Looking under Kachru's (1982, 1985) Three Circles Model of World Englishes: The Hidden Reality and Current Challenges

Schmitz, John Robert
April 2014
Revista Brasileira de Lingüística Aplicada;2014, Vol. 14 Issue 2, p373
Academic Journal
This paper examines the pioneering model of World Englishes formulated by Kachru in the early 1980s that allocates the presence of English into three concentric circles: first of all, the inner circle (Great Britain, the USA) where the language functions as an L1 (or native language); secondly, the outer circle (India, Nigeria) where the language was forced upon the subjugated people by Britain; thirdly, the expanding circle (China, Brazil) where English is studied as a foreign language. Researchers in the area of language studies tend to put too much store in Kachru's model expecting it to expose the different circles: (i) the proficiency level of the speakers, (ii) the variation that exists in the different dialects of the language, and (iii) how the many users appropriate the language to perform their daily routine. Pung (2009) suggests "going beyond" the three circle model with his proposal of a Conical Model of English (CME), while Park and Wee (2009, p.402) state that models have no "magical efficacy in challenging dominant ideologies of English" and that change in the world is not brought about by models but my people. Based on Park and Lee's caution with regard to models, and in lieu of Pung's "going beyond" the well-known Kachruvian model, the thrust of this article is to look specifically under the inner circle, that is, the supposed "native speaker domain". It will be argued in this paper that the circles function as a palimpsest erasing and ignoring what happened in the past linguistically, historically and culturally before the appearance of English in the spaces that the language occupies at the present time in the inner, outer, and expanding circles. An examination of days gone-by, with a focus on Kachru's inner circle, can present a mirror to examine: (i) bilingual (multilingual) biases, (ii) migration of peoples and treatment of immigrants, (iii) respect (or lack of ) for the linguistic and cultural rights of minorities, and (iv) the hegemony of English in relation to other languages - issues that concern us today and will continue to do so in the coming years.


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