English Language and Inner Circle

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A critical Evaluation of Braj Kachru’s Three Circle Model for Varieties of English Around The World

Shivana Mohammed

2010-03-20

Ling 6402: World Englishes

Jo-Anne Ferierra

In 1985, Braj Kachru first posited the term “World Englishes” this was hailed as a valuable contribution to the understanding of the many varieties of English which have arisen since the colonisation of many cultures by the British Raj. Pennycock declares “Braj Kachrus development of the term World englishes, epitomises the heterogeny position” (qtd Mair 2003) Salikoko Mufwene then applauded Kachru for his terminology, which he then believed served as an ideal vessel for English as a World Language; emerging as an international lingua franca. However Braj Kachru warned then that the notion of “World Englishes” was independent of whether or not English functioned as a world language.

Rather, “the concept was intended to capture the plurism and the regional and cross cultural variation that obtains among English varieties throughout the world, and the distinct identities of these varieties”. (Kachrus, 1985) By capturing this plurism so succinctly, there is the forced recognition of other standard varieties of English far from the normative British and American Varieties. None sharing the same socio-politico-linguistic status as the “Native Englishes” from which all others take pattern. Therefore the question that had arisen was one of, how were the progeny of the English Raj to be classified?

The Gorilla protagonist and namesake of David Quinns’ novel Ishmael wisely instructs his student that a precursory statement must be made of human behaviour with respect to classification of their environment, before an explanation of these classifications be made. That is,

“I’m going to call the people of your country Takers and all the people of other countries Leavers.” [The Student] Hmmm’d a bit before saying, “I have a problem with that.” “Speak” [says Ishmael]. “I don’t see how you can lump everyone else in the world into one category like that” [says the student] “This is the way it’s done in your culture, except that you use*heavily loaded terms instead of these relatively neutral terms. You call yourselves civilised and all others primitive.” (Quinn)

Braj Kachru in 1985 thus proposed a globally accepted model of the spread of the English language. He positions the world’s Englishes under three umbrellas labelled the Inner circle, 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.” (Jenkins 18) Kachrus concentric model is built on the historical context of English, the status of the language, its geographical distribution and its functions in various regions.

This three circle, model however, has been met with widespread criticism among scholars of the field. It was argued that the circle is limited because of its focus on historicity rather than actuality of the linguistic situation. That the circular model is part of the climatic build to globalisation rather than existing in this, the globalised era, where modern technology challenges many notions of linguistic ownership and language spread. The model though useful for its contributions to an understanding of the situation of the English language in the 1980’s is now archaic. The terms of use and definitions from which the model springs all limit its possibilities so that each category examines English language use in each country myopically and assumes language homogeneity, ignoring the diversity of the language and its very organic nature.

Kachru’s three circle model assumes linguistic homogeneity and “implies uniformity” (Knuth). When in reality each circle contains a plethora of local and regional variations. The umbrella headings of the model force the Englishes under three vague delineations opening the door for...
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