English around the world

English around the world: An introduction. By Edgar W. Schneider. (Cambridge introductions to the English language.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. xx, 258. ISBN 9780521888462. $77 (Hb).

Reviewed by Abby Forster, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

In this book, Edgar W. Schneider presents an overview of World Englishes and many of the key issues involved in the global spread of English. S covers the reasons why English has spread globally, the processes by which spread occurs, the results of the spread of English, the linguistic properties of English varieties, and the social consequences of this phenomenon. The book also includes text samples of major varieties of English around the world.

Ch. 1 begins the book with a brief introduction and overview. Ch. 2 provides a strong theoretical base for newcomers to the topic. It introduces basic linguistic principles, including language variation (and a brief overview of lexical variation, phonetics, syntax, and pragmatics), language change, and language contact. In this chapter, S argues that extralinguistic conditions such as identity and politics have greater influence on language change than internal language processes. Ch. 3 provides a brief historical background pertinent to the topic, covering European colonization, British colonization, American expansion and colonization, and post-independence issues related to the spread of English.

Chs. 4–6 are roughly divided into major steps in the spread of English. Ch. 4 focuses on processes of linguistic contact and the role of colonization and the slave trade in developing varieties of English, such as Northern (British) English, English in the Southern United States, and Jamaican Patois (Creole). Ch. 5 more deeply examines language contact between colonizers and indigenous peoples, including discussions of Australian English and South African Black English. Ch. 6 describes English varieties that have relatively recently increased in prominence through both grassroots movements and formal education in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia. Cases include Nigeria, Singapore, Tok Pisin in Papau New Guinea, and English learning in China.

Ch. 7 offers a broad analysis of the linguistic processes in the spread of English. S argues that while linguistic processes may contribute to which features and forms are selected in a language variety, extralinguistic factors always play a more determinate role. Additionally, S identifies a few linguistic features of World Englishes that seem to be widespread, such as the omission of inflectional endings and the progressive use of stative verbs. Moving away from linguistic analysis, Ch. 8 offers a discussion of some of the major social and political issues involved in the spread of English, including the tension between English dominance and language death, and the politics of teaching English worldwide.

This book sacrifices depth for breadth and assumes readers have little to no knowledge of linguistics, making it ideal for use in introductory courses. At the same time, there is enough detailed linguistic analysis of particular language features that advanced students and graduate students who want a quick primer on the topic of World Englishes may find this text useful. Teachers may appreciate the numerous activities and exercises at the end of each chapter intended to reinforce and apply the concepts discussed. A standout feature is that audio files for eight of the thirteen text samples are accessible through the publisher’s website.