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Journal of English as a Lingua Franca

Ed. by Seidlhofer, Barbara

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Notes on English used as a lingua franca as an object of study

Janus Mortensen
Published Online: 2013-03-15 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jelf-2013-0002


This article discusses how English used as a lingua franca (ELF) can be defined as an object of study. It offers a critical appraisal of a high-profile definition of ELF (the VOICE/Seidlhofer definition), and argues that definitions of this kind, whether purposely or not, in effect invite conceptualizations of ELF as a reified entity. This kind of reification is shown to entail a number of problems, the main one being that reified conceptualizations of ELF as an object of study are at odds with the available empirical evidence. On the basis of this critique, the article suggests an alternative approach to the conceptualization of ELF where ELF is defined in straightforward functional terms as the use of English in a lingua franca language scenario. This definition underscores the complexity and breadth of ELF as an object of study, and highlights that researchers in the field of ELF studies need to acknowledge this complexity and adopt structured methods in dealing with it. Using well-known examples from the literature, the article shows that Dell Hymes's SPEAKING heuristic may be employed as one such tool.

Keywords: English used as lingua franca (ELF); definition of ELF; language scenario; SPEAKING heuristic

About the article

Janus Mortensen

Janus Mortensen is Assistant Professor in English at Roskilde University, and founding member of the Research Center for Cultural and Linguistic Practices in the International University (CALPIU). He has studied functional linguistics, pragmatics, and sociolinguistics at Roskilde University and Cardiff University, and received his PhD in linguistic studies in 2011 from Roskilde University based on a thesis on epistemic stance marking in the use of English as a lingua franca. His current research interests include sociolinguistic perspectives on the use of lingua francas, language ideology and language choice in multilingual settings, as well as sociolinguistic aspects of university internationalization.

Roskilde University, Denmark

Published Online: 2013-03-15

Published in Print: 2013-03-14

Citation Information: Journal of English as a Lingua Franca, Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 25–46, ISSN (Online) 2191-933X, ISSN (Print) 2191-9216, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jelf-2013-0002.

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© 2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston. Copyright Clearance Center

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