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Strevens Model of English

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English

Of all the languages in the world, English is one of the most widespread and significant. In this article, we'll explore how English has spread worldwide to become a lingua franca, the reasons for this, and some different models of English.

A lingua franca is a common language adopted by people or countries speaking different languages. A language also typically gets "lingua franca" status when spoken across a large swathe of the globe or by people in many different countries.

Strevens' Model of English + World Map of English + StudySmarterWorld map, pixabay.com

In particular, we'll be looking at the work of Peter Strevens and his world map of English. For a little bit of background info, let's find out...

Who was Peter Strevens?

Peter Strevens (1922- 1989) was a British academic, linguist, and teacher who made significant contributions to the study of world Englishes and how English has permeated the globe. Strevens was an avid traveller and a keen learner. He studied languages and phonetics at the Gold Coast University College in Ghana, where he later became a lecturer and taught English as a foreign language in various countries around the world. Strevens also became the Chairman of the International Association for the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL).

He co-founded the School of Applied Linguistics in Edinburgh and was an Applied Linguistics professor at the University of Essex for ten years. He was also the primary instigator for the Seaspeak specialised code, an international English for aiding maritime communication. As a poetic conclusion, he died at a language teachers' conference in Tokyo at the age of sixty-seven.

This article aims to explore his contribution to the study of world Englishes, particularly his world map of English.

'World Englishes' refers to localised varieties of English, in particular, varieties that have emerged in regions heavily influenced by the United Kingdom or the United States.

Strevens' world map of English

Now that we have a bit of insight into Strevens' life and language passion, let's look at his model of the spread of English. This model is called Strevens' world map of English, and it is the oldest map showing the spread of English. Strevens also places a lot of significance on the impact of colonisation on how English split into different key branches, British English and American English (we'll look at this more shortly).

This world map of English takes a form similar to that of a family tree: the umbrella category of "English" branches off into various sub-categories of English, which in turn have their own branches and sub-categories, and so on.

The first two levels that English branches into are British English and American English. This initial split was marked by Britain's arrival and settlement in Northern America during the seventeenth century and other colonial endeavours into the Caribbean and Oceania (namely Australia and New Zealand). This period is known as the first dispersal of English and refers to English being spread to "the New World".

Strevens' Model of English, Strevens' World Map of English, StudySmarterStrevens' World Map of English, StudySmarter Original

The American English branch is understandably less extensive and complex than the British English branch as Britain continued to build its empire and colonise other countries in Asia and Africa. This continued branching off of British English coincides with what is called the second dispersal of English which led to the second-language varieties of English, otherwise known as the New Englishes. Even after certain former British colonies gained independence from the Empire (for example India and Jamaica), English remained an official language or a language of government in many of them, cementing the spread of the language.

Strevens noted the impact of colonisation on the branching of the English language, saying that all subsequent varieties of English stemming from the British/American split have had definite affinities with either one or the other.2

Canadian English is a sub-category of the American English branch and so many aspects of Canadian English are very similar to American English. Alternatively, ex-British colonies such as India use English varieties more similar to standard British English.

The spread of English according to Strevens

Strevens championed a variety-based approach to teaching English1 and believed that English should be viewed as a global language.

He believed that local variations of English in each distinct ESL (English as a second language) area were more suitable as models to be used in schools and other settings than standard British or American varieties. According to Strevens, local English varieties learned as a second language, or L2, by locals were much more likely to gain public approval. If a language variety gains widespread public approval, it is much more likely to be adopted by the population1.

As these local varieties were adopted by ESL populations, they became effective vehicles for the spread of English across more parts of the world. In his book Teaching English as an International Language (1980), Strevens states:

...the native speaker of English must accept that English is no longer his possession alone: it belongs to the world, and new forms of English, born of new countries with new communicative needs, should be accepted into the marvellously flexible and adaptable galaxy of “Englishes” which constitute the English language'.

The difference between English and Englishes

This might seem like quite an obvious distinction to make, and indeed, the difference is quite simple.

'English' refers to the English language as a whole, and acts as an umbrella term encompassing all further varieties of the language.

Whereas...

'Englishes' refers to all of the language varieties that fall under the larger English umbrella. These varieties include different forms of English such as dialects, sociolects, and standard and non-standard forms, as well as English-based creoles (a language formed when a European language and a local language come into contact). Another term for this is 'World Englishes'.

Other World Englishes theorists

Although Strevens' world map of English was the first model of language spread that emerged, he was far from the only theorist to have a model of world Englishes. A couple of other key ones include:

Kachru's three circles of English

In 1985, Braj Kachru classified world Englishes using his 'three circles' model. The basic structure of this model is three concentric circles where each layer relates to a different group of English speakers. The three circles are referred to as:

  • the inner circle - countries where English is traditionally the first language of most of the population.
  • the outer circle - countries where English holds an official language status or institutional significance.
  • the expanding circle - countries where English is basically only used in foreign language contexts and holds no permanent or official role3.

Inner-circle countries include the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Outer-circle countries mainly consist of postcolonial territories such as India, Singapore, and Kenya, and expanding-circle countries include the likes of China and Japan (although even in countries such as these, English has gained a lot more significance over time, especially as a business language)4.

Kachru's three circles model (1985) shows...

the type of spread, the pattern of acquisition, and the functional domains in which English language is used across cultures and languages'.

McArthur's wheel model of English

Somewhat similar to Kachru's three circles, Tom McArthur's wheel model (1987) also utilises several levels of English in a fairly concentric formation. The key difference, however, is that McArthur's model has eight different categories of English varieties as opposed to Kachru's three umbrella categories. These eight categories coincide with the geographical regions that share English varieties.

The categories are:

These categories act as branches from the central point of the wheel which is simply labelled 'World Standard English'. These branches, or spokes, if we want to carry on the wheel metaphor, branch out into further sub-categories in the outermost layer of the model and represent more localised English varieties5.

Strevens' Model of English + World Englishes + StudySmarterEnglish speakers around the world, pixabay.com

Stevens Model of English - Key Takeaways

  • Strevens' model of English is called the World Map of English - a branching model, similar to a family tree, that shows how different varieties of English have come from American and British varieties.
  • Strevens believed that no variety of English was superior or inferior to any other and that English no longer belongs only to those who speak it as a native language.
  • According to Strevens, Standard British and American English varieties are not necessarily the best Englishes for use in schools and other formal settings in other countries as more localised varieties are more likely to gain public acceptance.
  • 'English' refers to the umbrella term of the language as a whole, whereas 'Englishes' refers to the many varieties of the language under the main umbrella term.
  • Other widely known models of English include Kachru's three circles and McArthur's wheel model.

1. Peter Strevens, New Orientations in the Teaching of English, 1977

2. Peter Strevens, Teaching English as an International Language, 1980

3. Braj Kachru, Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle, 1985

4. Andy Kirkpatrick, The Routledge Companion to English Studies, 2014

5. Tom McArthur, The English Languages?, English Today, 1987

Strevens Model of English

Strevens' world map of English is the oldest model mapping the spread of the English language across the world. 

The spread of English refers to how the English language has become widely used across different parts of the world. 

The expanding circle of English comprises the countries and regions where English is widely used and accepted but does not yet have official, administrative, or government status.

The first main reason that English spread so widely worldwide was the period of colonisation by Britain, whereby the British Empire colonised almost a quarter of the world. 

A lingua franca is a common language adopted by people who speak different languages. English has become one of the most significant lingua francas and continues to grow in importance every year.

Final Strevens Model of English Quiz

Question

What was Strevens model of English called?

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Answer

The world map of English

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Question

What is a lingua franca?

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Answer

A lingua franca is a common language adopted by speakers of different languages to facilitate easier communication. 

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Question

What is an official language?

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Answer

An official language is a language that has an administrative or institutional role or significance in a country and is widely used by the population. 

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Question

What kind of approach to teaching English as a foreign language did Strevens champion?

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Answer

A variety-based approach

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Question

What did Strevens mean by "variety-based approach to teaching English"?

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Answer

Strevens' variety-based approach refers to how he believed that localised varieties are more useful for schools and other settings as they gain public acceptance more easily than British and American standard varieties. 

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Question

What is an ESL area?

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Answer

An ESL area is an English as a Second Language area, and refers to countries or regions where English is not a native or official language.

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Question

What is an L2?

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Answer

A second language

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Question

What is the difference between English and Englishes?

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Answer

'English' refers to the language itself as an umbrella term and lingua franca, whereas 'Englishes' refers to all subsequent varieties of English that emerge.

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Question

What is the oldest model of English in the world?

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Answer

Strevens world map of English

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Question

What is the "first dispersal of English"?

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Answer

The period when English was spread to the "New World" by the British Empire during colonial times. 

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Question

What is the "second dispersal of English"?

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Answer

The period when Britain continued to colonise countries in African and Asia, spreading English to these countries as a second language. 

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Question

What is the expanding circle, in Kachru's three circles model?

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Answer

The expanding circle encompasses countries where English is essentially only used in foreign language contexts and has no official or institutional role.

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Question

How many categories of English are in the second layer of McArthur's wheel model of English?

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Answer

Eight

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Question

What is a creole?

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Answer

A new language formed when a European language and a local language come into extended contact. 

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Question

True or false, "World Englishes" is a term used to describe the different varieties of English spoken across Britain and America.

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Answer

False, "World Englishes" refers to all the varieties of English spoken in countries all over the globe.

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