Review of Varieties of Modern English
|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
Jamie Shinhee Lee, Department of Humanities, University of Michigan-
''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
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
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.
Buffalo, NY: Multilingual Matters.
Kachru, Braj (2005) Asian Englishes : Beyond the canon. Hong Kong: Hong
Melchers, Gunnel & Shaw, Philip (2003) World Englishes: An Introduction.
Smith, Larry E. & Forman, Michael L. (eds.) (1997) World Englishes 2000.
Honolulu: College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature, University of
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