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English in a global context

World English(es)
English as a colonial language

World English(es)

World English is a general term referring to English as spoken throughout all five continents. The reference is usually to that core of language which is common to all varieties of English and which contains no specific features of any one variety. This amount of English is frequently that used by non-natives as a lingua franca when they are communicating with each other.

The use in the plural, i.e. as World Englishes, has gained currency in recent years and refers to international, non-native forms of English which are not bound to settler varieties or traditional dialects of English (see remarks on colonial English below). World Englishes is understood as preferable to New Englishes which is now regarded as dated and carrying undesireable implications of being continually compared to older forms of English. In the European context, the term Euro English (in the singular) is often found with similar connotations.

World Englishes, 1981-
(Oxford: Blackwell)

English Today, 1985-
(Cambridge: University Press)

References to ‘World English(es)’ are often seen in the context of teaching English as an international language, for the purpose of communication. for instance in the economic sphere. Here one is dealing with international standard English. The latter is a branch in its own right (McArthur 1998) and there are dedicated journals dealing with matters which fall within its scope, such as World Englishes and English Today. There are also corpora dedicated to the collection of data on standard English from different countries, notably those contained in the International Corpus of English project and in others such as the Santa Barbara Corpus of Spoken American English or the Australian Corpus of English.



English as a colonial language

In many former colonies of England there is a linguistic legacy which sees the English language as a remnant of colonial domination. This is particularly the case in countries in Africa and the Caribbean. Those countries with large settler communities – the USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – have a somewhat different attitude as English in these countries largely derives from that of the current population’s ancestors (through processes such as New Dialect Formation). In Asia the situation is more complex as there were not any settler communities but there was colonialism due to the administrative and military presence of the English. The domination of English in today’s world is often treated under the heading of ‘Linguistic imperialism’.




Bolton, Kingsley and Braj B. Kachru 2006. World Englishes. 6 vols.. Critical Concepts in Linguistics London: Routledge.

Canagarajah, Suresh 1999. Resisting Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: University Press.

Crystal, David 2003. English as a Global Language. Cambridge: University Press.

Gramley, Stephan 2001. The vocabulary of world English. London: Arnold.

Hoffmann, Thomas and Lucia Siebers (eds) 2009. World Englishes - Problems, Properties and Prospects Selected papers from the 13th IAWE conference. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Jenkins, Jennifer 2003. World Englishes. A resource book for students. London: Routledge.

Kachru, Braj 1990. The alchemy of English. The spread, functions, and models of non-native Englishes. English in a global context Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Kachru, Yamuna and Cecil L. Nelson 2006. World Englishes in Asian Contexts. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Kachru, Braj B., Yamuna Kachru and Cecil L. Nelson (eds) 2006. The handbook of World Englishes. Oxford: Blackwell.

Kachru, Yamuna and Cecil L. Nelson 2006. World Englishes in Asian contexts. Hong Kong: University Press.

Kirkpatrick, Andy 2007. World Englishes: Implications for International Communication and English Language Teaching. Cambridge: University Press.

McArthur, Tom 2002. The Oxford guide to world English. Oxford: University Press.

McKay, Sandra Lee 2002. Teaching English as an International Language: Rethinking Goals and Approaches. Oxford: University Press.

Melchers, Gunnel and Philip Shaw 2012. World Englishes. Second edition. London: Arnold.

Mesthrie, Rajend and Rakesh M. Bhatt 2008. World Englishes. An Introduction to New Language Varieties. Cambridge: University Press.

Phillipson, Robert 1992. Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: University Press.

Schneider, Edgar 2007. Postcolonial English. Varieties around the World. Cambridge: University Press.