The Parameters and Dimensions of the Power of English

Annika Hohenthal, Department of English, University of Turku, Finland

At present, English dominates functional domains in the widest possible register range. Kachru (1986c: 130) has presented some parameters of the power of English (which can also be understood as individual motivations for learning the language): Demographic and numerical Unprecedented spread across cultures and languages; on practically every continent Functional Provides access to most important scientific, technological, and cross-cultural domains of knowledge and interaction Attitudinal Symbolizes - certainly to a large group across cultures - one or more of the following: neutrality, liberalism, status and progressivism Accessibility Provides intranational accessibility in the Outer Circle and international mobility across regions (cf. "link language" and "complementary language") Pluricentricity has resulted in the nativization and acculturation of the language. These two are, then, responsible for the "assimilation" of English across cultures Material a tool for mobility, economic gains, and social status Table 1: Parameters for the power of English/individual motivations for learning English.

In the same country the English language can be characterized by different terms representing the power of the language: POSITIVE NEGATIVE National identity Anti-nationalism Literary renaissance Anti-native culture Cultural mirror (for native cultures) Materialism Modernization Westernization Liberalism Rootlesness Universalism Ethnocentrism Technology Permissiveness Science Divisiveness Mobility Alienation Access code Table 2. Terms representing the power of English.

Often the same term may be used both in a positive and in a negative sense, depending on who uses it. The bad effects of the increasing power of English have been conscious and unconscious lingocide and dislocation of native cultural traditions by introducing Westernization. English is often seen as a tool of economic exploitation and domination. On the other hand, the Outer Circle sees English also as a tool of national identity and political awakening (as in the independence struggle in India), a window on the world, and a link language (Kachru 1986c: 136).

According to Bailey, too, English involves both positive and negative cultural values: economic development yet exploitation, political and cultural ideas and institutions, enrichment of English but possibly this at the cost of indigenous languages, opportunities to communicate with readers around the world yet at the expense of one's own language (Bailey 1991: 165).

Cheshire (1991:6) points out that although the spread of English has often been associated with the death of indigenous languages in those countries to which it has been transplanted, in India this was not the case. In Saghal's (1991:300) view, too, the role of English in India has not been replacive: it has not driven out any of the indigenous languages. Rather, she claims, English has enriched Indian languages (as well as it has been enriched by them).

According to Kachru (1986c:137), the power bases of English have to be seen in both material terms and psychological terms. English is supported in the Outer Circle for cultural renaissance, spread of nationalism, pan-regional literary creativity and neutrality, and there is a strong emotional attachment to the language. The psychological factors are important also because they are vital for creating an identity.

Kachru (see e.g. Kachru 1986a:9) stresses the neutrality of English as one clear advantage of using it: English is free from any undesirable (e.g. ethnic or religious) connotations native languages may have. The pros of using English have wiped away the fact that it originally was the colonizer's language (Kachru 1986a: 9).

Domains of Control

Kachru (1986c:132-133) mentions four basic areas in which the power of English manifests itself: linguistic, literary, attitudinal and pedagogical. Linguistic control is reflected, for example, in the codification of a language, the attitudes toward linguistic innovation and lexicographical research. The literary aspect refers to the ethnocentric attitude toward literary creativity in the Outer Circle. The attitudinal aspect is involved in issues concerning the identities of individuals and speech communities.

Kachru, for instance, stresses the importance of attitudes when determining the power of a language: what one thinks the language will do for him or her and what others think of a person when he or she uses the language. The pedagogical aspect deals with teaching of English in global contexts (the concerns including the model and the methods for teaching of English, which are often commercially motivated and quite seldom consider the local needs of different countries).

Postcolonial Web India next next bibliography