English Tesina

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Final tesina for the Intercultural communication course 2009/10: Use of English as a lingua franca (ELF) in the international communication: a case study on Spicchi di Sicilia, Talatta s.r.l. and Casale di Villa Rain websites.

Minelli Lisa

Piampiano Antonella



Our work comes from the study of English as a lingua franca (ELF)that today has become the main vehicle for intercultural communication worldwide between a large number of multilingual individuals, in fact as Crystal affirms only one out of every four users of English in the world is a native speaker of the language. As a consequence most ELF interactions take place among nonnative speakers of English not only in speeches and conversation but also in written texts such as announcements, advertisements or websites. in particular, our analysis will focus on the use of ELF in Italian websites aiming to the promotion of local culture and products. In the first section we will be dealing with the main studies concerning ELF such as Kachrus, Quirks, Berns and Modianos theories; In the second section we talk about the use of ELF as a medium of communication in a global market and its characteristics and usages; in the third section we will analyze three commercial and touristic Sicilian websites using ELF an finally, in the last chapter we will propose a re-writing of all the previously analyzed texts.



In the last decades, globalization and internationalization processes have extremely changed our way of communication. In international communication English became the dominant language, the language commonly used, in a nutshell: the lingua franca. ELF (English as a lingua franca) as it is generally conceived of is essentially a contact language between persons who share neither a common native tongue nor a common (national) culture, and for whom English is the chosen foreign language of communication (Firth, 1996: 240, original emphasis). It can, of course, also include native speakers when they engage in intercultural communication (Gnutzmann, 2000: 357). Like Firth, House defines ELF interactions as being between numbers of two or more different linguacultures in English, for none of whom English is the mother tongue (1999). The origins of the term "lingua franca" date back approximately to the fifteenth century when it was adopted as the primary means of communication between merchants and sailors in the South-East coast of the Mediterranean Sea who did not share the same mother tongue. Considering the different origins between users from both a geographical and linguistic point of view, the resulting language was a pidgin based on some Italian dialects including elements of French, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Turkish, Greek and Persian, a sort of "patchwork. English obtained the status of the world's lingua franca through globalization. Over the centuries English has become widespread and it is used worldwide mainly for some socio-economic reasons but also for political and cultural causes strictly interlinked with the British Empire hegemony in the past and the United States hegemony in the last century. As Crystal quoted the one main reason for the global recognition of a single language in the political power of the people who speak it. Furthermore, other additional factors have contributed to the spread of English as a lingua franca: travel, migration, mass media, popular culture, Internet but also the using of English in the international scientific community. The success of English as global language also depends on practical reasons such as a rich vocabulary (the Oxford dictionary counts 615,000 words) and its borrowing and incorporating


nature (only 50-60% of English vocabulary is proper English, the other words came from Germanic and Scandinavian idioms), the simplified morphology (free of gender and simplified verb system) and syntax that make the usage easier and more flexible for non-native speakers. Barbara Seidlhofer pointed out that ELF is preferred not so much because most lingua franca definitions restrict it to communication among non-native users as such, but because it best signals that it is these non-native users that provide the strongest momentum for the development of the language in its global uses. In fact it is NNSs rather than NSs who contributes the most to the evolving and changing of ELF, the majority of linguistic innovations come from the development of American English, Singapore English, Indian English and so on and so forth. The NNSs monopoly is due to the international rather than the intranational use of ELF. Another element that can be taken in support of this thesis is the similarity of the linguistic evolution processes in ELF and in the other Englishes which will be discussed in the following chapter.


1. Englishes and some theoretical points on ELFDo the British speak the same English as the Americans, the Nigerians, the Singaporeans, the Australians, the Irish, or the Indians? Is there a global standard for all English speakers or not? Can we claim that one version of English is more correct, formal, or proper than other forms? Are native speakers of English really the best English example to emulate for those who are learning English? These questions are among the most frequent in the debates on the status of English where the contrast between two radically opposed views emerges: Kachrus pluralistic model and Quirks monolithic point of view. The first one promotes the multiplicity of several new Englishes through which individuality or nationality can be expressed. On the contrary, the second one expresses fear of an eventual fragmentation of English which would inevitably obstruct the role of English as the word language. The most influential model of the spread of English has undoubtedly been that of Kachru (1992) Kachru divides World Englishes into three concentric circles, the Inner Circle, the Outer Circle and the Expanding Circle. The three circles represent the types of spread, the patterns of acquisition, and the functional allocation of English in diverse cultural contexts, as the language travelled from Britain, in the first diasporas to the other ENL countries (the Inner Circle), in the second diasporas to the ESL countries (the Outer Circle) and, more recently, to the EFL countries (the Expanding Circle). The English spoken in the Inner Circle, English as a native language, is norm-providing, that in the Outer Circle, English as a second language, is norm-developing and that in the Expanding Circle, English as a foreign language, is norm-dependent. In other words, English-language standards are determined by speakers of ENL, ESL speakers are not totally dependent of ENL because their varieties are characterized by robustness, sistematicity and creativity, and they made English the language of


the institutions and bureaucracy, EFL speakers are the largest group of the three and they are also the users of ELF. In opposition to Kachrus model it is important to talk about the famous view of Quirk. Although he acknowledged an obvious degree of variety within English spoken worldwide, he expressed some concerns on the fact that English could diversify and fragment into many mutually unintelligible local forms (the same fate which affected Latin), which, according to him, could not have had the status of standard language. He focused on the presence of a uniform standard, a form of English that is both understood and respected in every corner of the globe, the only one that can be considered as an international language. The position of Quirk can somehow be justified if we take into account the fact that at the time of his studies, very little had been done in research and analysis on ELF. As previously explained, opponents to the ELF legitimacy do not only come from the group of native speakers, a prominent example is Kachru himself. When it was first proposed, Kachrus concentric circles paradigm proved to be extremely useful as it helped promote varieties of English, but his model tends to generalize: within the same circles there are not homogeneities. The idea that English is a second language for someone and a first language for someone else can create problems and discriminations, giving the impression that English belongs to the NSs who hold it as their mother tongue and who are considered the owners of the right variety. In 1995 Margie Berns, with reference to the available literature, discussed some of her own research on the uses of English in the 12 EU member nations. Originally she wanted to classify the EU as a single sociolinguistic entity, but she found that each country must be considered its own entity. She found that Kachrus widely-used model is not quite adequate in accounting for the situation in unified Europe problem areas: Luxembourg, Germany, the Netherlands.


She proposed a revised analysis: Inner Circle: English functions as a native language; Expanding/Outer Circle: a combination of Kachrus original Outer and Expanding Circles which shows their interrelatedness; Expanding Circle: English used as a foreign language. More recently, in 1999, Modiano

proposed the centripetal circles of international English model, re-

establishing the notion that the language is the property of specific groups and that correct use is determined by experts who speak a prestige variety. The centre is made up of those who are proficient in international English. That is, these speakers function well in cross-cultural communication where English is the lingua franca. They are just as likely to be non-native as native speakers of English.