Workshop 5 - New Englishes, new methods
Guyanne Wilson (Ruhr University Bochum) & Michael Westphal (University of Münster)
Although the methods used in research on New Englishes are rooted firmly in linguistic practice, they need to be re-evaluated and revamped if the description and analysis of New Englishes are to be accurate and representative. The aims of this workshop are to critically assess the current methods being used in New Englishes research, to consider how these methods may be improved or combined with one another, and to highlight new methodologies.
The workshop extends Smakman & Heinrich’s Globalising Sociolinguistics programme to include research methods. They criticize the Western dominance in sociolinguistic theory making and state that, although “[t]he incompatibility of several dominant sociolinguistic theories with those outside their Western domain is obvious and undisputed” (2015: xvi), they are nevertheless applied to, for example, New Englishes contexts.
These theoretical biases are reflected in the mismatch between the methods used in New Englishes studies and the contexts to which they are applied. At the level of phonology, descriptions of New Englishes are typically based on lexical sets or standard texts. Simo Bobda (2008), however, argues that these do not capture the full phonemic inventories of New Englishes. There is also a dearth of instrumental analyses of phonetic features of New Englishes.
Furthermore, there is a lack of representativeness among the informants used in such studies, particularly in corpora. For example, the ICE corpora favour educated language users, so that standard forms are given precedence over vernacular forms and grassroots Englishes (Schneider 2016) are largely overlooked. The turn towards big-data corpora is also problematic since computer-mediated language of the kind included in GloWbE, for instance, is not part of the everyday linguistic repertoire of several speakers from the countries featured, especially in African countries (Mohr 2016).
In terms of language attitudes, studies often fail to make use of varied, contextualized, and authentic stimuli for listening tasks and frequently rely on abstract variety labels. These approaches work well in Western speech communities but are less productive in New Englishes speech communities where the labels used are often not established, leading to differences in the understanding and application of descriptive terms by researchers and informants (Westphal 2017). New Englishes research has also largely focused on morpho-syntax and phonology while pragmatic phenomena and other levels of variation have been under-researched.
The workshop aims to bring together scholars whose engagement with New Englishes involves critical interrogation of the methods used in New Englishes research. We particularly welcome papers which highlight:
- Complications arising in describing standard varieties of New Englishes
- Approaches to the description of grassroots Englishes
- Mixed methods approaches used in the study of New Englishes
- Applications of instrumental analyses of phonetic features of New Englishes
- Issues surrounding the creation of New Englishes corpora
- Problems in the design and implementation of attitude and acceptability studies in New Englishes
- Pragmatic analyses of New Englishes
Mohr, S. (2016). From Accra to Nairobi: The Use of Pluralized Mass Nouns in East and West African Postcolonial Englishes. In D. Schmidt-Brücken, S. Schuster & M. Wienberg (eds.) Aspects of (Post)colonial Linguistics (pp. 157-187). Berlin: de Gruyter.
Simo Bobda, A. (2008). Cameroon English: Phonology. In Mesthrie, R. (ed.) Varieties of English Vol. 4: Africa, South and Southeast Asia (pp. 115-132). Berlin: de Gruyter.
Smakman, D. & P. Heinrich (eds.) (2015). Globalising Sociolinguistics: Challenging and Expanding Theory. London: Routledge.
Schneider, E. W. (2016). Grassroots Englishes in Tourism Interactions. English Today 32(3): 2-10.
Westphal, M. (2017). Language Variation on Jamaican Radio. Amsterdam: Benjamins.