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
2.3 Englishes in the British Isles
To get a feel for native-speaker variation, this section invites you to analyse some audio data from the British Library, which collects samples of spoken English from the British Isles, some of which are accessible on their website. You can find similar data on varieties of English used in other countries at the International Dialects of English Archive and the Electronic World Atlas of Varieties of English.
Here are extracts from two speakers:
Cormack (born 1955) is from Glasgow in Scotland. He is talking here about his job as a compère in a holiday camp – someone who announces the artists and other performers in a show for vacationers. Andy Cameron is a comedian.
“I always liked Andy Cameron, you know. Although it was likesae, he’d go up, you know, and I was Cormack O’Hara the compère, camp compère and gay and Andy would go up there, you know, and Andy being, sort of, the Hun and me being the Tim – it was good, do you know, and I think maybe that, sort of, brought things together a wee bit for me, you know, through the sort of, the, eh, the comedy aspect of what we have here.”
Bernadette (born in 1975) is from Burnley in the north-west of England. Here she is talking about her attitude to government welfare officials when, as a single mother, she felt she was receiving inadequate financial benefits.
“I felt like if I were face-to-face to them I could’ve throttled them. It was horrible, it were. And I thought it were all wrong. That’s what really got me. I though, “Yeah, if I were sat here on drugs and things and I went down all, like, off my head sort of, like, thing, they’d give me somewhat just to get rid of me”. I did, I thought it were really wrong, that.
Note down any words, phrases, and structures used by Cormack and Bernadette which you are unfamiliar with.
Depending on your own familiarity with Scottish English and Scottish culture, you may have identified any or all of the following elements in Cormack’s usage:
- ● likesae : ‘for example’
- ● Hun : ‘a nickname for a Protestant [Christian] (especially when applied to fans of Glasgow Rangers football team)’
- ● Tim : ‘a protestant nickname for a Roman Catholic [Christian] (especially when applied to fans of Celtic football team)’
- ● do you know : the use of do in this phrase is not usual in ‘Standard English’, even if it may be no less grammatical according to ‘Standard English’ rules
- ● wee : ‘little’ Again, depending on your familiarity with the Englishes of northern England and informal native-speaker phrases more broadly, you may have identified some or all of the following elements in Bernadette’s usage
- ● it were : this construction (where ‘Standard English’ would use was) is common to many parts of the UK
- ● if I were sat : the use the passive participles like sat (where ‘Standard English’ would use present participles like sitting) is very common in this kind of construction
- ● off my head : an informal phrase meaning ‘intoxicated by alcohol or drugs’, and used by many native-speaker groups
- ● somewhat : ‘something’
Now listen to Cormack and Bernadette speaking in the interviews from which these extracts are taken, and consider how different their pronunciation is from the variety you teach and/or model. How well do you think they would understand each other if they met?
If Cormack and Bernadette met, they would, despite their use of different varieties of English, be able to understand each other.
This is because their communicative resources consist of much more than just the words, structures and accents they use to convey their meaning, create a relationship, project a particular identity, and all the other tasks we use language to achieve. Their communicative resources also include the ability to accommodate (converge and diverge) and negotiate meaning. It is these processes, in addition to their task-related words and structures, that help them achieve mutual understanding.
Of course, this is to assume that they actually want to understand each other! Their first meeting might go disastrously wrong; perhaps because Bernadette hates Cormack’s clothes or perhaps because he had a previous girlfriend from Burnley who left him and now automatically dislikes all women with a North West England accent. If either of these scenarios are the case, they might be less disposed to understand each other, but again that would not be because of their (only) partially overlapping linguistic resources.
If Bernadette is not a football fan, she may not understand Cormack’s use of the words ‘hun‘ and ‘tim‘, but she could ask and Cormack could try his story again, without the specialist vocabulary. Intelligibility is about much more than just the interlocutors’ own linguistic resources (as a later part of this unit shows): it’s about joint work, work that Cormack and Bernadette would probably get done with very little awareness that they were even doing it.