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The present study aims to engage into the discussion of the dichotomic relationship of ‘English as a Lingua Franca’ and ‘World Englishes’. Further, it discusses the most important models in context to World Englishes; it could be observed that the discipline in discussion has yet to formulate a systematic model to define ‘World Englishes’. At one hand, there are linguists, who advocate the phenomenal spread of English all over the globe and endeavour to locate the language, in its entire socio-cultural functionality, into a singular space, creating what Lyotard calls ‘the metannarrative of ideological discourse’. On the other hand, however, there are linguists who decentralize such notions and conceptualize the ‘World Englishes’ in its plurality. Such decentralization unconventionally advocates the polyglossic nature of ‘World Englishes’, what Kachru calls ‘Pluricentric nature of language variations’. The dichotomy has yet to be resolved and needs focused endeavours from the research fraternity to systematically construct and ideologically structure the collective model that defines and determines the debate in its sovereignty.

Keywords: ‘English as a Lingua Franca’; Globalization of English; Language and Ideology; Models of ‘World Englishes’; ‘World Englishes’.

Mitul Trivedi

Reasearch Scholar, H M Patel Institute of English Training and Research, Sardar Patel University, Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand. Gujarat. India.


There are several ways in which linguists study language variation and change. Consensually, it could be surveyed that language change is an obvious ‘process’ and that language change can be resulted from a great variety of causes including, and pressingly, language contact. Language contact, in general sense, indicates to a socio-cultural situation where a variety of groups of people speaking different languages come into contact. English, which is undoubtedly a global language now, has, historically considering, come into contact with a range of languages all over the world. The consequent result of such a wide range of contact is that today there are more ‘non-native’ speakers of English than there are ‘native’ speakers of it. This has further resulted in the English language changing, being modified in different ways in different parts of the world. In this section of the paper, I would like to engage my discussion on how English has changed as it has become a global means of communication and how linguists study the phenomenal growth of varieties of Englishes, what they term as ‘World Englishes’.


English has become, probably, the first language ever to achieve the status of truly a global language. Linguists, hence quite naturally and obviously, have been fascinated by the global rise of English and have been studying what happens to a language when it is adopted by people around the world as a lingua franca. They have observed that as English expanded to the global territory, it had evolved in different and unique ways. For example, it has served as a ‘lexifier’ language in the creation of new pidgin and creole languages, which are quite distinct from English in other ways; In India, it has evolved as a language of ‘power’ and ‘prosperity’. English has also been ‘adopted’ as an official language in many countries, and by many multinational groups and corporations.

When people from diverse social, cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds use English for their regional purposes, they ‘nativize’ and ‘acculturate’ it to create meanings that are relevant and ‘appropriate’ for their functions and purposes. This process of ‘nativization and ‘acculturation’ causes a fair amount of changes in the structural as well as semantic features of the language. These ‘new’ and ‘emerging’ varieties of English are termed ‘World Englishes’. In this section of the study, I shall attempt to explore ways in which World Englishes can be studied.

Traditionally, the English language used by ‘native’ speakers was considered the appropriate model for language description, language acquisition, and language teaching (and efforts to continue such tradition are still existent in the rigorous efforts made by British Council all around world). However, over the last 20 years, as linguists have rationally documented, how the English language varies around the world, there has been a constant and continuous growth in acceptance of language variation and World Englishes. There are two related categories of research that have contributed to this work. The first category of research that looks at World Englishes studies and analyzes the language in different parts of the world. This work on World Englishes primarily focuses on language divergence – i.e., how local/regional varieties of English differ from other varieties of Englishes.

The second body of research looks at English as a Lingua Franca and focalizes upon language convergence – i.e., what happens when people who use different varieties of Englishes interact with each other. Representative research to this category on World Englishes studies and describes the ‘linguistic’ (as well as stylistic) features of particular varieties of Englishes. A plethora of research studies is observable on the linguistic and stylistic features of Indian English, Nigerian English, or maybe, South Asian English. Research on English as a Lingua Franca, on the other side, investigates into

  1. Features of language that are shared by different varieties of Englishes,
  2. Features of language that can impede communication between users of different varieties, and
  3. Strategies that people use to accommodate for language variation.

World Englishes and English as a Lingua Franca researches primarily centralize their debates on different features of the same global phenomenon : the global spread of English. The fundamental rationale of World Englishes is to examine how language ‘changes’ as it spreads beyond the territorial space; whereas English as a Lingua Franca researchers study how language variations are discussed or ‘acculturated’ in order to attain a communicative function. In both of these approaches to looking at English language in a global context, the central focus is on the ‘language’ itself as it is used by people in diverse socio-cultural as well as functional contexts and not on an abstract notion of a ‘standardization’ and ‘legitimacy’ of language that is based on ‘native’ speaker norms. There are more than one rational reason for the practitioners of the discipline to go afar the ‘native’ model of English. For the purpose of the present study, I would focus on two of them.

Descriptions of ‘standard’ Englishes tend to have basis on the language as it is used by middle class ‘White’ speakers of the language. Being the politically leading group in Britain, Australia, and North American countries, their dialectology is considered to be a ‘standard codification’ and ‘legitimate authority’ the language. Other speakers of English are peripheralized or marginalized. For example, the English spoken by Afro-Americans or the Chicano speakers in the United States are not used for the purposes of codification of Standard American English. The English used by the diasporic groups in the UK is not considered to be standardized codification of linguistic functions. One example would clarify this dichotomic relationship : there is a striking difference between Standard English and Afro-American English, especially in the use of double negatives. Double negatives such as ‘I ain’t gonna do nothing’ or ‘I dunno nothin’ ‘bout it’ are considered inappropriate in Standard American English; however, this linguistic feature is quite observable and frequently used in common Afro-American English. Scholars researching World Englishes are aware of this and note that using only ‘Standard English’ models in diverse settings (for instance, education or literature) can have negative implications for people who speak divergent varieties of English. Their work is, thus, a tool to help give ‘legitimacy’ to the local uses of English and to empower these varieties, hence the speakers of these varieties.

Another thing that the scholarship of world linguists has noted is that tEnglish cannot be ‘prescribed’ in any singular ‘standard’ form. Native speakers of English, too, show a lot of language variation, as in the UK, one would observe language variation from one county to another. As a result of this, it is believed that grammar books and the ideological discourse of syntax that are based on the ‘native’ speakers are not always ‘accurate’ and hence ‘appropriate’ in their description of English. For example, while many (prescriptive or pedagogical) grammar books inserts that there should not be any split in the use of infinitives, i.e., users should not insert an adverb in between a word group such as ‘to conclude’, there is plenty of evidence that people not excluding the native speakers, do so quite often. If it is surveyed among the native speakers use of the language, one would be able to observe clearly that that this rule cannot be supported by actual language data. One often comes across phrasal or structural constructions such as: ‘to rapidly conclude’, ‘to obviously conclude’, and ‘to finally conclude’. In all three of the examples just cited, the to-infinitives are broken up by an insertion of an adverb. Grammar books do not allow such use; however, language samples collected from users of English do not support this rule. This leads to a convincing conclusion that there lies substantial language variation among the native speakers and that grammar books that are used to describe them fail to capture such variation. Such theoretical model, in other words, fail to capture the authentic use of the language in praxis. Thus, linguists from 1980s onwards go beyond such ‘standard’ models and investigate into how language is ‘actually’, ‘authentically’ used by people.

The following section is divided into two major sections. In the first section, I would like to overview a broad outline of the development of English over the centuries. The purpose of this section is to help develop an understanding of how the English language evolved over time and how it gradually emerged to be a global language. The second section attempts to outline some of the major theoretical models developed to explain the development of World Englishes. The objective of this section is to help understand the ways in which linguists describe and categorize global varieties of Englishes.


According to a research survey, currently the ‘non-native’ users of English along with one or more other languages are estimated to have approximately 800 million people (Todd and Hancock, 1986) as compared to just over 300 million people who use English as their ‘first’ or ‘primary’ language. All the countries in the ‘Outer Circle’, as stated by Braj Kachru, are multilingual and multicultural. English has official status in their language policies. For example, the Indian Constitution recognizes English as an ‘associate’ official language; in Nigeria and Zambia English is one of the state languages; in Singapore English is recognized as an official language; and in all of these countries as well as the Philippines, English continues to be the language of education and research, trade and commerce, the legal system, and administration. In all of these places, English plays an important role in social interaction, and in literary creativity as well. Increasingly, it is also making its presence felt in popular culture (Lee and Kachru, 2006). In the Expanding Circle English has no official status, but it is the preferred medium of international trade and commerce, as well as the language of scientific, technological, and academic discourse.

The English language developed as a contact language between speakers of a range of Germanic languages who moved to what is now England in the 5th century. Over the period, English language cultivated and incorporated new words from other languages that it came into contact with (for example, French, Indian etc). if the English people had not expanded colonial territory, the language could have remained as local as any other regional languages of the world.

However, the first wave of expansion of English was within the British Isles. As the English conquered Scotland, Wales and Ireland, they imposed their own language on these regions as means of colonization. As a result of such enforcement, this early expansion of English caused the demise of a number of vernaculars. Even in the present time, the impact of this expansion is clearly visible. For example, while Ireland has been actively engaged in reviving the Irish language, English still dominates in the country. Similarly, English is the main language in Wales and Scotland, with the Gaelic and Welsh having very limited use. This first wave of the expansion of English played an important role in the later development of the language as well.

The second wave of expansion of English can be linked to the larger colonial expansion of England. This wave can be seen as a set of related, but qualitatively different, dimensions. In one dimension of the colonial expansion of England, the English people moved to ‘new’ territories, where they removed the ‘local’ populations through the diasporic establishment of them. This was the case in the British conquest of North America and Australia. As part of this conquest, a large number of migrants from England moved to these ‘new’ lands and established their colonies. In moving to these lands, they brought the English language with them and used it as the language of the new colonies. Over the time, migrants from other parts of the world also moved to these countries and contributed to the development and changes in the English used in these countries. As a result of the influence of different languages as well as a result of other natural time-based language changes, English in these parts of the world evolved in different ways. Today, we identify these Englishes as Inner Circle Englishes, such as those spoken in Australia, Canada, Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United States.

In a different dimension, the British captured countries which already had well established systems of government and had organized military capability that resisted colonization. In these contexts, the British captured the lands, but ruled them through the local populations. This was the case in countries such as countries belonging to the India subcontinent and African territories, etc. In these countries, English was used as an ‘official’ or ‘additional’ language alongside a range of local languages. In these contexts, the English language was influenced by the local languages and was ‘nativized’ and ‘acculturated’ to construe and represent local experiences, narratives, customs and socio-cultural functions. With the decline of the British Empire, the various territories controlled by the British resisted against the colonialism. After independence, these countries typically identified one or more of the local languages as national language(s), but maintained English as an official language. For instance, after the Independence, Indian Constitution accepted Hindi as the national language out of 21 official languages spoken across the nation, but English remained as an ‘official’ as well as ‘additional’ language to serve the major governmental purposes. The English that developed in these contexts are considered to be Outer Circle Englishes.

The territorial gains of the British Empire resulted in a need for ‘workers’ in the new colonized regions to help the ‘White’ settlers in farming the lands and other such tasks. There were not enough migrants from the UK or Europe to fill the demand for human resources. To meet this need, people were captured in Africa and sold as slaves in the colonies. The slaves who were captured and moved to the colonies did not necessarily speak the same language. Thus, in order to communicate with each other and with their masters, they created new ‘pidgin’ languages that used English as a lexifier language. These Englishes, spoken today in the Caribbean and other parts of the world emerged as English pidgins, but then creolized into national varieties of Englishes (e.g., Jamaican English, Guyanese English, Nigerian English etc.).

With the prohibition on ‘human’ trade in early 19th century in the emerging and then establishing the awe of humanism, there was a change in the politics of human migration. Instead of capturing and selling slaves, the British recruited ‘indentured labour’ to work in their colonies. A large number of these bonded labourers were recruited in India and then shipped to different parts of the British Empire, such as the Caribbean, Fiji, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa, etc. These populations brought their own languages with them, but also spoke and learnt English. This process of ‘indentured migrants’ impacted the development of the English language in the regions where the migrants were relocated.

The British control of their empire started weakening after the Second World War and the formal colonies started gaining independence from the empire. While many of these countries developed their local languages into national languages, they also maintained English as an official language, such as India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Pakistan etc. As a consequence of this policy, English maintained its global positioning and use as a ‘lingua franca’. At the same time as the English were losing their global power, the United States of America was becoming a ‘ruling authority’. With the rapid growth of the US economy and power, and with the development of its highly successful media industry, Hollywood, the Americans ensouled the English language with a new lease of life. Over the time, with the dominance of the United States as a major international/global power, the English language not only maintained its position, but also expanded its global position. People in countries around the world learnt English as a foreign language, as a second language, as a language for specific purposes. These new Englishes are called the Expanding Circle Englishes.

Today, English is not only associated with the United States or England, but is also used as the language of a number of international organizations and corporations. This use of English in international organizations has further strengthened its position as the lingua franca of the world. This use of English as a global language has also resulted in the language changing and evolving in different ways over the period of time. The discipline of ‘World Englishes’ studies these variations in English as well as associated policies and practices. In order to do this, linguists have developed and are developing a number of models to study the observable fact. I shall now engage my discussion on some of these models in the following section.


Over the last three decades, there have been development of number of models by world linguistics scholarship that serve the purpose of explanation on the development of World Englishes. In this section of the paper, i would like to overview some of the most important models of World Englishes : Kachru’s Model of ‘Three Concentric Circles, McArthur’s Model of ‘Circle of Englishes’, the Proficiency-Based Model, and ELF (English as a Lingua Franca).

Kachru’s Model of ‘Three Concentric Circles’

One of the most often cited models of World Englishes is Braj Kachru’s (1986) three concentric circles model. This model is a central endeavour that tried to define the pluricentrality of English. Kachru (1996) states,

(T)he pluricentricity  of English is overwhelming, and unprecedented in linguistic history. It raises the issues of diversification, codification, identity, creativity, cross-cultural intelligibility and of power and ideology. The universalization of English and the power of the language have come at a price; for some, the implications are agonizing, while for others they are a matter of ecstasy.

However, such statement does question that globalization of English has fundamentally raised the questions of ‘legitimacy’ and ‘standardization’ of the language. It it raises a logical investigation whether English can be circumscribed within a singular, either the British or the American form since there are multiple varieties of English languages observable in various different cultural contexts, which are often caused by the notion of acculturation, nativization and hybridization. The Kachruvian Model views English having more centres than just America and Britain by then, and believes that as linguists and language scholars, it is important to study the nature of this ‘various’ language in their respective individualities. As B. Kachru (1985: 12–13) suggests, one useful way of conceptualizing this pluricentricity is to look at the English-using world in terms of three concentric circles, The Inner Circle comprises the ‘mother country’ – England and the British Isles – and the areas where the speakers from Britain took the language with them as they migrated – Australia, New Zealand and North America. The Outer Circle comprises the countries where the language was ‘transplanted’ by a few colonial administrators, businessmen, educators, and missionaries, and is now nurtured by the vast majority of indigenous multilingual users. They use English as an additional or supportive language for their own purposes, which include many national and international domains. The Expanding Circle represents the countries (e.g., People’s Republic of China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, countries of Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America) where the language is still dispersing widely, mainly for serving the need for an international medium in business and commerce, diplomacy, finance, and other such domains. English in this circle, however, is also finding increased use in internal domains of academia, creative writing, media and professions such as medicine, engineering, etc.

This model has its conceptual basis on an understanding that English evolved in England, travelled with the speakers of this English to other parts of the world, and then was adopted and adapted by people in different parts of the world as an ‘official’ or an ‘additional’ language. This process is furthering as the number of people around the world learning and using English keeps increasing. Within this model, Kachru positions England and countries where English is used as a mother tongue by a large proportion of the population, e.g., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, as the ‘inner circle’  countries.

And the varieties of English used these countries are called ‘Inner Circle Englishes’. Secondly, there have varieties of English that were formed as a result of colonization (as in Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, Pakistan, and Singapore). These varieties of English are called ‘Outer Circle Englishes’. In the Kachruvian views, in these Outer Circle Varieties, English is viewed as a language of ‘power’ and ‘prosperity’. Finally, with the current political and economic power of English speaking countries and the multi-national corporations that use English as their official language, English is used in most other countries as a foreign language (e.g., Brazil, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Latin America, etc.). These varieties of English are called ‘Expanding Circle Englishes’.

Kachru’s model and his terms ‘inner’, ‘outer’, and ‘expanding’ circles are used extensively in plethora of works produced in the discipline of ‘World Englishes’. However, many scholars in the field have counter-argued some of the arguments that Kachru has put forward. One of the most problematic issues that critics raise with this model is that it places countries that are historically linked to English in the ‘inner’ circle, thereby giving them a position of privilege. Critics argue that by placing these countries in the centre, they appear to be the core countries or the countries that are seen as ‘norm’ setting and ‘detriment’ of ideological positioning. This was, however, not the objective of Kachru’s study – his model was primarily constructed on an understanding of the spread of English over time : from inner circle countries, to outer circle countries, to expanding circle countries.

However, the centralizing of the ‘inner circle’ countries did lead many scholars to consider these ‘native’ varieties of Englishes as being the only ‘correct’ and ‘appropriate’ Englishes and others as being ‘incorrect’ or ‘inappropriate’. Over the period of last three decades, other linguists have come up with different models of World Englishes to avoid such misunderstanding. McArthur’s Model on ‘Circles of Englishes’ is one such attempt.

McArthur’s Model on ‘Circle of Englishes’

In trying to shun the criticism charged against the concentric circles, McArthur (1998) presented an alternative scrutiny to the definition of the understanding of World Englishes. McArthur’s ‘Circle of World Englishes’ groups the Englishes territorially and regionally. The ‘circle’ centralizes the abstract notion of ‘World Standard English’ and then groups Englishes spoken in different territories and regions of the world around it. In doing so, McArthur’s circle is a step-forward-improvement on Kachru’s concentric model because it does not give any centralized and standardized position to any singular variety of English. Further, McArthur’s model includes English-based creole languages in the circle of Englishes (e.g., the ones listed for the Caribbean), which did not find a ‘recognizing place’ in Kachru’s model. As a result of McArthur’s work, it can be seen that all Englishes are equal in its needs and purposes and that they provide a common expression to the people who use this language in their local socio-cultural settings. Doing so, it definitely eradicates the concept of ‘centrality’ and classifies no singular dialect of English being better or more central than the another.

McArthur’s circle attempts to label and describe different dialects and varieties of Englishes on a singular position. However, it does not help in understanding what ‘World Standard English’ is or what happens in contexts where speakers of different dialects/varieties communicate with each other. This conceptual gap in understanding is currently being studied by linguists working in the area of ELF (English as a Lingua Franca).

 ‘Proficiency-Based Model’ of World Englishes

Another model of World Englishes that in this subsection will be considered as a ‘proficiency-based model’ deserves a mention. This model posits that the notion of a second or an additional language user of English is no longer relevant in the space of today’s globalized world. It also raises questions and, in turn, discards the use of territorial labels to group speakers of English around the world. This model advocates the language in concern with ‘proficiency’ of its functional use and looks at the world of English speakers based on their proficiency in the language, rather than their paracital links to the language. This model is rationally illustrated and competently forwarded in David Graddol’s study.

The proficiency-based model is definitely dissimilar from the earlier models of World Englishes in that it does not consider who the users of the language are – whether they are ‘native’ or ‘non-native’ speakers of the language. Rather, the sole objective basis of the model is theorized upon language proficiency. The ability of the model to move away from the notions of ‘native-ness’ and ‘country-of-origin’ is one of its striking strengths. However, like other models that we have, or we have not discussed, there are certain challanges with this model as well. The most significant and questioned issue with this model is that it does not provide any collective definition of the term ‘proficiency’. Proficiency is a problematic term in itself because it is typically measured in relation to ‘native’ models of the language, for instance in the International Testing System like IELTS and TOEFL. Thus, this model, in some ways, ties us to the ‘native’ model instead of helping us understand how proficiency is negotiated between users of English in the context in which it is used. It falls on the same allegations to which the Kachruvian model has suffered.

English as a Lingua Franca’: A Theoretical Perspective

Studies in the area of ‘English as a Lingua France’ attempt to address what happens to the English language when people from diverse backgrounds (dialects and varieties) interact with each other. In earlier models of ‘English as a Lingua France’, linguists working in this area posited the notion of a ‘core English’ – a set of features that were shared by all speakers of English. Modiano (1999) presented one possible explanation of this model in which he has tried to capture the notion by showing that ‘English as a Lingua France’ or English as an International Language was the common ‘language’ between different dialects or varieties of English. However, this particular model of ‘core’ or ‘central’ or ‘standardized’ English, or World Standard English – as in McArthur’s model, has been extensively criticized because there are no clearly identifiable ‘collectives’ of English. Canagarajah (1999), amongst others, has noted that English as a Lingua Franca attempts to ‘manufacture’ ‘a standardized core’ of English language without any real linguistic evidence for it. He argues that any ‘manufactured variety (English as a Lingua Franca) will be another exonormative norm, imposed from outside, and not developed locally within communities of usage’ (208). Linguists such as Canagarajah point out that language evolves in local settings and that people negotiate their differences in order to achieve their communicative goal. This importance of negotiation has been taken up in more recent work on English as a Lingua Franca, which has moved away from the notion of a ‘core’ and is currently looking at work on ‘accommodation’ and ‘negotiation’ of language in situated contexts (Jenkins, 2003). It could be observed here that the ‘notion of accommodation’ in the theory of English as a Lingua Franca has roots in the work on accommodation theory propagated and advocated by Giles.

According to this theory, interlocutors converge their language to that of their interlocutors in order to achieve communicative success. In the context of English as a Lingua Franca, this means that people who speak different Englishes adapt their language to their interlocutors. This process is largely subconscious and requires interlocutors to adjust and negotiate their language to achieve their communicative purpose. Seidlhofer (2001: 240) discusses this in the context of English as a Lingua Franca and points out that ‘English as a Lingua Franca’ users accommodate their language as they focus “on the purpose of talk and on their interlocutors as people . . . absorbed in the ad hoc, situated negotiation of meaning.”


After discussing the most important models in context to World Englishes, it could be concluded that the discipline in discussion has yet to formulate a systematic model to define ‘World Englishes’. At one hand, there are linguists, who advocate the phenomenal spread of English all over the globe and endeavours to locate the language, in its entire socio-cultural functionality, into a singular space, creating what Lyotard calls ‘the metanarrative of ideological discourse’. On the other hand, however, there are linguists who decentralize such notions and conceptualize the ‘World Englishes’ in its plurality. Such decentralization unconventionally advocates the poliglossic nature of ‘World Englishes’, what Kachru calls ‘Pluricentric nature of language variations’. The dichotomy has yet to be resolved and needs focused endeavours from the research fraternity to systematically construct and ideologically structure the collective model that defines and determines the debate in its sovereignty.

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