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English as a Lingua Franca in Cross-cultural Immigration Domains


Maria Grazia Guido

This book explores the cognitive and communicative processes involved in the use of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) within cross-cultural specialized contexts where non-native speakers of English – i.e. Western experts and non-Western migrants – interact. The book argues that the main communicative difficulties in such contexts are due precisely to the use of ELF, since it develops from the non-native speakers’ transfer of their native language structures and socio-cultural schemata into the English they speak. Transfer, in fact, allows non-native speakers to appropriate, or authenticate, those English semantic, syntactic, pragmatic and specialized-discourse structures that are linguistically and conceptually unavailable to them. It follows that there are as many ELF varieties as there are communities of non-native speakers authenticating English.
The research questions justifying the ethnographic case studies detailed in this book are: What kind of cognitive frames and communicative strategies do Western experts activate in order to convey their culturally-marked knowledge of specialized discourse – by using their ELF varieties – to non-Westerners with different linguistic and socio-cultural backgrounds? What kind of power asymmetries can be identified when non-Westerners try to communicate their own knowledge by using their respective ELF varieties? Is it possible to ultimately develop a mode of ELF specialized communication that can be shared by both Western experts and non-Western migrants?


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H.G. WIDDOWSON Preface 15


15 H.G. WIDDOWSON Preface One of the most interesting implications that emerges from Maria Grazia Guido’s enquiry is the need for a reappraisal of the validity in the current globalized world of the Kachru typology of varieties of English as expressed in his celebrated three circles. As has been pointed out, the placement of NS varieties in the Inner Circle, while reflecting the spread of the language, the varieties in the other circles being historically derivative in one way or another, it also carries the implication of socio-political primacy: NS English is at the centre, the epicentre indeed, with the other varieties rippling from it, not only derivative but dependent. The outer and expanding circles are defined only in reference to the inner one. The use of the term ‘expanding’ also carries with it the implication that the other circles are in some degree more stable: the terms ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ suggest a fixed loca- tion not a process. But of course all varieties, wherever they are lo- cated, whatever the community of users, are in the continual process of expansion. To say that inner circle varieties are norm providing suggests that they have a relatively well defined and stable norm to provide. It is allowed that outer circle varieties may develop norms of their own, which enables them to be identified as different Englishes, but this tolerance does not extend to expanding circle uses of the lan- guage. What is said to distinguish them from outer circle uses is...

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