vol. 4(2), taking its numbering from that of the periodical which it replaced). These conferences produced collections of papers (B. Kachru, 1982b, and Smith, 1981) that were the foundations of the
12 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
investigative activities pursued by those who were persuaded by the “sociolinguistically relevant” analysis of many Englishes in many environments, no two of which were or even will be exactly similar. What Kachru wrote about the conference at the University of Illinois in the Preface to the ﬁrst edition of The Other Tongue can be applied to all four of these paradigm-shaping events, mutatis mutandis: The conference broke the traditional pattern of such deliberations: no inconvenient question was swept under the rug. … The issues related to English were discussed in divergent linguistic and cultural contexts, and useful generalizations were made using ample empirical data. The English-using community in various contexts was for the ﬁrst time viewed in its totality. B. Kachru, 1982c, pp. xiii–xiv The bases of this school of thought are straightforward: rather than a top-down, prescriptive approach that tells teachers and learners of English what the language should be, the world Englishes school takes a bottom-up approach that tells them what it is—within useful, employable ranges of geography and functions. That is, hardly anyone nowadays would dream of telling Americans that they should attempt to imitate British norms of pronunciation or lexical usage. This was not always the case (and still might not be, for some people). As Kachru wrote in the Introduction to the ﬁrst Other Tongue (1982a, p. 3): [T]he powerful ruler, the wily colonizer, the commercial exploiter, and the religious zealot are not the only ones who envision their language being recognized—or imposed on people—as the other tongue. … There have always been linguistic romanticists, representing various disciplines, who have seen the limitations of a culture-bound natural language as a universal language. Americans and Australians today generally do not think of having to look beyond their own borders for their language models and editing. This is not a new argument, nor are the assertions of independence for varieties that diﬀer from the one in the “motherland” of the English, as this passage by Butler (2005, p. 534) illustrates: In the 1940s, Professor Alex Mitchell had deliberately provoked an argument in the press about the Australian accent. … Mitchell set the cat among the pigeons by saying, very publicly in The ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] Weekly article of 1942, that: The Australian pronunciation of English takes its place among the national forms of English as much entitled to respectful consideration as any other. It has its own history and is not a corrupt derivative of anything. Development does not of necessity imply degeneration.
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 13
This way of viewing and interpreting the situation of Englishes across the world and of sociolinguistics and language contact generally was given a material and lasting presence in the landscape of professional investigation by the establishment of the journal World Englishes in 1985 (see above) and by the founding of the International Association for World Englishes (not “ … of … ,” as it is often misstated) in 1992 (B. Kachru, 1997, p. 212). In earlier issues of the journal World Englishes, there appeared on the publication information page (on the inside of the front cover) a statement of “Policy and Scope” which is no longer printed in each issue, but which remains in force as the “mission statement” of the publication. It reads, in the relevant part (taken from World Englishes 5(1), 1986): World Englishes: Journal of English as an International and Intranational Language (WE) is devoted to the study of the forms and functions of varieties of English, both native and non-native, in diverse cultural and sociolinguistic contexts. … WE invites issue-oriented original contributions on any aspect of English studies in the broadest sense, including language, literature, and methods of teaching English as a primary or additional language. … Particularly welcome are articles focusing on characteristics and functions of English in multilingual settings, including resultant changes in linguistic and literary features of English and of languages with which English comes in contact. Similarly, the current internet-page description of the International Association for World Englishes (under “History”) asserts: IAWE … aims to establish links among those who are involved with any aspect of World Englishes in research and/or teaching. The association focuses on global issues relating to three major aspects of World Englishes: language, literature, and pedagogy. IAWE is committed to the study of the forms and functions of varieties of Englishes in diverse cultural and sociolinguistic contexts. “History” under “About IAWE, Inc.,” www.iaweworks.org/about_us.php Both of these statements of goals and purposes are broad in the aspects of English they address, and neither one is prescriptive in telling adherents of the paradigm how they are “allowed” to address whatever it is about world Englishes that interests them, from phonetics to all the way up to pragmatics and genres. Notably for the contrasting views that are discussed later on in this chapter, neither one makes any reference to “native” or “non-native” criteria as exclusionary of the other category for linguistic inquiry, and certainly not to any separation of kinds of
14 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
Englishes in terms of their “legitimacy” of existence or a need for them to be corrected or shepherded from outside their own contexts of use. As B. Kachru (1997, p. 212) writes: “The approaches to the study of world Englishes … have to be interdisciplinary and integrative, and diﬀerent methodologies must be used (literary, linguistic and pedagogical) to capture distinct identities of diﬀerent Englishes, and to examine critically the implications of such identities in cross-cultural communication and creativity.” Englishes do not serve the same functions or in themselves “mean” the same things in contexts in which they coexist with other languages—where their users have language choices—as they do in contexts in which they are the main language for the majority of the population and the only one for many people. Bolton (2005, p. 78) writes: “The strength of the world Englishes paradigm has lain and continues to lie in its consistent pluralism and inclusivity. Within the WE approach, both notions receive expression at a number of levels.” The question becomes more vexed in countries like India. The answer to “whose English?” depends on whose historical point of view is given credence. As far as the British who were in India from 1600 to independence in 1947 (see, e.g., Y. Kachru and Nelson, 2006, pp. 153, 155) were concerned, Indians “should” have been imitating them. (The question of “which ‘them’?” probably did not arise much; but not everyone who went to India was from the “upper” and “educated” classes—rather fewer of them than of the not so upper and educated.) But realistically, and from the Indian point of view, an Indian English existed and could have been valued and developed earlier than it has been. In America, it took rather less time for linguistic nationalism to take over (see Mencken, 1936, passim). Nowadays, it is a truism to observe that people learn their language from their fellowship of fellow-users. This does not mean that all varieties are equally valued in all contexts and situations. Readers of this book are educated people, and they reasonably expect their fellow students, or their own students, if they are already professionally employed, to use an “educated, standard English,” within a range of variation acceptable to all participants. Those of us in this club may easily forget that there are countless other clubs of users. It is an old joke that spectators from an elite university (pick your favorite) at a sports match might be heard to chant, “Oppress them! Oppress them!” This is funny (if it is) because we know that sports fans do not yell like this (as “yelling” itself is not a feature of standard formal speech—you might “call out to” someone). There are locutions and styles of speech that are appropriate to sports matches, to the university classroom, to professional conference presentations, to friendly conversation, and so on. Relevant to these considerations are the observations of the ranges and depths of Englishes in their respective national and social contexts. Range refers mnemonically to the breadth of functions that English is used for and the options available to its users, such as varieties in word choices (choose “ordinary” but or more highfalutin however?) and structures (will a passive sentence sound more impressive than an active one here?). In the US, for example, where English is the indisputably
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 15
dominant language, it has a full range of uses across all contexts and systems of the society, from formal ones such as education and legislation to day-to-day ones such as transacting the purchases of household necessities. In countries to which English spread in its global dispersion (see the Circles of English further on in this chapter), such as India and Nigeria, the functions of English will vary, depending on, among other considerations, what its oﬃcial status may be among the other languages that are available to people. Depth speaks to the social categories of people within a population who use English. We might expect that highly placed government oﬃcials and university-educated professionals can use English (we can hear them all the time in radio and TV news show interviews). If people with less education (and less economic or political power) also use English for their purposes, then the depth of English is greater in that society than in one where comparable functions are typically carried on in another language from the users’ available repertoire. (See Y. Kachru and Nelson, 2006, pp. 29, 99, and B. Kachru, 1988, for more detailed treatments of range and depth.) Anyway, generally we learn our languages from the usages of those around us, choosing from among the various sub-models that are available. So we might wonder why it is still such a surprise to some people today that, just as Americans are recognizable by their English, so too are Indians, Singaporeans, and a host of other national and regional users of the language. For example, as an American English user, I recognize the word “tiﬃn” (and the thing that it designates) only because I have read and heard it in context-speciﬁc ﬁction and non-ﬁction, not because I hear it on the sidewalks of the town where I live or on the campus where I work. And even in India, its deﬁnitions are various, if I can believe the hits that come up in a search for the word on the internet. I might say “lunch” or “snack” if I wanted to indicate the same referent to someone I was speaking with. For me to tell an Indian “You shouldn’t use that strange word ‘tiﬃn’” simply because I do not ﬁnd it familiar would be absurd. Yet this is exactly what happens if people do not adopt the usage-driven perspective of world Englishes. Three broad categories of communities of English users were identiﬁed and explicated by B. Kachru (1985, and many later publications, e.g., 1994). These categories can readily be seen to have formed by some number of migrations or diasporas of the English language. (Counts of these diasporas in publications range from two, as in Y. Kachru and Nelson, 2006, p. 9, and B. Kachru, 1997, p. 216, to three, as in Y. Kachru and Nelson, 2006, p. 199, to four, as in Y. Kachru and Smith, 2008, pp. 4–5 and Bolton, 2006; see also the Handbook of World Englishes Introduction, 2006, pp. 2–3). The language has moved and, moving, has always reshaped itself. The somewhat metaphorical use of “diaspora” is an apt one to apply to the more mundanely expressed “spread” of English. As presented in the Introduction to The Handbook of World Englishes (hereafter HWE; 2006, pp. 13–14, with reference to B. Kachru, 1992), this “rather speciﬁc sense” of the word draws on its etymology, Greek spora “seed.” The seed of English was at ﬁrst carried by people whose
16 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
language it was; but falling into fertile grounds among people who already spoke other languages, it grew and changed, as living organisms will, and turned out in following decades to “reseed itself.” When English was carried into Ireland, Scotland, and Wales by people who may have then been construed as “English,” no matter their deeper or more speciﬁc geographical and tribal origins, it gained prominence and functionality close to its homelands in England. This was its ﬁrst diaspora (Y. Kachru and Smith, 2008, p. 5; see HWE Part I, chapters 2 and 3). In Scotland, for example, the Northumbrian dialect of Old English was “the precursor” of the Scots variety of English, which began to be “threatened by increasing Anglicization” in the sixteenth century, largely under the inﬂuence of the introduction of an English Bible in 1560, as Douglas notes, “at a time when this was probably the only book owned by many households” (Douglas, 2006, p. 42). The migrations of English-speaking people to North America, Australia, and New Zealand comprise the second diaspora (Y. Kachru and Smith, 2008; see also HWE, chapters 4 and 5). Establishment of permanent settlements in “the South Atlantic colonies” (Jamestown, Virginia) in 1607 and New England in 1620 began the sweep of English across what is today the United States of America (Schneider, 2006, p. 59). The bilingualism of today’s Canada was instituted rather later, in “the second half of the eighteenth century, when English gained control over the former French colony” (Schneider, 2006, p. 66; we cannot but note Schneider’s pleasant ambiguity here, presumably deliberate, which allows the readings “some English people gained control” and “English—the language itself—gained control”). Kiesling (2006) explicates the complexity of the Australian and New Zealand varieties of English: “the makeup of the original settlers, and the extent of their inﬂuence on the subsequent English, is a matter of debate.” Australia was ﬁrst colonized in 1788 (as is well known, largely by “transported” convicts from England); New Zealand’s ﬁrst colonization was in 1840, and in addition to direct linguistic inﬂuence from England, “[i]t is likely … that the already established early [Australian English] inﬂuenced the early [New Zealand English]” (Kiesling, 2006, p. 76). When English underwent its third diaspora, it was brought initially by relatively small numbers of speakers of the language into vast areas of the earth, including South Asia, East Asia and Africa, where it was adopted and absorbed by millions of users as another among the languages already available for use among members of those hugely diverse populations. (See HWE, chapters 6 through 14, on this phase of the spread of English). India, Nigeria, and Singapore are usual examples of countries in this category. As Y. Kachru and Smith (2008, p. 5), cited above, write, there have been up to four diasporas of English, and the HWE includes “Fourth Diaspora” as a subheading in Part I, chapter 15, “World Englishes Today” (Bolton, 2006, pp. 240–69; the word “diaspora” does not occur in the chapter, but the senses of the “spread” and “seeding” of English are clear). English today continues to penetrate societies in, for example, Japan and Korea, which were not former colonies as such, but which
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 17
nonetheless exhibit today many of the signs of “Englishizing” that are seen in the countries of the third diaspora. As may be seen in Bolton’s treatment, along with this establishment of English in new venues, its roots and branches continue to expand and interweave, quite apart from much—if any—inﬂuence from peoples of the ﬁrst three diasporas. For example, “The vast majority of teachers of English … in the world today are ‘non-native’ teachers working in a wide range of settings,” and, in addition to nativization of English in its various newer homes, “the ‘Englishization’ of many indigenous languages” is taking place, “leading to complex patterns of contact linguistics, including lexical transfer, code switching … , and discoursal and syntactic change and accommodation” (Bolton, 2006, p. 261).
Three Circles of World Englishes The Circles Model, as promulgated by B. Kachru (1985 and later), comprised three categories of English-using regions of the earth based on those movements of the language, both carried abroad by people who used it and spread among users of other languages. As Kachru concisely put it, “These three circles, then, bring to English a unique cultural pluralism, and a linguistic heterogeneity and diversity which are unrecorded to this extent in human history” (1985, p. 14). Besides the United Kingdom, the Inner Circle comprises the countries of “Anglophone” North America, i.e., Canada and the US, and the Paciﬁc lands ﬁrst colonized by the British, Australia and New Zealand. In these nations, English remains essentially unchallenged as the primary language of politics and education, to name two basic functional domains. (Certain aspects of the situation in oﬃcially bilingual Canada must be addressed for tidiness; and the US will sooner or later have to come to grips with the ever-more noticeable presence of Spanish on its linguistic scene. But those asides will be passed over lightly for now.) The Outer Circle includes the institutionalized English-using countries of the third diaspora in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean (Aceto, 2006). The term institutionalization is fairly mnemonic: it speaks to the place of English in the establishment, in the institutions of a nation, including its educational system (where English is or may likely be used as the medium of instruction, not just as a subject to be studied), its courts, and its government oﬃces. India is a usual example: a country where English is not only heard on the streets of cities, as well as being seen in advertisements and in shop windows, but also has the oﬃcial status of associate oﬃcial language at the national level, is the oﬃcial language of some of the states and Union Territories (Y. Kachru and Nelson 2006, p. 30), and is one of the languages used for broadcasting, internet streaming, and listener support by All India Radio (http://india.gov.in/ knowindia/radio.php, 30 June 2009). The Expanding Circle is where some observers see English as a foreign language, dependent upon Inner-Circle English norms, while others see it as an emerging variety. The construct “Euro-English,” according to Modiano (2006, pp. 230–31), is “[based] in the observation that mainland Europeans, to a greater and greater
18 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
degree, mix features of American and British English (referred to as Mid-Atlantic English … ), as well as in the tendency for mainland Europeans to interject transferred [ﬁrst-language] features into their English usage” (see also Cenoz and Jessner, 2000 on this topic). Other examples of Expanding-Circle countries are Japan, Korea, and Thailand. Some writers who have drawn on this categorization have misconstrued or misapplied it, and some who have noted and appealed to it have not been faithful to its criteria (cf. B. Kachru’s critiques of two such treatments, 2005, pp. 211–20 and 222–24). A synopsis and commentary here will serve to make explicit the foundations and orientation of the present work. B. Kachru (1985) was writing about the “[theoretical] dilemma now in deﬁning an ‘ideal speaker-hearer’ for English” (B. Kachru, 1985, p. 15). The notion of an “English-using speech community” (p. 15) makes easy sense as long as we can equate a language with a people. For example, who speaks—uses—Navajo besides the Navajo? This is a clear and easy-to-recognize case of a speech community. The English-language community, however, has long been diverse, in terms of criteria of social class, geographical distribution, and multilingualism—i.e., whether or not a given set of English users had another, perhaps attitudinally preferable, language at their ready disposal. The spread of English into Ireland among Irish Gaelic speakers (see diasporas, above) is documented as having begun in the thirteenth century (King, 2006, p. 36). This and the various other sets of movements of English have formed a speech community of another sort from that of the Navajo or the Irish Gaelic: a community based solely on the language, without regard to national origins of the community’s members. Within a sub-community, such as “the educated,” it is still relatively easy (for some people) to divide those who are “the thing” from those who are “not quite the thing.” But broadly, and usually for consumption, the language deﬁnes this community. Thus arose the diﬃculty that B. Kachru points out. As he wrote at the time, “Prescriptivism—even of a mild form—must be based on some linguistic pragmatism and realism” (B. Kachru, 1985, p. 15). Kachru moved from a metaphorical terminology of layers—stratiﬁcation—to one of spreading “concentric circles,” a more dynamic image in keeping with the energy built up and released across the world by this (so far) unique development of a language (B. Kachru, 1985, p.12). One major conceptual problem arises with the equation of the Inner Circle with “native speakers” versus the other two Circles as “non-native speakers,” and further with the matching of the Outer Circle with English as a Second Language (ESL) and the Expanding Circle with English as a Foreign Language (EFL). For example, B. Kachru noted in this ﬁrst (published) presentation of his modeling of the global spread of English that the two non-Inner Circles had “several shared characteristics.” In fact, in some countries the place of English in the social-linguistic mix is so complex that he did not put them into either category; he named South Africa and Jamaica as his examples, and we could add Japan and perhaps Korea today. And another
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 19
complication of the superﬁcially simple-looking model is found in Kachru’s asserting that “What is an ESL region at one time may become an EFL region at another time or vice versa” (1985, p. 14). Malaysia’s adoption, dismissal, and reintroduction of English serves as a good illustrative example of that latter caveat. From the inception of British commercial and political dominance in 1786 in what became the Straits Settlements, English was a school subject and medium of instruction for “privileged recipients,” who then added it to their multilingual repertoires. That English was found to be very useful, if not indispensable, is shown by its being designated as an oﬃcial language, though the other one, Malay (renamed Bahasa Malaysia in 1963), was accorded more status by virtue of its being named “the sole national language.” This policy began to shift in the 1960s: “In 1969 the Ministry of Education initiated a policy whereby all English-medium schools were to become Malay-medium (Llamzon 1978; Platt and Weber 1980). By 1983 this process had been completed nationwide at the primary through tertiary levels of education” (Lowenberg, 1992, pp. 110–11; see also Y. Kachru and Nelson, 2006, p. 183). In 1976 the National Language Act made Malay “the oﬃcial and only language of government.” Further, “A massive eﬀort to translate scholarly works and to encourage the writing of original works and textbooks in Malay was started” (Bautista and Gonzalez, 2006, p. 131). Those Malaysians who had learned English in previously English-dominant education continued to use it, not surprisingly. English was brought back “as a medium of instruction for technical subjects” in 1976. “Malaysianization” had played its role in “the forging of national unity,” and English was seen as a necessary part of “the modernization process.” This shifting of the tides of English teaching and use resulted in a kind of generational split: “While the younger generation, for the most part, is not competent in English, there is the remnant of the earlier generation that has not given up the use of English; in addition, there is a core of the Malay elite that has continued to study abroad” (Bautista and Gonzalez, 2006, p. 131). And in the continuing saga, at the time of drafting this manuscript, news reports about the language to be used in Malaysia’s education system say that Bahasa Malaysia, and “Chinese and Tamil … in vernacular schools,” will again displace English for math and science subjects in 2012. English will continue to be emphasized, however, amid apparently widespread concern that deterioration of this language of wider access and interaction will have adverse eﬀects: “‘Private sector companies in Malaysia continue to complain about graduates’ communication skills in general, and English skills in particular, and the government’s eﬀorts to raise the level of English expertise are very worthwhile,’ [Stewart Forbes, executive director of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry] said” (Gooch, 2009). A major concern in this whole issue is reported to be a lack of competent English instruction, according to a story in the Daily Express (“Understand”): “Quarters in Sabah unhappy with the Government decision to revert the teaching of Mathematics and Science from English to Bahasa Malaysia are urged to understand the reality of a shortage of English teachers especially in rural areas.” According to this report,
20 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
about 14,000 new teachers would be sought for the next school term, of which about 1,000 would be recruited from Australia and New Zealand (“Understand”). It is common for readers, teachers and researchers to equate the designations and constructs “Inner Circle” and “native-speaker English.” While intuitively an easy connection to make, this is a conceptual misapprehension that would cause fundamental diﬃculties in identifying and describing world Englishes, if it were allowed to pass unchallenged. There are two immediate problems engendered by identifying the Inner Circle as the domain of “native speakers”: ascendancy and the questionable legitimacy of the very construct of “native speaker.” If a language is someone’s ﬁrst language, they are privileged: they are its “native” speakers. That privileging arises from the implicit assumption that those speakers of the language thus have the right, even the perceived obligation, to pass their linguistic judgements on others, like someone who is proﬁcient at a sport or at playing an instrument critiquing the performance of someone deemed less proﬁcient (cf. the telling subtitle of B. Kachru, 1976, “Models of English for the Third World: White Man’s Linguistic Burden or Language Pragmatics?”). What if we resist this implication? After all, many of us English-as-primary-language users have accepted, more or less unquestioningly, the ministrations of non-native teachers of French, Spanish, Russian, and Latin. The global situation of English is such that no one person can claim to be the authoritative native speaker in someone else’s neighborhood, whether someone from the Eastern Seaboard US is in Oregon, or someone from Chicago is in London. The distinguished US sociolinguist Charles Ferguson wrote in his Foreword to the ﬁrst edition of The Other Tongue (1982, pp. vii–xi) that native speakers have always been accorded “a special place … as the only truly valid and reliable source of language data.” But, he points out, very many people use “their second, third, or nth language … when appropriate” (p. vii). Various languages throughout history predating the advent, let alone the spread, of English—Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, French, and Spanish, to name just some of the big ones—have achieved distributions admitting them to the club of “languages of wider communication” which have been valued for their utility in trade, science, religion, and creative arts. The ﬁrst of two speciﬁc objections to the construct “native speaker” which Ferguson points out is that “it is often hard to draw the boundary.” That is, if we ordinarily think of a native speaker as someone very competent in a given language, then competence would seem to be the deﬁning criterion, and it makes no diﬀerence whether that language was the “ﬁrst” one that a person heard in their life. As to the second general problem, who is a native speaker, anyway, and what does merely being one get you? If “native speaker” were coincident with “ultimately proﬁcient speaker/writer/user,” then all native speakers might be novelists, poets, or textbook authors. Clearly it is possible, even likely, that a well-educated, highly motivated “non-native speaker” may use better grammar, have command of a larger vocabulary, and enunciate more clearly than, say, I do. In such a case, I do not “win” somehow by virtue of being the native speaker. Secondly, “a general theory
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 21
of language should account for all linguistic behavior,” so there are no “special places” for this or that imposed designation or category (Ferguson, 1982, p. viii). At the end of the ﬁrst paragraph of this passage, Ferguson set forward the strong assertion, often cited but still very often unheeded, that “the whole mystique of native speaker and mother tongue should probably be quietly dropped from the linguists’ set of professional myths about language” (Ferguson, 1982, p. vii–viii). As B. Kachru (1997, p. 220) has written, “These two statements by Ferguson … have yet to be seriously applied to our understanding and description of world Englishes.” It is a fact that using the labels “native” and “non-native” for users of English around the world is a hard habit to break, and perhaps a diﬃcult usage to do without, at least for casual reference. They seem to catch a division in the world population of English users that otherwise calls for a good deal of deﬁnition, with fringe sub-groupings falling through the cracks. Peter Strevens (1992, pp. 35–37) proposed primary language instead of “native” language, and we might try extending that concept to users of English as their primary language and not-primary language, but it would be an awkward stretch of locution. Well-recognized and thoughtful scholars in the sociolinguistics of Englishes have continued to use the traditional terms, despite their lack of precision and their sociocultural baggage, and they are used, I hope cautiously, in this work.
The Smith Framework for Intelligibility Within the context of any given verbal exchange, written or spoken, “understanding” may be measured by various parameters, as hinted above. In the Smith Framework (see, e.g., Smith, 1992), there are three levels of increasing complexity in language in use, in terms of which we discern what we need for successful interaction. These categories are labeled intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability. We use any language to get people to do things, to let them in on what we are thinking and how we feel, or to keep them from knowing how we feel, and so on. All of this entails that we want to make ourselves understood, and that we want to understand our partners in language events. There are many ways of applying the word “understand” and its derivatives. A bad mobile-phone connection can cause “misunderstanding,” as can an ill-considered choice of words between friends. The term for the topic of this book, intelligibility, is itself often used to include all of the various sorts of understandings and also the construct interpretability as it will be addressed in what follows. Thus, understanding is so general a word as to be virtually useless for any close analysis of speech events. When you are giving me directions about how to plug in a computer peripheral and I reply “I understand,” I of course mean that I believe I heard and comprehended what you told me to do. When you are reporting a conversation you have had, and you say to me, “I just didn’t know what to tell her,” and I reply, “I understand,” I of course do not mean only that I believe I
22 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
heard and comprehended what you said to me. I mean that I sympathize or even empathize with your perception that you were unable to respond appropriately or helpfully to the third person in the situation that you are reporting. And, by the way, the word “mean” in those previous sentences is intended in a diﬀerent way from its use in, e.g., “This particular Russian word means ‘camel.’” We seem to need a general term for all this stuﬀ, and either understanding or intelligibility may do, among some probably less-common options. But a clearheaded language observer and analyzer, Larry E. Smith, insightfully came up with a three-component scheme that accords nicely with the successively more complex levels of participants’ apprehensions of speech events. It is this “Smith Framework” (see its full presentation in, e.g., Smith, 1992) that forms the basis for the discussion in this book. When you are talking to someone, you recognize the language that they are speaking, just in terms of its sounds and rhythms. I may hear a low-level rumble from a nearby oﬃce where the computer is streaming French-language radio programming, and I can tell it is not English, even though I cannot catch any words through the physical ﬁlters of distance and building structures. If you are having a conversation in English with someone who throws in a French word, that jumps out at you as something unusual in pronunciation, for example, nation (as it sounds in French and in English). If you want “tea” but pronounce it “chea,” your communication will not be successful, unless the hearer is already used to your “accent,” or perhaps to your idiosyncrasy in pronouncing just that word that way. Smith assigned the term intelligibility, in what may be referred to as this “technical sense,” to this component of language interaction (e.g., Smith, 1992, p. 76; see also Smith and Nelson, 1985). This is the level of language in use with the fewest variables, as it involves just the sound system. Again, it must be admitted that this term is not a perfect choice. But short of inventing a word and “selling” it to the academic world of language analysis, it is as good as or better than the available alternatives, certainly including the much-overworked “understanding.” Language at its most basic level of apprehension is sound, and “how someone sounds” is a common way of thinking of or referring to what someone said. We may recall what Polonius says to Hamlet following his “rugged Pyrrhus” speech (Hamlet 2, ii): ‘Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good accent and good discretion. To state the obvious, we normally expect a language to sound as we expect it to sound. Sound that does not meet our expectations may cause reactions ranging from merely noticeable to surprising to oﬀ-putting to unintelligible (in our present sense). The further two levels in Smith’s framework are comprehensibility, which almost speaks for itself, and interpretability, which may require a bit of explication. Comprehensibility—we
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 23
can think ordinary “comprehension”—has to do with a hearer’s understanding (there’s that word again) that “tea” means tea: I know what tea is, within a range of possibilities, many of which may require qualiﬁcation, depending on speciﬁc circumstances in which the speech event takes place (green tea, herbal tea, decaﬀeinated tea, and so on). If I oﬀer you “tea,” you may be reasonably conﬁdent that I do not intend you to understand that “coﬀee” is what I mean (that word again). Smith deﬁned interpretability as the “meaning behind word/utterance” (Smith, 1992, p. 76; Smith and Nelson, 1985). We may hear what someone says to us and ask ourselves, “What did she mean by that?” When someone says, “How are you?” it may be construed as a (mere) greeting between acquaintances, in which case even a simple “Hi” will be acceptable as a felicitous response. If the hearer knows that the ﬁrst speaker knows that she has been under the weather, then “Better, thanks” may work for her turn. “Hi” would still work, also. The ﬁrst speaker then believes that the respondent has taken his “How are you?” as a greeting, and he may leave it at that, or he may follow up with something like “You’re looking better,” if he wishes to pursue the health question. This three-layer scheme—intelligibility, comprehensibility, interpretability—forms the basic orientation on intelligibility-in-general of the present work. It is motivated and supported by ordinary observation, by an Occam’s Razor approach to explaining what we observe going on in the worlds of communication and of language teaching, and by empirical study. This broad issue of intelligibility has always been implicit in language teaching. When the instructors in any other-language classes attempt to correct students’ pronunciations to accord with some model of correctness (and more about “models” below), they at least imply, if they do not explicitly point it out, that “If you say it that way, people won’t know what you are talking about.” I once had a composition student from the Philippines who asked me repeatedly about the meaning and use of the word “rocket”—that was my perception of what he was saying—with the English low back vowel in the ﬁrst syllable, which seemed from his examples to have something to do with criminal activity. I couldn’t get it to “click”—no connection between missiles as such and crime formed in my mind. He came back to the next class having looked the word up and written it down for me: “racket.” Ah, yes: as in “charged with racketeering”; I got it. Sometimes a substitution of a similar pronunciation form will serve us; sometimes one may just not occur to us. Conversations go most smoothly if we pronounce words the way our conversation partners are used to hearing them, thus achieving working intelligibility. Similarly for comprehensibility; we teachers of English spend a lot of time teaching (and correcting) lexical meanings and words’ usages. At advanced levels, we may get into groupings of near synonyms and help our students to catch the diﬀerent nuances among, e.g., swap, trade, exchange, substitute, barter, bargain, and switch. We (and our students) recognize that if they want to know about something, they had better know what it is called. It is commonplace among weekend do-it-yourselfers
24 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
that you take a suspected defective part of an appliance to the hardware store with you, because you will need to point at it and say “I want one like this,” since you don’t know what it is called. Trying to describe something like that can be very frustrating for both speaker and addressee. It is best if we know that tea is “tea” and coﬀee is “coﬀee,” and that a “rocket” and a “racket” are references to two quite diﬀerent sorts of entities. Interpretability refers to participants’ discerning the motivations or purposes of utterances, which is of utmost importance in analyzing or in trying to promote greater eﬀectiveness in any variety of English (including one’s own). This component of language use is the most diﬃcult construct to work with and, probably, to teach, according to Smith. This example and comment from Smith and Nelson (1985, p. 335) may help to clarify the construct interpretability; the text refers to a passage in the novel A Single Pebble by John Hersey (1964): The protagonist is a young Western engineer who has been sent to China to initiate a … power project along the Yangtze River. He says (p. 18): I had approached the river as a dry scientiﬁc problem; I found it instead an avenue along which human beings moved whom I had not the insight, even though I had the vocabulary, to understand. [emphasis added] Vocabulary learning (i.e., word recognition and word meaning—intelligibility and comprehensibility) is relatively easy when compared to insight (i.e., the meaning behind words—interpretability). Pronunciation and semantics are necessary components for language to be eﬀective—it seems trite to even say so. However, as Green put it so directly in her pragmatics textbook (1989, p. 7): [It] is a mistake to assume [that] just because a language has a conventional syntax, semantics and deﬁned lexicon, that utterances of sentences constructed in accordance with them will be understood as intended. This is the essence of the problem of interpretability, which draws on all aspects of any context of situation. In an example used above, an inquirer after one’s health has to know not only that the addressee has been under the weather but also that it is culturally all right for him to inquire about such a thing. There are surely societies in which people frown on, if they are not actually appalled by, such a degree of intrusion. And besides world knowledge and cultural knowledge, there is individual knowledge: you may have a friend who does not like personal questions of any kind, and if she wants you to know she is unwell, she will tell you so. At each level, the language-education quandary rears its Hydra heads: how can we teach learners the kinds of things that small children so readily acquire in satisfactorily input-rich contexts? As Hickey and Stewart (2005, p. 1) put it, we are concerned, for example, with:
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 25
Issues such as the degree to which a given society favours positive or negative politeness, tolerates ‘small-talk’ and phatic exchange, requires routinised formulas, conventional usage of formal and informal pronouns of address, honoriﬁcs and personal reference in general, preferences for conventional or non-conventional politeness and, in some societies, the very choice of a particular language itself. And there are also, they continue, all the paralinguistic correlates of speech, such as meanings of gestures, tolerance of silence, and the kinds and lengths of allowable eye contact.
Conclusion This chapter has brieﬂy introduced the background of the spread of English, and of Englishes, around the world, and has presented the bases of a sociolinguistically defensible approach to studying them and to making recommendations for teaching and learning them in their various contexts. The primary reason for, even deﬁnition of, any language has to do with communication: transmitting information and attitudes about that information to conversational participants, audiences, and readers. This includes persuading people to do things and dealing with their persuasive intentions. In order to accomplish such goals, the language used must be such that everyone concerned can, as closely as possible, identify referents, understand the asserted and implied and entailed relationships among those referents, and their eﬀects and impositions on one another. This all presumes that participants employ clearenough speech (or writing), suﬃciently agreeable grammar (as a versus some indicates one of something conventionally “countable” versus more than one of them), suﬃciently close semantic understandings, and apprehensions of pragmatic conventions. These criteria, all with their entailed and attendant complications, may be readily grouped under intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability as introduced above. While each of these levels is important in its own right, it is not necessarily the case that an instance of failure in one or the other destroys the eﬀectiveness of a particular language event. As English is taught in a given context, consideration must be given to the relationships of the language to its learners and their purposes for learning it. (Be it said, the “purposes” of some students may not be their very own, but may be imposed on them by some educational or other policy, such as an employer’s requirement.) It is not reasonable to suppose that there is any one kind (variety, dialect, or style) of English that will serve all users everywhere for all times and occasions. Just as it would not be useful to teach Australian English in Urbana, Illinois, it is not so to teach it in India. (This is not at all the same as saying that Australians should not teach English in either country.) It seems to be the traditional equation of native versus non-native with “proﬁcient or not” or “qualiﬁed or not” that has made it seem plausible for so long that many countries should look to just one other
26 “Understanding” and Intelligibility
country, or to just a few, for their models and standards. The remainder of this book will argue these points to the best of the writer’s abilities, both linguistic and conceptual.
Topics for Discussion and Assignments 1. When I was being taught my manners, my primary caregivers made it clear to me that “When somebody says ‘Would you like to stay for supper?’ it’s time for you to go home.” Use this example and similar ones (whether recalled, found or plausibly invented) to help you tease out and explicate the distinctions among intelligibility, comprehensibility and interpretability as those constructs were outlined in this chapter. 2. Consider the opening quotation of this chapter, attributed to R. McCloskey. Notice all the “understanding” verbs—believe, understood, think, and the others. Think about how these verbs are alike in what they mean and implicate, and how are they diﬀerent from one another. Summarize McCloskey’s statement in one brief(er) assertion beginning with “You may not have … .” 3. Consider the example of the dinner guest’s “I can’t eat that” used in this chapter. Recall from your experience or, for example, from the dialogue in a movie, or plausibly invent a similar case of ambiguity in comprehensibility and/or interpretability. Explicate the various possible “understandings” in your example. Further, consider other aspects of such an utterance. For example, it might not be socially felicitous to make the bald assertion “I can’t eat that” if one were a guest among relative strangers. How might a speaker in that sort of situation go about mitigating the possibility of the utterance’s being perceived as unfortunately brusque? What social criteria enter into our selections among available intelligible and comprehensible ways of stating things, asking questions, and asking (or telling) other people to do things? Consider and discuss these criteria in terms of intelligibility, comprehensibility and interpretability as set forth in this chapter. 4. You are a member of any number of socially and culturally deﬁned groups, perhaps beginning with your age and sex, and including such common criteria as whether you are a student—and if so, a graduate student or undergraduate—or a faculty member, and so on. Part of being a group member is recognizing how you do, should, or are expected to relate to members of other groups, so be sure to take that into account. I often recall the time that an (apparent) undergraduate came to my oﬃce and wanted to know if I was “the guy who teaches that ESL course.” I didn’t think it was appropriate for a young person/student to refer to me as “(a) guy.” (An acquaintance later said, “You should have told her, ‘That’s Dr. Guy to you, young lady!’”) Consider the eﬀects of your group identity on your use of language in a given situation; if you are multilingual, this could extend to your choice of which language to use. Recall and explicate examples from your own experience or observation.
“Understanding” and Intelligibility 27
5. Does the Circles Model of the spread and diversiﬁcation of English(es) make sense to you? Explain this model in your own words, as if to someone who is not taking this course with you but has asked you about it and seems interested in the subject. Be prepared for an argument about whether any English but “native” English is any good. Be prepared as well for imprecision or inconsistencies about the very designation of someone as “a native speaker” or of a group as “native speakers”; think about how you might raise this issue yourself in a provocative way in such a discussion.
Suggestions for Further Reading* To get a real sense of the bases of the world Englishes model of the diasporas and functions of English, read B. Kachru (1985); it is best read in juxtaposition to Quirk’s paper in the same volume. B. Kachru (1988) is a classic exposition of the world Englishes interpretation of the global expansion of English. For a thorough discussion of the importance of context in language change and use, see ch. 2, “Context of Culture” (pp. 31–39), in Y. Kachru and Smith (2008). Ch. 3 in Mencken (1936, pp. 104–29), “The Beginnings of American,” will repay perusal with great enjoyment as well as information and useful examples, and will provide perspective on peoples’ attitudes towards others’ varieties—even within the Inner Circle of “native speakers”—that are still in evidence today. For an overview of intelligibility issues and criteria, see Smith and Nelson’s chapter in The Handbook of World Englishes (2006, pp. 428–45). (*Complete bibliographical information is in the respective entries in the References.)
2 INTELLIGIBILITY, COMPREHENSIBILITY, INTERPRETABILITY
“Queequeg, look here—you sabbee me, I sabbee you—this man sleepe you—you sabbee?”— “Me sabbee plenty”—grunted Queequeg, puﬃng away at his pipe. Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1851, p. 32)
Introduction The pidgin verb sabbee in the epigraph includes the ideas of intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability which were introduced in Chapter 1. To eﬀect something via language, we of course must say or write something. This production is a representation of our intentions. It may succeed or fail in accordance with or even in violation of various parameters. Loud noise or white noise extraneous to the linguistic event as such may interfere with the transmission of a spoken message or a coﬀee spill may obscure parts of a printed-out page. While these are possible causes of some degree of communicative failure, they are of little interest to us here. We are concerned with what producers and recipients of language acts can do to enhance the eﬀectiveness and appropriateness of linguistic exchanges. Some speciﬁc recommendations include: “Be yourself, remain natural. Don’t speak louder than usual, [or] exaggerate your enunciation”; and “Beware of trying to be humorous unless you know your listener and his culture well” (Smith 1983b, p. 10; see also Smith and Christopher, 2001, and Smith and Nelson, 1985). Smith’s analysis of general intelligibility into the components intelligibility, comprehensibility and interpretability provides a sociolinguistically driven conceptual vocabulary in terms of which the forms and functions of world Englishes can be more usefully discussed (see, for example, an early presentation in Smith and
Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability 29
Nelson, 1985). Various researchers have found these concepts useful in their studies of world Englishes, while some others have adopted their own categories, sometimes overlapping Smith’s.
The “Problem” of Variation It is clear from casual observation and from what we all learned in our required courses in introductory linguistics or basic phonetics that it is at least highly unlikely that any two speakers pronounce the same word the same way, or even that the same speaker ever pronounces the same word the same way again. This is naturally true of “native speakers” as well as “non-native speakers.” That being so, why is anyone surprised that speakers of diﬀerent varieties of English do not pronounce words in the same way? This very noticing of mismatches between what we hear and what we think we produce ourselves tells us that we do not expect or need identity of segmental pronunciations from all participants to make their speech intelligible or to make ourselves intelligible to others. That is, if I notice [drεb] in a context which helps me to recognize it as a pronunciation of my [dræb] “drab,” I take it as that, not as a nonsense syllable or as merely a plausible word with no assigned place in my lexicon (as “dreb” is for me). The sounds of languages apparently operate in contrast to one another, not as speciﬁc “hits” in an all-or-nothing recognition of speciﬁc elements. We can recognize, e.g., beat versus but versus bat because they sound diﬀerent from one another. Lado and Fries pointed this out in one of their venerable Michigan University Language Institute publications: With the development of linguistic science has come the realization that the sounds of language operate in a system. … Many words are distinguished solely by a diﬀerence of vowel sound as in peal, pill, pale, pal, pool, pull, pole, Paul. Likewise there are many words that are diﬀerentiated by a single consonant sound. … These contrasts in sound must be taught just as we teach the contrasting structures He’s a doctor and Is he a doctor. (Lado and Fries, 1954, p. ii) It almost goes without saying that the sounds we hear must be “mappable” into one or another space in the system of our individual and group phonologies. For example, I distinguish the vowels in beat and bit in my US English speech, but not all users of English worldwide do. I have to apprehend such a speaker’s “beat/bit” which sound the same to me as one word or the other, and I rely on both linguistic and real-world contexts to sort them out for me. There is little chance of my believing that the speaker intends “but” in such an utterance, for example, since that word’s vowel is widely separated in phonetic space from those in the other two. (And it is diﬃcult for me to construct an example sentence in which all three items could plausibly ﬁt.)
30 Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability
Conversely, this hypothetical speaker may or may not notice that I am pronouncing the beat/bit vowels distinctively, but he will perform the same sort of perhaps unconscious calculus as I do in arriving at an appropriate, sensible lexical assignment to that bit of my utterance. Our marvelous language-apprehension facility, unencumbered by T-tests and ANOVAs, makes such assignments at fantastically rapid rates in every exchange. Sometimes we make mistakes; when we are aware of mismatches with sense or expectation, we enter into negotiations with conversational participants to sort them out, if our time and our purposes allow for doing so. The linguistic parameters within which we operate are set by our speech communities and fellowships, by our neighbors and acquaintances, by those whom we wish to imitate, and also by those whom we wish to avoid being identiﬁed with. As a deservedly well-used passage from Smith (1992) points out, there have been varieties of English not readily accessible to speakers of other varieties since the inception of the spread of the language (and probably always). [I]t must be kept in mind that for at least the last two hundred years there have been English-speaking people in some parts of the world who have not been intelligible to other English-speaking people in other parts of the world. Such is a natural phenomenon when any language becomes so widespread. It is not something that is “going to happen” but something that has happened already and will continue to occur. (Smith, 1992, p. 75) The following passage from the Inspector John Rebus novel Black and Blue oﬀers an example of this at least occasional opaqueness (Rankin, 1997, p. 53): The Scots language is especially rich in words to do with the weather: “dreich” and “smirr” are only two of them. Rebus twice had to … call in for instructions, both times queuing outside phone boxes in the rain. Only it wasn’t real rain, it was smirr, a ﬁne spray-mist which drenched you before you knew it. … It was all Rebus needed ﬁrst thing on a dreich Monday morning. The adjective dreich and the noun smirr were unfamiliar to me when I ﬁrst read this passage; it would be strange if it were otherwise, since I have had no signiﬁcant contact with the Scots English speech fellowship. The author works a gloss of smirr into his text, and it in turn provides the necessary semantic clue to dreich. It is easy to imagine a speaker providing similar sorts of glossing hints in a conversation. Concerns about this sort of variation seem to come from a top-down, “this will probably happen, if … ” perspective. Studies of actual data, such as Smith and Raﬁqzad (1979), Smith and Bisazza (1982), and others serve to allay such fears.1 Munro et al. (2006) for example, found in their study that “the diﬀerences between native and non-native listeners’ responses [to non-native speech data] were relatively
Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability 31
minor and, overall, the native listeners’ scores correlated well with those of the other listener groups” (p. 125). The listeners’ “disparate linguistic backgrounds” were not a signiﬁcant factor in successful apprehension of messages. Some observers apparently view this undisputedly extant variation as a recently emerging phenomenon, a change in progress on some grand scale which is occurring as a result of, or at any rate in the wake of, the independence movements in the formerly colonized nations following the Second World War. On the contrary, it is easy to ﬁnd examples that show that alert people have been aware of diﬀerences and changes within some broader “English” for a very long time. We may consider, for example, the note (“Explanatory”) preceding the text of Huckleberry Finn by America’s Mark Twain, which speaks exactly to this concern: In this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri Negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods South-Western dialect; the ordinary ‘Pike County’ dialect; and four modiﬁed varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in a haphazard fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech. I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding. The Author (Twain 1884/1985: xxxii) It is still commonplace to read and hear worries expressed about loss of intelligibility across varieties of English. This unwillingness to accept variation across varieties ﬂies in the face of what we know from our study and experience about the evolution of languages. And it is never made clear what agencies can enforce standardization or controlled simpliﬁcations, or what sanctions such putative institutions could use to pressure those identiﬁed as needing to be pressured into adopting sanctioned adaptations to their own Englishes. As B. Kachru (2006, p. 449) puts it: It is in that diverse, cross-cultural sense that English is international. I have avoided the term international language with English. The term “international” used with “English” is misleading in more than one sense: it signals an international English in terms of acceptance, proﬁciency, functions, norms, pragmatic utility, and creativity. That actually is far from true—that is not the current international functional proﬁle of the English language and never was. Also expressing the world Englishes school of thought, Kingsley Bolton wrote the following in the Introduction to his edited volume on Hong Kong English. After the Joint Declaration of 1984 … , the problematization of English was intensiﬁed by a range of language debates in academic circles and the media.
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The ‘falling standards’ debate became a focus of commercial, political and ethnic anxieties. Against this political backdrop, there seemed to be little space for a recognition of ‘Hong Kong English’. … Among the general Hong Kong population, … there was a tendency to regard Hong Kong English as, if not non-existent, then as ‘bad’ and ‘incompetent’ English. … In spite of the anxieties about ‘falling standards’ and ‘monolingualism’, knowledge of English in the community continued to spread, as did the use of a localized variety of the language; which drew the interest of journalists if not academics. (Bolton, 2002, p. 3) We should agree to be reminded as necessary that variety is a fact of life when it comes to real language. One brand new pair of jeans of a given make, style, and size will be indistinguishable from another pair which can be identically described. It is not so with pronunciations of the English low front unround vowel or even the humble voiceless alveolar stop.
Intelligibility In the Smith framework of compatibility and eﬀectiveness of Englishes with one another, intelligibility comprises those features of phonetics and phonology that we need in order, ﬁrst, to recognize the language we are hearing, and then to apprehend the phrases and words that will provide comprehension and apprehension of intentions. In real exchanges, we can tell when we think intelligibility is high and when it is slipping past us. (All language use involves more or less risk, appeal to some odds; believing things are going all right is as close as we can usually get to certainty.) In teaching and learning situations, intelligibility is typically checked on (and tested) by students’ oral repetition or by some sort of dictation task (see, e.g., Y. Kachru and Smith, 2008, p. 60). We notice, by the way, that neither is a perfectly reliable sort of test. Anecdotes abound in the literature of child language acquisition, for example, of young language acquirers who ﬁnd intelligible words that they cannot themselves pronounce to the satisfaction of older interlocutors. For example, the way our granddaughter addressed and referred to my wife during one period of her English development sounded to me like “Ganma Jan”; but she did not object or exhibit any failure to catch the intended referent when her mother or anyone else named “Gran’ma JoAnn.” Such casual observations serve to show what can be demonstrated more formally, i.e., that elements of apprehension and production are not necessarily congruent. Many of us have had the experience as foreign-language learners of being able to perceive phonemes that we could not ourselves produce accurately enough to satisfy our instructors; my own unfortunate experiences with French /r/ and Hindi voiced breathy stops spring to mind. Smith, sometimes with various co-authors (e.g., Smith, 1992; Smith and Bisazza, 1982; Smith and Christopher, 2001; Smith and Nelson, 1985; Smith and Raﬁqzad, 1979), looked at spoken language interactions as they are apprehended by
Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability 33
conversational participants and recognized that, at ﬁrst, we notice pronunciation. This certainly accords with everyday experience. If a speaker uses a sound inventory that diﬀers from our own, we may notice the overall newness and any speciﬁc mismatches consciously, as, e.g., in encountering a coastal North Carolinian who pronounces “high” as “hoi” (cf. Wolfram and Schilling-Estes, 1997, entitled Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks). If conﬁgurations of sounds do not constitute acceptable sequences or syllables in our own systems, then we may begin listening especially intently. This does not entail, as some scholars apparently believe (for example, Jenkins, 2000, p. 19), that communication of the intended message will necessarily break down completely at this early stage. (This controversy is examined in Chapter 4.) If we can readily map utterances onto our own phonological segment inventories and rules for the production of sounds in sequences, and if our own productions seem to be working for our partners, then the conversation is proceeding intelligibly. Far from being an issue only across “native” and “non-native” varieties, intelligibility is a concern across any varieties, whether broadly or narrowly construed. It may be pointed out, for example, that the very numbers of “oﬃcial” vowels in US English and RP English are not the same (15 and 23, respectively, with various caveats; Trudgill and Hannah, 2002, pp. 10 and 36). Beyond this variability at the elemental level, it is apparent that words are not necessarily lexicalized with the same phonemes from speaker to speaker and variety to variety. Again, a simple example will serve to illustrate the point. I pronounce the designator of a place where you go and pay some money to have someone serve you a meal ré-strànt, with a primary stress on the ﬁrst syllable and a secondary stress on the second, so that the vowel quality in each is preserved. (While “restaurant” looks as if it comprises three syllables, I do not pronounce it that way, and I believe I rarely hear it with three, though that production is certainly not impossible to imagine, particularly if the item is being read aloud, as from a list of words, or being repeated for clariﬁcation.) In west-central Indiana, where I live, another pronunciation is very common, that is, one with no stress on the second syllable, so that its vowel “reduces” to the mid-central schwa in accordance with a regular phonological rule. Thus, the pitch conﬁguration of the syllables is quite diﬀerent from mine, as well as that vowel quality: ré-str nt. And in some varieties of British English, as I hear it from actors in BBC-TV productions, the second syllable has no ﬁnal “t” and its vowel is nasalized, which gives the word a somewhat Frenchiﬁed cast—approximately ré-strâ`n. That these variations exist cannot be in question.2 Yet it is extremely unlikely that the Standard US English-speaking university-faculty person, the Hoosier, and the BBC English speaker would experience any stumble over this item in a conversation in which “restaurant” came appropriately into prominence. Research in and recommendations for applications of tactics for attaining intelligibility often turn on one or two exposures to an item or passage. This is reasonable for purposes of testing and conﬁrming hypotheses about what elements in speech are salient; but in actual practice, it is repeated exposure to a variety of speech e
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markedly diﬀerent from our own that allows us to ﬁnd that speech readily intelligible. The process could be thought of as rather analogous to negotiating a new airport. There are features which we expect anything called “airport” to have, such as airline ticket counters, baggage-claim areas, security check points for admission to boarding areas, restrooms, and so on. Where these are located and how they may be operated make the diﬀerences in airports; the ﬁrst time you ﬂy into Indianapolis International, you may take a while to ﬁnd what you want. But the next time you come through, you recall at least some of what you encountered before. If you become a frequent Indiana ﬂier, you will become very familiar with the state’s biggest airport. Similarly, the ﬁrst time you get into a conversation with someone who pronounces “eye” with the vowel of “boy,” that feature will be striking. But if other expected-“eye”-vowel words then follow, such as “tide” and “side,” you will recognize—perhaps unconsciously—a regular pattern and become more comfortable with your partner’s “toide” and “soide.” You will probably not alter my own “eye”-vowel pronunciations, but you will recognize them immediately as they come from your partner. And if you then meet your new acquaintance’s cousin, and her pronunciations are very similar to his, you may hardly notice them at all. Variation is not a scary thing for those of us fortunate enough to have a wider circle of language acquaintance. As Y. Kachru and Smith (2008, p. 60) put it, “As one learns to expect diﬀerences, one then develops an attitude for understanding varieties diﬀerent from one’s own” (emphasis added).
Comprehensibility Recognizing phonetics-phonology is a good thing, an important component of language acquisition and learning and of use, and we get positive points for it in our foreign-language learning. But being able to recite memorized phrases “with good discretion” will not get us very far in the world of language as communication. Words and expressions have their possible or plausible ranges of meanings—that tricky word—and we employ our knowledge of them in order to transmit and receive information, and also to learn about the people who utter them and about the situations in which they are spoken. This component of comprehensibility involves the capacity to assign meanings (readings, componential understanding, and other terms may be used) to what we hear and read, and, conversely, to choose the elements that will most nearly express our intentions. Our abilities in this area are so vast that many works in philosophy, psychology and, yes, linguistics have been devoted to it. In the clearest cases, it can be said that we “know the words for things”; the “things” may be “names of … ,” “designators of … ,” “qualities of … ,” and so on. Learners spend a lot of time in foreign- and second-language courses memorizing arrays of these tiny facts. If you want to “yell ‘ﬁre’ in a crowded theater,” you need to know “ﬁre”; if you want to oﬀer someone tea, you need to know
Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability 35
“tea.” If our vocabularies are suﬃciently ﬂexible, we can work around diﬃculties in various ways; e.g., if we do not know “tea,” we might oﬀer “something hot to drink, not coﬀee.” Given the apprehension of recognizable or at least possible words, we like to be able to assign plausible readings to what we are hearing. If we are discussing a movie, we know that “movie” means movie, that “Jackie Chan” and “Michelle Yeoh” are personal names likely to come up in discussing truly great movie making, and so on. Everyone is aware that context and intention impel diﬀerent assignments of meaning and use to words, but at any given moment, we comprehend words and phrases as having plausible, albeit perhaps multiple, meanings. As one of my mentors says from time to time in illustrating exactly this point, “If I ask for ‘tea’ and I get tea, then my English is working.” Smith and Christopher (2001, pp. 92–93) recount an episode in which a conversation between a passenger and a taxi driver ends badly because of a disagreement about whether the inside light in the vehicle should be turned oﬀ. Neither participant had any question about what they were arguing about, though—light and turn oﬀ and so on were clearly comprehensible to both participants. Of course, the argument has been made, in its strongest form, that words mean nothing without their contexts. Arguing against such “radical pragmatics,” Pinker demonstrates convincingly that word meanings can in fact “be decomposed into more basic concepts” (2007, p. 95), and that it is not the case that “people can use a word to mean almost anything, depending on the context” (p. 108). While you can use “the bloke in the navy blazer giving the talk” as a designating phrase to refer to me or to anyone else—even to a non-existent person—who might conceivably be so described in a given context, it is also true that there are limits on what languages themselves will allow us to do; for example, you cannot “clog hair into the sink” or “yell someone an order” (Pinker, 2007, p. 112). In any event, we can certainly agree that context is very important in eﬀective language use. Thus, this area of comprehensibility cannot necessarily always be partitioned easily and clearly from the following one, interpretability, which very much depends on the context of the given language event. As negotiating glitches in intelligibility involves guesses and trials (“‘Chea’? Do you perhaps mean ‘tea’?”), so in the domain of comprehensibility; there are just a lot more potential variables. The student who asked me about a “rocket” when what he intended was a “racket” sent me looking down a wrong path. I should have gotten turned around by his referring to crime, but “it didn’t occur to me.” If I had seen “rocket” written in a sentence, the appearance of the word would have triggered the necessary vowel (letter) substitution. It may be pointed out to clarify the demarcation between the two domains that in this interaction the intelligibility was high: I recognized “rocket” as a good English formation. But its comprehensibility was low for me; we must also emphasize the “for me.” Another interlocutor, or I at another time, might have tumbled to “racket” pretty quickly, and of course the speaker knew what he was talking about.
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Such examples show clearly that it is more than handy to have available constructs for analyzing such events and speech beyond the very general use of “understanding.” Intelligibility and comprehensibility are demonstrably two diﬀerent things. An amusing exchange between the characters Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and Riggs (Mel Gibson) in the movie Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) illustrates this point precisely. In the scene, Murtaugh’s son Nick is walking away from the two men, and Murtaugh calls after him: Murtaugh: Hey, Nick. … Be good. Nick: Word. Murtaugh: Hey, word, Nick. Nick: Word. Murtaugh: Word, Riggs. Riggs: Word, Rog. Murtaugh: What are we talkin’ about? Riggs: Word—four letters, starts with “w,” “d” on the end, “or” in the middle: word. Murtaugh: Oh, yeah, that word. Murtaugh’s son responds to his father’s admonition to “be good” by saying “Word” (a by now probably outdated young people’s slang expression meaning “casual aﬃrmation,” according to the online Urban Dictionary). Murtaugh and Riggs are from the other side of the generational divide, so they do not know what Nick “means by that,” though they of course recognize the word as such. Common checks on comprehensibility in conversation are interruptions such as “Do you mean X?” and “When you say Y, do you mean Z?” where Z is a trial near-synonym or a phrase of qualiﬁcation or something like that. In teaching/ learning checking and testing, we ask comprehension questions (“According to the paragraph, what city does Yasuko’s aunt live in?”), or we try to have learners “say it in their own words” to our satisfaction. There is vocabulary that we might regard as “basic”: verbs like go and come and stop, nouns like morning and night, adjectives like good and bad, and so on, not ad inﬁnitum, but it might as well be, since as we are often reminded, you cannot ever know all the words of a language. And it is not easy to delimit even “‘basic’ vocabulary”: at what time of day does “evening” begin? There is a good deal of regional and individual variation in its assignment. The following small personal anecdote illustrates again the fact that comprehensibility can fail, even when the degree of intelligibility between participants is high. My Australian brother-in-law and I were cooperating in putting together a salad on a certain occasion, and he asked me for “the capsicum.” I didn’t know what a capsicum was, and since there were a number of vegetables in view, I was not able to narrow the choices, so I had to ask. “That green thing” turned out to be what I call a “bell pepper” or “green pepper” (in the local Indiana dialect, it may be called a “mango,” probably mostly by older speakers).
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Interpretability Once we have accounted for elementary meanings, the semantics in language use, there is yet a further component, that of interpretability. As Y. Kachru and Smith (2008, p. 63) deﬁne it, “Interpretability refers to the recognition by the hearer/ reader of the intent of purpose of an utterance, i.e., the perlocutionary eﬀect the speaker/writer is aiming at.” In this component of language use, real-world background knowledge, awareness of context of the situation, and sensitivity to the wants, intentions, and reactions of others involved in a speech event are potentially crucial; all this linguistic and extra-linguistic informativeness is covered by Firth’s inclusive construct context of situation, which was introduced in Chapter 1. These criteria may be ﬂuid from exchange to exchange within a given event, and may require, as well as straightforward apprehension, a recognition that some convention is being purposefully violated. For example, conversational partners generally begin by supposing that everybody is telling the truth, but if I start an anecdote with “This professor comes into class with a parrot on his shoulder, and he says … ,” you know that while I am not speaking truth, I am not exactly lying, either. Jokes and anecdotes are not expected to necessarily accord with reality, but only to be plausible in some world.3 It can be ticklish to tease out comprehensibility and interpretability; in both domains, context of a speech event may be very important, but as already mentioned, it is absolutely necessary to successful interpretability. For example, the following verses are the ﬁrst two in a poem by the US poet William Staﬀord (1998, p. 21). “It’s love,” they say. You touch the right one and a whole half of the universe wakes up, a new half. Some people never ﬁnd that half, or they neglect it or trade it for money or success and it dies. It is almost certainly safe to assume that any reader of this text will ﬁnd these lines readably intelligible, and that if you read them aloud to a fellow student, they would ﬁnd it easy to apprehend them as composed of aurally recognizable English words. In short, the lines look and sound like English. Further, the verses are comprehensible: you can assign readings to them, to the lines, and to the words, all of which will interconnect in some ways from level to level so as to make a coherent text. Such readings involve the input of the reader or hearer, of course; the speaker’s or writer’s intended message may not be the same as our apprehended one, but we cannot expect to read anyone’s mind. Correcting misunderstandings—we might here say miscomprehensions—is a conversational strategy that we all must employ from time to time, and it transfers, with necessary adaptations, to reading a text. I guess that most readers believe that the poem is
38 Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability
about “love” (well, it says so, doesn’t it?) and more speciﬁcally, that it is most likely to be about romantic love, in some sense. There could well be various other plausible readings that have not occurred to me. At any rate, something that will, most likely, alter readers’ comprehension and interpretation of the verses as they have constructed them so far is the poem’s title: “Choosing a Dog.” Its third verse is: The faces of big dogs tell, over the years, that size is a burden: you enjoy it for awhile but then maintenance gets to you. The poet’s intention is made clear to us when we know not only the title but also the following verses of the piece, which provide an indisputable context, even given the well-known propensity of poets to mean this when they write that. Left to ourselves, with just the ﬁrst bits that we had, we could impose our own interpretations, and those would be valid, given the information we had and the assumptions that we might generally operate under. But if we want to apprehend the writer’s intention to some extent, he standing in here for a conversational participant, then we have to take what he gives us, what we know about him and his culture, and so forth, into close account. (For other such examples, see Y. Kachru and Smith 2008, pp. 64–66, and Smith and Christopher, 2001.) Are those matters strictly of comprehensibility or of interpretability? It may be hard to say. It may be taken not as mere waﬄing to oﬀer an alternative to the “either-or” proposition: given the degree of informativeness of the context of situation in any linguistic event, there is a sort of cline, with interpretability requiring more consideration of context and comprehensibility, less. Taken together, these diaphonously partitioned components of our language facility make communication happen. We hear or read, we comprehend, and we ﬁgure out what someone meant by saying or writing what they did. This is a simple, not simplistic, view of the working of language and of our minds’ analyses of it which lends itself very well to ELT in a world Englishes framework.
Samples of Studies of Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, and Interpretability Catford’s “Intelligibility” article (1950), referred to above, is an insightful early look at this general topic. Though it was not a “study,” in that he did not examine collected data, this paper did broach the topic of what might make “understanding” amendable and accessible to closer scrutiny. He put forward the importance of familiarity with a variety of speech and the role of the hearer as well as the speaker in a speech event (pp. 7–8). Lowering the threshold of intelligibility for a user of a language is brought about by familiarity with a variety (p. 14), as for example in getting used to the rhythms of a “South Asian accent” if such a broad category can
Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability 39
indeed be veriﬁed. “[T]he real test of the eﬃciency of an utterance” was its use in a situation in which the context was so minimal as to make the hearer rely almost completely on the linguistic information received (p. 14). Arguably the premier study of intelligibility in varieties of English so construed (rather than English as a unitary construct, with more or less successful copies in various places) is Smith and Raﬁqzad’s “English for Cross-Cultural Communication … ” (1979). This ambitious investigation involved 1,300 subjects in eleven countries who listened to audiotaped recordings of nine readers, and provided responses as the study asked them to; the readers were from Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and the USA (pp. 371–72). The tapes and other study materials were mailed back and forth between the researchers and their “collaborators” in the various countries—this was well before the days of the internet and MP3 ﬁles. In fact, responses from a twelfth country (not identiﬁed in the text) were not included in the study because of “mailing diﬃculties” (p. 373). At the time of this investigation, Smith had not yet worked out the three-partition scheme for treating general “intelligibility,” so the words “understanding” and “comprehension” show up as synonyms in this paper. Thus, their “operational deﬁnition for intelligibility is capacity for understanding a word or words when spoken/read in the context of a sentence being spoken/read at natural speed” (p. 371, footnote 2). Their presentation of methodology and explication of results make it clear, however, that Smith’s later “technical” intelligibility were what was being investigated. The subjects listened to taped prose passages and ﬁlled in provided cloze-procedure texts (every sixth word of the complete text deleted) with the words they thought they heard, with mere inaccurate spelling not counted against their scores (pp. 371 and 372). Since the subjects were not asked any information questions about what they had heard, this is a test of intelligibility in the later limited sense. Smith and Raﬁqzad’s study was the ﬁrst to shock the professional Englishlanguage-teaching world with a strong assertion against the worldwide primacy of the pre-eminence of “the native speaker” in all matters of “goodness” and utility across worldwide varieties of the language. Conventional wisdom of the day would have predicted that native-speaker English, implicitly a “base line” for other forms of English, should have been most intelligible for all the subjects. Smith and Raﬁqzad themselves write that “We expected the listeners to ﬁnd the native speaker sample and the sample of the fellow countryman, if there was one, equally intelligible.” The next tier of easy accessibility was hypothesized to be speech produced by “a geographically close neighbor”: For example, we expected that in Korea the native speaker of American English would be as intelligible as the Korean speaker and that the Japanese speaker would be somewhat less intelligible than either, though more than, say, an Indonesian. (Smith and Raﬁqzad, 1979, p. 373)
40 Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability
The added anticipated top scorers after the shoo-in native speaker were those presumed to speak varieties of English similar to those of the respective listeners, and this familiarity would, it was thought, work in favor of increased intelligibility (p. 373; cf. Catford’s reasoning on the question). The surprise for the researchers (and ultimately, for the burgeoning ﬁeld of world Englishes studies) was that “the native speaker was always found to be among the least intelligible speakers” (emphasis added) when the subject listeners’ responses were calculated. The researchers rechecked their pilot results to assure themselves that the American speaker’s sample was a valid representation of the variety; it was indeed found to be “highly intelligible” by listeners from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and the US (p. 375). A second signiﬁcant ﬁnding was that only “in two cases (Japan and Korea) out of a possible seven” did subjects score higher in intelligibility when listening to someone from their own countries than to readers from other countries (p. 373). Overall, “What interested [the researchers] greatly was the basic consistency of the degree of intelligibility among the listeners for all the speakers” (p. 375); that is: The native speaking American and the Hong Kong Chinese were always among the bottom three in degree of intelligibility while the Japanese was always among the top ﬁve and ten out of eleven times the Indian and the Malaysian were also in the top ﬁve. (Smith and Raﬁqzad, 1979, p. 375) And another kind of consistency in not meeting expectation was that listeners from eight countries averaged 30% or less in correctly recognizing the US speaker as an American, something that Smith and Raﬁqzad “expected almost all of the listeners” to be able to do. The Japanese and Indian subjects were 67% and 63% correct, respectively, and the Hong Kong listeners, while well below those levels, identiﬁed him at 40% (pp. 378–79). Smith and Raﬁqzad do not comment on this, but the implication seems clear: although the native-speaker model had been presumed to be familiar to English learners worldwide, many, in fact most, of them were not well enough acquainted with it to recognize a speciﬁc major variety when they heard it. In conclusion, Smith and Raﬁqzad write: “Since native speaker phonology doesn’t appear to be more intelligible than non-native phonology, there seems to be no reason to insist that the performance target in the English classroom be a native speaker” (p. 380). This investigation was extremely well thought out: the authors covered some breadth of the English-using world, in both the producers of and the listeners to the study’s texts. If taken seriously, as it ought to be, based on its supporting evidence, this assertion should drastically alter the foundations of much of English-language teaching theory and application. In 1982, Smith and another co-author, Bisazza, produced a study of three varieties of English to determine the possible eﬀects of intelligibility on comprehensibility; this
Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability 41
was accomplished by having their subjects listen to text read from forms of the Michigan Test of Aural Comprehension and then respond as asked—they were to select a picture that most closely matched the information that they heard, or to answer comprehension questions based on a given passage. The readers were Japanese, Indian, and American; the listeners/respondents were in Hong Kong, India, and the Philippines (the “ESL groups”), and in Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand (the “EFL groups”). There was also to be a native speaker group, but “unforeseen problems” prevented this set from being exploited fully in the study (Smith and Bisazza, 1982, p. 264). The recordings that the groups listened to were mixed (“crossed”) so that each group of subjects heard all three speakers; so, for example, the Hong Kong listeners heard Form A read by the Japanese, Form B by the American, and Form C by the Indian; the Indian listeners heard Form A read by the Indian, Form B by the Japanese, and Form C by the American; and so on (pp. 261–62). Listeners were asked to try to identify “the nationality of the speakers who read the three test forms,” to rank-order “their diﬃculty with the three speakers” whom they heard (i.e., to say how diﬃcult it was to understand them), and to rankorder their perceived diﬃculty with the texts as such (p. 263). One major result was that: the particular speaker used to record the test had a signiﬁcant eﬀect on the subjects’ performance. The American speaker was easiest for the subjects, and the Indian was most diﬃcult—with the Japanese signiﬁcantly easier than the Indian but signiﬁcantly more diﬃcult than the American. (Smith and Bisazza, 1982, p. 265) These results, which seem on their face to work against those of Smith and Raﬁqzad (1979, p. 268), are explained by reference to the subjects’ provided personal information: [T]he subjects in all seven countries had primarily been trained to interact in English with native speakers and/or with fellow countrymen. In almost all of the countries the subjects had had more exposure to American English than to Japanese or Indian English. It should not be surprising therefore that the American speaker was found to be the easiest to comprehend. And ﬁnally, “subjects in the ESL countries were better able to comprehend the three speakers than subjects in the EFL countries” (p. 268). Smith and Bisazza conclude, again with respect to the question of the primacy of the native speaker on the world stage, that “The assumption that nonnative students of English will be able to comprehend ﬂuent nonnative speakers if they understand native speakers is clearly not correct” (emphasis added). Rather, “It seems clear from this study that one’s English is more comprehensible to those people who have had active exposure to it” (p. 269).
42 Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability
In 1985, Smith and Nelson sought to present the “state of the art” of intelligibility studies to that time, including workable deﬁnitions of the Smith paradigm that oﬀered the three levels of explication. The authors looked at over 160 publications in the areas of “intelligibility and comprehension,” beginning in 1950. They begin with six assertions for which they found “general agreement” in the surveyed literature (p. 333): (1) Variation across Englishes is an indisputable fact. “Our speech/writing in English needs to be intelligible only to those with whom we are likely to communicate in English.” (2) “Native speakers are no longer the sole judges of what is intelligible in English.” (3) “Native speakers are not always more intelligible than non-native speakers.” (4) “Intelligibility is … interactional between speaker and listener.” (5) Greater “active involvement” with “an individual or with a variety of English” produces greater intelligibility. (6) “The expectations of the listener are extremely important”; we are more like to ﬁnd intelligible those speakers whom we expect to ﬁnd intelligible. The three-category system of intelligibility/comprehensibility/interpretability is set forth explicitly, related to “word/utterance recognition,” “locutionary force” and “illocutionary force,” respectively (p. 334), and examples of each are provided. Importantly, this paper comments that: Past studies have not allowed for the natural tendency on the part of speakers to modify their speech as a result of feedback from their conversational partners or to adapt their speech to a speciﬁc audience. Future studies should do this by being more interactional in nature. The topic of the international intelligibility of English is more complex than has been previously thought. (p. 336) Matsuura, Chiba, and Fujieda (1999) investigated both intelligibility and comprehensibility from two accents that were judged familiar (American) and unfamiliar (Irish) to their students in Japan. After brief reviews of several studies “in which native speakers of English evaluated nonnative varieties of spoken English,” the authors turn to their investigation of the eﬀects of familiarity with varieties on tolerance for and success in dealing with those varieties. They note that an earlier study by two of the present authors (Chiba and Matsuura, 1995) found “that prospective Japanese English teachers revealed less tolerant attitudes towards nonnative varieties of English than their American counterparts did.” They attribute this diﬀerence to the amounts of “exposure to diﬀerent varieties of English” that were available to the two groups of teachers.
Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability 43
In their study, Matsuura, Chiba and Fujieda played “[b]rief self-introduction speeches … by six ESL/EFL teachers, three American and three Irish,” who were all teaching in Japan. Over a hundred subjects from three universities took part in the study (p. 52). The authors constructed dictation/cloze-procedure items to indicate degrees of intelligibility, and comprehension questions were used “to assess the listeners’ understanding [comprehension] of the … message” (p. 51). The researchers also investigated “perceived comprehensibility ratings” (emphasis added) by their subjects. The two top intelligibility ratings as measured by the dictation test were assigned to an Irish person and an American (p. 53). The authors note that while the student subjects got the highest intelligibility scores from Speaker 1, who was Irish, that speaker was rated ﬁfth of the six on perceived comprehensibility; that is, students largely thought this speaker was diﬃcult to understand. The relationships between the various measures in the test, including TOEFL scores (as a gauge of the students’ English proﬁciency levels), were similarly complex. The authors conclude that: it seems that the extent to which a particular English variety was comprehensible for a listener [as measured by success in answering comprehension questions] … could be related not only to a listener’s English proﬁciency but also to his/her familiarity with a particular English variety—either regional or personal. (p. 58) This familiarity could have the eﬀect of the listeners’ not being put oﬀ or intimidated by a strange accent; this is similar to the point about positive expectations put forward by Smith and Nelson (1985), noted above. The researchers end by calling for the variety in the national backgrounds of foreign English teachers hired in Japanese schools, and also in teaching materials to “reﬂect the contemporary use of English from a global point of view” (pp. 58–59). Van der Walt (2000) writes about developing a “more contextualized method of testing the comprehensibility of spoken language,” and then goes on to use that to examine comprehensibility of ﬁve varieties of English in South Africa (p. 139). She notes that the controls which researchers have sought to impose on the texts presented and the kinds of responses allowed (pp. 140–41) are at least to some extent artiﬁcial: “A true test of the comprehensibility of contextualized speech would have to be open-ended without giving away the gist of the text” (p. 141). That is, she is calling for “real” studies, as opposed to “existing intelligibility and comprehensibility studies … [which] present snatches of decontextualized language in artiﬁcial settings for listeners who have no use for the information” (p. 141). Still, in order to do her study, Van der Walt had to impose certain strictures and select accessible and usable texts (pp. 142–43). For example, she used as her texts “recordings of television and radio broadcasts mean for general consumption,” as these are “authentic” language events which supply a context and “topics regarded as interesting or useful for [an] audience” (p. 142).
44 Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability
The test was given in pilot versions at locations in Germany, South Africa, and the US, and ﬁnally at universities in Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, and the US. One hundred and forty subjects with sixteen ﬁrst languages participated (some of the ﬁrst languages are doubles, such as “Ukrainian English”; pp. 144–45). Speakers of ﬁve recognized South African varieties of English (e.g., “Traditional ‘White’ South African English” and Afrikaans English; pp. 142–43 and 144) were presented to subjects in video and radio clips (pp. 142 and 144). This is a complex, “thick” study in both its implementation and its results, and only some of its general ﬁndings will be reported here. As in some other studies, it was not possible to deﬁnitively decide whether high comprehensibility and selfreported “ease of understanding” results for educated, ﬁrst-language users of English were due to those criteria or to reported previous interaction with South African English speakers (p. 145). Also, “a subjective rating … of whether the respondent thinks the speaker is easy to understand is not always indicative of real understanding. For example, most respondents disagreed with the statement that the Cape English speaker is easy to understand, yet this variety shows the highest level of comprehension of all the varieties in the category ‘good answer.’” (p. 147; cf. Matsuura et al., 1999, on this point). Finally, the study shows that: All varieties of South African English are comprehensible internationally and the argument in favour of British English (or American English for that matter) as a standard for South African schools … is not, therefore, valid any more. In fact, current writing questions the use and validity of any one standard. (p. 148; emphasis in original) This survey of just a few signpost studies of intelligibility (in its broad reading) indicates the range of questions and issues, both substantive and methodological, that have to be ultimately taken into account. As Van der Walt’s paper shows, the more “true to real life” a study tries to be in capturing the use of a variety, the more complex it becomes in both execution and in analysis of results and presentation. There are various points of agreement and mutual support that may be observed in such published research; as it turns out, these were largely captured by the listed summaries of research in Smith and Nelson (1985, p. 333). The most salient one that still seems to have to be repeated to members of the professions of Englishlanguage teaching and research is that the Inner-Circle varieties cannot be taken as the baseline for other varieties—once English has obtained a working place in a society, it is not longer a “foreign” language. Intelligibility and comprehensibility may of course usually work together, but sometimes do not, as already illustrated. As another example, I once had an opportunity to make presentations at several venues in Pakistan. At one stop, a student who had been assigned to help me out took me to see the classroom where I would be speaking later. We went in, and he asked me, “Do you want OHP?” (He pronounced the letters “o-h-p,” with what I perceived as primary stress on
Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability 45
the “o.”) Intelligibility was largely okay, until the last bit. I knew he was asking me a question, asking me if I wanted something, but I had no idea what “óaichpee” was. “Excuse me?” I asked. He repeated his question in the same way, as I recall. I was forced to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what ‘O-H-P’ is.” He pointed to the overhead projector in a corner—“O-H-P.” So much for my being the native speaker in the room. In my defense, I had never before heard one of those contraptions referred to by anything other than its full name, or perhaps as a “projector,” if context made it clear what kind. It was embarrassing. But “OHP” became a permanent ﬁxture in my lexicon, although I never get to use it, except in recounting this story for instructional purposes, because no one I work with calls them that, either. And anyway, nowadays the things have become dinosaurs in the digital-tech age, which just illustrates how words can pass out of fashion, sooner in some places than in others. Word meanings are just not as stable as we may have taught them and as they have been taught to us. Thus, comprehensibility is not a component of language use that can be addressed in any more monolithic terms than can intelligibility. Indeed, on the face of it, it is rather a wonder that we can interact at all, given the variabilities at all levels of language, like the bumblebee whose wings are mythologically too short to allow it to ﬂy. Interpretability is the most complex level, and our capacities to grasp it will be undergoing modiﬁcation as long as we live and encounter new fellow participants in new contexts—and no context is ever exactly similar to a previous one. Y. Kachru and Smith (2008, p. 65) cite an example from a Thai novel—i.e., one set in Thailand and written in English by a Thai—which turns on a phrase in which a young person is directed by an older one to “salute” a third person. One can think about whether the author’s choice of “salute” might have been reconsidered; but the point is that this author used it, to indicate a particular way of greeting elders. Unless it is glossed or hinted at in the text, a reader unfamiliar with the Thai context will get only the general idea, not the more speciﬁc image. (But no reasonable reader would construe it as having its military sense of a hand being brought snappily to a corner of the forehead.) As a suggestion for discussion at the end of Chapter 1 says, I was taught early in my life that the question “Would you like to stay for supper?” was intended as a polite signal that it was time for me to leave someone’s house. How generally applicable that was in the wider worlds that I later ventured into came into question; but it still not an invitation that I can, or perhaps should, accept without some fairly close consideration of the surrounding circumstances. Experience—including of course various forms of vicarious experiences in reading, hearing about, and so forth—may be the only practical teacher in such context-dependent matters. But through presentation of video and print media and personal demonstrations, and practice built oﬀ them, students in a context removed from that of other varieties of English, or even from one in which English is much used at all, may be led to grasp their version of the language at all three levels.
46 Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability
Conclusion This chapter has expanded somewhat on the introductions to intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability that were presented in Chapter 1. All three “levels” are easily seen to be important: you cannot use a language without control of its basic elements, it needs to be meaningful, and it is human nature to derive “extra meaning” from what we hear or read beyond purely informative signs such as “Entrance.” Even a simple “hello” in response to a greeting may be interpreted in one or another way depending on how it is said—faster or slower, louder or softer, with one or another intonation conﬁguration. Explicitly setting out what we discover about the criteria and parameters of intelligibility and its components is clearly no easy task: so much can be conveyed “in the real world” by the lift of an eyebrow or the turn of a phrase. This is not discouraging, just a recognition that “we are onto something here.” Intelligibility will continue to be studied, since, after all, it is the central criterion for eﬀective language use.
Topics for Discussion and Assignments 1. Consider a notion which we can for convenience call model-provider. Most welleducated people, including readers of this book, may immediately report their explicit education in and about a “standard English” as the model for their own usage. However, a little consideration may reveal that this response is too facile, if not actually wrong. For example, an American (“native speaker”) MA student in the department where I am a faculty member reported that she could not expel from her own speech and writing the “incorrect” use of went as the past participle of go, as in they have went. She was aware of this “error” and asserted on her own the desirability of correcting it, but she said it persisted. Formal education, while serving as the basis for inculcating English in millions of users across the world, seems to have its limitations in eﬀecting this or that model in every respect in the minds of all users of the language. What do such evidence and considerations suggest about the nature and degree of variations across world Englishes, and about the likelihood that intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability will often have to be negotiated on the spot among participants in a conversation? 2. It is not unusual even today to observe calls for adherence to an often unspeciﬁed “native-speaker model” for teaching English in the Outer and Expanding Circles. Factors such as those outlined in this chapter and those you may have thought about in considering question 1 above clearly militate against any such stricture. Summarize these arguments. Now take the other side: assuming that you wanted to teach, say, standard American English in an Outer-Circle country, what arguments could you make in favor of your program? What counter-arguments can you anticipate?
Intelligibility, Comprehensibility, Interpretability 47
3. Does the tripartite scheme of intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability make sense to you? Explicate the constructs in your own words and with your own examples, as if to someone who is not taking this course with you but has asked you about it and seems interested in the subject. Be prepared for an argument about whether just leaving it at “understanding” or “speaking clearly” or some such locution would not serve as well. 4. Search in creative writing that you are familiar with for examples such as the Thai “salute” mentioned above. Try to ﬁnd examples from Outer-Circle writers that would predictably be less than transparent to Inner-Circle readers, and vice versa. Notice the devices that authors may use to provide accessibility to such usages for their readers: how many can you ﬁnd? 5. In what is perhaps an overstatement, the introduction to the interpretability section of this chapter asserts that “all this linguistic and extra-linguistic informativeness is covered by Firth’s inclusive construct context of situation.” What might diﬀerentiate Firth’s concept from interpretability as it is limited and illustrated here? 6. Compose a short presentational passage (e.g., a self-introduction, as used by Matsuura et al. 1999) in which you consciously employ your own variety of English in terms of pronunciation and lexicon, etc. After presenting your speech to a classmate or to the group, solicit comments on what they might have found noteworthy. Try to determine how problematic any of the observed diﬀerence might actually have been.
Suggestions for Further Reading Van der Walt’s paper (2000), as noted above, is detailed and intricate, and calls for a careful reading; it usefully and concisely surveys the criteria employed in various previous studies (pp. 140–41). Berns (1990) treats, as the title says, “social and cultural considerations” that language teaching should address; and see also Berns (2005). Smith and Christopher (2001) explicate four real-life scenarios in detailed terms relating to the three intelligibility components and point out the need for negotiation and being forthcoming with interlocutors about perceived intelligibility diﬃculties: “just ask.” For an in-depth consideration of how intricate any language user’s perceptions of words in their relation to thought and expression are, see Pinker’s chapter 3, intimidatingly entitled “Fifty Thousand Innate Concepts” (2007, pp. 89–151).
3 HYBRIDITY, CREATIVITY, AND INTELLIGIBILITY IN WORLD ENGLISHES
The manifestations of ‘mixing’ range from the use of lexical items to units up to a sentence or more, and embedding of idioms from the other codes. B. Kachru (1986, p. 69)
Introduction “Hybrid” refers to something made from two (or more) diﬀerent elements that have been put together; in their combining, they form a new, third entity. If we were talking about food or music, we might use the word “fusion,” as in “an Asian fusion menu” or “jazz-rock fusion.” In each case, the new entity cannot be relegated to either of its component categories; the new one constitutes a category of its own. The lexicographical analogy breaks down when it comes to botany, since hybrid plant seeds are not used to produce new generations of plants. It remains to be seen what may eventually become of hybrid Englishes such as “Spanglish.” What may be intended by the designation of hybridity with respect to language— to English, for our purposes—depends on the writer, topic, and context of use of the term. As Dissananyake (2006, p. 562) put it, mixed language (he was talking about writing, more speciﬁcally) “[displays] hybridity and self-conﬁdence in bending the English language for the purposes the authors have in mind.”
“Pure” English? We hear from time to time about some allegedly “pure” language, but it must be safe to guess that virtually all languages are at least to a minor extent “mixed,” unless their speakers never have contact with anyone from any other language community. Iranians greet one another with the Arabic-derived salaam aleykum.
Hybridity, Creativity, and Intelligibility
When I lived in Tehran in the early 1970s, Farsi speakers routinely addressed Armenian women with the French borrowing madam, not the Farsi xanum, and a common equivalent of “thank you” was mersi (with stress on the ﬁrst syllable). The French make great oﬃcial eﬀorts in support of purity, but Saturday and Sunday still constitute le week-end. Nelms-Reyes (1996, p. 310, cited by Martin 2006b, p. 593), writing about a French law applying to the use of not-French languages in media, points out that “the much ballyhooed cultural objective of the Loi Toubon remains frustrated because the statute as worded is unable to aﬀect the way French is spoken in ‘everyday discourse,’ which is where a language truly exists.” English makes no bones about its borrowings, transfers and pseudo-internationalisms (such as the ever-popular barista, a person who makes coﬀee-based drinks, from Italian “bartender”). At the time of drafting this book, US news media are making various references to the national administration’s “auto tsar” and “energy tsar” (which may also be seen spelled “csar,” “czar,” and “tzar”). This use of the Russian word designating the pre-Soviet imperial ruler to refer to the person (can it only be a man?) in charge of some substantial program or oﬃce is not new, having entered English in the mid-sixteenth century, according to The Shorter Oxford Dictionary, but seems restricted to the political/governmental register. So far, my university’s administration has created innumerable “task forces,” but no tsars that I know of. A similar recently popular term is sherpa, from the name of the renowned mountaineering people of Nepal (who migrated from Tibet to Nepal around 300–400 years ago), to refer to someone who “breaks trail” for a more senior, more authoritative functionary, as for example in setting up conference arrangements.1 The Shorter Oxford says it has been spelled with a lower-case “s” in its English use since the mid-twentieth century. Such borrowings may be adopted and adapted because of their conciseness in denoting a complex net of semantic features and their pragmatic usefulness in calling up such pragmatic associations as virtually unlimited power, for the one, and faithful dedication for the other. There are of course huge numbers of other borrowings serving in other ways with other attributes. Hybridity has been a factor in the growth of English since the language took on an identity. Most students of the language are aware, for example, that the common “sk-” words like sky, ski, skin, and skirt are of Norse origin. To quote Professor Tom Shippey from the instructional Story of English video series program on the history of English (McCrum and MacNeil, 1986), this part of the video script is not presented directly in the associated book (but cf. McCrum et al., 1986, pp. 70–72), “If you looked round in the year a thousand, and said ‘Where are the centers of power for the language?’ you might say it’s in London, where the king is, or it’s in Winchester, where they have the trained scribes and the people writing manuscripts. But actually, the place where the language was developing in the direction that was going to be modern English was places like this. The ancestor of modern English is created in places like Wharfedale.” That is, the location was one where English and Norse speakers lived side by side, and intermarried; the language could not help but become a mixture of the two sources.
50 Hybridity, Creativity, and Intelligibility
In fact, Jespersen (1956, p. 68) writes that “Sometimes the Scandinavians gave a fresh lease of life to obsolescent or obsolete native [i.e., Old English] words.” For example, the preposition till was very rare in Old English texts before Norse speakers came to England, and we know that it is a common equivalent of until today. “[A]nd barn … (OE bearn) would probably have disappeared … , if it had not been strengthened by the Scandinavian word” (p. 68).2 So hybridity has been a feature of the English language since at least those Viking incursions into England beginning with the sacking of the church of Lindisfarne in 793 CE. Then came the French, adding a certain “I know not what” to the language of every English user. And after the “English,” by then very mixedly construed, began to reach out across the seas, anyone taking a dekko into the masala of lexicon in any dictionary would discover on every page a mélange of near-synonyms orbiting one another like little sputniks, available for exploitation by every speaker and writer.
Degrees of Hybridity Generally speaking, hybridity may be of four sorts: dropping items and phrases from another language ad hoc into streams of English speech or writing; borrowing lexical items and phrases as permanent elements in English; mixing and switching between other languages and English; and forming a distinctive variety of English, more or less stable, as any living language is (only) more or less stable. Sometimes the use of other-language items may not be widespread. Such ad hoc uses may occur just among a small group of English users, and may not spread beyond them or the immediate need for the item in their usage. I had not “discovered” yogurt as an edible foodstuﬀ before my wife and I went to Iran, where it was mast; so “mast” it was for us, as it was for the other members of our visiting graduate-student cohort. When we came home to the USA, we found that various versions were readily available in stores, and we quickly learned and adopted “yogurt.” Sometimes these lexical additions or replacements last and spread, and sometimes they do not. Early in the literature of world Englishes, B. Kachru discussed hybridity in terms of linguistic forms (e.g., 1983, pp. 156–62). The simplest kind of hybridity is that of borrowing, i.e., of bringing a lexical element into English from another language, something that has been going on in the Inner-Circle Englishes since long before there was any perceived need to qualify them consciously as borrowings. Everyday examples include “tea” (from Min Chinese te, into English via Dutch), “coﬀee” (from Turkish kahveh, from Arabic, into English via Dutch), and “alcohol” (from Arabic al kuhl, into English via French). These few examples may serve as indicators of a very long list of “common” English words, never mind “big words” like polytheistic (into English via French, ultimately from Greek). Sometimes the innovation is to some extent spurious, like the word “curry” in its reference to “an ‘Indian-style’ dish.” While this word is deﬁnitely an Indian import,
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we are often told that there is no such thing in “real” Indian culture or language, kaRi being a South Indian (Tamil) word for what can only be approximated in non-borrowing English by “soup” or “stew,” or perhaps “gravy,” though none of these really works (would an American put “gravy” on rice?), hence the necessity for the borrowing (Y. Kachru, personal communication). But that redeﬁning is beside the present point. Like virtually all languages, English adapts words that it likes for uses that it ﬁnds convenient. This borrowing or transfer is hybridization in the sense that new elements from outside sources are being loaded into the overwhelming matrix of “English” without disturbing its overall identity in the least. This sort of process perhaps went on more or less unnoticed as long as the transfers were eﬀected by and put into the language of conﬁdent and proﬁcient users of English who did not fear that they would lose their identities over a cup of hot drink or a plate of tasty chicken and vegetables on some rice here or there. When contact with “non-native” English users became more commonplace, though, people did begin to take notice of the resultant inﬂuence. Yule and Burnell’s Hobson-Jobson (1886/1996), for example, a “portly doublecolumned ediﬁce” (p. vii), presents in its representative title “a typical and delightful example of that class of Anglo-Indian argot which consists of Oriental words highly assimilated … to the English vernacular” (p. ix). The title phrase is glossed as “A native festal excitement; a tama-sha” (p. 419), and is said to be a phonological corruption, “peculiar to the British soldier … ,with whom it probably originated,” of ritual cries of celebrants during Moharram processions. It has gone the way of many another borrowed lexical item, but the text oﬀers the origins of many others which are still with us, such as saree (probably most often spelled “sari” nowadays), “The cloth which constitutes the main part of a woman’s dress in N. India, wrapt round the body and then thrown over the head” (p. 795). And one also ﬁnds dam, “Originally an actual copper coin” of very small worth (p. 293), still current in the expression that is “often heard from coarse talkers in English as well as in India” and elsewhere that means “I don’t care at all!” Hobson-Jobson notes that “whatever profanity there may be in the animus, there is none in the etymology” (p. 294).3 This glossary, as it calls itself, represents an early and substantial recognition and legitimization (if somewhat patronizing in places) of the dynamic hybridity of English in contact with other languages. B. Kachru (1983) treats hybridity in a chapter entitled “Lexical Innovations” (pp. 147–64), with many examples divided into types and subtypes. He notes three general features of such items: they of course comprise elements from at least two languages (one of them English, in our case), they are “formally and contextually restricted” in their use, and their register of use is restricted in their occurrence as hybrids in a matrix of English. To show these characteristics of hybridization, Kachru explicates the example of purdah, “veil” or “curtain” in Hindi-Urdu, as in “observing purdah,” the practice of keeping women, or of women keeping themselves, out of public view. In HindiUrdu the word has various possibilities of occurrence corresponding to the English
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“veil” and also to “drapes,” a theater “curtain,” “hindrance,” and even “a fret of a musical instrument such as a guitar.” But Kachru’s survey of its occurrence in South Asian English texts showed it to occur only as the pre-head element with -women, -system, and -lady. “[The word purdah] is therefore register restricted in [South Asian English] and has a limited semantic range as it occurs only in one register.” A particular item may occur in the register of politics, music or other arts, and so on (B. Kachru, 1983, pp. 154–55). This register restriction is exactly the same sort of thing that has happened with tsar and sherpa in US English. More obvious hybridization is exhibited in a linguistically more complicated process in which two (or more) lexical elements are joined in a compound, just like “rowboat” or “witchcraft” except that one element is recognizably not English. (It might be more exact to say not English yet, at the time of the original importation of the combination.) A well-worn example is South Asian English lathi-charge, in which the head element, “charge,” means a rush of a more or less organized body of men, in this case policewala, in an appointed direction. The Hindi word lathi (the “th” spelling seeks to indicate an aspirated voiceless retroﬂex stop, not an interdental fricative) may be approximated by stick, staﬀ or possibly baton (the latter, into English from French, in its military and police sense here, not in reference to something a parade participant might twirl artistically). Such formations are discussed in detail by B. Kachru (1983, pp. 156–62, and elsewhere); he points out that a relative few such hybridizations involve aﬃxes or other closed-class items, such as policewala above: -wala is a Hindi element indicating one who does or eﬀects what is denoted by the head element it is attached to. An Indian chaiwala sells tea, a Peace Corps wala is a person in the (US) Peace Corps, and so on. Kachru further points out an interesting feature of such combinations, namely, that they seem to observe certain niceties of exclusion, so that, for example, the plausible equivalent of lathi-charge, DanDaa-charge (DanDaa, like lathi, may be glossed as “staﬀ”) does not seem to occur (B. Kachru 1983, p. 154). This may have to do with a principle advanced by Pinker (2007, p. 118): “When a language already has a word staking out a meaning slot in a suite of related meanings, the word will preempt any interlopers that may have been sent there by a rule of regular polysemy … . [Y]ou can ferry … or motorcycle somewhere, but you can’t car or plane, because we already have drive and ﬂy.” In any case, words seem usually to be sensitive to the linguistic context in which they land, and there is no reason why mixed elements should be any diﬀerent in this respect. Thus, certain collocations seem acceptable and “usual” to users of a given variety of English, while others do not. It is the same with individual items, of course. It is unlikely that very many Americans are not passively familiar with British “lift,” though the members of the former speech fellowship would virtually always exhibit a preference for the use of “elevator” to designate the same convenience. It is clear that these innovations constitute part of what we recognize as “a variety,” as when we assign a new acquaintance to one or another speech community. I call a certain contraption an “elevator,” so I am most likely an American; someone
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else calls it a “lift,” so they are not. I need to hear a few more features of their English—pronunciation, vocabulary items, etc.—before conﬁdently assigning them positively to a variety; from “lift” alone, they could be from England, but also might come from Singapore or India. And it is equally clear that such constructions are “innovations” from someone else’s point of view; from within the variety, they are products of the ordinary sorts of creativity that all speakers employ to get through each sociolinguistic day. A point often made but well worth repeating, especially for Inner-Circle speakers, is that English across the world now most typically co-exists with other languages in the minds and the daily usage of its speakers. And when pairs or groups of people proﬁcient in the same set or repertoire of languages get together, language mixing and switching happens naturally. This phenomenon, traditionally termed code mixing (rather than “language mixing”) in the literature, may be mysterious and even annoying to monolinguals from the Inner Circle of Englishes, but that is their problem. Foreign-language teaching militates against it, since typical classroom approaches to language learning involve having students practice standard forms. Inserting an other-language word or collocation into an utterance (and most certainly into a test response) in a language being learned would be regarded as a sign of the learner’s lack of competence, or at least of conﬁdence, in their use of that language. While much of the literature on this topic has distinguished mixing from switching, Tay (1993a) asserts that the distinction is “counter-intuitive” (p. 127). This critique is based in part on her analyses of Singaporean speakers’ conversations involving English and two Chinese languages, Mandarin and Hokkien, in which it might be diﬃcult to decide, in some passages, whether any one of the languages was the “matrix” or “main” one. Thus, for present purposes, either term, mixing or switching, will do. We might like to refer to the phenomenon in a slightly less technicalsounding way here, as “language mixing,” which is what it essentially is.4 An example, especially necessary for those whose everyday experience does not provide any, may be found in the article by B. Kachru which the epigraph of this chapter was taken from: mujhhe is bat me˜ bilkul doubt nahı˜ hai, rather I am sure ki this year B.Sc. examination ke results bahut kharab haı˜. [“I have no doubt in this matter, rather I am sure that this year the B.Sc. examination results are very bad.”] (K. Bhatia, 1967, p. 55, cited by B. Kachru, 1986, p. 69–70) The following example comes from Sichyova (2005, p. 489), who writes that in Russia, “the English language has become an integral part of the Russian-speaking community”: Guliai, hip-hop planeta! Hey everybody, attention! Hey, devchonki! Zachem, krasivye, vy khodite za mnoi?
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Have a good time hip-hop planet! Hey everybody, attention! Hey, girls! Why are you, beauties, following me? (One of the Russian pop group “Diskoteka Avariia” at the contest in Iurmala, July 29, 2003) Readers will see that, while the author puts “Hey everybody … ” in italics in the text, to mark it as non-Russian, she does not do so for “hip-hop.” As lexical items and expressions become more and more integrated into everyday usage, they cease to be “foreign.” This mixing of languages by multilingual speakers has come to be seen as a strategy in itself, involving such criteria as participants’ attitudes, degree of intimacy, and group identity. Foreign language learners may be focused on formal criteria, but comfortably proﬁcient multilingual speakers just communicate; and they are fortunate in having a wide-ranging repertoire of forms to employ in expressing their intentions. See Y. Kachru and Nelson, 2006, pp. 258–61 for a discussion of sources (e.g., Chan, 2003, and Mahootian and Santorini, 1996) showing that syntactic and other hypothesized constraints do not account for naturally occurring code-mixed data. Such language use is a kind of hybridization, whether at a phrase, sentence, or even more complex level. English joins in a working relationship with non-English elements to constitute a communicative linguistic system. At a further level of complexity, not as amenable to spot identiﬁcation as lexical items are, there is the whole area of discourse and its organization and presentation. K. Sridhar (1991, cited in Kachru and Nelson, 2006, pp. 56–60), e.g., wrote that “[pragmatic] diﬀerences exist between varieties of the same language … , especially between native and non-native varieties, and between one non-native variety and another” (Sridhar, 1991, p. 308). Three groups of subjects in this study represented diﬀerent degrees of Westernization or more traditional backgrounds. Even given these sub-variety diﬀerences, a signiﬁcant interpretation of the results was that “it seems clear that the requesting strategy in Indian English is diﬀerent from that in native varieties of English. This is seen most clearly in the less common use of indirect questions and more frequent use of direct questions and desiderative statements” (pp. 216–317). Some of these features are seen to be a direct transfer from subjects’ home languages, and some from the diﬀerent “social meanings” attached to given usages. Y. Kachru has shown in various of her studies in this area (e.g., 1992, 1997, 1998, and 1999) that writers in English from Outer- and Expanding-Circle speech communities do not follow the same sorts of organizational guidelines that most Inner-Circle writers take for granted, including an introduction presenting the background of the argument and a clear statement of the writer’s position of the issue at hand, step-by-step development of arguments and of counter-arguments to anticipated opposition, and a concluding wrap-up of the discussion, pointing out its eﬃcacy and how opposition has been demolished.
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In “Culture, Style and Discourse: Expanding Noetics of English” (1992), for example, Kachru points out that in addition to the obvious identiﬁcation and characterization of types of texts, style “convey[s] cultural meaning” (p. 340). She deﬁnes style “in terms of choice of linguistic form in speech/writing to indicate manner of expression rather than ideas expressed.” Further, “style of stance” comprises choices “indicative of the speaker/writer’s attitudes toward and belief with regard to the content and source of information conveyed” (p. 342). Such characteristics as the speaker or writer’s degree of “involvement” with the topic are indicated by linguistic markers such as surely for information which the user regards as very reliable, probably for that regarded as somewhat less reliable, and so on. In surveying the English usage in “ﬁfty essays written by [undergraduate] college students … in India” and in “texts randomly selected from a news magazine, India Today” (p. 343), Kachru identiﬁed classes of adverbials (e.g., “honestly”) and evidentials (e.g., markers of “inductive inference” such as seem and evidently, hedges such as kind of, and, importantly, “markers of expectation” such as oddly enough and at least; pp. 345 and 346). She notes, for example, that “the [Indian English] essay writers did not use markers of reliability very often; … most statements were bald assertions.” This is markedly diﬀerent from frequency of occurrence of such markers in American English academic writing (citing Chafe 1986). The Indian English writers used indications of “sensory and hearsay evidence more readily” than did American student writers, but they used markedly fewer “expectation” terms (p. 346). Thus, Kachru concludes: [Indian English] rhetorical style is characterized by high involvement as compared to the [American English] rhetorical style. This [Indian English] style is characterized by a higher frequency of occurrence of stance-marking adverbials in journalistic writing, and a diﬀerence in the use of evidentials and frequent use of personal hopes and wishes in academic writing. (Y. Kachru, 1992, p. 347) Kachru attributes these diﬀerences in part to a feature of Sanskritic rhetorical tradition, in which “All major systems of Indian philosophy and logic … list both sensory perception … and … what has been pronounced by authority … among valid evidence.” Thus, writing in Indian English “reﬂects an attempt to create the Sanskritic noetics in English: it expresses the same cultural meaning that the Indian languages do” (Y. Kachru, 1992, p. 347). When varieties of English reach the level of acquiring their own identities and labels, these seem to be of two sorts. The ﬁrst is any nationally identiﬁed English that is on its face the status equivalent of US English or British English, such as Indian English (English as used by Indians in India), Singaporean English (as used in Singapore), and so on, as discussed above (see Chapters 1 and 2). Just as some users may look down on the variety of others across the Inner Circle, some people may feel that, say, “Singaporean English” might be expanded as “non-standard English as
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used in Singapore.” These attitude ﬁghts go on all the time. This is unfortunate, but may be inevitable. The other, even more controversial kind of “mixed language” is one conventionally identiﬁed as a mixture, or hybridized language, and labeled accordingly, such as US Spanglish. Calling Indian English, or an Indian English, “Hinglish” may produce the same eﬀect: an attitudinal slanting from upper (the observer’s English) down to lower status, worthiness and validity (the perceived non-standard English). But Professor B. Kachru (personal communication) has said that in India today, “You cannot read an English newspaper [such as The Statesman, established in 1875 in Kolkata], unless you know Hindi, and you cannot read a Hindi newspaper unless you know English.” It may be only a slight stretch to look at the mixture of Greek, Latin and French vocabulary in modern standard educated Inner-Circle Englishes in very similar terms. That is, I do not “know” Greek, Latin or French, but I have no diﬃculty (or anyway no added diﬃculty) in recognizing thesis, biology, and table as common words used by members of my English speech community. And in writing, useful abbreviations such as e.g., i.e., and viz. (which last is perhaps infrequently used nowadays) automatically call up their English meanings to users who have no idea what original words the letters of the abbreviations actually stand for. In addressing questions of hybridity in Englishes, the concerns often seem to be of the sort that are brought up in discussing “Spanglish” in the US. To start with, assigning the variety a self-evidently opprobrious label that shouts “impure!” is stacking the deck before the cards have been fairly dealt. When languages meet there are mutual inﬂuences and borrowing across the languages—not necessarily or even usually to ﬁll lexical gaps—is so common as to be unremarkable. We need look no further than “standard” English for a degree of admixture of French vocabulary and even ﬁxed expressions (“that is to say”). But, like other language changes that are unremarkable when old and established but negatively striking when in progress, identiﬁably “mixed” languages may meet with vociferous disapprobation. Stavans writes in the Preface to this edited collection (2008, p. ix): The topic of Spanglish generates enormous controversy. Its army of critics uses an array of arguments against it: that it bastardizes standard English and/ or Spanish; it delays the process of assimilation of Hispanics into the melting pot; it is proof the way the American empire dismantles other competing cultures; it confuses children in the age of language acquisition; and it segregates an ethnic minority already ghettoized by economic factors. In response, the supporters of Spanglish … celebrate this hybrid form of communication for its dynamism, creativity, and political savvy. Writers such as Zentella (2008, pp. 42–43, and passim) refer to Spanglish as a codemixing phenomenon. This is illustrated by examples such as switches across sentence boundaries, “Pa, ¿me va(-s) (a) comprar un jugo? It cos’ 25 cents. (‘Pa, are
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you gonna buy me juice?’)” and within sentences, “Tú estás metiendo your big mouth. (‘You’re butting in’)” (Zentella, 2008, p. 45). In a US National Public Radio interview (2003), Stavans said that “Spanglish changes so fast it’s hard to pin down.” This may be something of a misinterpretation; any variety of English (or Spanish) may be “diﬃcult to pin down” on its own, but it is not so much so in relation to other varieties, and speakers probably have some sense of when they are speaking it as opposed to a more “standard” English (or Spanish). In the US Public Broadcasting System’s program on this topic (Do You Speak … ?), Stavans responded to the interviewer’s (Ray Suarez’s) asking whether Spanglish was a language by saying: Not yet, not quite. Perhaps we’re in the process of becoming one. We are closer to being a dialect. There is really not one Spanglish. There are varieties of Spanglish. There’s Spanglish spoken by Cuban Americans in Miami called cubonics is diﬀerent from Mexican American Spanglish, but thanks to the Internet, thanks to radio and television, thanks to what is happening in the classrooms, in the streets[,] in the restaurants, we are ﬁnding a middle ground. The same way there is not really one Latino, but a number of diﬀerent Latinos. Stavans (2008, p. ix) asserts, “Spanglish, I’m convinced, is a frame of mind” (Stavans, 2008, p. x; see also Stavans, 2004). This certainly may be said of any variety of English, from the Inner to the Outer Circle. Someone may always disapprove of my “style,” but it is mine, and it gets me what I need in terms ranging from just information sharing to establishing and maintaining relationships. Hinglish, another mixed-name development, also has its detractors, but perhaps receives more conscious and oﬃcial support than does Spanglish. Qureshi (2008) quotes Sabrina Dhawan, who wrote the screenplay for Monsoon Wedding: “If you want to make a ﬁlm now, which is authentic and truthful to the way urban Indians speak, it has to in some extent be in Hinglish.” Examples of Hinglish may be found in Bollywood movie titles such as Jab We Met (“When We Met”) and certainly in their scripts, as Dhawan says. This is a fairly recent evolutionary step. Baldauf (2004) quotes a New Delhi advertisment agency’s creative director: “Ten years ago, if somebody used Hindi in an otherwise perfect English sentence, I don’t think that we would have hired him. It would be a sign of a lack of education. Now it’s a huge asset.” Another person from the same ﬁrm said, comparing the use of Hinglish to “straight” English or Hindi, that if advertisments used either language, “You may be understood, but not vibed with.” This is similar to an assessment by a British Council oﬃcer in India (Mohun, 2008): “English will always be the language of opportunity, but Hinglish is the language of friendship. MTV India knows that.” Such interpretations echo Stavans’ “state of mind” characterization; this is very diﬃcult for a monolingual English user to truly appreciate.
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These varieties of languages are controversial in ways that Indian English, Singaporean English, Nigerian English, and so on, are not. While the former may be largely opaque to a hearer or reader who is only proﬁcient in either one of the contributing codes, the national varieties of Englishes have national standings in education, business, and administrations of all sorts. Users manipulate these Englishes of the Outer Circle (see Chapter 1) for intelligibility locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. An awareness of context of use, purposes, and participants tells us how formal or technical our choices need to be, how much of our own attitudes toward the topic or other participants we can allow to come out, and so on. The mixing of languages by more or less proﬁcient, but certainly ﬂuent, speakers results in a kind of language use which is identiﬁable, perhaps to the speakers themselves, and very likely to others, and more especially to observers who are predisposed to seek a single-name, “pure” or at least standard form—either English or Spanish, but not both at once. Spanglish (like Hinglish, Singlish, etc.) should be viewed as a dynamic made possible by a range of linguistic possibilities from elements ranging from lexis through discourse styles. This “mixed language” is a phenomenon that adds credence to the view that bilingual speakers’ brains do not contain partitioned language-speciﬁc lexicons and grammars, but rather single facilities—which are very large, compared to the range of elements available to a monolingual.
Multilingualism and Creativity in Englishes It is not surprising that ELT has been to a great extent dominated by Inner-Circle speakers, teachers and publishers so far in its history. After all, if we want to learn Spanish, we go looking for a Spanish speaker in preference to someone who has learned Spanish and for Spanish textbooks. But the global dynamics of English have for a long time now been such that no one set of speakers, or one nation, or one circle of nations can claim to control the English of others whose assigned functions of the language in their language repertoires is almost certainly quite diﬀerent from anyone else’s. As an Anglo-American living and working in the US, I will not be served as well by Indian English as by US English. One could get along with the “other” variety for a short while to do simple business—ordering tea and ﬁnding one’s way around an airport. But social and other constraints will soon make themselves felt if one is immersed in the US for any length of time and to any depth of involvement. I will not ﬁnd many uses for the South Asian English-speciﬁc lexicon such as lathi-charge or interdining. But the immigrants and those born to their communities do not live in such neatly divided worlds. The second-generation child of Indian-US parents may not speak, say, Hindi to any great degree of proﬁciency (“vestigial bilingualism” as Sánchez, 2008, p. 40, terms it), but items of cuisine, holiday terms, and constructs and kin relationships may be noticeably more varied in their speech
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than those of their US-only schoolmates, almost certainly will be present in their language competences. Illustrative passages exhibiting these sorts of language-culture interactions are found in the novel Namesake (Lahiri, 2003). In one, the protagonist wife, Ashima, has begun her birth labor in an American hospital and is listening to exchanges between couples behind partitions in the same room. She overhears a man say, “‘I love you, sweetheart.’ Words Ashima has neither heard nor expects to hear from her own husband; this is not how they are” (p. 3). When she discovered that her labor had begun, the narrative says, she needed to attract her husband’s (Ashoke’s) attention: When she calls out to Ashoke, she doesn’t say his name. Ashima never thinks of her husband’s name when she thinks of her husband, even though she knows perfectly well what it is. She has adopted his surname but refuses, for propriety’s sake, to utter his ﬁrst. It’s not the type of thing Bengali wives do. Like a kiss or caress in a Hindi movie, a husband’s name is something intimate and therefore unspoken, cleverly patched over. And so, instead of saying Ashoke’s name, she utters the interrogative that has come to replace it, which translates roughly as “Are you listening to me?” (Lahiri, 2003, p. 2) When the family, now including two children, visit India, the reader is given a hint of the complexities of bilingualism which their expatriate circumstances have prevented them from keeping up very fully. There are endless names Gogol and Sonia must remember to say, not aunt this and uncle that but terms far more speciﬁc: mashi and pishi, mama and maima, kaku and jethu, to signify whether they are related on their mother’s or their father’s side, by marriage or by blood. (p. 81) Even in ritualistic, liturgical contexts, language choices may become less constrained as time and distance remove participants further from the sources of this salient aspect of culture. For example, Pandharipande (e.g., 2001) has investigated the use of English in diasporic Hindu communities in the United States. She has found that the degree to which people use English, a language completely alien to the original religious context, which in its “pure” realization would call for the use of Sanskrit, depends on the make-up and temperament of each Hindu congregation. Such communities range from using only Sanskrit in rituals and prayers (Pandharipande, 2001, p. 238) to situations where “the entire discourse is in English (with a few Sanskrit phrases),” with the English being either a translation (as of the Bhagavadgiitaa) or an “original composition” (pp. 239–40). In between these choices Pandharipande found cases in which “Sanskrit and English are used alternatively. [T]he ritual is performed in Sanskrit, and it is explained in English for the
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congregation as well as for the participants” (p. 238). This hybridization across stretches of discourse in the domain of religion is noteworthy in at least two respects: that religion may often be one of the most conservative areas of language function; and that English in these cases is often the “minority” language; as in an example showing the use of “Penn Hills” as a place name used to invoke power from the physical context of the ritual. amerikaa-vaasa-jaya-govinda penil-nilaya-raadhe govinda … Victory to Govinda. Who has now made Penn Hills in [America] his home. (Pandharipande, 2001, p. 233) Fears about the alleged detrimental consequences of English’s mixing with “foreign” cultures and languages largely ignore this kind of evidence for the beneﬁcial eﬀects of contact and hybridity. Creative writers exploited these possibilities long before we began exploring a conception of “world Englishes.” No less an icon than Shakespeare used French in his scripts, for example in the exchange between English Henry and French Katherine below (King Henry V, act V, scene ii). Hen: … Do you like me, Kate? Kath: Pardonnez-moi, I cannot tell wat [sic] is ‘like me.’ Hen: An angel is like you, Kate, and you are like an angel. Kath [speaking to her maid]: Que dit-il? Que je suis semblable á les anges [sic]? [“What does he say? That I am like the angels?”] Alice [the maid]: Oui, vraiment, sauf votre grace, ainsi dit-il. [“Yes, truly, saving your grace, so he says.”] (CLN translations5) There is of course no translation provided in the play itself; presumably, some members of the then contemporary and now present audiences would be perplexed by its details, but the business of the performance, analogous to a real conversation, may carry it oﬀ. In the early twentieth century, Lafcadio Hearn (a.k.a. Koizumi Yakumo) imitated what he knew of Japanese phrase and sentence structures in passages such as that below (cited in Nelson, 2001, p. 37; elements of interest are italicized here): “O Kurumaya! the throat of Selﬁshness is dry; water desirable is.” He, still running, answered: “The Village of the Long Beach inside of—not far—a great gush-water is. There pure august water will be given.” I cried again: “O Kurumaya!—those little birds-as-for, why this way always facing?”
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He, running still more swiftly, responded: “All birds wind-to facing sit” (Hearn, 1925, p. 103; emphases added) Although, according to his biographers (e.g., Ritchie, 1997, p. 15–16), Hearn never learned much Japanese despite living in Japan for the last fourteen years of his life, he must have been aware of some of the linguistic and discoursal characteristics of the language. Here, for example, he places some of the verbs in the sentenceﬁnal position and uses postpositioned “inside of” and “to,” as well as representing the Japanese sentence-topic marker with “birds-as-for.” In addition, he perhaps employs “august” as a reﬂection of the Japanese honoriﬁc particle o- in “august water,” o-mizu. Such examples are not completely convincingly supportive of our topic because Hearn’s ﬁctional conversation is surely to be taken as indicating that the speaker in the story was in fact speaking Japanese, not English. However, we can see the readiness of English to be manipulated to achieve such contextual eﬀects. This ﬂexibility of English has been variously commented on in the literature. For example, B. Kachru wrote (2006, p. 447): The concept world Englishes, then, emphasizes the pluricentricity of the language and its cross-cultural reincarnations. This conceptualization about the functions and multi-identities of English, therefore, has become a loaded weapon for those who view the spread of the language exclusively in terms of the celebration of the Judeo-Christian mantras of the language—the view that the “global,” “international,” and “world” presence of the language is essentially a victory of what is perceived as a monocultural Western medium, and that the language is the English-using West’s weapon in the clash of civilizations … . That view … does not represent the current global state of the language or the multiple identities English has created across cultures. Passages from works by Chinua Achebe (e.g., 1969), Raja Rao (e.g., 1938/1963), and R. K. Narayan (e.g., 1990) have become paradigm examples in examinations of creativity in world Englishes. More and more writers are coming into prominence as the developments of English progress. David Crystal was quoted in a Times of India article (2004) as saying, “Hardly any book written in standard English has won a Booker Prize in recent years.” (We may safely infer that Crystal’s intended his “standard English” here to mean English as it may traditionally have been construed.) Desai’s novel Fasting, Feasting (1999) conveys Indian contexts and relationships in English that are most often not particularly marked by Indian lexis or grammar, but nonetheless unmistakably evoke its cultural and socially determined family settings. In the following passage, the narrative voice speaks to the clash between a son, Arun, and his father over what kind of diet is acceptable and “good for you”:
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Arun was a Vegetarian. Papa was confounded. A meat diet had been one of the revolutionary changes brought about in his life, and his brother’s, by their education. Raised amongst traditional vegetarians, their eyes had been opened to the beneﬁts of meat along with that of cricket and the English language: the three were linked inextricably in their minds. They had even succeeded in convincing the wives they married of this novel concept of progress, and passed it on to their children. Papa was always scornful of those of their relatives who came to visit and insisted on clinging to their cereal- and vegetable-eating ways, shying away from the meat dishes Papa insisted on having cooked for dinner. Now his own son, his one son, displayed this completely baﬄing desire to return to the ways of his forefathers, meek and puny men who had got nowhere in life. Papa was deeply vexed. (Desai, 1999, p. 32) The conﬂict is not just personal, as it might be with a scene played out between a British or American parent and a child who refuses cauliﬂower or spinach. It is couched in terms of tradition versus modernity, ignorance versus education. In another passage, there is just a hint of the text’s “Indianness” in a verb choice, as well as in the use of ayah, a frequent English-language crossword puzzle item meaning “nurse” or “nanny,” which, by the way, is a borrowing into Hindi from Portuguese “tutor”: When [Mama] can think of absolutely nothing else [for ayah] to do, she will lie back with a little sigh; then ayah edges forward, knowing this is a sign she wants her feet pressed, and she … begins to knead and massage the feet Mama does not exactly proﬀer. (Desai, 1999, p. 36) The use of “pressed” here would most probably be unremarkable to a South Asian reader but may strike the Inner-Circle English user as slightly odd (in the US, you get your feet rubbed or massaged); and indeed the text quickly glosses this choice with “knead and massage.” The dictionary (as well as Rushdie’s Hobson-Jobson essay, 1991, p. 81) tells us that English “shampoo” is a corrupted pronunciation of Hindi champo, the familiar-imperative form of “press.” We are free to speculate that “Anglo-Indians” extended the action associated with the verb to what goes on in washing one’s own or someone else’s hair. Concerns about mixing or hybridity sometimes have to do with style and usage or “idiom,” but probably more seriously with cross-variety intelligibility, starting, and often abiding, at the level of phonetics/phonology, the component of intelligibility as technically construed by Smith (e.g., 1992). Interesting though that is, more is to be gained from examinations of world Englishes discourses—e. g., various genre features and diﬀerentiated genre types.
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Above the levels of complexity of pronunciation and comprehension, however broadly construed, are recognitions of how we construct discourse: what elements or topics do we give prominence to, and how do we indicate that we are doing so? How do we organize our productions for maximum eﬀectiveness? These are contextually constrained considerations, not the putatively context-neutral “language learning” of former eras of EFL. As Y. Kachru (1992, p. 341) put it, “notions of appropriateness that regulate linguistic behavior are derived from the grammar of culture.” And texts may be regarded “in terms of form, content and function.” Many texts have considered the very useful example in an essay by Chinua Achebe (1966, p. 20, cited by Bokamba, 1992, p. 142): “I want one of my sons to join these people and be my eyes there … ” instead of “I am sending you as my representative.” Either version will do for comprehensibility, but neither will serve the interpretability functions of the other in their appropriate contexts of use. K. Sridhar’s study (1991), cited above, investigated 1,100 instances of requests in Indian English. The subjects were Indian women college students, of whom “[98%] claimed that they felt comfortable in using English” (Sridhar, 1991, p. 310). Though the language they used was intelligibly and comprehensibly English, diﬀerences between the implementation of the speech act of requesting across Indian and InnerCircle Englishes emerged from Sridhar’s investigation. For example, among the group of students in the study who “[came] from a relatively more traditional background, with their culture rooted in the regional language” (p. 309), only 26% of responses used the politeness-marked phrase “May I have … ” in asking a waiter for a menu in a Western-style restaurant, contrasted with 71% of responses from subjects in the most Westernized group. Similarly, 50% of the more traditional group used “the politeness marker please” in making the request, while almost 84% of the other group used it (p. 313). Among marked lexical examples that were found in the study, the young Indian English speakers often (56% of responses) employed the kinship word “Aunty” to the addressee in the test situation in which they were to tell how they would ask a friend’s mother for a drink of water. Sridhar calls attention to this feature: “Note that Aunty is an English word grafted on to a basically Indic semantic pattern, but it functions as a marker of Westernised sophistication among the upwardly mobile middle classes in urban India” (p. 311). These words, readily comprehensible across varieties (though “aunty” might seem a little unusual to speakers of some English varieties, as opposed to “aunt”), “[function] as a mark of Westernized sophistication,” and thus call up diﬀerent interpretations across varieties. Their “social meanings” are not what they might appear to be to an outsider in the culture. Sridhar notes that Indians use Aunty with a given name with relatives “as in the US” (p. 311; they also employ Uncle). Similarly, in the time and place that I grew up in, young people called their parents’ close friends Miss (never Mrs, as I recall) and Mr with ﬁrst names, while more distant relationships were marked with last names preceded by Mr and Miss or Mrs, as appropriate. The former was the same
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usage that those of us who had been taught our manners used to adult African Americans, or Negroes—even “colored people,” as we would have said in those days. I mention it just so readers and I never get the idea that such expressions of social shadings are the special province of “exotic” users of English. Again, these kinds of inﬂuences can ﬂow in two directions. B. Kachru (2005, p. 114) wrote that South Asian bilinguals interweave one of their other languages with English, motivated by register identiﬁcation (“Particularly … [in] science and technology”), style-identiﬁcation (“Englishization … is a marker of education, modernity, and Westernization”), and elucidation (“a close equivalent in English is used to elucidate” a technical vocabulary term in another language: “It is like providing a ‘translation equivalent’”). The use of English can convey social values, such as an “‘outward-looking’ attitude.” Further, Kachru notes, among some segments of South Asian societies, “bilingual competence of [users] is taken for granted.” Politicization may come into the mix of criteria in some situations. African American English (AAE), according to Wolfram (2000, p. 39) and Schneider (1996, cited in Y. Kachru and Nelson, 2006, p. 212), is the most written-about variety of English. It is not likely that this is so because of AAE’s inherent morphological or syntactic qualities. Spanglish also receives a lot of attention in the US today, not because the general public is interested in immigrant language loss or code mixing, but because of hot debates over immigration and the rights, if any, of those whose immigration status may be questionable. On the other side of the coin, those who would advocate the maintenance of some “pure” Spanish are probably disturbed by such examples as one cited by Bayley (2004, p. 276), in which a third-generation US child and her mother are attempting to negotiate a simple household chore: Marta [daughter]: Mom, ya hicimos vacuum. (Mom, we ﬁnished vacuuming.) Elena [mother]: … Ya barrites tu cuarto? (Have you swept your room?) Marta: Si … Yo tieno, no yo tienes. I don’t know how you say ‘have.’ Mom, how do you say ‘have’? (Yes … I have, no I have.) … Elena: Tienes que. (You have to.) When languages come into contact with one another, each inﬂuences the other; and speakers may not be able to maintain equal degrees of ﬂuency or accuracy in both. But these linguistic observations may be overshadowed by broader social and personal concerns.
Englishes in Multicultural Advertising and Popular Culture Bhatia has published a number of telling analyses of English used in advertising in India (e.g., 2001, 2006, and 2007), including not only urban India. Even in advertising in rural India, “the theme of globalisation is expressed by means of English,”
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as in names of products and company names (p. 144). Bhatia points out, for example (p. 146): Before the onset of globalisation, the concept of being best was expressed by a native expression, avval darza- ‘excellent/ﬁrst class’, but today it is completely replaced either by ‘No. 1’ or [the] expression, nambar ‘number’ ek ‘one’ (or by the numeral substitution) even in rural advertising in India. Information about size and models is usually presented in English, although words such as ‘size’ and ‘model’ are written in Devana-garı- characters. In such uses, English is not only employed as a symbol of modernity in mixedlanguage advertisements, but is represented in non-English writing systems. Referring to conventions of discourse across cultures, Bhatia notes that “the rules of expressing gratitude in Indian society are diﬀerent from those of English [sic]. In general, Indians do not thank humans the way Westerners do, let alone thank a product. However, advertising discourse is diﬀerent in this respect” (p. 147). One example is the closing line of a spoken advertisement for “Winning Consumers’ Gratitude”: “Thank you Clinic All Clear!” (p. 193). Martin (2006a) shows that English has found its place even in the legally conservative linguistic context of French in France, where “advertisers address consumers … with English and global imagery through a blending of text, music and imagery” (p. xi). The national language-regulating Toubon Law, passed in 1994, seeks to protect French from the perceived danger to it from the onslaughts of any other languages. English is not named as a particular enemy, but in practice the opposition is clear (pp. 214–15). Company names and “[f]oreign product names and specialties familiar to the general public (for example, chorizo, cookie, couscous, gin, gorgonzola … )” are excepted from the requirement of “an equally ‘legible, audible and intelligible’ French translation” in the advertisement (a regulation that is not infrequently ﬂouted, according to Martin, p. 216). The careful attention to English as the threat is indicated by the activities of the “watchdog agency … known as the Avenir de la langue française (ALF),” which gives an ironic yearly “prize (la Carpette anglaise, which literally means ‘person acting as a doormat through their use of English’) to leading political ﬁgures, corporations and their CEOs, members of the European parliament and others whose use (or endorsement) of English they ﬁnd oﬀensive” (p. 217). Martin has found that people in the advertising industry mix English within their working conversations in French “as a result of using English as a link language with colleagues from other countries, [they] have developed their own lingo” (p. 225). Martin oﬀers this example, among several others. Quand j’ai un truc à faire ici, on me dit ‘on vient te briefer’. ‘Briefer’, c’est ‘brieﬁng’. Ils ont mis un [-er]. On parle comme ça. … Normalement, c’est ‘je viendrai te donner un brief’ à la rigueur, mais non, ‘je viens te briefer.’
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English translation ([Martin’s]) When I have something to do here, they tell me ‘We’re here to brief you’ [‘On vient te briefer’]. ‘Briefer’ means ‘brieﬁng’. They stuck an [-er] on the end. That’s how we talk … Eventually [sic] they could say ‘I’ll come and give you a brief’ [‘Je viendrai te donner un brief’], but no, they say ‘I’ll come and brief you’ [je viens te briefer]. (Martin, 2006a, p. 225) French advertising uses legally permitted product names (e.g., Fructis Style Nouveau, “New Fructis Style,” for a hair gel; pp. 230–31) and “assimilated borrowings” (a somewhat shadier category, e.g., a Quantas airlines advertisement extolling Outback rouge. Villes relax les pieds dans l’eau … , “Red Outback. Relaxing cities where you can dip your feet into the water … ” [Martin’s translation]). But in addition: English borrowings that are not particularly well known to the general public are sprinkled throughout the descriptive copy of advertising in France and … do not usually appear with any form of French translation either. … Thus, a women’s deodorant might come with a ‘twist-oﬀ’ bottle cap … or a dog food might oﬀer ‘High Digestive Security’. (pp. 232–33) In areas of popular culture, the languages used in contemporary music show, as Lee (2006, p. 236) writes, “what is happening in the globalizing world.” The “skillful mixing of linguistic sources” in successful Asian pop music is a device that young performers employ to produce new forms of expression that allow them quite literally to cross (p. 234 and following) what would formerly have been regarded as cultural and linguistic barriers or gaps. Lee explicates lyrics by the Korean-born singer BoA, who “does not use her native language, Korean, in the songs released in Japan; instead, she uses two languages of the other,” i.e., Japanese and English (2006, p. 237; italics in the original). “Crossers” (those who write and perform lyrics in one or more languages of an “other”) such as SMAP, a multi-member group (p. 242) from Japan into Korea, use English (as well as Japanese), but not Korean (p. 248). English is mixed into the lyrics of pop artists of both nations in adapted forms that are not bound by InnerCircle grammars or lexical constraints. For example, two BoA songs contain “Can I get a futuristic? Would you?” which Lee demystiﬁes as the more commonly recognizable “Can I have a future with you?” and “ … we can go true shining place,” the equivalent of “we can go to a truly shining place” (p. 243). Lee concludes that “Crossing in K-pop and J-pop presents an interesting sociolinguistic case in which renegotiation of positions of ex-colonizer and colonizee is promising” (2006, p. 248). And English places a part in this hybridized style for both sets of performers. Similarly, Hilgendorf (2007) writes about “artists from Germany who have also chosen to use English to varying degrees in their recordings” (p. 139). Hilgendorf
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presents a telling example of an attitude toward the use of English (not an indication of any inherent communicative superiority) in a quotation from the website of a German group, Guano Apes: “in [the songwriter’s] opinion English is more ﬂexible, besides one can better express oneself in English” (p. 140). In her conclusion, Hilgendorf writes: “Extensive contact and convergence are occurring which points to an ongoing nativization and acculturation of English, as well as a simultaneous Englishization of German,” which she predicts will lead eventually to the development of “a German variety of English, … at the very least as a performance variety” (p. 143).
Conclusion This hybridity of Englishes is but a reﬂection of the contextual, cultural, social, political, etc., mixing of our worlds. Old relations and power diﬀerentials will continue to change. As Dissanayake (2006, p. 561) writes: This hybridity manifests itself most vividly in the prose of writers from the Third World who use English as a vehicle of creative communication. In the following representative passages, hybridity can be seen to go with a sense of new-found freedom and self-conﬁdence. From that day onwards, my education became free and my own business. … I studied the daily press, picked up tips from the stray Indian street-dog, as well as the ﬁnest Perceptor-Sage available in the land. I assumed the style-name H. Hatterr (“H” for the nom de plume “Hindusstaaniwalla” and “Hatterr” the nom de guerre inspired by Rev. The Head’s too-large-for-him-hat), and, by and by … I went completely Indian to an extent few pure non-Indian blood sahib fellers have done. (Desani, 1972, p. 30) (Dissanayake, p. 561).
Topics for Discussion and Assignments 1. Do you agree that the analogy with “fusion” things at the beginning of this chapter works to help explicate language hybridity? Work out those and some other examples in your own words. And if it does not work for you, how not? 2. If you have that multilingual capacity, bring in examples from “pop culture” such as those explicated by Lee (2006), from music, movies, poetry, or any suitable source, and conduct your own examinations to compare with those of others in your group. 3. It is not hard to imagine exchanges among multilinguals with shared languages which would be inaccessible to others, particularly to monolinguals like the present author. At what point can the hybridity that is discussed here become “too much?” Construct or recall such contexts that test the limits of acceptable language mixings.
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4. Does print or other advertising in your country (where you are now, or where you are from) exhibit the kind of mixing that is described by, for example, Hilgendorf (2007) and Bhatia (2006) above? Look around you for examples. 5. A number of investigations (e.g., Bautista, 1997) have examined discourse markers, which are often transferred from their sources into other languages in a speaker’s repertoire. Pay attention to your own and to peers’ speech; what discourse markers do you notice, and what can you tell about their sources?
Suggestions for Further Reading B. Kachru (1983) and Tay (1993b) will repay close reading with stacks of examples and close explication of them. Ch. 18, Code mixing and code switching, in Y. Kachru and Nelson (2006, pp. 255–65) provides a thorough overview of the issues in Asian contexts. Y. Kachru (1992) is very worthwhile in that it examines discourse structures, well above the level of language features as such.
4 OTHER CONCEPTUALIZATIONS OF INTELLIGIBILITY
Trying to express ideas with words is like trying to build trees out of lumber. Says You, National Public Radio
Introduction In any attempt to explicate the essential concerns of a topic or issue, we may ﬁnd that terms and labels take on deﬁnitions and uses that are essentially code-like: the recipients of the message must share the key with the sender, else only confusion will result from the attempted interaction. Even with the best will in the world, it may not be easy to keep the meanings and purposes of this kind of discussion perfectly accessible, given the various uses of terms which are basic to it, including intelligibility itself.1 This polysemy of “intelligibility” is seen explicitly, for example, in Cootzee-van Rooy’s diagrammatic presentation of cumulative evaluations of “high intelligibility” and “low intelligibility” within which are the components of communicative interaction, including “intelligibility: word recognition” and “intelligibility: utterance recognition” (2009, p. 32). Intelligibility in its technical sense as deﬁned by Smith is subsumed in this presentation as a sub-layer under a broad interpretation of “intelligibility” equivalent to “degree of success of a particular verbal event.” Various investigators have written about something they have called “intelligibility” and other related constructs such as “comprehensibility” in addressing the multifaceted topic of varieties of Englishes around the world. It is not always easy to discern what a particular article or book may intend by its use of “intelligibility,” and it certainly cannot be safe to simply assume one’s own deﬁnition when taking up another writer’s work and encountering such a key word or phrase.
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For example, Bamgbos.e (1998) uses intelligibility in its loose sense as a general capturing of the meaning of a message, while acknowledging that it is “a complex of factors comprising recognizing an expression, knowing its meaning, and knowing what that meaning signiﬁes in the sociocultural context” (Bamgbos.e, 1998, p. 11). A footnote (no. 13, p. 13) says: “The terms proposed by Smith and Nelson  for these three aspects are: intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability.” Berns (2008, p. 328) had this to say about the problem (she was writing about ELF and world Englishes): “There is … danger in assuming correspondence across theoretical frameworks: choices of terminology can, and often do, represent basic assumptions and principles that guide their user … .” Naturally, this present text seeks to rise above the level of mere terminological quibbles. Conscientious writers choose words to mean something, and when they choose this label versus that one, they more than implicate, they assert a particular view, approach or interpretation, so these things must be thrashed out.
Terminological Bases, Additives, and Mixes Intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability in the Smith Framework of analysis were examined in some detail in Chapters 1 and 2. The fundamental soundness and straightforward utility of these constructs in the linguistic studies and the pedagogies of world Englishes have been made clear in the literature, and they have proved themselves to be of value in various presentations and applications. Van der Walt (2000), for example, employs the terms and concepts intelligibility and comprehensibility as Smith (e.g., 1992) does: In this study, comprehensibility is used to indicate the communication and apprehension of meaning in the broadest sense of the word and intelligibility only where it refers to the restrictive meaning imposed on it by previous studies. (Van der Walt, 2000, pp. 140–41) Van der Walt took her data from TV and radio programs which, as she wrote, were “communicative event[s]” within self-determined linguistic and topical contexts (p. 142). She interpreted her ﬁndings in these terms: [A]ll varieties of South African English are comprehensible internationally and the argument in favour of British English (or American English for that matter) as a standard for South African schools (to ensure international comprehensibility) is not, therefore, valid any more. In fact, current writing questions the use and validity of any one standard. (Van der Walt 2000, p. 148)
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Bansal (1969), which Rajagopalan (2010, p. 466) refers to as a “classic work on the intelligibility of Indian English,” was cited in Chapter 1. This early and certainly important investigation deﬁned intelligibility in terms of the match-up between the productions of Indian speakers of English and RP. Though the title and the text refer to “Indian English,” it is clear that Banal regards an English so qualiﬁed as incorrect, in need of repair. Bansal paid attention, ﬁrst, to the pronunciation of segments: To be intelligible, the speaker must articulate his sounds and words clearly, so that the hearer does not have to stop to think what word was meant. The vowels should be pronounced with the right quality and the consonants should be sharp and clear. (Bansal, 1969, p. 15) While this ﬁrst statement puts the responsibility for intelligibility on the speaker, Bansal does address that of the hearer as well, including his speculations about listeners’ considerations of meaning context and of grammatical context on comprehension (he uses “interpretation”; p. 17). When he writes that “The rhythmic shape of a word is another important cue to its recognition, particularly in a language like English” (p. 17), he seems to address both participants’ roles in spoken interaction. That is, he reports an instance of mispronunciation of “consider” in which “in spite of the unusual vowels in the ﬁrst two syllables, the word was correctly understood by three out of the ﬁve British listeners.” The word “character,” pronounced with apparent stress on the second syllable, was perceived by listeners as “director, erected, [or] adapter”; and “prefer,” with stress on the ﬁrst syllable, was thought to have been “briefer.” Bansal’s interpretation of these and other examples is that speakers had better get the stresses on the correct syllables of their English words, and that listeners will rely on stress placement in their attempts to achieve intelligible renderings of what they are hearing: “Most listeners would sacriﬁce a number of phonemic cues but stick to the accentual cue as their guide” (p. 17). In his study’s straight perception tests in which a word or phrase was read and listeners were asked to report what they had heard, Bansal’s intelligibility is like Smith’s construct of the same name. But Bansal gets into considerations of grammatical and contextual considerations which muddy the category of perception that he is trying to get at: “The listener receives a stream of continuous utterance and perceives those sound features which help him to understand the meaning of the utterance” (p. 18). Again, in defending his use of open-ended interview data from his speakers, he writes (p. 23): An objection is sometimes raised to the use of this kind of material for intelligibility tests, on the ground that if the aim is to test the intelligibility of a speaker’s pronunciation, the test should be a pure test of pronunciation, and all other factors such as contextual clues should be avoided.
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Bansal discounts this contrary view on the grounds that real linguistic interaction is much more than “isolated words read from a list.” Thus, his intelligibility includes phonological criteria (importantly, including rhythm), but also comprehension. A similar conﬂation of criteria is found in an early paper by the present writer (Nelson, 1982). Munro, Derwing and Morton (2006, hereafter Munro et al., 2006), to examine a useful example, use constructs labeled intelligibility, comprehensibility, and accentedness. Their thorough, technical inquiry suﬀers to some extent from a multi-item terminology which does not always match its applications in the enterprise. Their ﬁrst deﬁnition of intelligibility (p. 112) is “the extent to which a speaker’s utterance is actually understood.” However, this characterization of intelligibility in terms of “understanding” is not to be taken in the ordinary dictionary deﬁnition of that latter word, as it turns out. The task performed by their subjects was in fact to “transcribe the 48 utterances into standard orthography” (p. 118). The researchers rated this intelligibility by “counting the words correctly transcribed [by subjects] in each utterance and assigning a percent-correct score based on the proportion of words in the sentence that were correctly transcribed” (p. 119). This is exactly the same kind of procedure that was followed in, for example, Smith and Raﬁqzad (1979) and Matsuura, Chiba, and Fujieda (1999). So “intelligibility” as used in Munro et al. (2006) is not “understanding” in any sense of that latter word having to do with comprehending the information in a linguistic message; rather, it labels the same criterion that is so named in Smith’s work and in the publications of those who have drawn on it. The deﬁnition of comprehensibility in Munro et al. (2006) is a bit more heavyhanded, though it does hold up consistently through their article. It refers not to accessibility of “comprehension” (understanding) as the “-ity” suﬃx would seem to suggest, but to a perception on a listener’s part of how hard it was to achieve intelligibility as they deﬁne that: “comprehensibility refers to the listener’s estimation of diﬃculty in understanding an utterance” (2006, p. 112)—readers must keep in mind that this “understanding” is drawn directly on the “intelligibility” worked out in the authors’ previous discussion. Like Humpty Dumpty in the famous quote often applied to discussions like this one, we can pay words to do whatever we want them to, but this use of “comprehensibility” seems to be an unfortunate choice. It could easily have been avoided, perhaps by using a phrase rather than one word, such as perceived intelligibility diﬃculty (PID?). It is not quite clear what Munro et al.’s subjects may have thought they were rating, since the instruction to them was apparently in terms of understanding: “participants … rated [an utterance] for comprehensibility [remember their deﬁnition of this] on a 9-point scale ranging from 1 (easy to understand) to 9 (extremely diﬃcult or impossible to understand)” (2006, p. 118; emphases added). It bears repeating that this area of rating has, in the paper’s deﬁnition, nothing to do with the ordinary sense of comprehension or comprehensibility, i.e., “understanding” information, nuance or attitude as exhibited in speech. I may understand the
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information and relationships in a densely packed and not too clearly structured presentation quite well, though it may cost me some eﬀort to do so—a rating of, say, a 7 on Munro et al.’s “comprehensibility” scale. Somewhat similarly, Munro et al.’s (2006) accentedness is at ﬁrst deﬁned as “the degree to which the pronunciation of an utterance sounds diﬀerent from an expected production pattern” (2006, p. 112; the use of “pattern” might be thought to exclude a consideration of sounds as such, but this was probably not the case). It is not easy to imagine on the face of this deﬁnition where the listener’s “expectations” might come from. If I hear three consecutive words from a speaker in an Asian-sounding accent, surely my expectations for the following utterances will be altered to ﬁt the impression that I have already begun to form. (In the real world, not a laboratory, expectations might turn partly on a speaker’s physical appearance, but in an audio research-test situation, I would have to rely on speech sounds.) It turns out that accentedness is deﬁned later in the article in terms of “a 9-point scale ranging from 1 (no accent) to 9 (extremely strong accent)” (2006, p. 118). Again, it is not made clear how “accent” may have been presented to subjects. If I hear recorded speech from a US Minnesotan, an Idahoan, and a South Carolinian, I will recognize that they all sound diﬀerent—they all “have accents.” But perhaps Munro et al. meant “sounds foreign,” which is of course what some people mean sometimes when they say of someone, “He had an accent.” The diﬃculties here for getting at any useful insight into intelligibility (broadly construed) are of two sorts. Perhaps less importantly, there is the ad hoc deﬁnition of vocabulary, especially of comprehensibility. There would seem to be no real need to put forward proprietary deﬁnitions for everyday words unless some lacuna in the general lexicon forces us to. Secondly, and more troubling, it is not clear to the reader just what Munro et al.’s subjects thought they were being asked to do. Particularly with their intelligibility: the deﬁnition that is provided is at best ambiguous, given the dictation exercise that measured it. After that dictation, the participants were asked to rate their own level of diﬃculty in “understanding” the text they had heard for comprehensibility: was it made clear to them that “understanding” had a severely contextualized meaning for the researchers’ present purpose? The article’s presentation does not oﬀer reassurance about this concern. Munro et al.’s (2006) interpretations of their ﬁndings generally support earlier research analyses by Smith, and by others who use his constructs and terminology. First, “the most important outcome of the study was the striking similarities across listener groups in their comprehension [i.e., the researchers’ intelligibility?] and evaluation [in terms of their comprehensibility and accentedness] of non-native utterances” (2006, pp. 124–25). That is, each of their groups of listeners achieved intelligibility scores and evaluation responses in ranges that were very similar to those of the other two groups. The one exception was that “the Japanese listeners understood the Japanese speakers slightly better than did the English listeners” (2006, p. 125; cf. similar
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reports in Smith and Raﬁqzad, 1979, p. 380, and in Smith, 1992, p. 83). But the other two groups (Cantonese and Mandarin listeners) understood the Japanese speakers about as well as the Japanese listeners did. No other speaker–listener pairings of same ﬁrst language produced this kind of result. Thus, “the eﬀects of L1 background and experience with a particular type of accent were relatively minor factors in the ability to understand [i.e., ﬁnd intelligible?] the L2 speech” (2006, pp. 125–26). Further, Munro et al. wrote, “It appears that whatever advantage listeners had in hearing their own accent was so small as to be readily outweighed by other factors” (2006, p. 127; emphasis added). Relevant as a comment on Jenkins’ concern with separating Inner- from Expanding-Circle English users, discussed below, Munro et al.’s work showed that the evaluations by native English participants in their studies did not vary signiﬁcantly from those of the non-native participants (2006, p. 126; cf. an exactly similar ﬁnding by Smith, 1992, p. 82). Munro et al. (2006) themselves express the diﬃculty of reading their study participants’ minds. They found that “the Cantonese listeners understood the Cantonese speakers no better than they understood any of the other speaker groups. However, they rated the Cantonese speakers as signiﬁcantly easier to understand than any other speaker group” (2006, p. 127). “Understanding” here must refer to their comprehensibility, because of “easier to … .” (Readers will recall that the deﬁnition of comprehensibility was “the listener’s estimation of diﬃculty in understanding an utterance” [2006, p. 112].) Munro et al. propose that an explanation of this evidence is that the Cantonese listeners “recognized the accent and … expected to understand it better than the other speech samples” (2006, p. 127; emphasis added). Again, readers cannot be conﬁdent that they are not misapprehending the authors’ intent. The ﬁrst part of the statement speaks to Munro et al.’s intelligibility (“understood the … speakers”); that is, presumably, the listeners were more successful at the dictation task. But the second part refers to the study’s comprehensibility (“easier to understand”). Be that as it may, the ﬁndings overall suggest to the researchers that “if one student (or teacher) genuinely ﬁnds another student’s utterances diﬃcult to understand, there is a likelihood that other students will have a similar experience, regardless of the L1 background” (2006, p. 128). Again, this supports a world Englishes view (as in, e.g., Smith, 1992, p. 88), that exposure and experience are the most important factors in rendering others’ Englishes intelligible to ourselves. For James (1998) comprehensibility is “a cover term to refer to all aspects of the accessibility of the content—as opposed to the form—of utterances” (James, 1998, p. 212). Readers will note that Smith’s use of general “intelligibility” includes all three levels of linguistic performance and utterance content, while James’ refers to only two. James restricts his intelligibility to semantic criteria, for “the accessibility of the basic, literal meaning, the propositional content encoded in an utterance” (1998, p. 212). He writes that his example Why you not like me is “unintelligible as well as ungrammatical. No deﬁnite reading can be assigned to it.” He continues: “Unintelligibility is thus closely related to the lexical level of errors” (James, 1998,
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p. 212). Anyone would agree that “no deﬁnite reading” for the given example can be deduced in the absence of some context, but that is not the same as describing it as “unintelligible” in James’ deﬁnition (incomprehensible, in Smith’s), since we can employ our imaginations to construct various plausible readings of the attempted sentence, including the obvious Why do you not like me? and Why are you not like me? James then moves on to communicativity, which “involv[es] access to pragmatic forces, implicatures and connotations” (James, 1998, p. 216). He cites Smith and Nelson (1985), which, he says, “distinguish[es] between the ‘comprehensibility’ of syntax and semantics and the ‘interpretability’ of discourse and pragmatics. This corresponds in our [James’] scheme to the ‘intelligibility’ of text as distinct from the ‘communicativity’ of discourse” (James, 1998, pp. 216–17). In adopting the term “intelligibility” for a set of language elements and connections of a higher order than phonetic-phonological, James unnecessarily complicates the vocabulary— something he has every right to do, of course. Importantly, though, he leaves himself without an available term for pronunciation criteria; presumably, he was referring to these with his “form of utterances.” Hayes-Harb et al. (2008) tease out an important distinction within intelligibility. The diﬃculty of making the diﬀerence explicit is indicated by the fact that they state it and then restate it three more times in one paragraph (p. 665), ﬁnally zeroing in on “whether non-native vs. native talkers are being compared (ISIB-T) or whether native vs. non-native listeners are being compared (ISIB-L)” (p. 665, emphases added; essentially identical restatements are on pp. 675 and 677). We might compare someone touching the back of your hand with the tip of one of their ﬁngers. Both you and the toucher experience the touch, but your perceptions are not identical. The directionalities are diﬀerent, so to speak. Hayes-Harb et al.’s (2008) deﬁnition of intelligibility is the same as Smith’s: “In the present study … , proﬁciency, or more speciﬁcally phonological proﬁciency, was operationalized as accentedness” (p. 669; italics in the original). In “a forced-choice word identiﬁcation task,” ﬁrst-language English and ﬁrst-language Mandarin listeners heard recorded words and chose one of two available written options to match their perceptions of what they had heard (p. 670). “[L]isteners’ responses [were] coded as correct if they matched the word intended by the talker” (p. 670). (See Hayes-Harb et al. (2008) for the details of their procedures, computations and analytical instruments.) Both ﬁrst-language English and ﬁrst-language Mandarin listeners had more success in picking the right words produced by ﬁrst-language English talkers than by ﬁrst-language Mandarin talkers (pp. 670–71). The authors note that this ﬁnding is “contrary to the prediction of the ISIB-T” (p. 671); that is, they had hypothesized that all listeners would be more successful in apprehending the speech of talkers from their own ﬁrst-language group. A somewhat surprising ﬁnding was that lower-proﬁciency ﬁrst-language Mandarin listeners were better than the other listener groups in apprehending the speech of ﬁrst-language Mandarin lower-proﬁciency speakers (p. 675; see
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Hayes-Harb et al., pp. 669–70, for details of their procedures for identifying high proﬁciency and low proﬁciency participants). The authors speculate that: [O]ne possible explanation [for this advantage of the speciﬁc group of listeners] may be that learners at a lower lever of proﬁciency are more similar to each other in the nature of their L2 phonological representations … than are learners at higher proﬁciencies. As learners reach higher levels of L2 proﬁciency, they may exhibit more diversity in their phonological systems in light of increased variation among learners in their experiences with the target language, including the types and amount of target language input they … obtain. (Hayes-Harb et al., 2008, p. 675) In their summary, the authors note that their study does not support the traditionally accepted idea that non-English ﬁrst-language people will ﬁnd their fellow ﬁrst-language group members more intelligible than they do people from other ﬁrst-language groups, including English ﬁrst-language speakers (p. 677). This is as striking in its way as was Smith’s ﬁnding that English ﬁrst-language speakers are not (necessarily) more intelligible to everyone everywhere (e.g., see Smith and Raﬁqzad, 1979, p. 380). Exposure and experience lead people to achieve mutual intelligibility with those they do or want to interact with, as Smith has said repeatedly (e.g., in 1992, p. 75), and it is not necessarily the case that geographically deﬁned groups of people have identical or even very similar cross-language and cross-culture attitudes. In a recent paper, Rajagopalan (2010) attacks, as his title puts it, “The Soft Ideological Underbelly of the Notion of Intelligibility.” The point of this avowedly polemic discussion escapes the present reader. In speaking to “the ideologically loaded nature of the very concept [of intelligibility],” Rajagopalan writes: “no matter how one tries to deﬁne intelligibility from a neutral standpoint, the question that cries out for an answer is: ‘intelligible for who?’” (p. 467). This question is restated a little further on (p. 468): The question is who is to decide whether a given stretch of language production is intelligible or unintelligible? Could it not be the case that what someone dismisses as unintelligible may well sound perfectly intelligible to another? The response to this rhetorical question is, “Well, sure.” It cannot be otherwise. That there is “an evaluator” of any utterance (p. 468) is only to say that linguistic communication is an interactive enterprise. The author’s rejection of “blatant cases of unilateral claims of authority to pontiﬁcate on intelligibility” (p. 468) does not seem to include instances in which same-variety, same-group participants have to negotiate for satisfactory intelligibility, comprehension, or interpretation, since the
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author’s remark seems to be aimed at native speakers telling non-native speakers how to they should be talking. In his next paragraph, Rajagopalan asserts that “Smith and Raﬁqzad’s remark (1979: 375, reported in Nelson 2008: 301) that, in their study, ‘the native speaker was always found to be among the least intelligible speakers’ is best seen as a distracter or diversionary after-dinner joke” (p. 468). Having just argued that native speakers should not be regarded as the standard for intelligible English by othervariety speakers, the author here dismisses evidence that that is indeed the case. In the part of Smith and Raﬁqzad (1979) that he is referring to, the non-native listeners indeed validated the position that “no variety is intelligible or otherwise in and of itself” (Rajagopalan, p. 469). Rajagopalan concludes his paper by calling for “thinking of a World English (in the singular) where [sic] diﬀerent regional varieties display some sort of family resemblance with one another and the speakers can, whenever need arises, communicate with one another by learning to cope with whatever initial diﬃculty they may encounter” (p. 469). It seems clear from discussions cited throughout the present work that what he hopes for is already largely the case. Smith’s well-founded remark (1992, p. 75) about “English-speaking people in some parts of the world who have not been intelligible to other English-speaking people in other parts of the world” for a very long time speaks to the exceptional cases. But by and large, we can recognize that someone is speaking English, even when it is not too similar to our own.
Intelligibility and the Lingua Franca Core (LFC) One way of achieving cross-group (we cannot say here “cross variety”) intelligibility would be for all English users to have available a variety of English dedicated to inter-group, including international, situations—a kind of English Esperanto. One can imagine this being achieved by teaching/learning (following agreements about what to teach and learn, and the construction of a means for doing so) or for there to occur a kind of spontaneous gravitation toward centers in pronunciation, grammar and all the other aspects of the language. Jenkins has proposed in numerous publications (e.g., 2000, 2005a and 2007) what she terms the Lingua Franca Core (LFC) for non-native cross-group English pronunciation, or English as a lingua franca (ELF; see 2007, pp. xi and 3, for example). On its face, this sounds like a viable—and potentially important—notion. After all, a priori, there must be attributes of Englishes that make them all “English” as opposed to German or French, or Hindi, for that matter. However, when it comes to specifying the long list of those similarities, it is diﬃcult to know how ﬁnely to size the grid. It is hard to believe there is any loss of intelligibility between a British English speaker and me when one of us says “little” or “medal” with an articulation of the medial consonant as a clear stop (voiceless and voiced, respectively) and the other pronounces them both as a voiced ﬂap. We both know we are speaking and
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hearing English, and we recognize the words, so intelligibility (in the Smith sense) has not suﬀered, and it is not likely that comprehensibility in a given context of use has, either. Jenkins has so far focused on pronunciation: “Since it is in their pronunciation that the existing and emerging second language (L2) varieties diverge most from each other linguistically, it is arguably this linguistic area that most threatens intelligibility” (2000, p. 1).2 She believes that this area of world-wide Englishes has been undervalued and under-researched. Even though she cites, among others, B. Kachru (1985 and 1992) and Smith (1983b and 1992)—and ignores, e.g., Smith and Raﬁqzad (1979), which focused on intelligibility as narrowly deﬁned (the same as Jenkins’ sometimes “phonological intelligibility”)—she asserts that “the crucial phonological issue tends [in the literature] to be relegated to a brief footnote or paragraph” (2000, p. 3). Jenkins proposes to set this right. Her idea is that she can specify the sounds and other phonological criteria that ELF learners (and their teachers) need to be concerned about.3 Not surprisingly, this turns out to be just about all of them (see virtually identical presentations in, e.g., 2000, pp. 158–59, and in 2007, pp. 23–24). Some exceptions based on Jenkins’ own research and interpretations are “allowed” in ELF. For example, she puts it to us that an ELF user must pronounce a clear [t] between vowels, not the General American voiced ﬂap. (She does not mention the counterpart voiced [d].) It is also apparently important that ELF users pronounce their r s in all positions in words—no post-vocalic deletion as in dire allowed. (Jenkins refers to this characteristic of ELF and the LFC in 2007, p. 23, and elsewhere, as rhotic.) Jenkins does have a good point when she notes that traditionally, and perhaps still largely nowadays, pronunciation teaching the world over was based on one or another Inner-Circle set of norms, while she is focused on preparing ELF learners for inter-group and international interactions (e.g., 2007, p. 158).4 But this is not a new observation: cf. Lowenberg (1992), for just one example. Jenkins never has made it clear just who is to promulgate this particular variety of English or how they are to do it. That it does, or would, require promulgation is implicit throughout her treatments. Left to themselves, non-native users of Englishes worldwide would pronounce things helter-skelter; this is the avowed motivation for putting forward this “core” of pronunciations. Native speakers of English, including those of the institutionalized varieties of the Outer Circle, are exempted from the imposition of the core (see Jenkins, 2007, p. 28, footnote number 3). But on the again implicit ground of mutuality, Core English users would have diﬃculty apprehending my General American ﬂapped pronunciation of t and d, for example. Readers will recall that Jenkins herself asserts that non-natives understand native speakers only if they acquired those natives’ variety (Jenkins 2000, p. 159; see Note 3 for this chapter). So it would appear to be the case that native speakers (users of Englishes of the Inner and Outer Circles) would have to acquire this ELF pronunciation for dealings with those of the Expanding Circle. (Not between users of the Inner and Outer Circles, apparently.)
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This view of insuring intelligibility has not really been tested. Its eﬃcacy and eﬃciency are hypothesized based on the kinds of communication diﬃculties Jenkins has noticed and reported. In its details, it is clearly an arbitrarily constructed system: why should it necessarily be any “better,” for example, for people’s English pronunciation to be “rhotic” than not? The Smith paradigm does not involve any such strictures. Since it holds that people need to and do achieve intelligibility with those with whom they interact, it is left to the users themselves, not to some outside agency, to adjust their English use in general and in given situations.
Conclusion This chapter has sought to deal with several related sets of issues that are of central concern in addressing the spread, teaching, and learning of Englishes. The Smith Paradigm of intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability as well-deﬁned constructs may be seen to be valid and reliable. They apply equally well to sociolinguistic proﬁling of interactions within and across varieties of Englishes and to pedagogical issues, in that they allow straightforward categorization of what we are talking about at diﬀerent levels of language in use. Then other aspects of inquiries, such as users’ perceptions of the distance between their variety and someone else’s can be addressed under suitable labels that do not confound the discussion with overlapping terms or unfortunate homophony, as in uses of “intelligibility” that mean quite diﬀerent things.
Topics for Discussion and Assignments 1. Jenkins (e.g., 2000, p. 1) asserts that it is intelligibility in the strict sense— pronunciation production and perception—that is the fundamental cause of communicative breakdowns in cross-variety interactions. Even if you do not agree with her on this point, can you work out why she and others might believe it? Gather some observational evidence of your own and defend or attack Jenkins’ position. 2. Rajagopalan’s quip (2010, p. 468) quoted above, that “Smith and Raﬁqzad’s remark … that … ‘the native speaker was always found to be among the least intelligible speakers’ is best seen as a distracter or diversionary after-dinner joke” certainly makes light of what many in the ﬁeld have found to be a strikingly important ﬁnding. What frame of reference does one have to be working in, in order to see Smith and Raﬁqzad’s ﬁnding (and other similar ones) to be merely “diversionary”? How would you argue against Rajagopalan’s position? 3. Obviously I like the line in the epigraph of this chapter about “building trees out of lumber” very much. Do you agree that it is a suitable opener for this aspect of the discussion of intelligibility? Tease out some of the metalanguage we need for discussing this topic in your own terms.
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Suggestions for Further Reading Readers will proﬁt in diﬀerent ways from close readings of Munro, Derwing and Morton (2006) and Jenkins (2007), particularly the Preface (pp. xi-xii) and chapter 1 (pp. 1–30). Derwing and Munro’s (1997) work in their well-motivated empirical framework will appeal to many readers. Van der Walt (2000), as noted above, is necessarily a complex presentation, drawing as it does from the extremely linguistically and culturally crowded South African context, and so will repay the reader’s focused attention. Seidlhofer (2001) oﬀers a lucid ELF view of cross-variety communication in the Expanding Circle. Jenkins has made it clear in more than one of her publications (e.g., 2007, pp. 18–28) that she believes many writers in the ﬁeld have misinterpreted her analyses and intentions, whether through misreading or deliberately; see her (2005b) paper on “Misinterpretation, bias, and resistance to change … ” for an extensive presentation of her side of this controversy. B. Kachru (1996) provides a quite diﬀerent take on the term and notion “lingua franca”; and see Kahane and Kahane (1976) for the evolution of the use of the term. Berns (2005) presents an examination of the attention paid to Expanding-Circle Englishes from a world Englishes perspective and recommendations for future research.
5 INTELLIGIBILITY IN ENGLISH-LANGUAGE TEACHING
How can you learn a language that isn’t there? Preston (2005, p. 37)
Introduction A great deal of what has come before in this book has at least implicitly to do with teaching and learning Englishes. While large numbers of people across the world presumably “pick up” English or otherwise learn it on their own, there is not much that our profession as such can do about that; so our topic here is more or less formalized teaching and learning (see Hinkel and Fotos, 2002a, for an insightful discussion of the link between theory and practice in the classroom). It is safe to say that all such language teaching proceeds from a somewhat idealized base. We do not teach English as Spoken When You Are Really Tired, for example. When we are guiding learners in their becoming proﬁcient in English, we try to take into account what they want the language for and who they will use it with. Previous discussions here (Chapters 3 and 4) have sought to dispel any notion that there is an English that is universally acceptable and useful, thus the world Englishes instructor will always be aware of variety and variation. If I were imported into India to teach English to call-center employees of an American company, then it would be quite reasonable for me to guide my students to approximate American accents and locutions. If I were teaching in a less speciﬁcally tasked environment, such as in a public university, then my expectations would necessarily be quite diﬀerent. And it works both ways: my students would be trying to imitate me more closely in the ﬁrst situation, but would in some sense have to work around me in the second.
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Intelligibility in the broad sense is a most important consideration in this area. We want our learners’ Englishes to be eﬀective for them and not only to ourselves. As Brown (1995, p. 233) put it so well: “As the status of English as a world language changes, and as the number of users of English grows, it is important to move beyond the traditional limits of language pedagogy and the assumption that all learners of English desire to speaker one variety of English.”
Models and Teaching Everyone is aware of the basic conceptual elements of any language. We can refer to things and indicate activity, limit reference to a speciﬁc group of things or people, count items, get someone’s attention, express delight, tell stories that do not necessarily accord with any observable reality, and so on. These and many other categories are all necessary criteria for successful spoken and written communication in English. But while the categories may be universal, their exponents are surely not. And this is the problem of modeling: what “English” does a particular teacher in a particular context teach? Technical linguists may draw on idealized language, but there is no idealized English when it comes to teaching people a language they expect to use, because the conditions under which it will be used are never ideal, and conﬁgurations of circumstances are rarely if ever exactly repetitive of any other similar incident. As the title of an article by Preston (2005) puts it so neatly: “How can you learn a language that isn’t there?” When we think of “ideal” in language teaching, we are probably most often thinking of (near) conformity with an explicit or implicit model. And as Preston wrote (2005, p. 37): “When we learn or teach second languages, whether we realize it or not, somebody has decided what variety of that language we will learn or teach.” Thus, the teacher of ﬁrst-year international students at a Midwestern US public university is unlikely to have any qualms about what kind of English he will present: it will be his own, perhaps mitigated to some extent by the textbook and other materials at his disposal. That same teacher during a visiting year in India, say, would ﬁnd himself in a quite diﬀerent context. To take just a simple example, is he really going to correct his composition students who write “Government are pushing reforms” instead of his own “The government is pushing … ”? The question of where our language models come from has been alluded to already. Constructs such as intelligibility within a context of a particular Circle among world Englishes are interwoven. Generally speaking, Americans get their models from American English, and New Zealanders from New Zealanders. These are internal models; that is, they are from “inside” the community or fellowship of speakers with whom any speakers in question identify themselves. In the Inner Circle, no one disputes this very much. These models are shaped and promoted in various ways and through a variety of media. I sound and write the way I do because I am an American, not only in that I was educated in America in “English-medium schools” (in my case, of course, that
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was axiomatic), but in that by far the majority of my language interactors in the broadest deﬁnition (including not only conversational partners, but also lecturers, journalists, and so forth) and the writers whose prose I read were American. I acquired my language “by osmosis.” It is only plausible that the Aussieness of an Australian’s English is accounted for in the same way, mutatis mutandis, and similarly, for an Indian user’s Indianness. It is not reasonable to imagine that I, as a US English user, could teach someone Australian English in anything more than an item-by-item cartoonish way. Now here is where the world Englishes school will diﬀer from various others, in particular and most strikingly with a Quirk-style “monochromatic” view (Quirk, 1985, p. 6). English teachers in the Outer and Expanding Circle countries cannot be expected to do what I cannot, that is, to teach a variety other than their own. As Bamgbos.e wrote of English teaching in Nigeria: One noticeable eﬀect of the refusal to accept the existence of a Nigerian English is the perpetuation of the myth that the English taught in Nigerian schools is just the same as, say, British English; a corollary myth is that teachers of English, even at the primary school level, are capable of teaching this model eﬀectively. In our teaching and examinations we concentrate on drilling and testing out of existence forms of speech that even the teachers will use freely when they do not have their textbooks open before them. (Bamgbos.e, 1992, p. 149) Myths, as Bamgbos.e labeled them, are legion in this area. Representatives of the generations of my own ESL students have kindly informed me at the end of a class meeting early in the term, either in defense of their own usage or in mild criticism of my own: “You know, sir, I speak British English.” They can only have believed this for any or all of the following reasons, with the ﬁrst one perhaps ranking ﬁrst: they were told by their teachers that British English was what they were learning; their textbooks and other relevant materials were produced by British authors and publishers; they pronounced “path” with the vowel in “papa,” while I pronounce it with the ﬁrst one in “battle”; they spelled “color” with a “u.” None of these features in itself or even all of them in aggregate make someone a British English speaker or writer. Looking outside the immediate context for a group’s linguistic framework, “exonormative” modeling (as discussed by B. Kachru, 1985, p. 17, for example), may naturally be what the group’s members do if they want more proﬁcient users of the language to appear quickly to help in their own linguistic development. But the ﬁltering and adjustments to the language that occur are inevitable. We have only to look at how quickly English in Anglophone North America became diﬀerent from that of “the old country” to see that this is true. For example, Mencken cites an English writer, a Captain Hamilton, who in 1833 wrote of “the American language”:
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I do not now speak of the operative class, whose massacre of their mothertongue, however inhuman, could excite no astonishment; but I allude to the great body of lawyers and traders; the men who crowd the exchange and the hotels; who are to be heard speaking in the courts, and are selected by their fellow-citizens to ﬁll high and responsible oﬃces. Even by this educated and respectable class, the commonest words are often so transmogriﬁed as to be placed beyond recognition of an Englishman. (Mencken, 1936, p. 23) Addressing this probably inescapable “subjective element,” Bamgbos.e had this to say: Whose usage is to be accepted? I hasten to suggest that it should not be that of the purist (who does not believe in a Nigerian English anyway), not that of the foreign-educated elite (whose usage is, on the whole, not very diﬀerent from a standard variety of English). The natural and spontaneous usage of the locally educated Nigerian user of English is a more reliable guide to the identiﬁcation of a typical Nigerian usage. (Bamgbos.e, 1992, p. 149) We are all familiar with the basic investigative admonition, perhaps second only to Occam’s Razor, that “you cannot adequately describe an object from inside it.” This is exactly the fallacy committed by those proﬁcient only in one language, English, or at any rate concerned only with proﬁciency in that language as they themselves construe it. What such Anglo-American English researchers and teachers have so often overlooked is the multilingual contexts in which Outer- and Expanding-Circle Englishes thrive. For the majority of the English-using world, English is but one language of two, or among several that speakers can command at will. This linguistic masala cannot but provide varied tastes in given contexts, for given functions. That I do not have access to such ﬂexibility myself should not keep me from appreciating it in others. This, however, has been a sticking point for modelers in English-language teaching (ELT), traditionally. As “native speakers,” we assume for ourselves the right to “innovate,” while we grant grudgingly, if at all, the same right to English-language learners whose deviations from the straight and narrowly traditional we characterize as “mistakes.” As Bhatt (1995, p. 255) wrote, “The speakers of Indian English, for instance, have intuitions that are ‘native’ to them; intuitions that are not available to speakers of other Englishes.” That pithy line itself exhibits a slight diﬀerence between Professor Bhatt’s English and my own: I would not have begun the sentence’s subject noun phrase with “The,” although that choice is arguably justiﬁed as “limiting the population referred to, excluding other populations of speakers.” It would be hard to be sure whether this diﬀerence in use of the deﬁnite article comes out of a
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variety diﬀerence between our Englishes or just from personal preferences. It is the sort of thing I might have brought up with an author during my tenure as a reviewmanuscript editor. And it is the sort of thing that would call for attention, not to say correction, with an advanced composition student in the Outer or Expanding Circles.
Not “Interlanguage” The world Englishes position cannot countenance the notion that all varieties of English except those of the traditionally listed “native-speaker” countries are either “foreign” (those of the Expanding Circle) or “interlanguages” (those of the Outer Circle). Selinker’s claim (1972, 1992) that diﬀerences between nativized Englishes and traditionally labeled native-speaker Englishes are exhibitions of the stagnation—“fossilization”—of features of those Englishes which were on their way toward a native-like target are not defensible.1 Y. Kachru (1993, p. 266) wrote this summative passage in her review of Selinker’s 1992 “rediscovering” of the construct: It is not clear what is meant by [a person] with unchanging or stable fossilized competence ([Selinker] 56), or an “entirely fossilized [interlanguage] competence” (232). The question of why a stable system should be characterized as an IL is not answered. It is also not clear what the diﬀerence is between “stable” and “fossilized”: that which is fossilized is [surely] unchanging, and therefore stable! Additionally, if “an entirely fossilized IL competence” refers to a community [of users] … , it is diﬃcult to see why it is an IL and why it is “fossilized”. Presumably, American English developed as an IL among a large portion of the immigrant population from the non-English-speaking parts of Europe. Does that mean American English represents an “entirely fossilized IL”? If so, from whose perspective? The phrase “from whose perspective?” is a powerful invocation of the rational post-colonial-era view of English in the world. My English speech must surely sound as odd to any Indian user of English as a Singaporean does to a Nigerian. Our idioms and phrasings and word choices vary from one another’s. If we adopt a historical criterion to settle “ownership,” then perhaps I win (though English was brought to India before it came to North America), but that point of view is of little consequence in the contemporary alignments and hierarchies of language proﬁciency and use. The interlanguage construct may have relevance to the situation of US students in a ﬁrst-year Spanish course. In that case, they are striving to express themselves according to the model provided by the instructor and by whatever selected material outside the textbook that they hear and read. As they progress, their Spanish becomes more like that of their norm-providers. This is clearly not the case in
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an Outer-Circle English-using country, where the language has its place in the culture and society, and where the users get virtually none of their direct input from Inner-Circle users.
Ideologies and Identities It is often pointed out in more recent literature that use of English plays an important role in groups’ and individuals’ constructions of their identities. (See, for example, Coetzee-van Rooy, 2002, De Kadt, 2004, Gao et al., 2005, and B. Kachru and Nelson, 2001.) In keeping with an implicit or explicit ideology—a stance from which to face and interpret the world—one sees oneself as “educated,” “traditional,” “modern,” “liberal,” or “conservative,” and so on. The monochromatic school tries on a task which is on its face doomed to fail: expecting, say, an Indian to be Indian in all but English-language use. The world Englishes ideology expects that any given Indians will be themselves, as shaped by their circumstances and interactions throughout their lives, and that this “being themselves” includes the English that they use. The identity construction by many individuals, all of whom comprise a fellowship of speakers, produces a cumulative and ongoing acculturation of English, also sometimes referred to as nativization (cf. Y. Kachru and Nelson, 2006, pp. 31–32). As with other bits of conceptual terminology, these are not perfectly happy terms. “Acculturation” would seem to refer to a cultural component, which it does in part, and “nativization” might be taken to mean “going native,” an expression with opprobrious racial overtones. While it is the case that some new terms or those altered in pronunciation, sense, meaning, or usage might reﬂect culture-speciﬁc concepts or activities, not all do. For a simplistic example, the US English word “raccoon” (variously attributed, as, to an Algonquian word, aroughcun) was borrowed from Native Americans, and Englishized in pronunciation, which was then assigned a conventional spelling, as the designator of a kind of mammal not encountered by English speakers on other continents. Similarly for “platypus” in Australia, though in that case the word was made up from a classical source (Greek “ﬂat-footed”), and so on for a myriad of other incidental lexical items in many contexts. As Prince Charles famously remarked, “[Americans] tend to invent all sorts of nouns and verbs, and make words that shouldn’t be” (Chicago Tribune, 24 March 1995, section 1, p. 4). But there is nothing particularly “cultural” or “native” about coming to use locate and antagonize as verbs when they had not been so used previously (Mencken, 1936, p. 31). The disdain with which British speakers met this new twist on an old word must have made it into a sociolinguistically stereotypical item2 (Wolfram, 1991, p. 99), but it was the adoption of the word by a sociolinguistic culture that made it “acculturation,” not any cultural nuance hiding in its semantic feature inventory. We identify who people are, where we think they are from, by their lexical choices and usages, among many other things.
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Teaching Intelligibility In teaching/assessing pronunciation of “English,” however that language-designator may be construed, we can focus on a necessary sound inventory—some number and distribution of vowels and consonants, each one and each set (as, stops, round vowels, and so on) described in terms appropriate to the context in which the teaching/learning is going on. My own instructional ESL situation at a Midwestern state university makes it important for ESL students to be aware of some American norms and variations. Here, for instance, we pronounce “little” and “muddle” with the same medial voiced “ﬂap” as their second consonant. Some students may not be used to this, and we do not ask them to change their “clearer” respective voiceless and voiced alveolar (or perhaps dental) stops. But neither should those who are new to the environment regard the US pronunciation as somehow strangely accented. There is not time in formal instruction for instructors to address all communicative contexts and possibilities, and one may perhaps be forgiven for imagining that exposure to other students and to the larger community will serve to broaden learners’ acceptance of variation. After all, not all of my colleagues speak with the same accent as I do; for that matter, not all of them are originally US American. People from southern Indiana often sound like southerners (historically and today, there is a good deal of in-migration from southern states such as Kentucky and Tennessee), while northern Indianans will often sound more north-urban (Chicago is only three hours or so north from our university by car). So if we have students whose previous exposure to English has been in an EFL environment, with teachers and fellow students all from the same linguistic background, they ought to get over that pretty quickly. Other ELT contexts will be radically diﬀerent, and if I were thrown into one of those, I would have to make it clear to my students that I was aware of my foreignness in their context. In my visiting experience in western Japan in the late 1990s, I was instructed, for good or ill, to teach US-style formal composition, so I was oﬀ the hook in that respect. See Chapter 1 and below for more on models and norms. Corpus-based research is having an increasing impact on our awareness of variety diﬀerences (e.g., Seidlhofer 2004 and VOICE), but for now and for most teachers, judgements of what is too individualistic or variety-speciﬁc to be generally acceptable are just that: judgement calls based on experience and very importantly on instructors’ and institutions’ views on what is “standard” or “correct.” And we must not forget the students and what their feelings and opinions might be, based on their experience and on what they have been led to believe about their English. Anecdotally, I have never criticized a student for saying “pahth” [paθ] (“path”); but a few students over the years have expressed concern or amusement at my pronouncing it [pæθ]. Naturally, this hardly seems fair to me. We must consider the reverse case: a single teacher in a country-wide context telling students that they “have to,” “need to,” or “ought to” make some pronunciation adjustment to
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accord with the instructor’s perception of what is, in the abstract, “the norm.” Pronunciation systems serve the convenience of abstract analysis; but they exist most truly in the speech and in the minds of language users; the degree of compatibility that speakers discover among participants in a language event is the basis of our construct of intelligibility. Similarly for comprehensibility. As intimated above, some words may be regarded as being elemental vocabulary items, with little need for appeal to social or cultural criteria. But on a second inspection, such a blithe appraisal may be found to be over-optimistic. Examples are literally too numerous to list, but a few will help to make this point. “Next” means the following element in a sequence; what could be simpler? But if today is Monday, some US speakers may refer to the immediately upcoming Friday as “next Friday,” while others (most?) will use “this Friday.” As the week moves on, “next Friday” takes on more and more strongly its designation of “not the immediately upcoming Friday—the next one.” A “table” is a table, but in countries like Japan, where many people still live much of their lives closer to the ﬂoor than Americans typically do, the word may conjure a picture of a shorter-legged piece of furniture. Recognition of phrasal units as having not-so-literal uses may come into consideration, also. Seidlhofer (2001, p. 136) cites Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas’ (1999, p. 29) comment on a Danish oﬃcial’s use of “so called” in referring to “the ‘so-called’ Edinburgh agreement.” The Dane (probably) intended “so called” literally—“that is what it is called”—while an American would take the two-unit phrase to mean that the agreement was not necessarily an agreement at all, and so was not to be taken seriously. Although we use the same words, we may not be thinking of the same things; we ﬁnd out by trying, and we adjust and accommodate, if we are of that turn of mind. (If we are not, then we will, in the ultimate case, be relegated to staying at home and talking to ourselves.) The Indian English term interdining was originally a military usage, referring to the non-separation of vegetarians and non-vegetarians at meals (B. Kachru, personal communication), since military establishments the world over are not noted for catering to (some readers would prefer “for”) subgroups, let alone individual, preferences in anything. Today, the term has broadened to indicate any situation of Hindus and Muslims “dining” together. Similarly, a “military restaurant” in India is a non-vegetarian establishment. These are not usages that would be immediately transparent to someone from outside the South Asian context of the items’ uses. What we teach in our English as an Additional Language (EAL) classes may be determined by what can broadly be termed “policy,” which is sent down from above us by a ministry, a board, an established syllabus, or other authoritative directive. There is usually little we can do about this. But in the day-to-day presentation to and guidance of students, instructors who are aware of Englishes in their worldwide distribution today should be thinking about intelligibility in its widest application all the time. English-language learners are not getting anywhere if they can merely mimic a particular teacher (however ﬁne their semi-“native”
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accents) or repeat memorized phrases. At least an approximation of this perspective probably pervades most English-language teaching nowadays, even if it is labeled diﬀerently. As McDonough and Shaw (2003, p. 15) assert, “communicative [a.k.a. “functional-notional”] design criteria permeate both general coursebooks and materials covering speciﬁc language skills, as well as the methodology of the classroom. In other words, a number of assumptions are now an explicit or implicit part of the everyday professional lives of teachers in many parts of the world.” When I was a graduate ESL teaching assistant at a Midwestern US university in the middle 1970s, we used (by assignment) “the red book” and “the green book” (Lado and Fries, 1958b and 1954) and (Praninskas, 1959). These texts were products of the literally and technically “structural” approach to understanding language that came out of the eﬀorts in “modern” linguistics, informed by the behavioral concepts of habit formation (as summarized, for example, by Brown, 2000, pp. 73–76 and Celce-Murcia, 2001, p. 7). English was practiced by manipulating elements in “slots” in sentences with lots of repetition, so that students were led (it was thought) to remember lexical items, morphological adaptations to structures in which words appeared (mother ~ mother’s watch), syntactic structures (Mother has a watch ~ Does Mother have a watch?), and so on. Implicitly, students were going to remember all these elements and associate them with items, actions, constructs, etc., in the “real world”; this would allow them to bring out the right combinations of structures to ﬁt novel situations in real use. (See Nelson, 1992, on this “communicative” issue.) Needless to say, we also repetitively hammered on pronunciation, and success was gauged against approximation to, in my case, a more-or-less idealized American standard accent. As McDonough and Shaw put it, ideally “this kind of teaching produced ‘structurally competent’ students who were often ‘communicatively incompetent’ (Johnson, 1981), able perhaps to form correct sentences to describe the daily habits of the ﬁctitious … ‘Jones family’, but unable to transfer this knowledge to talk about themselves in a real-life setting” (McDonough and Shaw, 2003, p. 16). Indeed, I have heard this self-characterization over and over in my teaching career by students, even graduate students, from Outer-Circle countries where such teaching approaches and methods still are prescribed by authoritative policy. The Audio-Lingual Method (ALM) reacted to the lack of context of such strictly form-focused instruction by introducing the context-setting dialogue or conversation as an indispensable component of each lesson, and by attempting to make students attend to the language, not to its written representation. The necessities of the long-standing language-education tradition did not permit writing and reading to be completely ignored, at least in ALM’s civilian applications. The very existence of “ALM textbooks” naturally made the reading/writing pair among the “four skills” a thing that could not be dispensed with. However, in requiring memorization and undeviating mimicry of “correct” models, ALM was basically a structural approach dressed up in a ﬂashier outﬁt (cf. Brown, 2000, p. 74). The transfer of learned classroom material to the world outside the classroom was at least largely left up to the student.
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Such approaches to English teaching can be said to advance intelligibility in at best limited ways. Insistence on “correct” pronunciation according to one standard model may have produced students who could speak intelligibly (in the technical sense) and regard others as intelligible as long as the interlocutors were using the same sound inventories and phonological permutation rules. Similarly, comprehensibility in vocabulary, reading/writing, and in syntax depended on that kind of agreement among participants. Often, there was an imposed one-to-one relation of form to function for the sake of teachability (if not arising from limited analysis), and this would have precluded making learners aware of the “complex form-function relationship” of real use, as in getting someone to do something by means other than a direct imperative—which may often be the least eﬀective if not actually a deleterious choice (McDonough and Shaw 2003: 22–23). We may recall in this context K. Sridhar’s investigation of requests cited in Chapter 3. The Communicative Approach came into being in the 1970s (McDonough and Shaw, 2003, pp. 16–17, Brown, 2000, pp. 266–67), based on the construct of communicative competence developed by Dell Hymes (1972) and extended into ELT by major practitioners and materials producers including Canale (1983), Rivers (1981), and Savignon (1983). As Littlewood (1981, p. 1) says, “One of the most characteristic features of communicative language teaching is that it pays systematic attention to functional as well as structural aspects of language.” He runs through an example familiar in kind to everyone who has touched pragmatics: the utterance “Why don’t you close the door?” He points out that the decontextualized syntax makes the sentence an information question, while its function will depend on its context of use—“for example, the speaker may genuinely wish to know why his companion never closes a certain door.” In other plausible functions, it may be an imperative, “a plea, a suggestion, or a complaint” (pp. 1–2). Most people today would probably agree that this sort of balanced treatment for language teaching and learning, not overemphasizing either form or content at the expense of the other, is what we should strive for in virtually any ELT situation. Littlewood (1981) makes useful points relevant to teaching world Englishes, including notes on the teacher’s role, which should not be directive (p. 19). A communicative-English teacher can act as a “resource,” with some risk of “dominance,” the teacher taking over the activity, but that may sometimes be preferable to allowing the activity to bog down in disagreement over the meaning or use of some word, for example. Sometimes errors may arise that the monitoring teacher feels must be immediately corrected, to avoid its becoming part of what students believe they know about their English. And teachers may become participants, “[p]rovided [they] can maintain this role without becoming dominant” (p. 19). Littlewood points out that interactive communicative activities may vary in their degree of emphasis from the “purely functional” to the “fully appropriate” (p. 21). That is, language functions to transmit information, and “Me, ticket, go Chicago” may get you on a train. But for calling the least possible remark upon our productions as such, not threatening the face of other participants (as, e.g., with a direct
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imperative—“Sell me a ticket for Chicago!”), and so on, we want to employ language that is socially and culturally acceptable. These are criteria that we have to pay attention to as we cross Englishes. Describing a still-life scene (as, a room with various furnishings) so that a practice partner can pick the right picture from among several similar ones is a common sort of “purely functional” activity (as in Littlewood, pp. 22–23). A variation on Littlewood’s “discovering locations” activity (pp. 25–26) could be providing one practice partner with a map showing “you are here” and a desired destination, and the other partner using appropriate inquiry forms to ﬁnd out how to get there (“Excuse me, I’m trying to get to the Bursar’s oﬃce in Rankin Hall.”) Or, of course, this could be practiced by partners who know their actual city or area well. Imaginative teachers can come up with a plethora of such simulations of “real-life” situations, and there are texts such as Littlewood’s to oﬀer suggestions and guidance. Again, the key here is the instructor’s perspective. These activities might look the same in an outline plan for a very prescriptive, variety-centered class or for a “liberal” communicative class. The intelligibility criteria add elements of recognizing various possibilities depending on students’ home-culture experience and English proﬁciency. Savignon (2001) writes that communicative language teaching (CLT) takes learners to be “active participants in the negotiation of meaning” (p. 14). She notes that when English is functioning internationally, among speakers of various ﬁrst languages, no one person can possibly know everything about the other participants’ cultures, and thus cultural meanings they encode in their language use: Cultural awareness rather than cultural knowledge thus becomes increasingly important … . What must be learned is a general empathy and openness toward other cultures. Sociocultural competence therefore includes a willingness to suspend judgement and take into consideration the possibility of cultural diﬀerence in conventions or use. (Savignon, 2001, p. 18; emphasis in original) In thinking about this kind of social and cultural competence, we come much closer to intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability in the world Englishes framework. No one can pronounce English in all the ways in which it is (or may be) pronounced; no one can know all the lexicon of an unfamiliar variety. But we can be attitudinally open and equipped with the skills that allow us to explore possibilities in order to achieve eﬀective communication with users of other Englishes. Valentine (1995) observes and explicates strategies of agreement and disagreement in conversations among English speakers in India. Just as Savignon says, Valentine opens with overviews of “universal pragmatic principles” that govern people’s eﬀorts to get things done with words with the fewest possible negative reactions, which would in the long run only create resistance and uncooperativeness among participants (p. 227). More speciﬁcally, all cultures have ways of exhibiting
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politeness in speech acts. A priori, we can probably agree that expressing disagreement is likely to be trickier than agreement. Not surprisingly, “the speech act [sic] of agreement and disagreement is expressed in diﬀerent ways in diﬀerent cultures” (p. 229). Valentine’s interpretations of her data accord exactly with Savignon’s general view. For example, and very importantly as a contrast with many long-standing language-teaching methods, “Second language acquisition research needs to look beyond the traditional prescriptive approach in which the sentence is the basic unit of measure.” It is the “use in context” that is of most value in shaping eﬀective world Englishes teaching (p. 247). Baumgardner (1987) presents a strong case for using “local-variety” newspapers to teach English. His article is aimed at teaching grammar, as its title states, but the method can work for any level of intelligibility–comprehensibility–interpretability practice. As Baumgardner writes (1987, p. 242), “local varieties of English are so widely used, so disseminated through the media and so much an integral part of the culture of the country where they are used that they have become ‘institutionalized’ ” (Kachru, 1986). In such contexts, as discussed in Chapter 1 of the present work, English has important functionality and assigned roles within the nation or region, as well as internationally or inter-regionally. This intranational character of the language is a de facto argument for teaching it—and for teaching in it. Newspapers are “locally” produced, and so are well suited for use as sources of examples of lexis, usage and grammar, and as learningactivity material. The language and culture connection is clearly evident in such texts. As Baumgardner says, “it is a fact that to be able to read a local Pakistani English newspaper thoroughly and with complete understanding, it is necessary that the reader be familiar with both the Urdu (and to a lesser extent Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtoon and Baloch) language and Islamic culture” (1987, p. 242). This national English gets its distinctiveness not only from borrowing (as, for example, peon “unskilled oﬃce worker,” chowkidar “watchman, gatekeeper”) and hybrid formations (to commit zina “engage in extramarital sex,” goondaism “hooliganism, thuggery”) but also from Pakistanization of “distinctively English words,” with perhaps some alteration of form and/or collocatability (age-barred “denied something, such as entrance to a function or site, because of age,” chargesheet “formal legal charges” as a noun or a verb, eveninger “an evening newspaper”). “There have been … not only changes at the lexical level in Pakistani English, but there have also been fundamental changes in the grammar … . These changes manifest themselves at all linguistic levels—lexicon, morphology, syntax, semantics and discourse” (1987, p. 243). For his discussion of this proposal, Baumgardner takes up complementation of adjectives, as in “He is interested in learning Urdu,” and of verbs, of which the article discusses two types, with various subclasses. Baumgardner presents examples of complementation types that diﬀer from Inner-Circle forms, such as “They … were only interested to grab power … ” and “the Government had not
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succeeded to redress the real problems … ” (pp. 242–44; the whole discussion proceeds through p. 247). Just as in any variety of English, there is internal variation: “[U]sage in the newspaper itself is variable. An editorial in a Pakistani newspaper will therefore contain fewer instances (or none at all) of a localized form that a front-page article, and a front-page article will probably contain fewer usages than, say, a news report from the provinces.” However, Baumgardner notes, the regular appearances of such items in media from and for the nation in question leave no doubt that they are part of the variety of English there (pp. 247–48). All the usual sorts of language-learning practice can be implemented from the base of newspaper texts. Baumgardner addresses “content-focused” and “languagefocused” exercises. Reading skills such as skimming and scanning can be presented and practiced, as well as the obvious “wh-question” comprehension activities. Focusing on language “would serve the purpose of raising the students’ consciousness concerning the diﬀerences between native varieties of English and Pakistani English” (p. 248). While some teachers might choose to attend to the diﬀerences between the English encountered in the newspaper texts and an Inner-Circle English, it would be more useful and reasonable, argues Baumgardner, to do such exercises as “translation,” to make students aware of a variety diﬀerent from their own (p. 248). That is, Pakistani readers who encounter “interested to do X” can be made aware of the use of “interested in doing X” in other varieties, not with a judgement that either is wrong, but rather that “this is Pakistani English’s way of expressing this connection, and that is another’s.” See Baumgardner (1995 and 2006) for other discussions of this approach to cross-variety exposure. Exactly this same sort of thing could be useful in reverse, as it were, for an InnerCircle English user who was going to go to Pakistan, or of course to any other English-using country. People used to reading, say, The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Times (London) would proﬁt from observing the language diﬀerences between what they were used to and what they would ﬁnd in a national newspaper from their destinations, such as Dawn (Pakistan, Karachi), The Hindu (India, Chennai), or The Straits Times (Singapore). For lexical and other help, they would have to appeal to acquaintances or other resources, including those readily if not totally satisfactorily available nowadays on the internet (e.g., the online Indian English Dictionary at http://www.amritt.com/IndianEnglish.html, and Samachar at http://www.samachar.com). Similarly, Hartford (1993) examined the functions of past perfect verb forms (had done something) in Nepali English. In Inner-Circle Englishes, the form indicates an incident or state before another one in the past, as in Fred had already walked out of the meeting by the time the important business came up. Hartford observed that Nepali English also uses the form for indicating “thematic remoteness from the main newsstory macroproposition. This remoteness semantic [of the past perfect tense] is a secondary characteristic of native English which has been promoted to a primary one
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in Nepali English” (p. 6). This is a contact-language phenomenon, in which speakers of two languages, Nepali and English in this case, merged characteristics of the two systems in such a way that one of the languages is now diﬀerent in this respect from other varieties of that language. Writing in the late twentieth century, Baumgardner and Hartford focused on print-medium newspapers, but with the present-day availability of the internet, such resources can be readily accessed across the world. Granted, not every individual has a computer and internet access, but very many people do, and so do many institutions such as universities, libraries and cultural centers (by various names) attached to foreign embassies or consulates. Our exposure to others’ Englishes can now be said to be limited only by our time available for seeking it out. Writing about the continually arising question of learners striving to make their Englishes more “native like” (in the sense of “more Inner-Circle like”), Seidlhofer and Widdowson (2009, p. 29) oﬀer this comment: It needs to be borne in mind … that the more distinctively native-like the idiom that learners strive for, the greater the likelihood of ridicule if they fail to get it right, for the very attempt to make use of such an idiom would constitute an attempted territorial encroachment, an invalid claim to community membership, with its failure revealing the speaker as an impostor. This is one aﬀective and functional argument against the imposition of a set of external-model norms on any population of English users.
Reader Involvement Approaches One way of getting English learners into contact with other varieties and the cultures they are contextualized in is through the use of world Englishes literatures. One cannot quickly or easily travel to lots of places around the world, but print (and ﬁlm) media allow us ready access to Englishes as they are used outside our own cultural experience. Courtright (2001) employed a “think-aloud” protocol in which six subjects (from India, Nigeria, and the US) worked through two shorts stories by Anita Desai (from India) and Chinua Achebe (from Nigeria). The readers paused at predetermined intervals in the texts, and they commented on and asked questions about what they had been reading.3 Courtright’s study was undertaken as research to reveal criteria that aﬀect intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability for cross-variety readers of unfamiliar-variety text (p. 4). It can surely be applied heuristically in world English language teaching to stretch, as Savignon said, learners’ cultural awareness. Courtright concluded that: An understanding of the properties of contact literary texts, as well as the language that is utilized to create it, is often a prerequisite to appreciating such
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text. Assuming that any text in English is processed similarly by all English speakers is a dangerously oversimpliﬁed assumption to make. (Courtright, 2001, p. 181) Tawake (1995a) conducted a reader-response study with eight subjects (p. 283) who read and returned questionnaires (“protocols”) on a novel by the New Zealand writer Alan Duﬀ (1990), Once Were Warriors. This book is in the category of “literature written by members of minority groups in their own society [sic] using English” (p. 282). Any instance of this sort of “contact literature” reﬂects both English and other-language elements and discourse characteristics in the usage of its narrative voice and characters. Since it was written for an English-knowing readership, it is not a surprise that “the stream of discourse is not in Maori—indeed most of the Maori characters do not speak or understand the language of their forbears— the speech of the characters contains Maori lexical items and patterns,” as well as being “characterized by broken standard English syntax” which, says Tawake, reﬂects their “broken, distorted lives” (p. 283). Four readers among Tawake’s subjects were Paciﬁc islanders. Her paper brings out the diﬀerences in the subjects’ reactions to characters, language, circumstances, and action in the novel: “Duﬀ’s novel … , as it is read by readers from two diﬀerent cultural backgrounds, is two diﬀerent novels” (p. 295). For example, the nonPaciﬁc-island readers were struck by “a personally unfamiliar lifestyle among families [in the novel] who did not work or educate their children.” The Paciﬁc-island readers recognized a commonly observed set of circumstances and relations, in that the Maori characters “live in the present moment; they do not plan ahead; they simply do what each moment demands” (p. 295).4
Conclusion Teaching English with a world Englishes perspective basically involves just that: an approach to the work that is centered on the intelligibility of the language that is learned and that will be used. Students learn from the models and practice that they ﬁnd available; teachers teach their own Englishes and elements of others that they make themselves aware of. Since we cannot teach and no one can learn every English there is as such, the appropriate focus is on what may best be termed openheartedness. The title of a paper by Smith (1983b) says it succinctly: “No room for linguistic chauvinism.” There is no a priori “best” English, since all language use is determined by its context.5 There is no reason to believe that questions of “which variety?” should be settled on any diﬀerent basis than those of “which register?” within a variety. So the job of world Englishes teachers is to prepare their students to meet perceptual challenges with assured ﬂexibility. As B. Kachru (1994, p. 17) challenges readers: [T]he myths we follow, the myths we believe in, and the myths we pass on to our students and colleagues must be seriously and calmly analyzed to see their
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relevance to our sociolinguistic contexts. … We must engage in self-examination and ask ourselves: why is it that we have always shirked from taking bold local initiatives about presenting theoretical and pedagogical insights appropriate and relevant to English education and our creativity in English?
Topics for Discussion and Assignments 1. Writing about “Dimensions of understanding,” Smith (2009, pp. 23–24) outlines “5 senses,” attention to which he believes will “improve our probability for successful cross-cultural communication and understanding.” These are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
The The The The The
sense sense sense sense sense
of of of of of
Self … the Other … the Relationship between Self and Other … the Social Situation … the Goal [of the interaction] …
Working with one or more partners, construct or take from a textbook or other source an interactional passage (e.g., a conversational dialogue or a transactional exchange in an oﬃce), and work out ways of changing the language slightly at one or more points to foreground one of the senses that Smith suggests. This may require some thought. For example, regarding sense #3, do you think saying to someone in any ordinary circumstances “I want to be your friend” would be likely to heighten a positive sense of Relationship between the participants? Continuing #1 just above, consider the ways in which we adjust our language uses with regard to Smith’s criteria. Can you think of other “senses” that would not be sub-cases of the ﬁve that Smith has come up with? Examine some textbooks that you ﬁnd in your current academic context or can recall from your previous English learning or teaching experience. How do they ﬁt, or how could they be adjusted to ﬁt, a broader varietal audience than the one for which they seem to have been intended? Following Tawake’s (1995a) reader-response type of study, discuss a piece of literature in English with respect to its setting, characters, dialogue, and so on. A longer-term project would be to emulate this sort of study with a small group of recruited readers to get their reactions. Hinkel and Fotos write, in the introductory chapter to their edited book on grammar teaching (2002a, p. 10): “Grammar learning and acquisition can enhance learner proﬁciency and accuracy and facilitate the internalization of its syntactic system, thus supporting the development of ﬂuency.” And they continue: “Although grammar teaching has been a thorny issue among teachers … and other ESL/EFL professionals, it has continued to be one of the mainstays in English language training worldwide.” What place has grammar held in your English learning or teaching experience? Do you ﬁnd, or believe, that it helps or impedes the acquisition of communicatively accurate and ﬂuent English?
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Suggestions for Further Reading B. Kachru and Nelson (1996) present a broad overview of the concerns raised for English teaching by the world Englishes paradigm. Any of the ﬁve chapters in Part II, Classroom Approaches to Grammar Teaching, in Hinkel and Fotos (2002b) will provide ways of thinking about this important issue that may be new to the reader, as will Hinkel (2002 and 1995). Baumgardner (2006) and Brown (2006) are thorough examinations of teaching English and of training English teachers, respectively, with a world Englishes attitude. Brumﬁt (2001) encourages, as the title says, “individual freedom in language teaching.” B. Kachru (1995) explicates excellent responses to categories of long-standing English-teaching “myths”; see his paper set in “the Japanese context” (2003) for a more limited treatment. Nelson (1995) struggles with the problem of encountering variety in the classroom, from texts and among students.
6 INTELLIGIBILITY AND THE ONGOING EXPANSIONS OF ENGLISHES
Every year we ﬁnd published either a new book on English usage telling us how to correct our errant ways or an older one brought up to date with the same purpose. Yet, where is the hard evidence that the English language is any “worse” at the end of the twentieth century than it was in the 1960s, the 1930s or at the century’s beginning? Wardhaugh (1999, p. 10)
Introduction It is a widely and frequently expressed fear that worldwide English is in a spiral of rapid dissolution. But if Englishes are diversifying—and they surely are—what can be done about it? Since users cannot make a language of wider communication stand still, they must move themselves. Nothing in the history of English or of any other language gives us any reason to believe that many users are going to use the language in exactly the same ways, from the levels of pronunciation up to how they choose to express their intentions in their lexicons and grammar choices. This is easily observable in the everyday experience of any English user, including those in the Inner Circle. A senior faculty member and teaching mentor of mine said on more than one occasion, “The job of the composition instructor is not to keep the language (English) from changing, but just to try to keep it from changing too fast.” Everyone who has had a basic introduction to linguistics course knows that language and languages change. Those who recognize the lines beginning “Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote” (Dunn, 1952, p. 8) may hear them with a certain awe, but it is unlikely that anyone actively regrets our not talking and writing that way in the
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twenty-ﬁrst century. Crowley (1991) includes in his collection of essays on Proper English? an extract from one by James Buchanan, originally published in 1764. Mr. Buchanan (a Scot, Crowley notes), wrote the following: Some years since, I published an English Dictionary, with a view to obviate a vicious provincial dialect, and to remove the complaints of foreign gentlemen, desirous of learning English, several of whom, of a liberal education, then under my tuition, expostulated, that notwithstanding the acquisition of a proper English Pronunciation, yet there was no method exhibited to one just and regular. (Cited in Crowley, 1991, p. 75) No living editor would accept prose like this from a would-be author, from its torturous style in terms of sentence length and involution to its questionable semantic and syntactic content (e.g., the opaqueness, in terms of comprehensibility, of everything following “yet”). Change from a former state of the language observed at such a time depth is unthreatening. Yet somehow the livelier revelations that reach our eyes and ears may be disconcerting.
Is English Falling Apart? Many young people in the US interject the “like” ﬁller into their ﬂuent and otherwise generally accurate speech with great frequency, as in, “And I’m, like, is this the only way you’ll, like, accept this assignment? And she goes, like, yeah.” Is this a language change, or just a “phase,” either for individuals personally or for their age group? It is easy to imagine that it is the latter, though you can never be, like, sure. Some such changes do catch hold and last. The often-cited jazz musicians’ “cool” in the meaning “copacetic,” “all as the speaker could wish,” or maybe just “OK” is one of those words that became a lasting part of the language, as its nearequivalent “groovy” did not.1 (Not in the same way or to the same extent, although it still surfaces in instances of perhaps more self-conscious or tongue-in-cheek employments, sometimes as an intentionally obvious signaler of a generational divide.) Wardhaugh (1999, p. 17) speaks eloquently to this fear mongering about the dissolution of English: When we look closely at statements made about ordinary language use, we see that they are almost always ﬁlled with forecasts of doom and gloom. The goddess Progress does not hold court here … . If each language has a golden age, unfortunately that age for English lies far in the past, either in Shakespeare’s time or somewhat later during the reign of Queen Anne in the early eighteenth century. If we are to believe what we are told, the language has been degenerating ever since.
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We speak of “English” when it suits our purposes, but we do not usually forget completely that that is a far from unitary construct. It is easy to recognize General American as opposed to RP when we hear them side-by-side and to discuss them in some terms, but we know that, on the one hand, General American is not really “general,” and on the other, that real RP is spoken by very few people. Professor P. Lal, described as “a champion of Indian English, who runs a wellknown writers’ workshop” (McCrum et al., 1986, p. 39) is quoted in The Story of English as saying: “There are more Indians speaking better English than ever before, and there are more Indians speaking worse [English] than ever before” (p. 40). He made this prediction: You’ll always have Indians who speak very good and correct English. But in ﬁfteen or twenty years we might have evolved a language which is so truly and richly and uniquely and indigenously our own, that you will have to carry a tourist guide, with footnotes, as to what these words mean. This will be a language written for Indians by Indians. And with no other outside audience in mind … . We will create another indigenous language, like Urdu, like Sanskrit and Hindi … .English is not my mother’s tongue, but is my mother tongue. And that’s the way it is with many Indians—we have no choice of it. (McCrum et al., 1986, pp. 332–33) Variety arises in respect to geographical region, education, work, religion, gender, and a lot of other variables, some more studied than others. And ultimately, usage comes down to individuals, who not only do not use the language in the same way as others do, but also vary their own uses from day to day, and from occasion to occasion. All that said, it is possible to observe tidal shifts in the language, from the level of phonology up through semantics, and certainly pragmatics also, though I will not attempt to go into that here. As such shifts come to characterize a region or group, they become identiﬁers. Thus, anyone can tell from my speech that I am a “nativeborn” American, while my Australian brother-in-law is still, after many years’ residence in the US, clearly a “non-native” (when he is here, as I would be, were I in Australia) in pronunciation and in some vocabulary and expressions (e.g., his use of “She’ll be right” corresponding to US “It’ll be all right”). It is perhaps natural that we interpret diﬀerences as value laden. Certainly the observed shifts in the language in North America during the diaspora of English out of the British Isles were not recognized with neutrality by commentators. The British visitors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries cited by Mencken (1936, ch. 1, “The Two Streams of English”) were echoed in exactly similar tones by Prince Charles in 1995. That was apparently not the ﬁrst time he had seen the problem; in fact, he had previously cast doubt on British English’s being the model for others. Wardhaugh (1999, p. 10) notes that in 1989 (no source cited), the Prince
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“wondered: ‘what is it about our country and our society that our language has become so impoverished, so sloppy and so limited … ?’” Clearly, such observers have believed for a long time that English is falling apart—it is being eroded by carelessness and by the lack of education of its far-ﬂung users. It may be a little hard to argue such a point. In addressing British versus American, for example, I might simply appeal to utility: my fellow Americans and I are able to accomplish the same kinds of tasks and achieve the same kinds of goals as our British counterparts, so what is there to choose between the varieties? They are just diﬀerent (as long as we all stay at home). However, I correct my US students’ writing with respect to a variety of criteria, from my notions of lexical correctness to nicety of near synonyms, from grammatical accuracy to ﬁne-tuning of, for example, time relationships in sentences and relation markers across paragraphs. While their English allows them to get things done outside of the course context, I cannot pretend that I completely accept it on those terms for our (or my) purposes in the academic setting. So I seem to tacitly believe in the existence of a “better” English. I can couch this in sociolinguistic terms of appropriateness for diﬀerent purposes, which makes perfect sense to me, but may sound like waﬄing to someone without my educational “advantages” or my willingness, even eagerness, to exhibit interest in such matters. (Such interest making me a geek, or is it nerd, in the perceptions of many people, especially my students.) In the 1970s and 1980s in America, writers such as Edwin Newman (1976) and John Simon (1980a and 1980b) contributed to a popular literature which cried “the English sky is falling!” These calls for resurrection of an allegedly decadent resource, when read closely, are oﬀered in terms of accession to some particular conﬁguration of class and educational norms or, when it comes right down to it, of “use the language the way I do.” Simon, for example, was terribly unhappy that some people saw ﬁt to use “Hopefully” in the position and function of a sentence adverb, as in “Hopefully, we won’t have to listen to much more of that.” While I understand that my using the word in this way puts me in a minority, according to various polls and usage panels, I do not think that it should come to the point of my being ﬁred for it. Simon wrote of this particular sin, along with a couple of others, in this scathing passage (1980b, p. 54): In a recent column, I happened to dismiss … a certain northeastern [US] university. In no time at all, I had a letter of protest from a special assistant to its president; it began: “Hopefully, all intelligent Americans” are against extending the freedom of the press to include such derogation … . Any institution that tolerates in such a high position a devotee of the impersonal “hopefully” (a.k.a. the ﬂoating hopefully … ) … might indeed give rise to doubts about its distinction and ﬁneness. It does not do to analyze too closely in such a way any passage of language produced in good faith. It is the kind of independently arrived-at decree which, we
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are told, the eighteenth-century writer Robert Lowth imposed on all subsequent generations of English speakers. Bishop Lowth (cited by Fromkin et al., 2007, p. 14) decided on the basis of an analogy with the mathematical “two (multiplied) negatives make a positive” that “don’t have no” and similar structures were henceforth unacceptable, despite their grammaticality and unproblematic “logic” in older forms of English for centuries, not to mention in many non-standard dialects then and now. Simon is a stickler, to say the least, for ﬁneness of usage and adherence to writing exactly and only what we mean. But in the passage just quoted, he uses the expression “In no time at all,” which is a patent impossibility given the laws of physics as I understand them. Examples like this are legion throughout his writing—how could they fail to be, since Simon is in fact a ﬂuent and accurate user of English? In writing about prepositions (in respect to the locution between you and I, about which, I must confess, I agree with him), Simon says: “Note that this deﬁnition is not based on the English language, in which, strictly speaking, only pronouns have case endings” (1980b, p. 19). By Simon’s kind of close analysis, one would have to point out that his “strictly speaking” leaves it ambiguous whether it is the language or its pronouns who are speaking strictly. Of course neither of those is what he intended, and neither one occurred to any reader of his text (until now). We may pass lightly over Simon’s lack of Linguistic (with a capital “L”) sophistication which leads him to believe that, e.g., her exhibits a case ending in comparison to she. Language, it turns out, really does develop and have its present being and utility in the minds of its users—including those whom Simon labels “the peasants”: [A named reviewer] boasts that “hopefully” and “hung” (for “hanged”) will be accepted in time, because “the Higher Orders … always follow the peasant’s lead eventually.” I don’t know whether it is possible not to follow the peasants’ lead, but it is a noble experiment worth trying. (Simon 1980b, p. 194) In short, it turns out that Simon represents what can only be seen as an idiosyncratically elitist take on what “good English” is: he knows the good, and others do not. He will tell us, if we ask nicely and pay attention. This is diﬀerent from the Inner Circle telling the other Circles how to use their Englishes only in scale, not in principle.
Standards—Where from and for Whom? Questions about the dissolution of any entity must naturally have some starting form for comparison, and for our concerns, this is usually “standard” English, or Standard English.
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Burchﬁeld (1994b, p. 16) quotes Henry Sweet (1908, p. 7), who wrote: “Standard English, like Standard French, is now a class-dialect more than a local dialect: it is the language of the educated all over Great Britain.” And Burchﬁeld says, citing himself (Burchﬁeld 1985, pp. 124–25, cited in Burchﬁeld 1994b, p. 16): Within the British Isles, now as in the past, the English language … persists in an uncountable number of forms. Only one form—that taught to foreigners—is “standard”. … It is seen as unequivocally “English” by people in Beijing, Kaliningrad, and Tokyo, who learn it as they might learn the lines in a gigantic play. Part of Burchﬁeld’s deﬁnition is “taught to foreigners,” and Wardhaugh (1999, pp. 10–11) makes a very engaging point relevant to this. He notes that the physicist M. Gell-Mann wrote that the learned English of his Austro-Hungarian father could only be distinguished from that of US-born users of the language in that his father’s usage was free of errors. Wardhaugh comments: “I ﬁnd the whole idea mindboggling: something native is characterized by ‘mistakes’ and something non-native by their absence.” This is a not-infrequently heard comment among us in the ELTrelated professions: some particular non-native user’s English is better than yours (or mine) because they have studied the grammar—and gotten it right. McArthur (1992, p. 983; cited by Burchﬁeld, 1994b, p. 17) wrote on “Standard English”: In everyday usage, standard English is taken to be the variety most widely accepted and understood within an English-speaking country or throughout the English-speaking world. It is more or less free of regional, class, and other shibboleths, although the issue of a “standard accent” often causes trouble and tension. It is sometimes presented as the “common core” (what is left when all regional and other distinctions are stripped away), a view that remains controversial because of the diﬃculty of deciding where core ends and peripheries begin. McArthur (1992, p. 983) goes on to say that “Linguists generally agree” that standard is often closely associated with carefully written English, “and some use the term print standard for that medium”; that speech in broadcast media is generally standard in nature, but exhibits “regional and other variations, particularly in accent”; and that having “ﬁnished secondary-level schooling” is often taken to be the associated societal status and educational level of standard usage. The “trouble and tension” over accent is clearly seen in the extensive necessary discussions in Chapter 4 of the present work. Quoting from the estimable Peter Strevens (1985, p. 6), Burchﬁeld (1994b, p.16) notes that Standard English is “remarkably” similar in grammar and basic lexicon wherever it is taught, but that it does not, in this view, have any standard accent (cf. also Strevens, 1983, and Greenbaum, 1990, on this point).
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Another point worth pausing on in McArthur’s excellently packed passage is the multiple-choice phrase “within an English-speaking country or throughout the English-speaking world” (emphasis added). The issues that arise when attempting to settle even academically on—let alone implement and impose—a particular model of English as standard for a given country, be it the US or India, are compounded exponentially when trying to do so across national borders and oceans. A useful case in point is the use of subjunctive verb forms between Britain and the US. An educated US speaker is most likely to say, for instance, It’s important that she be here early, while a British speaker might well say, in the same circumstance, It’s important that she is here early. While many Americans might at least covertly regard British English as possessing a certain higher status in its usages, this is one spot where the US form seems at least more impressive.2
The Legitimacy of Non-Inner Circle Englishes Today, those who would like to promote an English for the world are on the side of what they see as a fundamentally good and righteous form of the language, of which all other forms are broken or at best dilapidated copies, only more or less nearly successful. We recall that Quirk (1985) did not actually say we should all learn British English, though Prince Charles did. Generally, even strongly opinionated advocates of one or another major national variety recognize the futility of trying to persuade users of other long-established major national varieties to change their linguistic ways. But the linguistic adolescents and children in the Outer and Expanding Circles, they are another matter. It may not be too late to mold their destinies and bring them up in the ways they should go, some forces believe. But realistically, it already is; compare Lal’s remarks quoted above, for example. An older, pre-Circles model labeling of Outer Circle Englishes sometimes dubbed them “New Englishes,” but this was clearly a misnomer, taking the nineteenthor possibly eighteenth-century era of colonialism as its reference point. English has been “on the ground” in India at least as long as in the US, having arrived in the early 1600s on both continents. As B. Kachru (1994, pp. 502–3) notes, “The foundation for the eventual introduction of English in the [South Asian] subcontinent was laid on 31 December 1600, when Queen Elizabeth granted a charter to a few merchants of the city of London, giving them the monopoly of trade with the east … . A few trading ‘factories’ were established in Surat [now in the state of Gujarat, western India] (1612),” and in three other cities, the last, Calcutta (now Kolkata, in West Bengal), in 1690. The earliest English-medium school, St. Mary’s Charity School, was founded in Madras (now Chennai, in Tamil Nadu state) in 1715. In America, the ﬁrst English colony which survived was the one at Jamestown (now in the state of Virginia), founded by the Virginia Company under John Smith in May 1607. (Spanish-speaking folks are quick to point out that Ponce de León arrived on the shores of what would be the continental US in 1513, and that St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest continuously lived-in non-Native
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American city, having been founded in 1565 by a Spanish expedition under Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. But that is another story.) So there is little room for an argument about standards based on chronological precedent. The world Englishes framework of study and analysis, as outlined in Chapter 1, does not, as Jenkins (e.g. 2007, p. 11) and others have imagined, devalue any variety of English in its own terms. Academics, ELT professionals included, may easily forget that not everyone learns or needs English for academic purposes. People would like to learn the kind of English they need (or that they think they will), but educational systems may not always give them that kind of choice. Highschool graduates who come into a freshman writing course at my university are by that act implicitly taking on the task of reshaping their English in most cases, and in some cases doing so pretty radically. For good or ill, the academic/professional worlds impose (at least in principle) their expectations about proﬁciency in the use of English—perhaps even rising to a modicum of “good style.” This is natural. It is not a feature just of our learned (or learnéd) contexts of use. Examples are readily accessible to plausible imagination or to recall of real events. If, for example, you ﬁnd yourself being drawn into a potentially physical altercation in a bar, you will not be well served by crying “Damned be him (or is it ‘he’?) who ﬁrst cries ‘Hold, enough’!”3 Other, perhaps less fanciful, examples will occur to the reader. We use diﬀerent aspects of our language and diﬀerent varieties of it depending on the occasion. Which is more legitimate? It’s rather like someone asking you which is the most important outﬁt of clothing in your wardrobe. You cannot reasonably wear your tuxedo or your gym-exercise clothing all the time, and most people do not try to. Each variety of English has its purposes and fulﬁlls its functions; we do not (reasonably) expect one to serve for another. At the scale of world Englishes, we are not surprised to ﬁnd that English in South Asia is quite diﬀerent from that in the US. Various arguments (or at least observations) have been oﬀered to dispense with undue attention to accent. There is the matter of lexicon, to be sure; but again, we ﬁnd variation from region to region within Inner-Circle countries and accept that without much negative aﬀect (though we may of course ﬁnd given items “interesting” or even amusing). And grammar certainly varies for unknown reasons (though not much, in “standard” varieties, as we can observe and are assured by various authorities). So there is, a priori, no reason to hold one variety inherently superior to another. Those arguments, from Buchanan to Simon, have failed to hold up.
Codiﬁcation How do we know what “standard” is? It is clear from the above discussion that someone has to tell us, whether it is an authority whose pronouncements we decide (or are forced) to accept or our own conceptions of who around us uses “the best” English. We may look to codiﬁcation, the setting down in clear reference form the
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(or someone’s) proper model to be followed for correctness and unencumbered intelligibility in the broad sense. Dictionaries are taken to be strong instruments of codiﬁcation. Wardhaugh succinctly presents the naive user’s viewpoint on this: The existence of dictionaries reinforces a strong belief many people have that a language is merely a collection of words … . [I]f a word is not in the dictionary we must assume that it is not in the language. This is the argument widely used with irregardless: it is not in certain dictionaries so it is not in the language no matter how often we actually come across it in speech, possibly even use it ourselves. Moreover, if some dictionary-maker puts it in a dictionary, that inclusion is a mistake because irregardless is not a legitimate word because it is not in other dictionaries. (Wardhaugh, 1999, p. 17) The standards-bound Mr. Simon himself admits in principle that even the best dictionaries (he recommends a couple, with reservations) must be used intelligently: [T]he Oxford English Dictionary is a great—the great—dictionary, but it has to be used with discrimination. We must, each of us for himself, decide what in it represents the best in usage—and what is merely a corruption that has become more or less widespread or is, indeed, a mere hapax legomenon (a word recorded only once). (Simon, 1980b, p. 6) Simon grants “each of us” linguistic free will, but his writing at large makes it clear that only those of us whose choices concur with his shall be saved. At any rate, anybody with a question about “correct” spelling or pronunciation can go look in a reputable dictionary for information. (I have in my mind a more or less large printed tome, but nowadays one can of course “go online,” or is it “on line”?). A certain amount of grammar and usage help may be obtained as well: is contact a verb as well as a noun, and if so, does it take direct objects, or does it employ the assistance of with? Dictionaries based in geographic contexts other than the US and the UK proper have begun to appear; perhaps the best-known one so far is Australia’s The Macquarie Dictionary (ﬁrst published in 1981, now available in its 4th edition, 2005; see Butler, 1992 and 1997; see also Y. Kachru and Nelson, 2006, pp. 242–43). An often calledon argument against the legitimacy of a variety of English or of a set of Englishes in question is the lack of a dictionary for it. This lack of dictionaries must for the most part be attributed to some lack of a combination of available expertise, will, and funding,4 not to the allegedly tenuous status of the variety itself; a language that can readily be observed in daily use should not be dismissed because it is not in a dictionary.
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Grammar and usage are often more fully made explicit in learners’ dictionaries than in the “collegiate” models oﬀered to Inner-Circle users by publishers, including American Heritage and Merriam-Webster. The Collins COBUILD dictionaries have in all their editions presented a great deal of grammatical information. The 1987 edition from my oﬃce shelves (which promises on its cover that it is “Helping learners with real English”) presents seven pages (pp. vii–xiii) of notes on the organization of entries and on the labels and mark-ups that are used to give users access to more than just meanings and pronunciations. For instance, a heavy wedge symbol (") indicates “a slight change in meaning” in one of four subcategories (p. ix); and a double-stemmed upward-pointing arrow (*) indicates “a more general meaning similar to the entry word” or a particular use of the entry word (p. xi). Thus, absolute is marked * for its “universal” meaning, as in an absolute rule, compared to its main-entry meaning, “used to emphasize what you are saying”; and it gets a " for the sense “used of the power of such a ruler” following “An absolute ruler has complete power and authority” (p. 5). All of this machinery must be fairly cumbersome unless a user of the dictionary makes the eﬀort to become really conversant with it, but it cannot be denied that a lot of reference information is there for the looking up. Various dictionaries for English learners today claim substantiation of their contents by reference to corpora which may be said to reveal “real usage.” The Collins COBUILD 5th edition (2006), for example, draws on the Bank of English corpus. Beyond dictionaries, the grammar explications such as Quirk et al. (1985) and even its shorter relative Quirk and Greenbaum (1973) are probably too unwieldy and technical for general use. Commonly used composition “handbooks” such as Perrin (2000) and Aaron (2009), which are aimed at Inner-Circle students, are too selective in what they cover and, needless to say, very prescriptive. Exposure (guided by education and “discrimination”) seems to be the only method exhibited to a just and proper English. Wherever we may look for our codiﬁcations, it will become more and more apparent as time goes on that there is more and more diversity within and across Englishes. This will raise for some the frightening specter of dissolution. But it is just as easy, and more plausible, to see it in another light, that of widening ranges of options for expression. It is commonly pointed out that multilingual creative writers such as the Achebe (e.g., 1969), Narayan (e.g., 1976, 1990), and Ngu˜gı˜ wa Thiong’o (2006), and younger authors such as Díaz (2007) are fortunate in being able to appeal to (at least) two cultures, languages, and presentational styles. To oﬀer just one example, the opening of Okara’s The Voice (1970) has a ﬁne oral narrative ﬂow reminiscent of that found throughout Raja Rao’s Kanthapura: Some of the townsmen said Okolo’s eyes were not right, his head was not correct. This they said was the result of his knowing too much book, walking too much in the bush, and others said it was due to his staying too long alone by the river.
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So the town of Amatu talked and whispered; so the world talked and whispered. Okolo had no chest, they said. His chest was not strong and he had no shadow. Everything in this world that spoiled a man’s name they said of him. (Okara, 1970, p. 23) While a monolingual English user cannot draw on such a variety and depth of linguistic and cultural resources, almost all of us can at least recognize that we are multi-dialectal. This is itself no small thing, attesting as it does to our ability to match language to situation and participants for best eﬀectiveness. When we are in our classes, as instructors or students, we “use our grown-up words” and “our inside voices,” as beﬁts the formal educational context. When we participate in or attend sports events, we almost certainly sound rather diﬀerent. Language teaching and learning may impart a somewhat skewed idea of this relationship of language to situation: of course it is not always as straightforward as “now I am in class, so I will be sure to sound professorial.” The mix of variables including degree of formality, degree of distance from the audience and perhaps even day of the week (“It’s Friday, let’s be casual”?) is virtually endless; and its components all guide our choices of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.5 As we gain exposure to other varieties of English, “our” English is not longer just ours, just as it was before. My US-born sister-in-law who is married to an expatriate Aussie wonders if the backyard-buﬀet yogurt, having been outside in its bowl for a while, “is oﬀ.” I believe that most of us, and she earlier in her life, would have said “has gone bad.” Such turns of speech reﬂect our individual and in-group experiences, and can hardly be said to diminish our intelligibility, comprehensibility, or interpretability with interlocutors; rather, they keep things lively and interesting.
Intelligibility Future In the worldwide geographical and functional contexts of multi-Englishes, intelligibility will continue to be a concern for many people. Users who regard themselves as proﬁcient in one or more varieties, both teachers and learners, may more or less frequently feel concern about their next cross-variety encounter. “Will my English serve me well? And if not, whose fault will it be?” One response to this perceived issue may seem overly simplistic, but I believe it is sociolinguistically realistic. When I leave my house to drive to the airport an hour away, I cannot predict with any degree of certainty what will happen to me around the next curve, at the next interstate highway on-ramp, beside the next big truck. I am fundamentally a good driver (I would say so, of course). I have basic skills of managing the vehicle (which I keep in good repair), and I have uncountable years of experience behind the wheel, on all sorts of roads, in all sorts of weather. All I have to do is pay attention, and, barring a signiﬁcant unexpected act of fate, I will bring myself and my passengers to our destination unscathed.
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Similarly—I think it’s similar—I am a proﬁcient user of one variety of English, and I have had a lot of interactions over many years with users of other varieties, who were operating at various levels of proﬁciency. Generally speaking, I expect to be able to work out whatever the situation requires, given that my fellow participants have at least basic facilities at their command in pronunciation, lexicon, grammar, and so forth. If someone uses “will do X” when they are talking about past-time events, then that is surely going to cause some consternation. (It almost goes without saying that such an egregious distraction has never happened to me.) But if I can ﬁgure out that usage in my partner’s speech, then I can immediately start to work with it. Smith (1983b), cited earlier, provided cogent advice about things for both speakers and listeners to keep in mind when they are mutually interested in facilitating their interactions. Most of these guidelines are expressions of common sense or good manners. For example, he suggests that speakers “Tactfully ask questions to determine whether or not your listener has comprehended your key points” (p. 10; emphasis added); and for listeners: “When the speaker seems to be momentarily pausing, seeking for a way to express his thoughts, wait for him, don’t take the conversation lead away” (p. 11). As reasonable people, we do not, in the traﬃc-control phrase, drive too fast for existing conditions. A good deal of well-conceived and executed research in the ﬁeld has looked at whether and to what degree some varieties of English are accessible to users of other varieties (e.g., among various citations above, Matsuura et al., 1999; Munro et al., 2006; Smith and Raﬁqzad, 1979; van der Walt, 2000). Other researchers see the “solution” to the intelligibility “problem” in a variety of English that will be learned and shared by users of all varieties, whether this pan-Englishes English is taught and learned or is the result of a naturally occurring accommodation by everyone concerned (e.g., Jenkins, 2000; the classic Quirk, 1985; Yano, 2009). Given the lack of success in “holding Englishes together” in the decades of the ever more rapid expansion of populations of English users, it is diﬃcult to see how the latter outcome will be implemented, or to believe that it will come about on its own. Studies such as those of Derwing and Munro (2005), Matsuura et al. (1999), Munro et al. (2006), and Smith and Bisazza (1982) seem to show that intelligibility is rarely if ever measurable at 100% accuracy in controlled conditions. At the same time, they do not often seem to exhibit complete failure. As Smith (2009, p. 17) writes: Although we may never be able to totally understand another’s feelings or perspective in a cross-cultural situation … , we can attempt to increase our likelihood of understanding or at least decrease the possibility of our misunderstanding by developing a greater awareness of three of the dimensions of understanding (intelligibility, comprehensibility and interpretability). The “real world” of English in use, though it is necessarily a lot messier than the recording/listening studio, aﬀords a plethora of variables that people exploit to try to make sense of what is going on and being said.
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Workaday approaches to English and to ELT so often focus, for perfectly understandable practical reasons, on transactional information exchange. While this aspect of language use is undeniably important, it is not the whole story. As Smith (2009, p. 21) says: For me, to communicate is to share meaning/value/emotion. … Communication is not just an exchange of information. Machines are able to exchange information, e.g. in data processing, but machines do not share meaning. This approach to the issue seems to boil down to Smith’s primary injunctions for cross-variety interactions. For the speaker: “Be yourself, remain natural” (1983b, p. 10). And for the other side, the listener: “Relax and display calmness and patience” (1983b, p. 11). “Being oneself” is tempered, among open-hearted communicators, in that we should not expect or require linguistic behavior from others that we are not ourselves willing to exhibit. The “native speakers” may feel a certain central privilege in expecting the “non-natives” to accede to them. But they can ask themselves, “How would I be feeling now if my conversation partner dismissed my English as ‘wrongly accented,’ ‘too fast,’ etc., and refused to go on with the exchange?”6 It is most likely in cross-variety exchanges (and be it said, in almost any language interaction) that people who are trying to get something done with language are going to attend to the task at hand, and not worry overmuch about linguistic details.7 Quantitative laboratory studies (such as Munro et al. 2006) and collections of speciﬁc problem interactions (as in Jenkins 2000, pp. 84–87) are undoubtedly important for our understanding of how to improve the basic elements of intelligibility at work, as phonetics is important to our study of languages’ sound systems. The view of intelligibility that asks “How eﬀective is my communication activity, as a speaker and as a listener?” should lead to more future intelligibility research that focuses on acceptability, such as that of Van der Walt (2000), Tay (1993a), and Matsuura et al. (1999).
Conclusion The upshot is that diversiﬁcation and diﬀerence do not equal devolution. We may look at the issue with a kind of uniformitarian perspective: English is not stuck with just one verb, move, but has available many move-ment verbs including arrive, come, depart, go, get [somewhere], hoof, leave, mince, slide, slip, slog, step, tiptoe, travel, race, and probably a lot of others I can’t think of right now. Nobody thinks that this is a bad thing or deleterious to communication; quite the reverse. When we hit a lexical item we do not already know, we cope, whether by asking about it or looking it up somehow or just guessing about it in its context of use. This approach will surely serve us as we encounter new varieties of English. At some point, of course, we reach a sort of limit; for example, we who are from other places cannot without a good deal of expenditure of attention and energy come to making Tangier Island
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speech intelligible as a new acquisition in our verbal repertoires. To those who worry that Englishes may become so diversiﬁed that this failure to understand someone will be a common occurrence, we should heed the simple wisdom of Smith (1992, p. 75): the time is already here. But again, we are not standing in concrete boots; we move, we adapt, we adjust. Not accommodating one another for improved intelligibility will be personal (or group) failures, not deﬁciencies in our Englishes as such.
Topics for Discussion and Assignments 1. It may be hard for anybody to see things becoming not what they are used to and not regard that negatively, as devolution. Explore for yourself some of the changes that have gone on in Englishes including your own variety, and some that are going on. What do you think: just changes, or changes for the worse—or for the better? 2. In all the examinations and descriptions of expanding and diversifying Englishes, occasionally a voice says (or whispers) “It can’t last” (e.g., Bailey, 1990 and 1996). No one can foretell the future, but speculate: Can you envision an ending of the era of English as the number-one language of wider communication? What factors and forces might bring that about? (Let’s not go so far as a worldwide cataclysm!) If world Englishes reach some sort of maximum limit of expansion and stabilize there, in terms of distribution, what do you see happening to them in following decades? 3. Has working your way through this book changed any of your views or understanding of intelligibility in world Englishes (or in other languages, for that matter)? Write a sort of summative essay comparing you stances on some sub-issue presented here when you began this course of study and now.
Suggestions for Further Reading Ngu˜gı˜ wa Thiong’o (1986) famously presents “A Statement” (p. xiv) declaring his “farewell to English”; but read that in its entirety and consider his subsequent body of publications to draw your own conclusions about the virtually inescapable pull of English for reaching wide audiences or clienteles in today’s world. Dipping into Wardhaugh (1999) may provide the sort of parallel thought provocation and amusement oﬀered by Mencken (1936), with the focus in Wardhaugh on development within varieties of English rather than across “parent” and “daughter” ones. Bolton (2006) provides a wide-ranging, cogent, and readable treatment of the history and ongoing development of world Englishes themselves and of eﬀorts from various points of view to study them. The section on futurology (pp. 259–60) and the Conclusion (pp. 260–64) would be informative basic sources for addressing the ﬁrst and third topics for discussion above.
Chapter 2 1 See Smith (1983a, 1983b and 2003) and Smith and Nelson (2006) for interpretations of the world Englishes scene based on such observations. The time spread between these publications (and even later ones) shows that this concern is an ongoing one, and not likely to soon be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. 2 In fact, The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993) oﬀers seven possible pronunciations for “restaurant,” including two sets with a ﬁnal “t” and several without. It might be thought strange that the pronunciation guide words for the three nasalized-vowel ﬁnal syllables are all French: “as in cordon bleu,” “as in monde,” “as in Fr. pas” (p. viii). 3 I will not go into detail here about the Gricean Conversational Principle and Maxims, which are discussed in various authoritative publications, e.g., concisely in Y. Kachru and Smith, 2008, pp. 24–25. For a discussion of pragmatically established “worlds,” see Green, 1989, pp. 40–41.
Chapter 3 1 At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._executive_branch_%27czars%27, there is a long list of current and previous US executive-branch “czars” including a border czar, a car czar, a green-jobs czar and a faith-based czar. “A sherpa is the personal representative of a head of state of government who prepares an international summit like the annual G8. In the [sic] between the G8 summits there are multiple sherpa conferences where possible agreements are laid out … .” (http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Sherpa_(G8)). For example: “Probably her Sherpa for this event—because now we have Sherpas for these events—is going to be New York senior Senator Chuck Schumer.” What Storms Lie Ahead for Sotomayor? May 30, 2009 National Public Radio Weekend Edition—Saturday, May 30, 2009 (www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php? storyId=104750984). These sites accessed July 1, 2009. 2 Jespersen explicates many other such interesting examples on pp. 67–79. 3 Cf. Rushdie’s expansion of this (1991, p. 83): “ … as Rhett Butler once said to Scarlett O’Hara—‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a small copper coin weighing one tolah, eight
mashas and seven surkhs, being the fortieth part of a rupee.’ Or, to put it more concisely, a dam.” 4 In a paper entitled “Turning tables: Indian English as a bilingual language” at the International Association for World Englishes conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, July 27, 2010, S. N. Sridhar proposed the terms “code gliding” or “code weaving” to refer to these seamless segues from language to language that are accomplished by proﬁcient multilinguals. 5 There is a grammatical error in Katherine’s second speech, according to my French-language informant, which my inquiries have failed to resolve satisfactorily.
Chapter 4 1 For readability on the page, various writers (including myself) have sometimes tried out orthographic conventions to separate the two meanings. For example, Y. Kachru (2008) uses capital “I” for the general sense of “intelligibility” and lower-case “i” for the technical, Smith-paradigm sense. This is mechanically tricky, for one thing, because of the likelihood that sentence-initial capitalization of the word will occur; and in any case, a subtlety like this is hard for the author to keep in mind, not to mention the reader. In this text, I have tried to present enough explicit context to keep the senses separated without resorting to spelling signals. 2 Jenkins’ ﬂat assertion that “varieties diﬀer most from each other” in features of pronunciation would seem to have called for some thought and elucidation. Common observation will pop up countless divergences of lexis across varieties, staring with the ordinary lift versus elevator, and grammatical-structural diﬀerences, while perhaps more limited in countable number, are arguably salient. 3 E.g., Jenkins (2000, p.2) writes: “The solution proposed here is the establishing of a set of ‘nuclear norms’ for all L2 speakers of English (and receptively for L1 speakers also).” 4 Jenkins overstates the case entirely when she writes, “L1 speakers are only intelligible to L2 speakers if they [presumably, the L1 speakers] provided the teaching model and, for the vast majority of the world’s speakers of English, this is simply not so” (2000, p. 159). This asserts that no one is intelligible to or found intelligible by an English user of any other variety than their own. This is simply not so, as everyday observation will demonstrate.
Chapter 5 1 See B. Kachru (1994, p. 7) for a concise attack on “the interlanguage myth.” This paper is an excellent reference source for many of the major points raised in this chapter, including for example “the exocentric performance myth” (p. 7) and “the discourse of marginality” (p. 9). 2 Wolfram (1991, p. 99) deﬁnes social stereotypes in terms of the degree of awareness which speakers (both inside and outside the given community) have for particular language features. He writes that “Sociolinguistic stereotypes tend to be overly categorical and are often linguistically naive, although they may derive from a basic sociolinguistic reality.” That Ocracoke, North Carolina, speakers of English may refer to themselves as Hoi Toiders indicates that they are aware of this stereotypical correspondence of their “oi” with standard English “ai,” as in the cliché phrase’s words. 3 Examples from Courtright (2001) are explicated and commented on by Y. Kachru and Nelson (2006, pp. 144–48). 4 Tawake’s introduction to the symposium of papers which she edited (1995a, 1995c) comments on this area of concern.
5 See, for example, Y. Kachru (2003 and 2008) for focused treatments foregrounding context. And Y. Kachru and Smith (2008) make context an integral part of their entire approach to the broader topic.
Chapter 6 1 “[Lester] Young’s cachet among hipsters led to his popularizing now-common words. Everyone started using the word ‘cool’ after they heard him say it, according to jazz historian Phil Schaap” (Vitale, 2009). 2 Quirk and Greenbaum (1973, p. 51, section 3.46) note that “The use of this [mandative] subjunctive occurs chieﬂy in formal style (and especially in [American English]).” 3 Actually, an acquaintance told me about an incident just like this that could have cost him some serious injuries. He said that he shouted something in the national language at an adversarial taxi driver who was a good deal larger than himself that would translate roughly as “On guard!” His near-assailant burst out laughing, the situation was defused, and everyone went home unbloodied. But this was mere good fortune, not intentional persuasive use of language. 4 Cf. Butler’s (1997, p. 111) remark on the Macquarie Dictionary project: “Well, we have the expert team, we have the computing facilities, we have the budget. … We have the burgeoning interest of native speakers.” 5 See, e.g., Wolfram (1991, pp. 97–98), on the variable frequency of -in’ for -ing progressive participle verb forms, as in knowin’ versus knowing, according to situation. In casual conversation, virtually all American English speakers will use the “nonstandard variant” -in’ sometimes, with the frequency being partly attributable to group membership. 6 I cannot document this, but I recall hearing once upon a time a radio interview with a famous dog trainer. She illustrated one of her points about reasonable and useful interaction with a canine pet by saying (approximately), “Imagine that you’re in a foreign country and you get in a taxi. You tell the taxi driver where you want him to go, and he doesn’t understand you. So you swat him on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.” This is a neat and telling parallel to the attitude of inequality of acceptance that may occur between users of Englishes. 7 Writing about a speaker’s “reduced variant” alteration of the set phrase “any/every Tom, Dick or Harry” (I myself would have said “and,” not “or,” as in fact the cited speaker did) to mean “just anybody,” Seidlhofer and Widdowson (2009, p. 33) write: In this speciﬁc interaction, as so often in ELF talk, the focus seems to be so ﬁrmly on the substance rather than the form of what is said that [speaker]1’s interlocutors only engage with the intended meaning, and the marked phrase passes as if unnoticed (which of course would not be the case in an advanced English-as-a-foreign-language class or exam).
Jenkins, Jennifer (2007) English as a Lingua Franca: Attitude and Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
The second of the author’s books on ELF, English as a Lingua Franca draws heavily on the evidence presented in her earlier work (Jenkins, 2000) to make the case for ELF studies and for the pursuit of the lingua franca core of phonetics/phonology (pp. 22–28, and elsewhere). The ﬁrst two chapters engage in a polemic comparison of ELF with putative misconstruals of the construct (ch. 1) and with “standard language ideology” (ch. 2). Chs. 3 and 4 discuss language attitudes and research about them; ch. 5 presents examples “observed in speech and writing” (p. 109). Ch. 6 presents “elicited data [from a questionnaire study] in order to establish more comprehensive evidence of attitude to ELF among teachers” (p. 147). Ch. 8 looks to “the future of ELF” (p. 237). ——(2009) World Englishes: A Resource Book for Students (2nd edn). New York: Routledge.
Following the format of the Routledge series of English Language Introductions, this book is divided into four sections, called Introduction, Development, Exploration and Extension. As the series “How to” page (p. v) says, the text may be read straight through, like a traditionally organized textbook, or “horizontally,” with each numbered subdivision in one of the four major areas keyed to its corresponding numbered subdivision in the other areas. Thus, reading about “Who speaks English today” in section A3 may be continued with the same focus in section B2, “The English Today debate,” and so on through the other two sections. “Intelligibility” is not indexed, but there is extensive attention to English as a lingua franca and English as an international language, and Inner, Outer and Expanding Circles of English are well represented. Kachru, Braj B. (2005) Asian Englishes: Beyond the Canon. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
116 Annotated Bibliography
This volume is in the series Asian Englishes Today (series editor Kingsley Bolton). The author is widely and justly referenced as the scholar who established the world Englishes paradigm for observing and analyzing varieties of English in their pre- and post-colonial-era expansions and developments, so it goes without saying that such a substantial production from him is to be taken seriously. As he writes in the Preface, “This book attempts to contextualize some major threads of the presence of what was a colonial language, waiting to be discarded from pluralistic Asian subcontinent in the 1940s. What actually happened—gradually and somewhat unexpectedly—is that the language turned into a seductive linguistic commodity with nativized ideological, linguistic, and functional reincarnations in Asian contexts” (p. xviii). This brief passage exhibits both attention to fundamental constructs of world Englishes and the author’s vigorous and engaging style of presentation. After an introduction to “Anglophone Asia” (ch. 1), the work’s remaining ten chapters take on important conceptual and practical topics which may be said to be “uncomfortable,” including “[language] schizophrenia” (ch. 3), “Japanese agony” (ch. 4), and “Predator,” “Killer or accessory to murder” (Part IV and ch. 9). Ch. 11 (pp. 205–56), Present tense: Making sense of Anglophone Asia (which constitutes Part VI, the Afterword), pointedly and, needless to say, cogently responds to about ﬁfteen issues in order to, as Kachru puts it at one point, “drive some bees out of my bonnet” (p. 211). Each of these brief essays (a couple of them not so brief, at that) is a concise statement of and riposte to topics that continue to be raised in the literature on global Englishes. Written at a very high level, this work is for advanced students and for scholars who are familiar with the debates in world Englishes and who are prepared to consider them again in new explications. Kachru, Yamuna and Smith, Larry E. (2008) Cultures, Contexts, and World Englishes. New York: Routledge.
Cultures, Contexts, and World Englishes is in the Routledge ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series (series editor Eli Hinkel). Following an Introduction, the work’s ten chapters are divided into three parts: Verbal Interaction and Intelligibility (chs. 1–4); Sound, Sentence, and Word (chs. 5–7); and Conversational and Writing Styles (chs. 8–10). The Conclusion is entitled World Englishes: Legacy and Relevance. The authors’ grasp of the principle criteria of the forms, functions, and sociolinguistic realities of world Englishes is unparalleled, and the precision and engagement of their presentation is absolutely ﬁrst rate. Ch. 3, for example, is on one criticalarea application in cross-cultural communication, Parameters of Politeness. Kachru and Smith chose this as a particularly illustrative area of examination and interpretation because politeness as a construct is common to all cultures, but its means of expression are widely variable (p. 42). The chapters of Part 1 touch directly on the present work, particularly ch. 4, Intelligibility and Interlocutors, which presents the rationale and criteria of the Smith Framework of Intelligibility with extensive exempliﬁcation.
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This volume is one that students and professionals working in varieties of English and in sociolinguistics in general will refer to and draw on again and again. Kirkpatrick, Andy (2007) World Englishes: Implications for International Communication and English Language Teaching. With audio CD. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
This work is a good basic resource for sociolinguistics generally as well as for the study of world Englishes. Part A, The Framework, addresses “key sociolinguistic concepts” and “linguistic terms” (chs. 1 and 2), and “models of world Englishes” (ch. 3). Part B’s eight chapters address Variation and Varieties, including evidence from Africa (ch. 8) and from Hong Kong and China (ch. 10). Part C, Implications, discusses “key themes” (ch. 12) and “implications for English language teaching” (ch. 13). The unusual and very valuable feature of this work, its audio CD, provides samples of English speech from Inner Circle speakers (including British varieties, pace Mesthrie and Bhatt) as well as from the other two Circles and across sub-varieties (“ELF”). The samples are keyed to their respective chapters in the text. Transcripts for the sixty tracks are provided (pp. 198–230), and the author provides brief notes, such as this one for ch. 11, Example 3, a conversation among “a Cambodian … , a [sic] Indonesian … , and a Singaporean … ”: “Note how the Cambodian makes himself easily understood and how the Singaporean suggest an alternative word (‘beneﬁts’ for ‘good things’), which he then adopts” (p. 228). This book’s treatment and features make it a good candidate for courses in world Englishes. For those less traveled, it is especially worth having just for its audio samples. Murata, Kumiko and Jenkins, Jennifer (eds.) (2009) Global Englishes in Asian Contexts: Current and Future Debates. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Following an Introduction by the editors, this work is divided into four parts comprising thirteen chapters: Understanding Englishes and English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) in Asia (chs. 1–4), Cultural Identity, Ideology and Attitudes in Englishes in Asia (chs. 5–7), Englishes in Asian Academic and Business Contexts (chs. 8–10), and The Future of Englishes: A Paradigm Shift? (chs 11–13). This book presents a valuable mix of perspectives on the issues of world Englishes, or Englishes across the world, in that some of the contributors (e.g., Kachru, Smith, and Bhatia) are well-known scholars who may be said to work in the world Englishes paradigm, while others (e.g., Jenkins and Seidlhofer) are proliﬁc proponents of the ELF school of thought. Smith’s ch. 2, which explicates his framework for analyzing intelligibility and extends the discussion into a treatment of criteria for successful cross-cultural communication, shares Part 1 with ELF-based writers Seidlhofer and Widdowson (ch. 3), and Jenkins (ch. 4). Indeed, the last part presents a substantial paper by B. Kachru (ch. 11, Asian Englishes in the Asian Age: Contexts and Challenges), which is followed by two chapters challenging the world Englishes paradigm, by Pennycook (who draws heavily on work by Yano) and by Yano, to whom the volume is dedicated (ch. 13, The Future of English: Beyond the Kachruvian Three Circle Model?).
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This collection is an invaluable, provocative resource because of its presentation of interpretations of the world-wide Englishes phenomenon and the issues it continues to raise by some of the deservedly most highly regarded people working in the ﬁeld. Mesthrie, Rajend and Bhatt, Rakesh M. (2008) World Englishes: The Study of New Linguistic Varieties. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
This is a work suited to the interested technical linguist, and may be rather heavy reading for someone not up on current syntax. In seven chapters, the authors cover topics from “the spread of English” (ch. 1), “lexis and phonology” (ch. 4), morphology and syntax (chs. 2 and 3), and “acquisition issues” (ch. 6) to “trends in the spread of English” (ch. 7). The emphasis, then, is on the structures of Englishes, which is certainly a valid area of study. As “a cover term for all varieties of English” (p. 3; emphasis in original), the authors adopt a term from McArthur: English Language Complex. They make this choice after dismissing “New Englishes” (for the good historical reason that some so-called “New” Englishes are older than some so-called “Old” ones; see ch. 1 of this present work) and “World Englishes.” The latter phrase, they write, “generally” seems to exclude British English, which is, as they put it, “a ‘World English’ too” (p. 3). Ch. 3 on “cross-clausal syntax and syntactic theory” provides a substantial dose of Optimality Theory (pp. 96–107) to account for “New English Syntactic Variation” (p. 96). Readers cannot help but note that the authors abandoned their “Complex” labeling at this point, unless they intended this as an attributive phrase to indicate that the variations are current or innovative; and the opening of the section refers right away to “WE studies.” An extensive glossary is provided (pp. 225–34), which purposely does not include “Terms that are part of the core discipline of World Englishes” (p. 225). This is where readers can come for quick reminders of the meanings and uses of, e.g., aux-inversion (p. 225), c-command (p. 226), and x-bar theory (p. 234).
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Aaron, Jane E. 107 accentedness 72, 73–4, 75 acculturation 86 Aceto, Michael 17 Achebe, Chinua 61, 63, 94, 107 additives 70–7 advertising 64–7 African American English (AAE) 7, 64 Afrikaans English 44 American English see US English Audio-Lingual Method (ALM) 89 Australian English 8, 12, 16, 25, 83 Bailey, Richard W. 111 Baldauf, Scott 57 Bamgbose, Ayo 5, 6, 7, 70, 83, 84 Bansal, R. K. ix, 5, 71–2 Baugh, John 7 Baumgardner, Robert J. 92–4, 97 Bautista, Maria Lourdes S. 19, 68 Bayley, Robert 64 Berns, Margie 47, 70, 80 Bhatia, Kailash Chandra 53 Bhatia, Tej K. 64–5, 68, 117 Bhatt, Rakesh M. 84, 117, 118 Bisazza, John A. 30, 32, 40, 41, 109 Bolton, Kingsley x, 14, 15, 16–17, 31–2, 111, 116 borrowing 49, 50–1, 56, 62, 66, 92 British English: ESL students 83; Mid-Atlantic English and 18; model 6;
pronunciation 77; in South Africa 44, 70; status 55; varieties 33; views on shifts in 100–1, 104; World English 118 Brown, H. Douglas 89, 90 Brown, Kimberly 82, 97 Brumﬁt, Christopher 97 Burchﬁeld, Robert 2, 103 Burnell, A. C. 51 Butler, Susan 12, 106, 114 Canada 2, 16, 17, 44 Canale, Michael 90 Catford, John ix, 3, 38, 40 Celce-Murcia, Marianne 89 Cenoz, Jasone 18 Chan, Brian Hok-Shing 54 Charles, Prince 86, 100–1, 104 child language acquisition 32 Christopher, Elizabeth 28, 32, 35, 38, 47 Circles Model 17–21; legitimacy of non-Inner Circle Englishes 104–5; see also Expanding Circle; Inner Circle; Outer Circle codiﬁcation 105–8 Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary 107 Communicative Approach 90 communicative language teaching (CLT) 91 communicativity 75
componential understanding 34 comprehensibility 34–6; samples of studies 38–45; Smith Framework 21, 22–4, 25, 28, 70; teaching 88, 90, 91; term 22–3, 28–9, 37, 46, 69, 70, 72–3 context of situation 3–4, 7, 24, 37, 38, 47 Cootzee-van Rooy, Susan 69 Courtright, Marguerite S. 94–5, 113 creativity, multilingualism and 58–64 Crowley, Tony 99 Crystal, David 61 Daily Express 19 De Kadt, Elizabeth 86 depth 14, 15 Derwing, Tracey M. 72, 80 Desai, Anita 61–2, 94 Desani, Govindas 67 Dhawan, Sabrina 57 dialects 7, 25, 31, 57, 99, 102–3 diaspora 15–16 Díaz, Junot 107 dictionaries 106–7 Dissanayake, Wimal 48, 67 Douglas, Fiona 16 Duff, Alan 95 Dunn, Charles W. 98 elucidation 64 English: dissolution 99–102, 107; ﬂexibility 61; international 31, 61; legitimacy of non-Inner Circle Englishes 104–5; ongoing expansion of Englishes 98–9, 110–11; “pure” 48–50; standards 46, 102–4 English as an Additional Language (EAL) 88 English as a Foreign Language (EFL) 18–19, 41, 63, 87, 96 English as a lingua franca (ELF) 70, 77, 78, 80, 115, 117 English as a Second Language (ESL) 18–19, 26, 41, 83, 87, 89 English-language teaching (ELT): Inner– Circle dominance 58; intelligibility in 81–2, 95–6; models and teaching 82–5; native speaker intelligibility 39; reader involvement approaches 94–5; teaching intelligibility 87–94 Euro-English 17–18 Expanding Circle: cross-variety communication 80; examples 17–18; intelligibility studies 74; legitimacy of
English 104; multilingual contexts 84; pronunciation 78; teaching English 18, 46, 83; viewed as “foreign” 85; writing English 54–5, 85 Ferguson, Charles A. 20–1 Firth, J. R. 3, 4, 37, 47 Fishman, Joshua A. 2 Fotos, Sandra 81, 96, 97 French advertising 65–6 Fries, Charles C. 29, 89 Fromkin, Victoria 102 Gao, Yihong 86 General American 78, 100 Gonzalez, Andrew B. 19 Gooch, Liz 19 grammar 96, 103, 105–8 Green, Georgia 24, 112 Greenbaum, Sidney 3, 103, 107, 114 Hall, Edward T. 8–9 Hannah, Jean 2, 33 Hartford, Beverly A. S. 93–4 Hayes-Harb, Rachel 75–6 Hearn, Lafcadio 60–1 Hersey, John 24 Hickey, Leo 24 high-context culture 8–9 Hilgendorf, Suzanne 66–7, 68 Hinglish 56, 57, 58 Hinkel, Eli 81, 96, 97 Hong Kong English 31–2 hybridity: background 67; beneﬁcial effects 60; concerns about 62; degrees of 50–8; “pure” English 48–50; term 48 Hymes, Dell 90 ideologies and identities 86 Indian English: development of 14, 84, 88, 100; extent of Englishness 6–7; Indianness in 11; intelligibility 71; pronunciation 5, 7, 71; requesting strategy 54, 63; status 55–6, 58; studies of 55, 63; writing style 55 Inner Circle: borrowings 50; changes in English 98, 102; constraints 66; countries 17; dictionaries and textbooks 107; intelligibility studies 74; models 82; monolinguals 53; “native speakers” 18, 20, 27; pronunciation 78; requesting strategy 63; status 44, 55; teaching English 58, 86, 92–4; varieties of
English 55, 57, 105; vocabulary 56, 62; writing English 54 intelligibility 32–4; cline of 6; in English–language teaching 81–2; a ﬁrst pass 2–10; future 108–10; lingua franca core (LFC) and 77–9; measurement 109; ongoing expansion of Englishes and 98–9, 110–11; samples of studies 38–45; Smith Framework 21–5, 28, 32, 70; teaching 87–94; term 2–3, 22, 28–9, 39, 46, 69–70, 72, 91 interlanguage 85–6 International Association for World Englishes (IAWE) 11, 13 interpretability 37–8; samples of studies 38–45; Smith Framework 21, 22–3, 24, 25, 28, 70; teaching 91; term 23, 28–9, 35, 46, 70, 91 Ireland 16, 18 James, Carl 74–5 Japan 7, 16, 18, 39–43, 87–8 Japanese 60–1, 66 Jenkins, Jennifer 33, 74, 77–9, 80, 105, 109, 110, 113, 115, 117; Murata and 117 Jespersen, Otto 50 Jessner, Ulrike 18 Johnson, K. 89 Kachru, Braj B. ix, xi, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 21, 27, 31, 48, 50, 51–2, 53, 56, 61, 64, 68, 78, 80, 83, 88, 92, 95, 97, 104, 113, 115–16; and Nelson 86, 97; and Smith 11 Kachru, Yamuna xi, 51, 54, 55, 63, 68, 85, 113, 114; and Nelson x, 7, 8, 14, 15, 17, 19, 54, 64, 68, 86, 106, 113; and Smith x, 2, 8, 15, 16, 27, 32, 34, 37, 38, 45, 112, 114, 116–17 Kahane, Henry 80 Kahane, Renée 80 Kiesling, Scott F. 16 King, Robert D. 18 Kirkpatrick, Andy 117 Korea 16, 18, 39–40 Korean 66 Labov, William 7 Lado, Robert 29, 89 Lahiri, Jhumpa 59 Lee, Jamie Shinhee 66, 67 Lethal Weapon 3 (movie) 36
lingua franca core (LFC) 77–9 Littlewood, William 90–1 Llamzon, Teodoro A. 19 low-context culture 8–9 Lowenberg, Peter H. 19, 78 MacNeil, Robert 49 Mahootian, Shahrzad 54 Malaysia 19–20 Maori 95 Martin, Elizabeth A. 49, 65–6 Matsuura, Hiroko: et al. 42, 43, 44, 47, 72, 109, 110; Chiba and 42 McArthur, Tom 103–4, 118 McCloskey, Robert 1, 26 McCrum, Robert 49, 100 McDonough, Jo 89, 90 Melville, Herman 28 Mencken, H. L. 14, 27, 83–4, 86, 100, 111 Mesthrie, Rajend 117, 118 Mid-Atlantic English 18 miscomprehension 37 Mitchell, Alex 12 mixes 70–7 model-provider 46 models and teaching 82–5 Modiano, Marko 17 Mohun, Anjoo 57 multilingualism and creativity in Englishes 58–64 Munro, Murray J. xi, 30, 72–4, 80, 109, 110 Murata, Kumiko 117 myths 21, 83, 95–6, 97 Narayan, R. K. 61, 107 native listeners 75 native speakers: Inner Circle 18; innovation 84; intelligibility 39–45, 75, 77, 78, 79, 110; interlanguage and 85; judgement of intelligibility 5–6; label 20–1, 27; model 46; variation 29 nativization 11, 17, 67, 86 Nelms-Reyes, Loretta 49 Nelson, Cecil L. 6, 60, 72, 77, 89, 97; Kachru and x, 7, 8, 14, 15, 17, 19, 54, 64, 68, 86, 97, 106, 113; Smith and 22, 23, 24, 27, 28–9, 32, 42, 43, 44, 70, 75, 112 Nepali English 93–4 New Zealand English 16 Newman, Edwin 101
newspapers 92–3 Ngu˜gı˜ wa Thiong’o 107, 111 Nigerian English 58, 83, 84, 85 North Carolina 8, 33 Okara, Gabriel 107–8 Outer Circle: countries 17; “interlanguage” 85–6; legitimacy of English 104; multilingual contexts 84; “non-native speakers” 18; pronunciation 78; teaching English 18, 46, 83, 89; varieties of English 57, 58, 78; writing English 54, 85 Pakistani English 92–3 Pandharipande, Rajeshwari V. 59–60 Perrin, Robert 107 Phillipson, Robert 88 phonological proﬁciency 75 phrasal units 88 Pinker, Steven 5, 35, 47, 52 Platt, John 19 Praninskas, Jean 89 Prator, Clifford H. 5–6 Preston, Dennis 81, 82 primary language 17, 20, 21 pronunciation: accentedness 73; British and US English 12; child language acquisition 32; context of situation 4–5; “correct” 99, 106; criteria 75; dictionaries 106, 107; Indian English 5, 7, 71; intelligibility 23, 24, 33–4, 71, 77–9; levels of 98; RP 5, 33, 71, 100; teaching intelligibility 87–8, 89, 90; variation 29 Quirk, Randolph 3, 83, 104, 107, 109, 114 Qureshi, Bilal 57 Raﬁqzad, Khalilulla 30, 32, 39–41, 72, 74, 76–9, 109 Rajagopalan, Kanavillil 71, 76–7, 79 range 14–15 Rankin, Ian 30 Rao, Raja 61, 107 reader involvement approaches 94–5 readings 34 received pronunciation (RP) 5, 33, 71, 100 register identiﬁcation 64 Ritchie, Donald 61 Rivers, Wilga M. 90 Rushdie, Salman 62, 112
Sánchez, Rosaura 58 Santorini, Beatrice 54 Savignon, Sandra J. 90, 91, 92, 94 Schilling-Estes, Natalie 33 Schneider, Edgar W. 16, 64 Scots English 30 Seidlhofer, Barbara 80, 87, 88, 94, 114, 117 Selinker, Larry 7, 85 semantics 24, 37, 75, 100 Shaw, Christopher 89, 90 Sichyova, Olga N. 53 Simon, John 101, 102, 105, 106 Singaporean English 55–6, 58, 85 Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove 88 Smith, Larry E. 3, 11, 21, 22, 23, 28, 30, 32; and Bisazza 30, 32, 40–1; and Christopher 28, 32, 35, 38, 47; and Nelson 22, 23, 24, 27, 28–9, 32, 42, 43, 44, 70, 75, 112; and Raﬁqzad 30, 32, 39–41; Kachru and x, 2, 8, 11, 15, 16, 27, 32, 34, 37, 38, 45, 112, 114, 116–17 sociolinguistics 1–2 South African English 44, 70 South Asian English 52 Spanglish 48, 56–8, 64 speech community 8, 9, 18 speech fellowship 8, 9 Sridhar, Kamal K. 10, 54, 63, 90 Sridhar, S. N. 113 Stafford, William 37 Standard English 102–4 Stavans, Ilan 56, 57 Stewart, Miranda 24 stratiﬁcation 18 Strevens, Peter 21, 103 style-identiﬁcation 64 Suarez, Ray 57 Svartvik, Jan 3 Sweet, Henry 103 Tawake, Sandra K. 95, 96, 113 Tay, Mary W. J. 53, 68, 110 terminological bases 70–7 Tolkien, J. R. R. 5 Trudgill, Peter 2, 33 Twain, Mark 31 understanding 1, 21–2, 72–3 US English (American English): development 16, 85; intelligibility of speakers 39, 41; models 82;
pronunciation 12, 29, 33; range 14–15; register restriction 52; speech community and speech fellowship 8; status 55; teaching 44, 46, 58, 70; writing style 55 Valentine, Tamara 91 Van der Walt, Christa 43, 70, 80, 109, 110 variation, the “problem” of 29–32 Vitale, Tom 114 vocabulary 24, 36, 56, 64, 73, 90 VOICE 87
Wardhaugh, Ronald 98, 99, 100, 103, 106, 111 Weber, Heidi 19 Widdowson, Henry 3, 94, 114, 117 Wolfram, Walt 33, 64, 86, 113, 114 world Englishes 10–17; Three Circles of 17–21 World Englishes 11, 13 Yano, Yasukata 109, 117 Yule, Henry 51 Zentella, Ana Celia 56–7