Unit 1: Defining English
This unit introduces the idea of alternative monolithic and plurilithic conceptions of English.
- 1.0 Introduction
- 1.1 Monolithic vs Plurilithic Concepts
- 1.1.1 Monolithic Concepts of Language
- 1.1.2 Plurilithic Concepts of Language
- 1.2 ‘Standard English’
- 1.2.1 ‘Standard English’: History
- 1.2.2 ‘Standard English’: Beliefs
- 1.2.3 Advantages and Disadvantages of ‘Standard English’ for ELT
- 1.3 Rules of English
- 1.3.1 The ambiguity of the word rule
- 1.3.2 Rules of English: The Monolithic View
- 1.3.3 Rules of English: The Plurilithic View
- 1.4 Four Dimensions of Monolithism
- 1.5 Check Your Understanding
- 1.6 Reflect and Discuss
Unit 2: Using English
This unit explores the plurilithic usage of English in diverse global settings.
- Unit 2: Using English
- 2.1 Introducing Lingua Franca Usage
- 2.2.1 Native speaker Variation
- 2.2.2 Native speakers: Accommodation
- 2.3 Englishes in the British Isles
- 2.4 World Englishes
- 2.4.1 Englishes in Your Part of The World
- 2.4.2 Owning a language (Part 1)
- 2.5 ELF
- 2.5.1 Intelligibility
- 2.5.2 ELF in Your Part of The World
- 2.6 Translanguaging with English
- 2.7 Check Your Understanding
- 2.8 Reflect and Discuss
Unit 3: Learning English
This unit discusses how English is learned as a first or additional language.
- Unit 3: Learning English
- 3.1 First Language Acquisition
- 3.2 Back to Rules
- 3.2.1 Rules as Patterns in the Mind (Part 1)
- 3.2.2 Rules as Social Markers
- 3.2.3 Rules as Mental Representations
- 3.2.4 Rules in Schools
- 3.2.5 Rules as Patterns in the Mind (2)
- 3.3 Models and Targets
- 3.4 Learning Contexts
- 3.5 Owning a Language (Part 2)
- 3.6 Learners and Users
- 3.7 Check Your Understanding
- 3.8 Reflect and Discuss
Unit 4: Teaching English
This unit examines the teaching implications of plurilithic conceptions of English.
Unit 5: Changing English
This unit suggests ways to share your learning on the course with others.
- Unit 5: Changing English
- 5.1 The Challenge
- 5.2 Changing Learners’ Beliefs About English
- 5.3 Changing Teaching Colleagues’ Beliefs About English
- 5.4 Changing Policy-Makers’ Beliefs About English
- 5.5 Changing the Public’s Beliefs About English
- 5.6 Check Your Understanding
- 5.7 Reflect and Discuss
- Course Finish
1.3.2 Rules of English: The Monolithic View
Rules can be seen as ‘regulations’ dictating ‘correct’ usage. So are the rules of English more like regulations or regularities?
According to a monolithic view, the rules are more like regulations, whether one believes one is taking a descriptive or prescriptive approach. Someone who describes how people use English by referring to ‘the’ rules of ‘the language’ (taken as ‘Standard English’ or ‘good English’) is often implicitly assuming that there is a single body of such rules, and that dialects etc. are departures from these rules.
Prescriptivists not only believe that there is a monolithic ‘correct’ form of English, but also that others should use that form: they prescribe the one true form of the language. So for them, the rules are clearly regulatory. The Queen’s English Society is perhaps the best example of a prescriptivist body in the UK. The Society’s webpage welcomes visitors with the following words:
- The stated objects of the society are “to promote the maintenance, knowledge, understanding, development and appreciation of the English language as used both in speech and in writing; to educate the public in its correct and elegant usage; and to discourage the intrusion of anything detrimental to clarity or euphony.” The phrase “the queen’s (or king’s) English” has been used for centuries simply to imply spoken or written English which is standard – characterised by grammatical correctness and proper usage of words and expressions. The phrase does not mean English necessarily modelled on the usage of the reigning monarch.
- The society strongly advocates the formal teaching of English in schools and the need for all teachers of all subjects to correct pupils’ English. The society lobbies government and makes representations to the media about standards of English usage. The society’s commitment to good standards does not preclude the acceptance of English as an evolving language, but some changes are harmful.
The references to “correct […] usage”, “English which is standard”, “grammatical correctness”, “proper usage”, “correct[ing] pupils’ English”, “standards of English usage”, “good standards”, and “harmful” changes, indicates a view of rules as regulations, defining what English really is and how it should be used. This clearly doesn’t accord with the plurilithic reality of global Englishes. Indeed, it is the monolithic perspective that can clearly be more “harmful”, as an English teacher from Fargo in the USA explains in this TEDx talk.