The nativisation of English in the Netherlands: A corpus study

Last week I presented this paper at the Variation and Change research cluster conference in Cambridge.

Corpora are increasingly being built and used to examine varieties of World Englishes (WEs), from different L1 varieties to L2 varieties like Indian and Singaporean English. Fewer focus on ‘EFL’ Englishes, i.e. those from Kachru’s (1984) Expanding Circle, and those that do usually take an error-based SLA perspective. For example, the Dutch component of the International Corpus of Learner English (Granger, 2002) includes only undergraduate essays, by definition precluding the English used daily by countless Dutch professionals and academics. Thus no corpus yet allows for insight into the wide-ranging, educated use of English in the Netherlands from a WEs perspective.

The Corpus of Dutch English that is currently being built fills this empirical gap. With 200 texts and text extracts of 2000 words each from different academic and business genres (i.e. 400,000 words in total), in size and structure it is modelled loosely on the written component of the regional ICE corpora. This presentation explores the implications of this design for the positioning of the corpus (as ICE currently only targets ENL and ESL varieties) and the issues surrounding description of varieties traditionally seen as belonging to the Expanding Circle. The corpus will eventually be made accessible and searchable along parameters like age, sex, region, occupation and education. Given its comparability with ICE and other corpora, it will be of use to WEs researchers as well as ELT practitioners.

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