Nuclear EnglishIn his contribution to Brumfit (1982), Quirk discusses "International communication and the concept of Nuclear English" (his title). In fact, the denomination 'Nuclear English' might raise exaggerated expectations as it seems to suggest an entire, new model for English. However, what Quirk's proposal really amounts to is an airing of ideas about the ways in which native English might be modified to make it easier to learn as a foreign language and easier to use as an international language. So Quirk does not propose a complete system; rather, he offers some examples, especially in the area of grammar, particularly verbs. Thus, he proposes some simplifications such as the replacement of non- restrictive relative clauses with adverbial clauses (1 => 1a) or replacement of ditransitive constructions with the corresponding prepositional alternative (2 => 2a):
1 . I expressed my sympathy to the captain, who had been reprimanded. =>While there are certainly ideas in Nuclear English that it might be useful to follow up for ELF, Quirk's (1982: 21) insistence on remaining "firmly in the grammar of ordinary English" [i.e. ENL] means that his proposal does not satisfy my criterion a) (endonormativity). Quirk is proposing a selection from existing alternatives and does not countenance the possibility of forms which are not already available in the grammar of (his) ENL. Since acceptability is thus determined purely on the basis of native-speaker judgements, it is also very unlikely, despite Quirk's own assertion that Nuclear English is "culture-free as calculus" (op. cit.: 19) that criterion c) can be met to any extent. There is no evidence of Quirk having systematically considered d) (pedagogical principles), nor is there an empirical base (criterion b) - instead, his proposals are based on identifying and exploiting redundancy within the code of Standard English.
1a. I expressed my sympathy to the captain because he had been reprimanded.
2 . We offered the girl a drink. =>
2a. We offered a drink to the girl.
(Quirk 1982: 20, 22)
World Standard Spoken EnglishFifteen years later, Crystal sketched his view of a possible development of English as an international language, namely "World Standard Spoken English" (WSSE). It is only given a couple of pages in his English as a global language (1997: 136ff.), probably because "WSSE is still in its infancy. Indeed, it has hardly yet been born." (ibid.: 138). WSSE can therefore not really be called a model, but I mention it here because it raises issues that bear directly on the idea of ELF usage I discussed above, especially in the following two extracts:
There is even a suggestion that some of the territories of the expanding circle - those in which English is learned as a foreign language - may be bending English to suit their purposes. (op.cit.: 136)We may note the persistence of a native-speaker perspective in these extracts - notably the phrases "even a suggestion." and "bending English to suit their purposes" in the first extract and the formulation of the second, which accords a privileged role to "US or UK English" in the development of WSSE. It needs to be remembered, of course, that Crystal is not making a programmatic statement here in the sense I am attempting to do, but is simply recording a process he has been observing. In terms of my criteria a) - d), however, WSSE cannot be regarded as a candidate for an ELF model.11
Which variety will be most influential, in the development of WSSE? It seems likely that it will be US (rather than UK) English. [...] No feature of L2 English has yet become a part of standard US or UK English; but, as the balance of speakers changes, there is no reason for L2 features not to become part of WSSE. This would be especially likely if there were features which were shared by several (or all) L2 varieties - such as the use of syllable-timed rhythm, or the widespread difficulty observed in the use of th sounds.10 (op.cit.: 138)
Basic EnglishHaving considered some recent ideas concerning English as a global language, it is apparent that these are not, generally speaking, strikingly innovative. One can imagine something much more radical, and indeed something much more radical has been imagined. Nearly three quarters of a century ago, H.G. Wells had already anticipated the kind of development this paper is concerned with:
One of the unanticipated achievements of the twenty-first century was the rapid diffusion of Basic English as the lingua franca of the world and the even more rapid modification, expansion and spread of English in its wake. [...] This convenience spread like a wildfire after the First Conference of Basra. It was made the official medium of communication throughout the world by the Air and Sea Control, and by 2020 there was hardly anyone in the world who could not talk and understand it.[...] The new Science was practically unendowed, it attracted few workers, and it was lost sight of during the decades of disaster. It was revived only in the early twenty-first century.(Wells 1933: 418f., 421)Wells' vision of the shape of things to come in terms of "the lingua franca of the world", then, is Basic English - hence the title of my contribution to this volume. Wells calls his book The Shape of Things to Come. The Ultimate Revolution, from which this extract is taken, "a Short History of the Future" (ibid.: 14). Apart from the fascination this sci-fi classic holds for readers inhabiting this very future, and the delight the recognition of language as a crucial element in that scenario may generate in linguists, there are a number of intriguing 'predictions' in the above passage which are worth dwelling on a little.
i) the nature of the language Basic English is an attempt to give to everyone a second, or international, language which will take as little of the learner's time as possible. It is a system in which everything may be said for all the purposes of everyday existence : the common interests of men and women, general talk, news, trade, and science.Apart from giving us a general idea as to what Basic is like, this passage also brings up a number of key issues which, I would suggest, are just as relevant for thinking about lingua franca communication today as they were over 70 years ago. However, at least some of them are often lost sight of in today's discussions. I therefore propose to go through the extract and highlight some of these issues as well as attempting to link them up with the contemporary debate about English as a global language which I sketched in the introduction to this paper.13
To the eye and ear it will not seem in any way different from normal English.
ii) words and rules: a system for 'investment'
There are only 850 words in the complete list which may be clearly printed on one side of a bit of note-paper. But simple rules are given for making other words with the help of those in the list; such as designer, designing and designed, from design, or air-plane from air and plane.
The word order is fixed by other short rules, which make it clear from an example such as "I will put the record on the machine now." what is the right and natural place for every sort of word.
Whatever is doing the act comes first; then the time word, such as will; then the act or operation put, take, or get ; then the thing to which something is done, and so on.
It is an English in which 850 words do all the work of 20,000, and has been formed by taking out everything which is not necessary to the sense. Disembark, for example, is broken up into get off a ship. I am able takes the place of I can ; shape is covered by the more general word form ; and difficult by the use of hard.
By putting together the names of simple operations - such as get, give, come, go, put, take - with the words for directions like in, over, through, and the rest, two or three thousand complex ideas, like insert which becomes put in, are made part of the learner's store.
. . .
In addition to the Basic words themselves, the learner has at the start about fifty words which are now so common in all languages that they may be freely used for any purpose. Examples are Radio, Hotel, Telephone, Bar, Club. Records like the one now on your machine will make it clear what the sounds are to be like.
For the needs of any science, a short special list gets the expert to a stage where international words are ready to hand.
iii) language as an instrument for thought and for learning
Those who have no knowledge of English will be able to make out the sense of a Radio Talk, or a business letter, after a week with the word-list and the records ; but it may be a month or two before talking and writing freely are possible.
An Englishman will make an adjustment to Basic ways of thought in a very short time, but at first he will have to take some trouble to be clear and simple.
In fact, it is the business of all internationally-minded persons to make Basic English part of the system of education in every country, so that there may be less chance of war, and less learning of languages - which, after all, for most of us, are a very unnecessary waste of time. (Ogden 1935: 13ff.; emphases added)
Basic English and lingua franca communicationi) the nature of the language
Impromptu eloquence and after-dinner wit in Basic are tougher assignments. Its thrifty vocabulary is at its best in everyday dealings and explanations, and it is not naturally a spellbinder's medium. (Richards 1943: 114)These two extracts actually only constitute asides in what are writings in unequivocal praise of Basic English. What Richards and Routh attribute much more significance to are the strengths and pedagogical advantages which are as it were the other side of the coin of the supposed inadequacy referred to here: the most important one of these is that being constructed as it is, Basic lends itself superbly to being used as a tool for clarifying one's own thoughts. This aspect will be dealt with under iii) below. As for pedagogical matters, it is commonly accepted that learners do not only learn what they are taught. Rather, instruction will be regarded as successful if it allows learners to build up a secure enough basis from which they can then pursue their own learning according to their own needs and inclinations, which may include poetry or language play. And in this sense, one might say, Basic provides the basis in that it makes those first steps possible. Ogden and his supporters often emphasized this: "It [Basic] is no rival to or substitute for an ampler English, where the use of that is feasible. It is an introduction and an exploratory instrument." (Richards 1943: vi).
The language, while in universal use, cannot retain the charm and completeness of a native language. It is an expedient, a make-shift. It lacks the satisfying quality of an intimate and exclusive possession. ... Despite its awkwardness, its stop-gap phrases, its colourless vocabulary, it can yet convey many meanings. It cannot give flood to the human soul, but it can provide a bridge to human thought. (Routh 1944: 6)
In building with words there is the same pull between the science of structure and the art of ornament as there is in building with steel and stone and wood; .Ogden then goes on to give that "clear account of Basic", in which it becomes apparent once more that what is paramount for this system is not authentic native-speaker language use but the possibilities for learning and thinking it opens up through its painstaking consideration of linguistic and pedagogic factors. This emphasis on the importance of 'investment', on Basic as a language to be learned from, of course harks back again (or rather, forward) to contemporary debates, and Ogden would probably have been very interested to read this extract from a "Summary reflection" on a volume of the Annual Review of Applied Linguistics entitled Foundations of Second Language Teaching, and it is likely that he would have recognized some of his own criteria in it (highlighted in italics):
Mr McGrath is an architect with a language-sense. In using Basic for his book, he has had in mind something more than the fact, important enough in itself, that this step would give him an international public. He saw in Basic a language which had the same qualities as the buildings he was writing about, and which had, for this reason, a special value for his purpose.
Much has been said in this book about international forms in building, about the straightforward use of materials, clear statement, and reasoned design. All these qualities might equally well have been named in connection with Basic English. In fact, it is possible to give a clear account of Basic under these very heads. (McGrath 1934: 221f.)
We need to recognize, it seems to me, that some things can be taught, and some things must be left to be learned. What this means is that decisions always have to be taken as to what is the best investment, what it is that provides learners with an effective basis for further learning. Learners cannot be rehearsed in patterns of appropriate cultural behaviour, and of course they will not be prepared in every particular to cope with all the niceties of communication, but the crucial requirement is that they should have a basic capacity which enables them to learn how to cope when occasion arises. [...] Such a context is bound to set limits on what language learners are explicitly taught, and these cannot of their nature contain "real world communication". But the crucial point is that this is not language to be learned as such, but language to be learned from. (Widdowson 1998b: 331, emphases added)It seems to me that the notion of "investment" for further learning becomes particularly crucial in foreign language teaching for lingua franca communication, when the uses the language will be put to are likely to be extremely diverse and hence impossible to predict. A sparse but powerfully productive system along the lines of Basic would seem to offer more potential and scope for further development than trying to replicate "real world communication" through "patterns of appropriate cultural behaviour" in the classroom.
ii) words and rules: a system for 'investment'The relevant extracts from Ogden's passage above are the following (with words in square brackets added as fillers for better readability):
A vocabulary of 850 words is expanded into a large number of extensions of meaning, compounds and idioms. By means of these extensions, ideas are conveyed which would ordinarily be represented by new words (new sound and letter groups), and an economy is thus effected in the introduction of printed new words into the vocabulary list. (West & Swenson 1934: 9)West and Swenson demonstrate very convincingly that Ogden's claim of 850 words is "a considerable understatement" (op.cit.: 10), and that he is basically 'cheating' (my word, not theirs) by, for instance, "using a word in more than one part of speech, e.g. Back (preposition), Back (noun), Back-ing a car" (op.cit.: 7), by making use of suffixation and prefixation, "by compounding words, e.g. verb + preposition, Come round, Come about (=happen)" (op.cit.: 8) and "by extension in the use of a word, e.g. [...] 'Flat' to 'A flat' (=an apartment)" (ibid.) - in fact, all these examples constitute results of Ogden's "simple rules [which] are given for making other words with the help of those in the list; such as designer, designing and designed, from design, or air-plane from air and plane" as explained in the passage we are investigating. Obviously, these rules are often not as easy to apply as Ogden claimed, and so can create learning difficulties rather than making the learning task easier.
The priest thanked the ladies for their help in making the party so successful.
The servant of the church said it was very kind of the women of good birth to help him in making the meeting of friends come off so well.
In our joint work we came to the theory and practice of definition. In comparing definitions - definitions of everything, from a sense quality to a force and from a rabbit to a concept - we were struck by the fact that whatever you are defining, certain words keep coming back into your definitions. Define them, and with them you could define anything. That suggests that there might be some limited set of words in terms of which the meanings of all other words might be stated. If so, then a very limited language - limited in its vocabulary but comprehensive in its scope - would be possible.This then, in a nutshell, is the principal idea behind Basic. In order to make it operational and to formulate his 850 word vocabulary, however, Ogden had to solve the problem of how to deal with verbs. The crucial point here was the realization that most English verbs can be analysed in combinations involving the verbs come, get, give, go, keep, let, make, and put. Examples often used for illustration by Ogden himself are the verbs ascend, which he analyses into go up , descend into go down , and disembark into go off a ship, thus making systematic use of the analytic potential of English. The latter example corresponds to three elements in the Basic Word List: the two 'operations' 'act' (go) and 'direction' (off), and a 'thing' (a ship).
iii) language as an instrument for thought and for learningThese functions are particularly in evidence in Basic, and are referred to in the last part of the extract from Ogden (page 282 above) in the following way:
. . . the principles upon which Basic was founded naturally make the system an ideal instrument for clear statement and for keeping our minds free from errors induced by the misuse of words. The necessity for the expansion of many fictions, which the limited vocabulary imposes, and the need to symbolize our mental attitudes to things in separation from the things themselves, which arises from the absence of emotive terms in Basic, are powerful prophylactics against word-magic and are aids to clear thinking. Translation (from full English, or from any other language) into Basic is [...] a crucial test of the referential value of the original. What will not go into Basic may be nonsense - or it may be poetry. If it is the latter, the Basic parallel will help to show the reader exactly how the poet has produced his special effects. (Catford 1950: 46)It seems to me that what Catford is describing here, and what Ogden and Richards talked about very explicitly themselves, gets to the very heart of the concept of language awareness - a notion often evoked in current language teaching, though the meaning of the term itself is far from clear or stable (cf. Edmondson and House 1997). My own understanding of language awareness focuses on the ability to consciously reflect about the structure and functions of language, about what it can and what it cannot do, as opposed to competence in using a language as an instrument for communication. This, I believe, ties in closely with Richards' remark that from Basic words and rules "we can learn most about the nature, the resources, and the limitations of language in general" (1943: 25). This idea, however, sits uncomfortably with most contemporary language teaching policies and practices, which tend to aim at an instrumental pay-off in terms of practical communicative skills rather than long-term humanistic, pedagogic objectives, despite repeated declarations of educational ideals such as multilingualism and intercultural understanding. Such ideals surely need to be based on a deeper language awareness if they are to go beyond mere lip-service.18 As a result of this fairly short-term thinking, foreign language teaching in schools usually amounts to a large investment of time (often nine years or more) and resources (many specialist teachers of individual languages) into an educational undertaking which in many cases is doomed to failure, as most learners neither achieve a significantly heightened general language awareness nor really satisfactory communicative abilities in one foreign language, let alone in several. This state of affairs prompts Edmondson (1999) to argue very forcefully "Die fremdsprachliche Ausbildung kann nicht den Schulen uberlassen werden!" ["Foreign language teaching must not be left to schools!"].19 Interestingly for our purposes here, Edmondson acknowledges the special status of English as a lingua franca within foreign language teaching and recommends that all students should be given basic skills in ELF ; he emphasises, however, that this instruction should certainly not extend over nine years, as it so often does.
Structurally, lingua franca situations offer just as much educational potential as do those of a second language learner approximating to the protagonists of the target culture. What makes for the crucial difference is the additional undermining of learners' sense of security that is caused by the absence of a fixed, learnable system of linguistic meaning to fall back on. This is why lingua franca situations require greater effort and a more gradual and more complex negotiation in order to achieve an adequate and satisfactory form of 'self-explication'. [my paraphrase, BS]And it is here, of course, where some familiarity with both philosophical and practical ideas of the Basic era would have much to offer to today's decision- makers. Talking about the teaching of English in India, for instance, Ogden and Richards make reference to the notion of time wasted in ultimately unsuccessful - because misconceived - language learning and underline the importance of "understanding of word-behaviour":
With the efforts of educators to reduce the amount of energy at present wasted on the acquisition of foreign languages, which should henceforward be regarded as a technical speciality, supporters of Basic English are in full agreement. Basic itself is a valuable exercise in the understanding of word-behaviour. It forms an admirable introduction to that further study of the relations of thought and language which will prove a potent antidote to all forms of word-magic in the future. Its analytic structure makes it desirable for the learner to understand rather than to learn by rote; and at an early stage it can indicate the scope and internationality of the sciences as such. (Ogden and Richards 1938: 46)It seems to me that this extract relates closely to the important distinction which Edmondson and others make between 'communicative' and 'pedagogic' objectives. Even if the former should ever be reached, the point has been made that the achievement of the latter does not follow automatically from it. Or, as Richards so aptly put it a long time ago, "A man's ability to buy a hat in six languages does not in itself make him a better world citizen" (Richards 1943: 116). That is to say, even if our school systems did produce fluent speakers of one or the other foreign language, this would not ensure the development of an enhanced understanding of cross-linguistic, cross-cultural capabilities. Such an essentially metalinguistic understanding must, quite crucially, foster an appreciation in learners that communication should never be expected to be 'complete' or 'perfect' but always has by its very nature to make do with limited, imperfect resources, and that its success (or otherwise) is never a function of linguistic proficiency alone.20 These insights into the general nature of (intra- as well as intercultural) communication are reflected in the strategies for intercultural interaction outlined by Knapp (1987: 1034f.):
Expect differences in ways of interacting. [. . .]Knapp emphasizes that these strategies are relatively accessible to teaching and thus should constitute "important teaching objectives" (ibid.). If these objectives are ignored, a crucial potential of language education is likely to remain untapped. The resulting failure to help learners achieve metalinguistic under-standing has been very appropriately termed "Erziehung zur sprachlichen Dummheit" ("education in linguistic stupidity") by Gogolin (1999).
Expect uncertainty. [. . .]
Expect misunderstandings. [. . .]
The language remains a mere means of repeating the same things in another code. And it is too often assumed that only an advanced knowledge of a language can be a liberating knowledge. That is a mistake; the liberation and enlargement of thought depend rather upon the how - with what understanding - the language is learned than upon how much of it is picked up. A small segment of a language, well learned with its meanings well explored, is more valuable - from this point of view, as allowing one to see how its thought patterns compare with those of one's vernacular - than a larger vocabulary learned as a code. (Richards 1943: 117)This again brings us back to the issue of 'investment' as discussed above. But there is another concern, the relevance of which will be readily recognized by many teachers. This is that education also has to somehow tackle the fact that today's age of globalisation is also an age of 'word-magic', of vacuous but persuasive sound-bytes, loosely associative, manipulatory hypertexts and spin- doctors . In this respect Routh's remark made in the 1940s is strikingly topical:
After the war we shall all be arguing about reconstruction and self-direction, and invoking non-Basic expressions such as synthesis, sublimation, disarmament, ideology, transition and the subconscious self - all terms which are easier to pronounce than define. How many politicians would be reduced (in Gibbon's inimitable phrase) to "a silent blush or a scornful frown" if they had to translate into Basic the opinions conveniently veiled under the nomenclature of a dead language! (Routh 1944: 13)Conclusion and outlook
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1 . In this paper, the discussion of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) will be limited to contexts where English is a foreign language (Kachru's (1992) Expanding Circle), not a second language or indigenised (= Outer Circle) variety. It should be emphasized, however, that the process of theorizing and empirical research which has been pioneered in Outer Circle varieties is of great potential relevance and benefit for the present discussion concerning Expanding Circle settings, (although this view is hardly ever expressed by Outer Circle scholars themselves). See also Kachru (1996) about the scope of ELF.
2 . Not the slightest doubt about their 'ownership' of English seems to have arisen so far among the British public - witness this excerpt from the front page of not a tabloid but the quality Observer newspaper, written by its education correspondent: "This week the Government will announce that the number of people with English as a second language has overtaken the number who speak it as their native tongue. [.] The British Council statistics have been seized on by Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett, who will tell a meeting of business leaders on Tuesday to capitalise on their advantage as native speakers. [.] Insiders say the drive to make English the global lingua franca comes directly from Tony Blair." (Foreign tongues spread the English word. The Observer, 29.10.2000, page 1)
3 . See also Knapp's (1987: 1033) remark that in scientific writing "the tolerance of native speakers for non-native varieties is extremely low".
4 . The terms used throughout this paper for the roles of English in different countries are those frequently discussed by Kachru (e.g. 1992): Inner Circle (as a first language), Outer Circle (as an additional language), and Expanding Circle (as a foreign language).
5 . With apologies to Gatwick Airport's slogan for its North Terminal: "the hub without the hubbub".
6 . The following widely-used abbreviations are employed here: ELT: English language teaching; EFL: English as a foreign language; ENL: English as a native language. The acronym ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) is much newer, but its use has been spreading steadily in recent years.
7 . Again, for Outer Circle varieties these questions have been addressed: see in particular Bamgbose (1998).
8 . This 'conceptual gap' of ELF is discussed and documented in more detail in Seidlhofer (forthc.); as explained in Bamgbose (1998), the crucial criterion for recognition and acceptance is codification in dictionaries and grammars. And since ENL is the only kind of English whose codification is accessible all over the world (as opposed to that of indigenised varieties), ENL tends to be the default referent when people talk about 'English'.
9 . 'Teachability' and 'learnability' are not intended here in the specific technical sense they now have in second language acquisition research, ie concerning the order of teaching points in grammar instruction in line with empirically documented developmental sequences (cf. e.g. Pienemann 1989), but as objectives whose attainment can be furthered by the modification (i.e. 'simplification') of input for pedagogical purposes. These procedures of selection and grading of the language to be presented (grammar and lexis) for learning are likely to be informed by such notions as markedness and communicative redundancy.
10 . For th-sounds, there is indeed empirical research available now suggesting that being able to pronounce them is not necessary for international intelligibility: Jenkins (2000) does not include /?/ and /?/ in her Lingua Franca Core, having shown that substitutions such as /f, v/, /s, z/ or /t,d/ do an equally good job in the lingua franca talk she investigated.
11 . Note, however, that two years on, Crystal (1999) focuses on the issues of diversity, new hybrid forms and the need for empirical research.
12 . Novial, an artificial language for international communication, was, like Esperanto, one of the candidates for an international language considered by the International Auxiliary Language Association.
13 . For reasons of space, I shall not be able to go into detail about all the arguments that could be brought forward in each case, which may make some of my statements sound more provocative than intended - my hope is that this may encourage constructive engagement with some of the reasoning which follows.
14 . Nevertheless, the journal The Basic News published by Ogden's Orthological Institute in the 1930s and 1940s occasionally printed poems written in Basic.
15 . West and Swenson (1934) do pull Basic to pieces, but it is actually very factual and restrained in tone. This is not true, however, of some of the contributions grouped together under the heading 'Discussion Critical of Basic English' in Johnsen (1944).
16 . Interestingly, this feature corresponds to Grice's (1975) fourth maxim of the Cooperative Principle - the only one, by the way, which has to do with the language as such. The point that might be made here is that Basic in this respect provides a guarantee for effective communication.
17 . One of the traditional problems of language pedagogy has always been how to simplify the language input for learning. This has generally involved 'denaturalising' actually occurring language in a somewhat adhoc fashion. Basic can be said to be a systematic 'denaturalisation' which provides for such necessary simplification.
18 . As Deborah Cameron's work makes clear (e.g. Cameron 2000), people can be constrained to follow effective communicative routines (especially in telephone call-centres and other service encounters) which are designed to suppress any individual sociocultural identity whatsoever. See also the review by Cook (2001).
19 . This title, of course, echoes Vietor's famous 1882 pamphlet Der Sprachunterricht muá umkehren!
20 . It is for this reason that Jenkins (2000) attributes great significance to the importance of accommodation (in the sense of Giles and Coupland 1991) in her work on the phonology of English as an international language.
21 . This, of course, is the central concern of Critical Discourse Analysis (e.g. Fairclough 1995, Wodak 1996). But it is interesting to note how this concern can be approached through the analysis of the language itself. Once more, one might claim, Basic takes us back to the basics.
22 . For more on the Vienna-Oxford ELF Corpus and a rationale for a research programme, see Seidlhofer (forthc.). It is also interesting to note that James (2000) makes reference to a project, currently in its pilot phase, entitled 'English as a lingua franca in the Alpine- Adriatic region'. One hypothesises that "one area stands out in which ELF might differ from 'native' forms of spoken English, namely the relative absence of figurative or idiomatic use". (James 2000: 35).