Disciplines of English and disciplining by English

| December 25, 2009
Disciplines of English and disciplining by English

Keywords: English Studies, university language policy, lingua franca, academic freedom, American empire, imperial English, linguistic diversity

Robert Phillipson
Professor Emeritus, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Bio Data
Robert Phillipson is a Professor Emeritus at Copenhagen Business School. His books on language learning, linguistic human rights, and language policy have been published in ten countries. Published in 2009 are Linguistic imperialism continued (Routledge; and Orient Blackswan for seven South Asian countries), an anthology of recent articles and reviews; and Social justice through multilingual education, an anthology edited with Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Ajit Mohanty, and Minati Panda (Multilingual Matters, and also, in a slightly different form, Orient Blackswan). For details of CV and publications, some for downloading, see: http://www.cbs.dk/staff/phillipson.

The article stresses the importance of seeing English in context, both in terms of its global importance and how we refer to it: labels such as lingua franca are misleading. The fact that there is a standard form of written English of global relevance should not beguile one into thinking that the language is ideologically neutral. Academic freedom in universities is constrained in various ways, language policy being of central importance. Efforts in the Nordic countries to simultaneously strengthen national languages and English are reported on. English Studies should ideally serve the entire society, and contribute to promoting multilingualism, but academic specialisation is suspect if it lacks a holistic perspective and political awareness. The study of the international role of English needs to engage with US history, the consolidation of the language nationally, and with its promotion worldwide as a constituent of American empire. This necessitates a multidisciplinary approach.

It is helpful to see regional integration, European or Asian, and global English as projects, entailing certain products and processes. The monolingual UK-US approach to English learning, of major importance for the British economy, is increasingly under attack. The export business of campuses in Malaysia and China needs careful scrutiny. Bilingual education, as recommended by UNESCO, is becoming more institutionalised in many parts of the world. Developments in the way the use of English is increasing in different parts of the world are of universal language policy relevance. The complexity of English as medium of instruction and a societal language in Malaysia has been insightfully analysed. The integration of higher education and research across Europe structurally favours English. In any given context, it is important to assess how far other languages are being disciplined and marginalised by English or not.


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Category: Main Editions, Volume 11 Issue 4