A thesis, in short …

How I managed to forget to post this I don’t know; let’s attribute it to the post-submission haze. But below: the summary of my thesis. I’ll post a pdf of the final, final version once my viva is done and corrections are good and over.

English in the Netherlands: Functions, forms and attitudes

This thesis revolves around two main research questions: ‘Should the English used in the Netherlands be considered a second-language variety or should it simply be regarded as learner English?’ and ‘Can Schneider’s Dynamic Model be extended to account for non-postcolonial, Expanding Circle contexts such as the Netherlands?’ Chapter 1 describes the motivations for the project and the theoretical and methodological framework. Chapter 2 explores the relevant models in the field of World Englishes (WEs) and identifies a lack of in-depth research on European settings in general and the Netherlands in particular, despite their dynamism in terms of the spread and development of English.

Chapters 3 to 5 address three criteria established to answer research question 1, concerning the functions of, attitudes towards and forms of English in the Netherlands, respectively. Chapter 3, on the functions of English in the Netherlands, develops a comprehensive sociolinguistic profile covering the history of English contact, the present demographics of English spread, and the domains of education, science, business, advertising, public administration and the media. It reveals a widespread assumption of English competence in daily life in the Netherlands and increasing intranational use of English to construct cosmopolitan, scholarly or subculture identities. On this basis, the chapter concludes that English functions as a second language in Dutch society.

Chapter 4 explores the second criterion for research question 1, attitudes towards English, by way of a large-scale questionnaire. Some results support the notion of English as a second language in the Netherlands; for example, it is acquired in wider society and not just within the confines of the foreign-language classroom. Others, however, are indicative of a foreign or learner language; in particular, BrE remains the main target model and ‘Dutch English’ is rarely viewed in a positive light. The chapter also identifies three groups of people: an instrumental group, whose participants regard English as personally important, but place great value on Dutch as well; and two peripheral groups: an anglophile group and an anti-English group.

Chapter 5 focuses on the third criterion for research question 1, the forms of English in the Netherlands. It first outlines a range of potential morphosyntactic, lexical and pragmatic/discoursal features of Dutch English. Next, it describes the development of the Corpus of Dutch English, the first Expanding Circle corpus based on the design of the written components of the International Corpus of English (ICE). The chapter then presents a case study of the progressive aspect. The first part, a comparative corpus analysis, reveals no strict divide between Dutch English and the second-language varieties under investigation, yet marked differences compared to Dutch learner data. In the second part, a grammaticality judgement survey, some evidence of developing local norms is identified.

The findings from chapters 3 to 5 make clear that, in answer to research question 1, the Netherlands cannot be said unequivocally to be either a second-language or a learner variety. It is acknowledged, however, that this is partly attributable to the categorical nature of the question. Therefore, Chapter 6 turns to research question 2, seeking to determine whether the developments in the Netherlands can better be explained by a developmental approach such as Schneider’s (2003, 2007) Dynamic Model. It identifies a number of developments in the Netherlands, both historical and present-day, that parallel the predictions of the first three phases of the Dynamic Model. However, as Schneider (2014) himself recently noted, these need to be selectively extracted from what is predominantly a colonial framework. The thesis concludes that this and other models need to move away from a colonisation-driven approach and towards a globalisation-driven one to explain the continued spread and evolution of English today.


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