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  • World Englishes: The study of new linguistic varieties
  • Marie Ploquin
Rajend Mesthrie and Rakesh M. Bhatt. 2008. World Englishes: The study of new linguistic varieties. In the series Key Topics in Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. xvii + 276. US $39.99 (softcover).

The term "World Englishes", often interchangeable with "New Englishes", refers to the varieties of English spoken in former British or American colonies. This book focuses on the linguistic structure that these languages share, rather than exhibit individually. That is to say that it concentrates on describing recurrent features that have been identified in different varieties by different authors. Mesthrie and Bhatt also discuss related subjects: the possible OT treatment of variable structures in the stable varieties, parallels with Pidgin and Creole studies, the difference between second language acquisition and New Englishes, and the spread of English. The book is aimed at researchers in the field and advanced graduate students. Study questions and suggestions for further reading are provided at the end of each chapter.

Chapter 1, "History: The spread of English", includes a brief introduction to the book, which states the aims of the book and situates it with respect to previous work in the field. The second part of the chapter catalogues the types and subtypes of English. The authors use "English Language Complex" (ELC), a term coined by McArthur (2003), as the cover term that encompasses all varieties of English, including L1 varieties of English (colonists) and all other forms of such "World Englishes" (former colonies), and English as a foreign language (from globalisation). The section continues with an explanation of the following subtypes: metropolitan standards, colonial standards, regional dialects, social dialects, Pidgin Englishes, Creole Englishes, English as a second language, English as a foreign language, immigrant Englishes, language-shift Englishes, jargon Englishes, and hybrid Englishes. Mesthrie and Bhatt acknowledge that such classifications can be controversial, and that subtypes may overlap. The rest of the chapter gives an historical account of English and its spread throughout the [End Page 136] world (taking into account World Englishes), discusses three models of classification of English varieties, and starts a discussion on the notion of "native speaker" (taken up again in Chapter 7).

Chapter 2, "Structural features of New Englishes: Morphology and phrasal syntax", begins with sections that aim to explain the methodology and terminology used throughout the book, as well as specifying the varieties of World Englishes examined. The phrasal syntax analysis describes various types of divergence from Standard English:

  1. i. in the noun phrase—articles (greater and lesser use of non-zero forms of articles, similar to English as a foreign language), number (plural marking), gender (use of gender-specific pronouns and gender marker "-ess"), possession, and pronouns (y'all, yous, deletion);

  2. ii. in the verb phrase—tense (unmarked tenses), aspect, number (use of third person singular -s), modality, forms of be, do, and novel verb forms; and

  3. iii. in function words such as prepositions, conjunctions, and wh-words.

The chapter offers great recapitulative insight into the issues even if, as stated by the authors, the "coverage has been wide rather than deep" (p. 76). A parallel is also made between World Englishes and L2 speakers, in terms of the extent of use of those non-standard processes.

Chapter 3, "Structural features of New Englishes: Cross-clausal syntax and syntactic theory", extends the previous discussion to constructions that go beyond the phrase level. A long section is devoted to word order, in which types of deviation from Standard English and basic Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) are listed and illustrated. SVO remains the focus in the discussion on syntactic constructions such as relative clauses, passive constructions, comparisons, and questions (yes/no and tag). In the second half of the chapter, Mesthrie and Bhatt present a Variationist Theory study of copula deletion in Singapore English based on Ho and Platt's (1993) study. The chapter concludes with an attempt at an Optimality Theory analysis of subject-verb inversion (or not) in embedded questions in Colloquial Indian English (inversion) and in Standard Indian English (no inversion). The authors propose that speakers of Indian English have two separate grammars that the speakers use differentially, according to the conversational...


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