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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: August 2013

13 - The language of choice


English is destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries more generally the language of the world than Latin was in the last or French is in the present age.

John Adams (1780)

Our most dangerous foe is the foreign-language press.

Theodore Roosevelt (1917)

Adewale is known to me as an editor for the Heinemann African Writers series, Africa correspondent for Index on Censorship and a fellow Nigerian Englishman (though his English is Scots and mine Irish). A difference that fascinates: he was brought up in Lagos, I’m from London.

Gabriel Gbadamosi (1999: 187)

Outline of the chapter

In the preceding chapters, we have examined choices concerning linguistic units, styles, discourse patterns and sociolinguistic arrangements. This chapter turns to language choice in a global setting, examining the role of English in the world today. It recapitulates some of the conditions that made English an international language and discusses arguments that welcome and criticize this development. From a sociolinguistic point of view, global language dispersion calls for a unified explanation. Two theoretical models are introduced, one borrowing the concept of biodiversity and its reduction from biology, the other conceiving of the world’s languages as a market place by way of referring to economics. Both approaches seek to explain how the spread of English affects other languages. The many ways in which English itself is influenced by coming into contact with other languages and being used in many different cultural settings are dealt with in the last section of the chapter.

Further reading
Cheshire, Jenny. 1991. Introduction: sociolinguistics and English around the world. In Cheshire, Jenny (ed.), English around the World: Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Cambridge University Press, 1–12.
Crystal, David. [1997] 2003. English as a Global Language. 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press.
Hayhoe, M. and Parker, S. (eds.) 1994. Who Owns English?Buckingham and Philadelphia: Oxford University Press.
McCallen, Brian. 1989. English: A World Commodity. The International Market for Training in English as a Foreign Language. Special report, no. 1166. London: The Economic Intelligence Unit Ltd.
Mesthrie, Rajed and Bhatt, Rakesh. 2008. World Englishes: The Study of New Linguistic Varieties. Cambridge University Press.
Widin, Jacqueline. 2010. Illegitimate Practices: Global English Language Education. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.