chapter  21
13 Pages

Developmental patterns of English: Similar or different?

ByEdgar W. Schneider

World Englishes are spoken today on practically all continents and in a wide range of different social and cultural contexts, with many different contact languages involved. This diversity of input factors quite naturally should make us expect widely different outcomes of the individual evolutionary processes. Contrary to this expectation, however, surprising similarities between many World Englishes have been observed, with respect to both their sociolinguistic settings and their linguistic properties. For example, on the social side we can observe the emergence of a ‘complaint tradition’ (discussed further later), of local varieties of English adopting the role of local identity carriers, and of processes towards codification in a wide range of different countries. In a similar vein, linguistically speaking, phenomena like plural uses of noncount nouns, progressive forms of stative verbs, the formation of hybrid compounds, or the occurrence of innovative (but basically similar) verb complementation patterns have also been found to transcend regional and linguistic boundaries. Of course, this is not to deny the diversity that is also there, naturally and unavoidably. For example, certain regional pronunciation phenomena of English in Nigeria reveal transfer from Yoruba, and some rules of the grammar of colloquial Singaporean English can be accounted for as substrate phenomena from Chinese and other local languages. So an interesting question to ask is, therefore: how can differences or similarities between World Englishes be accounted for by their developmental patterns? To some extent an answer to these questions also depends on definitions and deli-

mitations. The older term ‘New Englishes’, as coined by Platt et al. (1984) and others, focused on second-language varieties of the outer circle only, thus circumscribing a relatively more homogeneous and consistent category of language varieties. ‘Postcolonial Englishes’, in contrast, the term preferred by Schneider (2007), also includes native-speaker colonial settler varieties like American or Australian English and emphasizes the common origins of inner and outer circle varieties in shared processes of colonial history and similar postcolonial developmental trajectories. Kachru’s term ‘World Englishes’, the broadest of all, includes all inner circle varieties, has a special

interest in outer circle (typically second language or ‘L2’) varieties, and recognizes a fuzzy boundary in the expanding circle, encompassing countries where English did not have colonial foundations, but is nevertheless spreading rapidly these days as a ‘foreign’ or an ‘international language’. The question of how similar or different these varieties are also needs to consider these categorial distinctions. Basically, however, a broad understanding of ‘World Englishes’ is adopted here.