Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 5, No 3 (2011): Language beyond the nation: a comparative approach to policies and discourses

English: from British empire to corporate empire

Robert Phillipson
Issued Date: 21 Oct 2012

Abstract


The article exemplifies and presents the characteristics of linguistic imperialism, linguistic capital accumulation following the same pattern as capitalist economic dominance. The text summarizes the way English was established in the colonial period. Many of the mechanisms of linguistic hierarchy have been maintained and intensified since then, as African and Indian scholarship demonstrates. Language plays a key role in education, the World Bank taking over where colonial regimes left off. Anglo-American efforts to maintain global English dominance have intensified since 1945 and are central to the present-day world ‘order’, as the postcolonial is subsumed under global empire, assisted by English linguistic neoimperialism. Some scholars who deny the existence of linguistic imperialism are reported on, and the complexity of language policy in European integration is demonstrated. The article concludes by setting out how the deceptive term ‘lingua franca’ needs to be challenged, and lists ways of exploring English as project, process, and product, setting out key research questions. The constraints of a short article only permit glimpses of a rapidly evolving scene, the visible tip of the English iceberg.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v5i3.441

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