chapter  39
16 Pages

The future of Englishes: One, many or none?

ByAlastair Pennycook

The question posed here – one, many or no Englishes – can be approached from at least two distinct directions. On the one hand, the answer is dependent on mapping out the possibilities of real-world conditions: language use, demographics, economic change, globalization, and so forth. On the other, the answer is dependent on the epistemological lenses through which we consider these questions. Whether the future of English therefore should be seen in terms of the continuation of English, the plurality of Englishes or the demise of English depends equally on global economic and political changes and theoretical approaches to how we think about language. To talk, for example, of World Englishes, is to focus on the centrifugal forces – from colonialism, to independence and appropriation – that have led to English being changed and adopted in different contexts around the world. Yet it is also to operate with a particular linguistic epistemology based around notions of language spread, continuity and variation. Reviewing global economic and political changes as well as competing theoretical standpoints, this paper will evaluate different positions, from the linguistic imperialism of neo-liberal empire to the ecology of global Englishes, in order to develop ways in which we can think about the futures of English(es).