The misfit: Placing the Netherlands on the map of World Englishes

I’m giving a talk next week at the University of Sheffield. The title is above and the abstract is below.

Kachru’s (1985, 1988) Three Circles model was supposed to be subversive, challenging the established dichotomy between native and non-native speakers of English. Similarly, the spirit of the field of World Englishes is supposed to be inclusive. However, research in recent decades has served not to break down barriers altogether, but simply to shift the barrier from between Kachru’s inner and outer circles to between the outer and expanding circles, leaving traditional and New Englishes as legitimate varieties, but expanding circle varieties out in the cold. A strict divide is maintained between second-language (ESL) and foreign-language (EFL) varieties based on their different acquisitional settings, where ESL users — given the legacy of colonialism — acquire and use English in wider society, whereas in EFL societies it is confined within the wall of the classroom. I emphasise that ESL varieties can arise not just through a colonial legacy but through new factors like globalisation and the internet age. Based on a criteria catalogue for ESL status that focuses on widespread competence in English, expansion of function, identity formation, norm orientation and nativisation of linguistic structures, I argue that the Netherlands is starting to show signs of meeting, or having already met, these criteria. Reassessment of its continued relegation to the expanding circle is therefore long overdue.


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