English as a World Language - A2 - AQA - English Language

Notes on English as a World Language


Tom McArthur

Circle of World English - 1987
This shows World Standard English being split into eight main regions, each with a main SE variety and many non-standard derivative forms. No one standars form of English has emerged, however English is at the core of all regions. 

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Different Englishes

 Different Englishes

English becomes complicated when referring to the concept of a standard form. McArthur suggest eight main standard forms although he achknowledged that varieties may not always fit perfectly into this. 

Other models have shown varieties being descendants of either British or American English as the two dominant forms. The many different forms mentions by McArthur may lead to less, rather than greater, language diversity. Many forms are pidginised or creolised forms, mixed with other, more local languages. In a similar way to dialect levelling in Britain, the expansion of English across the world may lead to the extinction of many languages (roughly 6000 in current use). 

Languages exchange features with one another, due to the increase in travel and international communication and media forms - dialect contact easier, suggest that dominant forms have arisen in the past and then fragmented. 

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Australian English

HRI - High Rising Intonation

The emergence of HRI in British English usage (often referred to as 'uptalk') is a feature attributed to a similar pattern found in Australian English. 
It is the recreation of a rise i pitch similar to that used to indicate an interrogative in SE, but applied to a declarative.

There are various theories as to how it has arisen in the UK:
through popularity of Australian soaps which are shown in the UK, especially during the 1990s. This is a form of dialect contact. 

It also demonstrates that not only does the UK influence the rest of the world, but also that the UK is influenced by the rest of the world. 

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American English

There are subtle ways that the two main standard varieties differ. The two forms can influence each other and cause change at all levels of the language. often by a slow process of diffusion. 

  • Spelling rules differ, such as centre/center, cheque/check, grey/gray etc
  • There are semantic differences representing the shiften meanings or conversions in the two languages, flat/apartment, plaster/band-aid, biscuit/cookie etc.
  • Lexical differences also exist in phrases with different idiomatic uses in the two forms and in American idioms that have not yet become a part of British English use. 
  • Instances of transmission are common, particularly from dominant American media and culture entering into the UK (America is dominant world culture).
  • Prosodic differences in pitch, pace and volume patterns used to create stress emphasis within words.  
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American English Cont.

It is not easy to define any one rule or theory which explains the differences between the two forms, as not all words (etc) apply. These complications point to the subtlety of the difference and to how easily one can usage may be interchanged with another from either area. 

Many aspects of the American language have their roots in centuries or history, with usages that are now rare or archaic in the English used in the UK still in US usage. Examples: fall for autumn, gotten
Borrowing has also occurred from contact with the language of the Native American tribes especially with new creatures and plants.

In the 21st Century, AE continues to proliferate into a wide variety of forms. the diverse nature of American society has seen prolonged and mutual contact between the American and Spanish languages, as well as historical forms from immigration, like the African-American language of Gullah. 

With AE and SE growing more similarly frequently occupying the same space through the internet and mainstream pop culture, both exert more influence and pressure on the less affluent and visible forms of language. 

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Creole and Pidgin Forms

When language contact occurs between two or more languages, new language forms appear by the exchange of grammatical, lexical and phonological elements.
These languages arising out of contact with English come in many shapes and sizes across the globe and form the majority of non-standard varieties shown in McArthur's model. 

These languages are often formed by convenience (particularly pidgins), they can appear and disappear in a relatively short space of time, if conditions that made them useful no longer exist.

Creole forms tend to be more culturally significant and take on a more deeply rooted life in the speech of a community and its identity. 

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History of AE

Most significant step in the progress of English towards its status as a world language took place in the last decades of C16 with the arrival of Walter Raleigh to the 'New World'.  Colonies evolved, however increasing contact and new patterns of settlement caused the accents to begin to blur - dialect levelling. 

America's cosmopolitan character had linguistic consequences, mainly a large number of loan words which added to the many new words which were introduced through various different immigrants. 

An enormous number of coinages were introduced, words and phrases based on earlier English elements which reflected the many social and cultural developments in American history. Many of these have entered the standard language and are used wherever English is spoken. There does remain a substantial distinctive vocabulary restricted to the US along with several features of grammar, spelling and pronunciation which combine to make AE as opposed to British English. 

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Black English

17th Century - Slave Trade began; ships from Europe travelled to W.Africa and then slaves were shipped to the Caribbean and USA.

Outlawed in 1865 - after 200 years = 4 million black slaves in America.

The result was a growth of several pidgin forms of communication and in particular a pidgin between the slaves and the sailors, many of whom spoke English.  

When children were born, the pidgin became their mother tongue, thus producing the first black creole speech in the region. This then came to be used rapidly throughout the cotton plantations. 
Different Caribbea islands have since developed their own varieties of English and display a range of dialects which have been influenced by SE to varying degrees.

 Black English Vernacular is now spoken by 80% of present-day black Americans. This is mainly the language used by lower-class blacks in urban communities. Black culture became known through its music and dance; the result was a large influx of new, informal vocab into general use, as whites picked up the racy speech patterns of those who sang, played and danced.

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South African English

South Africa has a substantial amount of mother tongue speakers of English due to British involvement from the late 18th Century. English was made the official language of the region in 1822, it then became the language of law, education and most other aspects of public life. 

The speech of the London area is predominant in various areas. At the same time, English was being used as a second language by the Afrikaans speakers. An African variety of English also developed spoken by the black population which was influenced in different ways by the various language backgrounds of the speakers. 

Present-day South African English thus comprises a range of varieties; they are unified by the tension which exists between the use of English and the use of Afrikaans. English has always been a minority language in South Africa, Afrikaans was given official status in 1925. 
Many blacks see English as a means of achieving an international voice, and uniting themselves with other black communities. 'Upwardly mobile' Afrikaners have become more increasingly bi-lingual with fluent English that often resembles British English. A continuum of accents exists, ranging from those that are strongly influenced by Afrikaans, to those close to RP. 

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