Who needs earning power? I talk to myself like a pro

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

With a solid ten years under my belt, I am vastly experienced at being a university student. So does this make me smarter or send my earning power through the roof? (Please do not answer those questions.) What it’s made me excellent at is talking to myself. I’ve taken to wearing a Bluetooth earpiece so I don’t look like such a nutter. It’s just, there’s so much to discuss with myself. I have three talks lined up and all of them need practising (ideally in a supermarket queue). There’s that article to compose in my head, and a virtual discussion to have with my supervisor. Thankfully, most Cambridge PhDs appear equally disturbed; until full Victorian costume starts to strike me as a sensible fashion choice, as it does my neighbour, I won’t worry.

ISLE spring school

This week I attended the (Post-)Doctoral spring school of the International Society of the Linguistics of English (ISLE) at the University of Freiburg, Germany. The theme was ‘Englishes in a multilingual world: New dynamics of variation, contact and change’. I gave a talk called ‘Functions, forms and attitudes vis-à-vis the expanding circle: Three claims and three refutations’. We were also required to submit a summary of our research, which follows below.

English in the Netherlands: Functions, forms and attitudes

I am interested in the use of English in countries traditionally relegated to the expanding circle where many speakers can better be seen as second-language users rather than foreign-language learners of English. My PhD focuses on the case of the Netherlands. In an effort to place the Netherlands on the ‘map’ of World Englishes in terms of the prevailing models, such as Kachru’s (1982) Three Circles model and Schneider’s (2007) dynamic model, I use a multi-method approach, combining diverse existing sources with new empirical data in a sociolinguistic profile of the country, corpus analyses and attitudinal research.

Functions: Sociolinguistic profile of English in the Netherlands

I consider the historical context of English in the Netherlands and the present linguistic landscape, exploring domains such as education, the workplace, governance and law, and media and entertainment. Special emphasis is placed on emotive and creative uses of English relating to identity construction and expression, as in literature, music and online media.

Forms: A corpus-based study of the progressive aspect in ‘Dutch English’

To study the structural features of English as used in the Netherlands, I built a Corpus of Dutch English (NL) based on the design of the written components of the International Corpus of English (ICE) (Greenbaum 1991). I then conducted a case study on the use of the progressive aspect in the NL corpus compared to four ICE corpora representing different phases in Schneider’s (2007) model (ICE-GB, ICE-USA, ICE-IND and ICE-SIN), investigating a range of stylistic, grammatical, lexical and semantic variables. Analyses revealed similarities between GB, SIN and NL, thus cutting across all three varietal types (ENL–ESL–EFL). The NL corpus showed similar qualitative patterns of divergence as IND and SIN, such as extension of progressive marking to stative verbs and general truths/habitual activities. To explore acceptability among Dutch respondents, a grammaticality judgement task based on the findings from the NL corpus is currently underway.

Attitudes: Attitudes towards English in the Netherlands and ‘Dutch English’

I investigate ‘macro’ attitudes to English in the Netherlands (‘English from above’, Preisler 2003) by way of historical and contemporary legislation and policy. Further, to examine ‘micro’ attitudes (‘English from below’), an attitudinal survey is currently being disseminated. To my knowledge this is the first large-scale study in the Netherlands exploring such issues as where English is acquired (predominantly in the classroom or also in other domains), norm orientation and perceptions of different varieties of English (including ‘Nederengels’), code-switching behaviour, and perceptions of and attitudes towards English.


In addition to having implications for the description and characterisation of ‘Dutch English’, my research responds to various wider desiderata. These include calls to expand the scope of World Englishes research to the expanding circle and to examine ESL and EFL varieties in an integrated fashion (e.g. Davydova 2012, Nesselhauf 2009), viewing them not as essentially different but rather as existing on a continuum (e.g. Biewer 2011, Buschfeld 2011, Gilquin & Granger 2011). My work supports the de-emphasis of a colonial backdrop as the major means of varietal classification and a recalibration towards other factors, such as globalisation. With due consideration of the methodological issues involved in applying Schneider’s (2007) dynamic model to a non-postcolonial context, I consider the Netherlands to be located in phase 3 of the model, showing evidence of structural nativisation and a strong sense of ‘linguistic schizophrenia’ (Kachru 1983).


Biewer, C. (2011). Modal auxiliaries in second language varieties of English: A learner’s perspective. In J. Mukherjee & M. Hundt (2011), Exploring second-language varieties of English and learner Englishes: Bridging a paradigm gap (pp. 7–33). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Buschfeld, S. (2011). The English language in Cyprus: An empirical investigation of variety status. PhD thesis, University of Cologne.

Davydova, J. (2012). Englishes in the Outer and Expanding Circles: A comparative study. World Englishes, 31(3), 366–385. doi:10.1111/j.1467-971X.2012.01763.x

Gilquin, G., & Granger, S. (2011). From EFL to ESL: evidence from the International Corpus of Learner English. In J. Mukherjee & M. Hundt (Eds.), Exploring second-language varieties of English and learner Englishes: Bridging a paradigm gap (pp. 55–78). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Greenbaum, S. (1991). ICE: The international corpus of English. English Today, 7(4), 3-7.

Kachru, B.B. (1982). The other tongue: English across cultures (2nd edn). Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Kachru, B.B. (1983). Models for non-native Englishes. In K. Bolton & B. B. Kachru (Eds.), World Englishes: Critical concepts in linguistics (pp. 108–30). London: Routledge.

Nesselhauf, N. (2009). Co-selection phenomena across New Englishes: Parallels (and differences) to foreign learner varieties. English World-Wide, 30(1), 1–26. doi:10.1075/eww.30.1.02nes

Preisler, B. (2003). English in Danish and the Danes’ English. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 159, 109–126. doi:10.1515/ijsl.2003.001

Schneider, E.W. (2007). Postcolonial English: Varieties around the world. Cambridge: CUP.

Sociopaths and scholarships

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

In the news in Britain last week: with measles (mazelen) taking hold in Wales, public health authorities are urging everyone to have their measles vaccination, and fast. In response, the ‘antivaxxers’ have again started shouting about how the vaccine gives you autism. Here’s the thing – no, it doesn’t. Just no. Antivaxxers are way up there on the crazy list with creationists and homoeopathists. But thankfully, it’s not all bad. The BBC also reported on an unusual scholarship awarded to 19-year-old Gazan student Rawan Yaghi. Students at Jesus College, Oxford, have agreed to contribute £3.90 each per term to Rawan’s fees. ‘A life-changing chance’, she called it. Things like that just warm my little heart. And that’s not because of the measles jab I just had.

The PhD can wait – because North Korea won’t

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

I have a thing for books about wacky countries, and North Korea is getting weirder by the minute. Nothing to Envy I just could not put down. It tells of a doctor who crossed the border into China and, lost in the dark, found herself in a peasant’s dog kennel. She could not believe her eyes: in the kennel was a bowl of white rice. For the dog! You know your country has some problems when even Chinese peasants’ dogs eat better than you. Anyway, The Aquariums of Pyongyang was good, Escape from Camp 14 was thrilling, so imagine my joy today when I discovered Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, billed as ‘simply the best book ever written about North Korea’ – all 874 pages of it. Have patience, PhD.