‘Expanding ICE to the Expanding Circle’, or: Conference, conference, boat, conference

Off tomorrow to the ICAME conference in Trier. ICAME stands for International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English and that odd title has very little to do with the conference. In my experience it mostly revolves around an annual boat trip. So I’m always pretty keen for this particular boat trip conference. Below, the abstract of the talk I’m giving.

Expanding ICE to the Expanding Circle: the Corpus of Dutch English

This talk aims to make a threefold contribution: conceptual, methodological and empirical. First, it demonstrates that the scope of the International Corpus of English (ICE; Greenbaum, 1991) can – indeed, should – be widened to the Expanding Circle. ICE expressly includes only ‘countries where [English] is either a majority first language … or an official additional language’ (Greenbaum, 1996: 3); i.e. Inner and Outer Circle countries. This reflects a now outdated conception of English in the world based on its spread by way of colonisation. Today, the forces of globalisation mean that many people in Expanding Circle countries are using English comfortably and confidently well beyond the confines of the foreign language classroom. New corpora ought to reflect this development.

This talk describes the compilation of the Corpus of Dutch English (Edwards, 2011, 2014a), based on the design of the ICE corpora. For practical reasons it is presently limited to a written component, with 200 texts in 8 genres, totalling approximately 400,000 words. I discuss the specific challenges involved in collecting text types such as English fiction, press news and social correspondence in the Netherlands, and the modifications to the ICE design required in such a setting. Further, I demonstrate how the Java-based platform Eclipse (www.eclipse.org) can be used to encode the corpus in XML and add metadata and textual markup in line with ICE (Nelson, 2002).

The talk then sums up the results of studies conducted with this corpus to date. The first is a study of the progressive aspect in the Corpus of Dutch English compared to the written components of four ICE corpora (Edwards, 2014b). No strict divide was found between the results for ICE-IND and ICE-SIN on the one hand and Dutch English on the other, suggesting that Outer and Expanding Circle varietal types should not be regarded as fundamentally different but as being on a continuum (see also Biewer, 2011: 28; Bongartz & Buschfeld, 2011: 48; Buschfeld, 2011: 219; Gilquin & Granger, 2011: 76).

This is supported by a second study (Edwards & Laporte, 2015) comparing preposition usage in Dutch English with five ICE corpora and four components of the International Corpus of Learner English (ICLE, Granger, 2003), including the ICLE component for the Netherlands (ICLE-NL). The Corpus of Dutch English and the ICE corpora clustered together, while, separately, the ICLE corpora (including ICLE-NL) clustered together. This suggests that (at least in terms of linguistic form), there is a false equivalence between ‘Expanding Circle variety’ and ‘learner variety’, and that users and learners can in fact co-exist in the Expanding Circle. It remains to be seen whether the Netherlands should be considered a special case, or whether it will be feasible to create comparable ICE-like corpora for other Expanding Circle countries to further test and extend these findings.


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

Bongartz, C., & Buschfeld, S. (2011). English in Cyprus: Second language variety or learner English? In J. Mukherjee & M. Hundt (Eds.), Exploring second-language varieties of English and learner Englishes: Bridging a paradigm gap (pp. 35–54). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

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

Edwards, A. (2011). Introducing the Corpus of Dutch English. English Today, 27(03), 10–14.

Edwards, A. (2014a). English in the Netherlands: Functions, forms and attitudes. PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge.

Edwards, A. (2014b). The progressive aspect in the Netherlands and the ESL/EFL continuum. World Englishes, 33(2), 173–194.

Edwards, A., & Laporte, S. (in press). Outer and Expanding Circle Englishes: The competing roles of norm orientation and proficiency levels. English World-Wide, 36.

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.

Granger, S. (2003). The International Corpus of Learner English: A new resource for foreign language learning and teaching and second language acquisition research. Tesol Quarterly, 37(3), 538–546.

Greenbaum, S. (1991). ICE: The International Corpus of English. English Today, 7(4), 3–7.

Greenbaum, S. (1996). Comparing English worldwide: The International Corpus of English. Oxford: Clarendon.

Nelson, G. (2002). Markup manual for written texts. International Corpus of English. Retrieved from http://ice-corpora.net/ice/manuals.htm


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