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Authenticity versus autonomy: the synthesis of World Englishes as a discipline

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2014

Claire Cowie*
University of Edinburgh


World Englishes, like other topics covered in the Routledge Introduction to Applied Linguistics series (ELT, Classroom Discourse, Corpus Linguistics), is increasingly a feature of the curriculum of Applied Linguistics and TESOL programmes. Philip Seargeant's book is aimed at master's-level students who are teachers in training or language professionals returning to study, and final year undergraduates. The first part of the book is what you would expect: everything applied linguistics students need to know about WES (World English Studies). The second part is a meditation on WES as academic discipline which is likely to provide food for thought for researchers as well as students. Fortunately the long tradition of undergraduate textbooks which offer region-by-region descriptions of English is on the wane. More recent textbooks such as Jenkins (2003) and Schneider (2011), and the more advanced Mesthrie and Bhatt (2008), whilst individually reflecting the preoccupations of their authors, all address the twin strands of World Englishes. These are, on the one hand, variation which has emerged over time through the dynamics of language contact, and on the other, the global character of English, which now sets it apart from the study of other languages. This, for Seargeant, is a paradox at the heart of WES: English is celebrated around the world for the way it can express the identity of particular communities (authenticity) but also for its universality and neutrality (anonymity).

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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