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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

7 - Language development: a general perspective


In this chapter …

This chapter provides a brief, non-technical introduction to the strictly linguistic aspects of the evolution of World Englishes. What are the reasons for the fact that New Englishes have developed distinctive forms of their own, and which are the processes that have brought these new properties about? We will find that from all the speech forms and habits used by anybody involved in a contact situation (conceptualized as the available features in a “feature pool”), an interplay of language-internal and extralinguistic factors determines which will be successful in the long run. Secondly, do World Englishes share not only such evolutionary trajectories but also specific forms and features? It will be shown that on the levels of vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar it is possible to identify a few features and feature types which are relatively widespread, though none of them serves to identify New Englishes as a class.

The mechanisms of producing new varieties of English

Why all of this, one might ask from an outside perspective. Why do we have all these new varieties emerging, why do people from these regions speak “funny” (in biased Inner-Circle eyes, of course), why doesn't everybody keep speaking “the good old” way, the way they have been taught? Well, for one thing, we found earlier on that hardly anybody speaks “proper English” only, that language variability is intrinsic to speech, a way of skillfully manipulating relationships of proximity and distance.

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