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English as lingua franca

About eighty percent of the English speakers in the world nowadays are non-native speakers. They will have a great impact on the English language. The so-called center countries (e.g. United Kingdom and United States) will no longer be able to set the trends (Braine, 2006). Of this eighty percent of non-native speakers, by whom English is being shaped, the largest group are speakers that use English as Lingua franca (ELF).

ELF is a contact language among speakers from different first language who don’t share common (national) culture. Conceptually, it differs largely from EFL (English as foreign language), which is part of modern foreign languages. Main metaphor of EFL is that of a transfer and fossilization, while of ELF is the one of contact and evolution. Some of the lexical and lexicogrammar innovations in ELF include e.g. the creation of hybrids such as “Telephone junkie”, the use of third person singular zero marking (“she think”), the countable use of uncountable nouns (“informations”) and so on. English is chosen as foreign language of communication. Therefore, rather than English, multilingualism is “superordinate category” of modern world. What made previous theoretical confusion is that English, unlike other languages, is always potentially present in communication (Jenkins, 2015). Forms of ELF crucially depend on specific communicative context.

ELF is a part of more general phenomenon of “Global Englishes”. The spread of English throughout the World includes two dispersals. In the first, English was transported to the “New World”. Initially involving the migration of around people from South and East of England, primarily to North America and Australia. The result was new mother tongue varieties of English. In the second dispersal, it was transported to Asia and Africa. Colonization led to development of a number of second language varieties, often referred to as a “New Englishes”. The reason for this language diasporas are historical, having in mind legacy of British and American imperialism; internal political reasons since English provides a neutral means of communication between the different ethnic groups of a country and may be seen as a symbol of national unity or emerging statehood. External economic reason pertains to USA dominant economic position and practical to the fact that English is the language of international air traffic control, international tourism and business. Intellectual reasons imply the fact that most scientific, technological and academic information in the world is expressed in English. English is also gateway to Western culture. Groups of English users consist of ENL (English as a Native Language), language of those who were born and raised in one of the countries where English is historically the first language to be spoken and it includes around 35 million speakers. ENL is not a single variety of language but differs markedly from one territory to another (UK and Australia), and between regions at the same territory. Pidgins and Creoles do not fit into categorization. Pidgin is language with no native speakers, but it is a contact language. Creole is a pidgin that became the first language of a new generation of speakers. For instance, ESL (English as a Second Language) is spoken in a large number of territories which were once colonized by the English (e.g. India, Nigeria, Singapore) and includes around 35 million speakers. EFL (English as Foreign Language) is language of those to whom it serves no purposes within their own countries. Historically, EFL was learned to use the language with its native speakers in UK or USA. It includes 1 billion speakers with “reasonable competence”.

ELF is quite new field of study and has become the subject of considerable debate during the past few years. Even though the new ideas are deplored by some scholars, it cannot be disproved that English today has a function of lingua franca. What is, however, tended to be denied is that, as a consequence of its international use, English is being shaped by at least as much by its non-native speakers as by its native speakers. The consequence is in a way paradoxical. Most of English users are non-native but there is still tendency to regard native speakers as guardians over acceptable usage of English. Thus, in order for the concept of ELF to get acceptance alongside English as native language, academic systematic research of the nature and the field of ELF, the way ELF looks, sounds, what is its actual use, recently begun.

Jovana Parlic