Just back from the annual conference of the International Association of World Englishes (IAWE) in Istanbul. I would like to say I saw something of Istanbul. I did not. But I saw a lot of the truly lovely Boğaziçi University campus. My paper was part of a colloquium dedicated to English in the Expanding Circle organised by Prof. Suzanne Hilgendorf, together with Sarah Buschfeld, Sofia Ruediger and Bouchra Kachoub.
Agency and resistance in the Expanding Circle
English in the Netherlands
This contribution addresses the implications of recent research on English in the Netherlands. It shows that the existing models and assumptions in World Englishes studies do not do justice to the agency of English users in the Expanding Circle.
First, I show that a categorical approach seeking to distinguish neatly between English as a second-language (ESL) or learner (EFL) variety is insufficient. Findings indicate that functionally, English serves as a second language in Dutch society, yet ‘Dutch English’ is not seen as a target model. This makes it difficult to unequivocally label English in the Netherlands as either EFL or ESL.
Next, I consider a developmental, cyclical model: Schneider’s (2003, 2007) Dynamic Model of the Evolution of Postcolonial Englishes. Although the historical foundations of English in the Netherlands were different, parallels with the developmental trajectory of postcolonial Englishes can be found in sociolinguistic aspects, such as the emergence of an English-knowing identity.
These identity restructurings and other sociolinguistic developments therefore seem to be a common factor in the dynamics across the Outer Circle and certain Expanding Circle settings. And these developments can be trigged by postcolonial processes, but also by other processes, specifically the forces of globalisation.
In the Netherlands, this is resulting in a situation where speakers at times opt consciously for ‘Dutch’ pronunciation of English so as not to sound ‘affected’, insist on nonstandard usages that they feel better suit the local setting, and actively resist interventions by English-language gatekeepers.
This signals an emerging pattern of linguistic disruption; a way of reasserting the user’s own linguistic power and identity and subverting the dominance of English. It seems that in the Expanding Circle, too, people are willing to agentively adapt English to suit their own voices and context.