Varieties of English (Linguistics and Sociolinguistics Approaches)

Course Leader: Dr George Kuparadze

Home Institution: Iv. Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Georgia

Course pre-requisites: B2 level in English (BA, MA).

Course Overview
Political and military conquest have been major causes of language spread. Aramaic in the ancient world, Greek in the Eastern Mediterranean, Latin in Western Europe, Arabic in the Middle East and North Africa, Mayan in Central America, Manding  in West Africa are all cases. In these cases, the rulers did not follow an explicit policy of requiring the conquered to learn their languages, but essentially left the choice open. Similarly, when a language has been spread by trade (as for instance Swahili in Africa), the diffusion has been more or less unplanned.

The main subject of observation of this course is Standard English and its varieties spoken in different parts of the globe. Standard English is more expressive or clearer or more logical than other varieties. This type of English is called ‘standard’ because it has gone standardization, which means that it has been subjected to a process through which it has been selected, codified and stabilized, in a way that other varieties have not.

There are three types of country in the world in terms of their relationship to the English language. First, there are nation-states in which English is a native language(ENL) – where people have English as their mother-tongue, as they do in Australia, Canada and Ireland. Varieties of English spoken in ENL countries are sometimes also referred to as ‘Inner Circle’ Englishes. Second, there are countries where English is a foreign language (EFL), as in Poland, China and Brazil – sometimes known as ‘Expanding Circle’ nations. These are places where people do not speak English natively and where, if they do speak English, they use it to speak to foreigners. And, third, there are places where English is a second language (ESL). In ESL or ‘Outer Circle’ countries such as India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya and Singapore, English is not typically spoken as a mother-tongue, but it has some kind of governmental or other official status; it is used as a means of communication within the country, at least among the educated classes; and it is widely employed in the education system, in the newspapers, and in the media generally.

Since RP (Received Pronunciation) speakers make up a very small percentage of the English population, many native speakers working as teachers of English are not native speakers of RP, and first we can turn to examine are the varieties of English heard and spoken in the Southern Hemisphere (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa).

The situation in the Northern Hemisphere is completely different. The sociolinguistic condition in the United States and Canada, as far as pronunciation is concerned, is rather different from that of the rest of the English-speaking world. There is more regional variation in NAmEng pronunciation than in AusNZEng and SAfEng.

It should also be noted that we treat EngEng  and NAmEng, often as if they were two entirely homogeneous and separate varieties. This makes the presentation of the facts more straightforward, but  it does obscure, to a certain extent, that there is regional variation, even in standard English, in two areas. There is also considerable influence of the one variety on the other, particularly of  NAmEng on EngEng; thus, what is NAmEng usage for older English people may be perfectly normal EngEng usage for younger English people.

Some noticeable peculiarities may be observed in so called British English varieties like: Welsh, Scottish and Irish ones are, where English has been spoken for more than 200 years or so. These varieties reveal those remarkable differences, the roots of which can be traced not only within the given set, but also outside of it in various parts of the world.

A few words should be said about such varieties as Pidgins and Creoles are. The most characteristic features of these varieties are: simplification and mixing. In the speech of such adult language learners, the language in question will be, to different degrees, simplified and mixed. When a language experiences such simplification, mixing and reduction, we can say that it has been subjected to the process of pidginization. A pidgin which acquires native speakers is called a creole.

Thus, the recent world-wide diffusion of English, so that it now looks set to become a world language, has raised not just concern among speakers of other languages, but controversy among sociolinguists. To what extent, they argue, is it the result of conscious planning by governments and experts of English-speaking countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, South Africa and Australia, and to what extent is it the result of a large array of factors connected with modernization and globalization?

From the point of view of many observers, this growing linguistic hegemony of English is dangerous and harmful for the world, as it may take over important functions from other major languages and may cause further language shift. But whatever the case, the spread of English is producing a new sociolinguistic reality and it is important task for sociolinguists to understand this process.

Learning Outcomes
By the end of this course students should be able to synthesize information about effective intralinguistic and interlinguistic management and its exact realization in various spheres of social activity. They should make predictions of value-keeping equality in different intercultural situations. Attempting realistic appreciation of fragmented information through the context. Students should also be able to solve problems closely connected with utmost opinions and judgments closely connected with social stratification; language functioning in various social domains;

Course Content


Course Contents



1. The Aims and Scope of Historical Linguistics

2. The Data of Historical Linguistics

H. Schendl      p.9

                   p. 11-12


1. The Ethnography of Speaking

2. Language and ethnic identity

B. Spolski   p. 14 – 15

                   p.  57 - 58


1. Speech Communities and Repertoires

2. Dialect

B. Spolski   p. 24 – 27

                   p.  27 - 30


1. Styles

2. Language and Gender

B. Spolski   p. 31 – 33

                   p.  36 - 39


1. Language Acquisition or Language Education Policy

2. The Spread of English – Imperialism or Hegemony?

B. Spolski   p. 74 – 75

                   p. 76 - 77


1. Models of English

2. The Nature of Overseas Englishes

P. Trudgill, J. Hannah

     p. 4 – 8 ; p. 11 - 13


1.The RP Accent

2. EE Modification of RP and Cockney

P. Trudgill, J. Hannah

     p. 15 – 16;  63 - 68


1. Irish English

2. Scottish English

P. Trudgill, J. Hannah

     p. 103 – 108;  95 - 98


1. American  English

2. Canadian  English

P. Trudgill, J. Hannah

     p. 41 – 45;  53 - 55


1. Australian  English

2. Welsh  English

P. Trudgill, J. Hannah

     p. 22 – 28;  36 - 39


1. South African English

2. New Zealandian English

P. Trudgill, J. Hannah

     p. 33 – 36;  29 - 32


1. Language Birth: Pidgins and Creoles

2. English-based Pidgins and Creoles


P. Trudgill, J. Hannah

     p. 59 – 62;  112 - 114

Instructional Method
The format of the course will include both theoretical and practical work. It will unite lectures, seminars and every now and then group projects and presentations coming out from a lecture thematic requirements. 

Required Course Materials

  1. Trudgill, P & Hannah, J International English. Hodder Edu. UK 2008
  2. Spolsky, B Sociolinguistics. Oxford University Press, UK, 2007
  3. Schendl, H. Historical Linguistics. Oxford University Press, UK, 2007

Learners’ regular check up will be based on both oral and written continuous assessment /evaluation. The course will provide explicit information about grading procedures showing students’ progress and achieving learning outcomes. It will also embrace students’ feedback about the course and their learning expectations and results.