There is growing recognition that language cannot be seen as a pregiven system that correlates with and simply manifests itself in social context, but as a form of social practice. However, this perspective has not yet made a serious impact on applied linguistic research, where dominant modern ideologies of language that tend to conceive of language as an entity with clear boundaries and autonomous structure still prevail. We argue that this problem reflects a general lack of critical reflection on the fundamental assumptions of the discipline, and make this point via a review of some of the recent work on English as a Lingua Franca (ELF). In particular, we focus on a direction in research in which increasing effort is put into identifying and describing distinct ELFs within specific communities or domains, leading to a proliferation of ELFs, each of which can in turn be characterized in terms of a distinct set of formal linguistic features. We analyze the problems with identifying such “downscaled ELFs”, considering this research practice as an act of “linguistic baptism”, and discuss how it constitutes an uncritical appropriation of dominant metadiscursive regimes, rather than a careful engagement with them. In doing so, we call for a more serious consideration of metadiscursive regimes and the fundamental assumptions about language inherent in them.
About the authors
Joseph Sung-Yul Park is an Associate Professor at the Department of English Language and Literature of the National University of Singapore. His research focuses on language ideology, language and identity, and English as a global language. His current work investigates the intersection of language, transnationalism, and neoliberalism in South Korea. He is the author of The Local Construction of a Global Language (Mouton de Gruyter) and Markets of English (with Lionel Wee, Routledge).
Lionel Wee is Professor and Head of the Department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore. He is also Associate Editor of the Journal of Sociolinguistics, and sits on the editorial boards of Applied Linguistics, English World-Wide and Multilingual Margins. He currently teaches courses on language policy and language in the workplace. His recent books include Language Without Rights (Oxford University Press), Style, Identity and Literacy (with Chris Stroud, Multilingual Matters), Markets of English (with Joseph Park, Routledge), and The Politics of English (co-edited with Robbie Goh and Lisa Lim, John Benjamins). He is currently completing a book on The Language of Organizational Styling (Cambridge University Press).
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