As a first language, English is now spoken by over 300 million people in North America (including Canada), Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, and South Africa. Hundreds of millions of others, especially in Africa and southern and south-east Asia, speak it as a second language. In this chapter we shall see how the spread of English beyond Europe is associated with four centuries of colonialism. Three different strands of colonial expansion will be distinguished. First, we shall see how the activities of trading companies brought speakers of English into contact with people in many different parts of the world, and how such contact with West Africa in the sixteenth century gave rise to the Atlantic slave trade. One result of this was the formation of English-based pidgins, some of which subsequently became the creoles of the Caribbean. Second, we shall discuss colonial settlement, and how new varieties of English were established in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The extent to which standardisation has occurred independently in these countries will be explored, and we shall discuss in some detail how American English developed, and its status in the world today. Third, we see how nineteenth-century imperialism institutionalised English in certain older colonies, such as India, and newly-acquired ones, principally in Africa. The spread of English in the education system in these areas will be traced, and we shall assess the development and status of second-language varieties of English, with the main focus on Africa. Finally, we shall examine some of the language planning problems of ex-colonies which have chosen English as an official language.
It need hardly be said that such a vast topic, spanning four centuries across four continents, should be the subject of a very large book, or series of books, rather than a single chapter of this length. Not only are the issues highly complex, involving a great variety of cultural settings and changing political, social, and economic circumstances, but also