Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 10:03:27 -0500 From: Jamie Shinhee Lee Subject: Varieties of Modern English: An Introduction
AUTHOR: Davies, Diane TITLE: Varieties of Modern English SUBTITLE: An Introduction SERIES: Learning About Language PUBLISHER: Pearson Longman YEAR: 2005
Jamie Shinhee Lee, Department of Humanities, University of Michigan- Dearborn
''Varieties of Modern English'' is intended to serve as an introductory survey of English language varieties for readers who are interested in English language studies, literature, sociolinguistics of English, and related fields. Diane Davies investigates the major modern varieties of English in light of linguistic characteristics, users, and uses.
Chapter 1 (pp. 1-13) presents an overview of some of the most essential concepts to understand language varieties, such as dialect, accent, and variation. Variation is discussed first in terms of individual speech, then of a social group and finally of a speech community. In her discussion of social class and English, Davies utilizes familiar pop culture characters (e.g. Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw's play ''Pygmalion'') to make her points more accessible to general readers.
Chapter 2 (pp. 14-27) familiarizes readers with fundamental linguistic dimensions and analytical scopes in describing language variation. This chapter introduces notions that are essential to a systematic linguistic analysis and provides a succinct account of different linguistic levels, including sounds, words, phrases/sentences, and texts. In illustrating sounds, Davies introduces major terms in phonology and phonetics such as phonemes, minimal pairs, allophones, and syllable structure. In addition, various processes of word formation and vocabulary extension (e.g. affixation, compounding, borrowing, compounding, etc.) are illustrated with straightforward examples. Basic syntax, discourse, and text related- technical terms are defined and explicated relatively clearly.
Chapter 3 (pp. 28-44) situates Modern English in its historical contexts and presents a diachronic perspective on the development of Modern English, from Early Modern English (1450-1700) through international English in the 20th century. This chapter argues that the growth of international English has been reinforced by several contributing factors such as film, music, broadcasting, travel, and English language teaching. It also briefly comments on the increase in borrowing from English in other languages and speakers' attitudes toward English usage.
Chapter 4 (pp. 45-59) elaborates on the global expansion of English. In conceptualizing a global landscape of modern English, Diane Davies draws upon Kachru's three concentric circles model within the World Englishes paradigm. Davies focuses on a single English variety from each of the following three circles: the Inner Circle (IC), the Outer Circle (OC), and the Expanding Circle (EC) with a brief discussion of features and characteristics of a given variety. For instance, American English is presented as an example from IC and English from OC is exemplified in South Asian English. For EC, Davies features a sketch of English in Japan as a case study.
In contrast to the earlier chapters, whose discussions center on region- based variation, chapters 5 and 6 are sociolect-oriented with a specific focus on ethnicity and gender. Chapters 5 (pp. 60-75) explores the relationship between English and ethnicity and regards pidgins, creoles, African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and Chicano English as ethnicity-associated varieties of English. Chapter 6 (pp. 76-90) starts out with an epigrammatic overview of three major research traditions in the study of language and gender: dominance, difference, and performativity. Her discussion in chapter 6 incorporates gay, lesbian, and transgender discourses going beyond the typical male-female dichotomy.
Chapters 7 and 8 deal with English in different contexts, encompassing mode (e.g. speech and writing), medium (e.g. email, text-messaging, and chat rooms), and register. Chapter 7 (pp. 91-107) surveys different speech styles contrasting spontaneous speech with rehearsed speech and introduces how to transcribe speech in general. Written English is discussed in comparison with spoken English. Davies notes that speech and writing are ''interrelated in often complex ways'' (p. 106). She further argues that email, text messages, and online discussions have characteristics of spoken and written language and therefore could be viewed as 'hybrid media.' Davies views 'electronic English' as having ''its own varieties and sub- varieties'' (p. 106).
Chapter 8 (pp. 108-121) comments on the intricacy of language in context. Hymes' SPEAKING model is introduced to emphasize the significance of different components in a speech situation. Davies defines register for her readers and demonstrates how to conduct a register analysis. Furthermore, she categorizes advertising, literary, and institutional (e.g. company) texts as 'multi-vocal' discourses due to their proclivity to ''systematically borrow, switch, mix registers for a range of purposes'' (p. 116).
Chapter 9 (pp. 122-140) treats power as a focal point of discussion. Davies addresses power in relation to language in the domains of conversational interaction, politics, and media. Chapter 10 (141-151) entertains various predictions regarding the future of English as an international language and concludes that ''the future of English, in all its international and new varieties would not itself be threatened'' despite its declining influence from the Inner Circle (p. 150).
''Varieties of Modern English'' provides a reader friendly overview with a multi-faceted focus covering regional, social, context-and medium-based variation. In retelling a topic such as 'variation' that has arguably been discussed more extensively than any other topic in the study of English, Diane Davies strives for a rare balance between ''good ol' stories'' and fresher and more contemporary stories of English. This book will certainly enhance an understanding of English as a topic in general and raise awareness regarding its diverse and multiple identities around the world. In addition to profiling varieties of English that are region or ethnicity specific such as African American Vernacular English (AAVE), Chicano English, or English in Japan, this book also delves into sociolinguistic variables that require in-depth probing beyond regional and ethnic differences. The inclusion of a more up-to-date subject such as 'computer mediated English'-- also known as 'electronic English'-- is a notable strength of the book.
Considering the current heterogeneous nature of English around the world, Chapter 4,entitled 'English from a global perspective', could be significantly expanded and would benefit from incorporating extensive discussions from major works on world Englishes (see e.g. Brutt-Griffler 2002, Melchers & Shaw 2003, Smith & Forman 1997) and Asian Englishes (see, e.g. Bolton 2002, Kachru 2005, Stanlaw 2004). The plurality in Englishes, even within the same circle, can be stressed in a more empirically solid manner by representing more varieties from each respective circle. Chapter 4 discusses only American English as a variety from the Inner Circle. However, it is critical to point out that there is variation among the Inner Circle varieties of English. For instance, Australian English differs from Canadian English although they belong to the same Inner Circle. The concept of 'varieties within a variety' should be made more salient in order to have a complete discussion on multiple varieties of English around the world.
One of the most commendable features of the book has to do with the section called 'activities' at the end of each chapter. It serves as an excellent guide to educational and yet entertaining homework assignments. Teachers who adopt this book for their course text could use these activities to engage their students in more data-oriented and observation- driven linguistic projects. The section 'further reading' is also a helpful reference for readers to further explore topics since it lists major studies on relevant subjects with a convenient topic summary attached. ''Varieties of Modern English'' provides an illustrative introduction to the main types of variation in the English language in a clear and student-friendly style.
Bolton, Kingsley (ed.) (2002) Hong Kong English : autonomy and creativity. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Brutt-Griffler, Janina (2002) World English: A study of its development. Clevedon, UK; Buffalo, NY: Multilingual Matters.
Kachru, Braj (2005) Asian Englishes : Beyond the canon. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Melchers, Gunnel & Shaw, Philip (2003) World Englishes: An Introduction. London: Arnold.
Smith, Larry E. & Forman, Michael L. (eds.) (1997) World Englishes 2000. Honolulu: College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature, University of Hawaii.
Stanlaw, James (2004) Japanese English: Language and culture contact. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Jamie Shinhee Lee is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Her research interests include world Englishes, bilingualism, language and popular culture with a specific focus on English in Korean and Japanese pop culture, conversation analysis, and second language acquisition.