What Is International English?

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Channing Burt


The number of people using English for international communication is increasing on an unprecedented scale and the spread of English shows no signs of stopping. There is a growing body of research on the phenomenon of international English, yet international English is defined variously in the literature and what is included in these definitions differs considerably. This review seeks to examine what is meant by the various terms employed in the literature and focuses on the international use of English by people for whom it is not a first or official, institutionalized second language, a population which is rapidly growing in number but whose linguistic behavior is still under-researched. The central questions posed are: (1) Does English used by this population constitute a new kind of English or is it simply an error-marred, simplified performance variety of English as a native language? (2) Is it possible that lingua franca English use will affect English as a native language? This paper will review recent empirically-based descriptive studies on international lingua franca English as well as two large-scale corpora currently being compiled in an attempt to shed light on the developing global use of the English language.

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