Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

A(nother) Day in the Life of a Purist: Anglicisms in the Speech of Norwegian University Students

Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

A(nother) Day in the Life of a Purist: Anglicisms in the Speech of Norwegian University Students

Article excerpt


The influence of the English language at the global level is unparalleled from both historical and contemporary perspectives. English is the undisputed language of diplomacy, science and technology, and popular culture, as well as being the first truly global lingua franca (Crystal 2003). An entire sociolinguistic field of enquiry, World Englishes, has emerged over the past 40 years to examine how and why English has attained its current position, and the consequences this has had both for the language itself and for the languages that it has come in contact with.

Much of the work within World Englishes has investigated the sociolinguistic contexts under which different dialects or "varieties" of English have emerged, as well as the distinctive linguistic features of these varieties. Perhaps the most famous taxonomy of English usage remains Braj Kachru's (1992) Three Circles Model, which posits that "Englishes" can be separated into three broad categories based on shared societal characteristics. The so-called Inner Circle includes countries such as the UK, the United States, Australia, and so on, where English is spoken as a native language by the majority of inhabitants.

The Outer Circle, by contrast, comprises countries that are typically former colonies of English-speaking powers, such as India, Kenya, and the Philippines, where English has often been made an official language and where it may serve as a link language between speakers from different geographical regions or ethnicities. The Expanding Circle refers to the rest of the world, which has no experience of British or American colonization and where English is used primarily as a lingua franca with foreigners, often in the context of business and/ or tourism.

Although work within a variety-based paradigm continues (Schneider 2007), the study of English in its global contexts has also diversified considerably. The importance attached to knowledge of English has spurred research into how it should be taught to non-native speakers, a pedagogical subfield known variously as English Language Teaching (ELT) and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Alongside this applied perspective, the study of language contact has been fruitfully researched in Outer-Circle countries where English has been introduced through colonialism. This research is multifaceted, reflecting approaches that highlight the importance of identity in language mixing (Le Page and Tabouret Keller 1985), the social motivations that underlie this mixing (Myers-Scotton 1993b), and also the grammatical constraints on its realization (Myers-Scotton 1993a).

Despite the abundant academic interest in English, its prominence on the world stage has not been without controversy. While Kachru, the founder of the modern field of World Englishes, celebrated the language's dissemination and diversification, other scholars have highlighted the destruction of local languages that contact with English speakers has brought about (Crystal 2002; Nettle and Romaine 2000). Robert Phillipson (1992; 2003) has been perhaps the loudest critic of the hegemonic status of English, claiming it has been achieved by the "linguistic imperialism" of Britain and America--countries that, he believes, have intentionally subordinated other languages, voices, and cultures to the advantage of their own monolingual English-speaking citizens. While such claims have been disputed (Spolsky 2004), they nevertheless chime with the concerns of various national language academies, as well as individual speakers. Such concerns center not only on the hegemonic status of English, but also on the way in which Anglo-American cultural influence has led to the widespread diffusion of English lexical borrowings, or "anglicisms" (see "Terminology" section, below), throughout the languages of the world.

The concern over the spread of anglicisms is a modern-day manifestation of "linguistic purism," an age-old phenomenon that Trask (1999, 254) defines as "the belief that words (and other linguistic features) of foreign origin are a kind of contamination sullying the purity of a language" (see also Langer and Nesse 2012). …

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