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The Emergence of English as a Global Language

Discuss about the Report for English as a Global Language for Spoken or Learned.

When a language is termed as a global language, it essentially refers to language that is spoken or learned globally. Such a language is usually characterized by factors such as; the speakers (both native and non-natives), geographical distribution and its uses at the international level particularly its use in the formation and maintenance of diplomatic relations. Thus, English is a global language and acts as a lingua franca with more than 350 million people first language speakers and approximately 430 million second language speakers. In other words, English as a lingua franca is a language that aids communication and relation of people from different ethnic backgrounds (Rubdy & Saraceni, 2006). English as a global language can be said to be far-reaching in history as compared to other very common languages like Latin and French. Indeed, the impacts of English as a global language are evident in a wide range of fields including; medicine, education, politics, business, computing, entertainment, and academics. English has had therefore a long historical background as it rose to a global level. Thus, the primary aim of the research is to discuss the emergence of English as a global language as well as the forces that have shaped the accent and structural features of global English.

The Evidence for the Emergence of English as a Global Language

 The emergence of English as a global language has been a swift process. English originated from the Northern Europe and arrived in England in the fifth century and eventually spread to the British Isles. It widely spread in Celtic-speaking countries such as Cornwall, Scotland, and Wales. The spread of English in most parts of the Scotland was mainly influenced by the Norman conquer of the England in 1066 thus many people fled to Scotland. 

According to Crystal (1997) the emergence of English as a global language is twofold. That is, English as a global language assumes both geographical-historical and socio-cultural perspectives. The former which he also terms as geo-historical indicates how English first became dominant of other languages while the latter explains why the language is still dominant across the world. The history of the spread of English can be traced back in America, Asia, and the Antipodes. The further spread was influenced by colonial movements in the South Pacific and Africa in the nineteenth century as well as the adoption of the language as an official and semi-official language in most of the newly independent countries (Crystal, 1997). This dramatic change of events took place in the mid of the twentieth century.  It also later spread to other continents and islands such as Fiji, Hawaii, St Helena and Seychelles islands. Crystal thus argues that the rapid spread of the language played a role in the labeling of English as a global language. 

The Evidence for the Emergence of English as a Global Language

The rise of English in America was influenced by a number of factors firstly by massive immigration that took place. For instance, the Spanish occupied the larger west and south-west part of America while the French occupied the northern and the middle part. Similarly, the end of the seventeenth century was marked by massive immigration of the Germans who settled in Pennsylvania (McCrum &Cran, 2002). During the same period extending to the eighteenth century, there were a lot of Africans entering the Southern of America through the slave trade. The nineteenth century was also a significant period that facilitated the rising of English globally. During this period more immigrants entered America following the adverse outcomes of the famine, revolution and poverty in Europe. There was also the potato famine in Ireland that saw multitudes of people flee to America. The Germans and the Italians also arrived after the aftermath of the failed revolutions in 1848. All these episodes translated to more people speaking in English which was the dominant language in America. In essence, as various generations arrived in America, the number of English speakers increased rapidly. Generations learned the language through the natural process of assimilation thus English became a mother tongue to the majority of the immigrants (McCrum, 2011).

According to Jenkins & Leung (2013) since America was now becoming a monolingual society. The perception is that the English language was playing a vital role in maintaining unity and peace throughout the America amid the cultural diversity. It was a dominant language that opened many opportunities for the speakers. Nevertheless, Hewings & Seargeant (2016) also maintains that the need for cultural identity and preservation of linguistic heritage began to arise among the minority groups. Consequently, the desire for identity and intelligibility triggered a conflict that saw the declaration of English as the official language in the United States of America in the later decades of the twentieth century. Conversely, the spread of English continued to take place in Canada. Its spread in the Atlantic Coast was influenced by the arrival of the English-speakers settlers who were attracted by such activities as fishing, farming and trading in Canada. The number of English speakers further increased following a significant development of the US Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Britain loyalists could not stay any longer in the new United States and thus migrate to Canada (Wallraff, 2000).

Moreover, there was rapid spread of English language in the south, Caribbean during the first years of the America settlement. The spread of the language was as a result of the importation of the slaves from African continent who were brought in large numbers to work as laborers on the sugar plantations. The slave trading continued in the West African coasts as the demand for more slaves increased in the Caribbean and the American coast. As the slaves and the sailors interacted several pidgins forms of communication were developed with the majority speaking in English. Upon their arrival in the Caribbean, the Pidgin English forms continued to be used widely among the blacks and the land owners. The later generation born in the Caribbean continued to use the Pidgin English as their first language thus the birth of the first black Creole speech. Additionally, as the spread of the Creole English continued to permeate to the larger parts of the southern plantations and in the coastal towns the standard British English on the other hand, it was gaining prestige due to the rising political influence of the Britain (Phillipson & Skutnabb-Kangas, 1996).

The Rise of English in America

The continued British exploration played a significant role in the establishment of English language in the southern hemisphere specifically in Australia and New Zealand approaching the end of the eighteenth century. There were, even more, English language speakers in the Northern hemisphere as compared to the southern hemisphere. Since the British Isles contributed a majority of the settlers in the Southern hemisphere, there was much influence on the English language. In New Zealand, the emergence and the growth of English happened later and spread slowly (Bhatia, 1997). According to Crystal (1999) three factors have contributed to rapid growth of English in the New Zealand. These factors include; the New Zealand's historical association with the Britain and value for the British institutions and values, sense of the national identity and consideration of the Maori natives.

The growth and spread of English in South Africa was influenced by the British settlement in the region. English had widely spread in the region such that it was declared the region's official language in 1822. The language was also incorporated in many other sectors such as in education, public domain, and law although it was the Afrikaans' second language (Mesthrie, 2006). There also developed an African variety of English mainly spoken by the black population after learning the language in the mission schools. While the Afrikaans perceived the language as a form of repression and authority, the Afrikaner government perceived English as a language of self-determination and protest while the majority of the blacks perceived it as a way of uniting them and giving them an international voice. Additionally, the use of English in South Asia show tremendous growth with the number of speakers in the Indian subcontinent estimated to be more than the total of the UK and the US speakers. Thus, it is argued that the history of South Asian English has its roots in the Britain (Trudgill & Hannah, 1985). The Britain influence was marked by the inception of the British East India Company in 1612. English had become the medium of instruction in education and an administrative language in the subcontinent since 1765 until the subcontinent gained its independence in 1947. In 1960, English was selected as the alternative to the Hindi, a local state language. Today, English is used as an alternative official language in the continent and continue to be used in the Indian education system, the legal system, government administration, tourism, business as well as in media (Kirkpatrick, 2002).

The Spread of English in Canada

In the former colonial Africa English is said to have taken roots in the nineteenth century as commerce and anti-slave trading campaign took place. There arose various English pidgins and creoles which were used alongside the Standard English varieties of the soldiers, missionaries, traders and the colonial officials (Sewell, 2016). Consequently, there was development and spread of the British English variety in some countries where English has been made an official language. These countries include; Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Kenya, Cameroon, Botswana, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Lesotho, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Additionally, there is also wide use of both American and British English in the South-east Asia and the South Pacific. The British influence in the regions began in the eighteenth century following the exploration of the English sailors. In the Southeast, Asia English became the language of power. Other regions where English is widely used include; Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Papua New Guinea.

In general, the status of English as the global language mainly draws from two main factors that include the emergence of the United States as the dominant and leading economic power of the twentieth century and the spread of the British colonial power in the nineteenth century. The dominance of the United States as the economic power greatly informs the future of the English language. The origin, spread, and use of English as a global language have been summarized by Kachru (1985) in terms of three concentric circles. The innermost circle represents the historical origin of English. It represents states such as; USA, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Canada. The outer circle represents the countries whose populations are non-native English speakers but where now English has been integrated as a fundamental, second language. These are countries such as; Malawi, Singapore, and India. The expanding or extending outer circles represents those nations that recognize English as a global language although they were not subject to colonization by the inner circle countries and have not accorded English any special administrative status. The circle represents countries such as; Japan, China, Poland and Greece (Crystal, 2006).

Different accents are used in the English language across the world. Consequently, some scholars such as Llurda (2004) argue that global English is the verge of developing other unfathomable languages distinct from English. Thus, to avoid such an outcome Seidlhofer (2013) suggest that there is the need to keep the global English structural features of the different varieties close to each other. There are therefore a number of factors that have shaped and continue to shape the accent and the structural features of the global English. One of the forces refers to the richness and familiarity of the global language vocabulary. English has been in contact with several other languages. Thus it has borrowed widely from these languages (Holliday, 2005). As a consequence, the global language lexicon increases from time to time. The new words borrowed from other languages may not be pronounced in a similar manner by all the English speakers thus resulting in accentual variation. The language's wide borrowing from other languages is said to give a sense of welcoming and familiarity as compared with other languages such as French and Latin.

The Spread of English in the Southern Hemisphere

English has also been perceived to be an easy language when it comes to pronunciation and spelling although this perception remains contentious (Warschauer, 2000). This is mainly because, in spelling, one does not require to memorize the tonal variations or the consonantal clusters. The spelling is rather random. English has between 44 and 52 sounds which comprises of the consonants and the vowels. The English consonants are relatively regular in terms of pronunciation and are free of diacritic marks and accent. There is also an argument that majority or approximately 84 percent of the English spellings conform to the general rules while only a 3 percent does not comply with the rules. Additionally, the global English is considered as a flexible language. For example, the flexibility of the word order and the phrasing of a sentence as either passive of active are considered as easy. Another feature involves the use of a certain lexical word as either a verb or a noun which may not be applicable in other languages.  It is also easy to create new words through such methods as compounding and addition of suffixes or suffixes. The global English grammar also does not have system of coding that denoted social differentiation like in other languages. For this reason, English is perceived as a democratic language as it does not exhibit instances of social class (Graddol, 1998).

The accent of the global English has been influenced by the use of slang in some English speaking regions. In essence, the languages of the various ethnic communities seem to have a lot of influence in the spoken English. Therefore, the use of slang has increased considerable thus affecting the accent of the global English. It is also assumed that the original overseas influences have played a role in shaping the global English accent (Yano, 2001). It should also be remembered that the English language has also got its roots in the mixture of the Anglo Saxon dialects. Whereas English became dominant first in the Britain and the Ireland in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, it was later spread to all parts of the world. Thus, it means that the very first English is incomparable with the modern global English due to influence by various accents of the speakers.

It is also important to consider the American English influence in the development of the global accent. The northern America was the first colony that permanently spoke English. Later on, the Americans developed another form of English different from that spoken in the Britain Isles. The Americans also coined numerous words to describe things such as wildlife, foods and lifestyle, vegetation as well as landscapes. As new settlers arrived from the UK and settled along the east coast, there arose various accents and words' pronunciation. These differences in pronunciation are what transpired into distinction between the British and the American English (Bolton, 2005).

The Growth and Spread of English in South Africa

The transfer is also another force that results in the formation of the accent in the global English. Usually, the non-native speakers of a language tend to transfer some aspects of their first language into the second or foreign language. This results in negative transfer whereby the sounds of a target language are replaced by sounds of the first language. Other sounds of the target language may not correspond well with either sound in the first language or the target language thus they appear in between the two sounds (Bhatt, 2001). Crystal (1995) also argues that even as the emergence of Englishes that have a lot to do with the emergence of various accents continue to be steady as time goes by the world English is not under any serious threat. As a matter of fact, Bolton (2005) maintains that the ability to use more than one language variety will only help the speakers satisfy the demand of the international situation. For this reason, the possibility is that there is likely to emerge a new form of English.

 In conclusion, it is indisputable that English as a global language has had a rich and complex background. Its dramatic emergence supersedes other dominant languages such as French and Latin which were once considered as the global languages. Deriving from the various evidences, it is inarguable that in the history there has never been a language as widely spoken and spread as English. Consequently, the argument that the rising demands of identity and intelligibility pose a threat to the status of English as a global language does not hold. This is because the demand for intelligibility and identity are likely to be easily diminished by the emerging social dynamics such as the formation of political alliances, demography as well as the changes pervading the immigration policy.  In essence, the English language has grown to an extent that it can no longer be dependent on any form of social control. It is used across the world permeates all the sectors including but not limited to trading, media, education, military, legal system, business and technology. Thus English as a global language has been used and is still used as the first language, a second language and as a foreign language. Its future is still promising.


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