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Emergent Lingua Francas

and World Orders


Routledge Studies in Sociolinguistics

1. Emergent Lingua Francas and


World Orders
The Politics and Place of English as a
World Language
Phyllis Ghim-Lian Chew
Emergent Lingua Francas
and World Orders
The Politics and Place of English
as a World Language

Phyllis Ghim-Lian Chew

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Chew, Phyllis Ghim Lian.
Emergent lingua francas and world orders : the politics and place of English as a
world language / by Phyllis Ghim-Lian Chew.
p. cm. — (Routledge studies in sociolinguistics ; 1)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. English language—Foreign countries. 2. Lingua francas. 3. English language—
Variation. 4. English language—Social aspects. I. Title.
PE2751.C44 2009
420.9—dc22
2009035635

ISBN 0-203-86656-8 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN10: 0-415-87227-8 (hbk)


ISBN10: 0-203-86656-8 (ebk)

ISBN13: 978-0-415-87227-0 (hbk)


ISBN13: 978-0-203-86656-6 (ebk)
To Lubna Alsagoff,
،‫ﻣﺎ ﺩﺍﻡ ﻫﻨﺎﻙ ﺣﺏ ﻟﻥ ﻳﻜﻭﻥ ﻫﻧﺎﻙ ﺃﻱ ﻋﺎﺋﻕ ﻠﺣﻞ ﺍﻟﻣﺸﺎﻛﻞ‬
‫ﻭﺍﻟﻭﻗﺖ ﺩﺍﺋﻣﺎ ﻣﻭﺠﻭﺩ‬
‫ ﻋﺒﺩ ﺍﻠﺑﻬﺎء‬-
Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble,
and there is always time (Abdul Baha)
Contents

List of Figures ix
List of Tables xi
Preface xiii
Acknowledgments xvii

1 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 1

2 A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 28

3 Liminality 58

4 The Last Liminal Period: Emergent Arabic in the Middle Ages 78

5 Three Phases of Liminality 101

6 Embracing Liminality: A Case Study of Singapore 124

7 A Case Study of The Peoples’ Republic of China 148

8 A Case Study of Southern Min Language 177

9 The Place of English in the World Today 209

Notes 233
Bibliography 249
Index 277
Figures

2.1 A model of evolving world orders with shaded areas


showing the periods of liminality. 40

2.2 A model of evolving world orders with their respective


periods of liminalities indicated in the white bands. 41

2.3 From the world order of the family: a model of evolving


world orders. 42

3.1 The three phases of liminality. 65

7.3 The Sinitic languages. 157

8.1 Provinces of China. 178

8.2 Map of Fújiàn province. 178

8.3 The Min family tree. 179

8.4 Sounds of spoken Amoy. 194


Tables

2.1 Shifting Paradigm: From Nation State to Global State 56

6.1 Percentage Pass of Primary and Secondary School Students


in 1968 132

6.2 The COM Model (with International Singapore English


and Local Singapore English as an Example) 142

7.1 Chinese World Orders 151

7.2 A Chronology of Chinese Dynasties 中國朝代 (中国朝代) 152

8.1 Comparative Variation Between Standard Xiamen,


Standard Chaozhou, and Standard Mandarin 197

8.2 Southern Min Language in Selected Sites:


A Sociolinguistic Survey 200
Preface

Lingua francas are almost invisible, basically unnoticed, until they are
thrust into the limelight in liminal periods such as the one we are living in
today. These periods are transitional time zones marking the natural pas-
sage of one world order to the next. They remain “hidden” because to the
vast majority of people, and for the longest period of time, languages have
been a taken-for-granted extension of oneself, not present physically as one
might expect in relation to the more material manifestations such as the
laws of a country, the presence of material possessions, or places of abode.
Hence, books on current world problems written by nonlinguists, such as
political scientists, economists, and sociologists, often make no reference
to the language dimension. A significant number of language practitioners
also look upon language as a purely technical matter divorced from social
cultural contexts.
In addition, linguists tend not to wish to link language with socio-evo-
lutionary factors, and even less with historical change, since they are much
too enchanted with the language itself; hence, their analysis fails to have
the larger dimension the subject deserves. Yet language is intricately but
imperceptibly bound up with what has been called “the new world order.”
It is crucial to everything that we do and is intrinsically fundamental to dis-
cussions on personal, group, and national identity and national interests.
Indeed, it is only through an understanding of language that we will ever
be able to understand ourselves since it is the root cause of all those mental
characteristics that distinguish us from other creatures.
Throughout recorded history, we have seen people killing and dying in
the name of race, nationality, religion, class—and language. Lingua franca
belong to the class of “language,” but it is also closely linked to the four
other classes mentioned, that is, race, nationality, religion, and class. Hence,
lingua francas are best studied not as individual languages per se but as
part of broad sociolinguistic contexts. Having said that, early linguists such
as Couturat (1903), Sapir (1949), and Pei (1961) were the leading advocates
of lingua francas—they deemed the burden of multifarious languages to be
unacceptable impediments for international communication, and mutual
unintelligibility between cultures a direct cause of prejudice and wars.
xiv Preface
Hence, a reinterpretation and a reassessment of lingua francas and their
inherent potential to unite a diverse and potentially divisive world are also
among the motives underlying this study.
I believe that the phenomenon of world orders is also indispensable and
crucial to a study of the politics and place of English as a world language.
This may be a little different from current preoccupations in the study of
English. For example, Leith’s (1997) study places social and political rela-
tions at the center of a history of English. Graddol et al. (2007) put social
variation at the heart of a history of English, Trudgill’s and Watts’ (2002)
alternative history of English focuses on a variety of underrepresented Eng-
lish varieties. For Crystal (2004), history gives prominence to “new stan-
dards, non-standards, informalities and identities.”
My study, on the other hand, is closely allied to historical or diachronic
linguistics. It chooses as its backdrop a long spectrum of time and for its
abode, many regions of the earth so as to achieve a more de-centered per-
spective for the study of English as a world language. It deals with lan-
guage as it unfolds across time, and one advantage of such an approach
(in relation to a synchronic one) is its ability to highlight linguistic change
more prominently. That society is permeated by history is obvious, but
this is something that applied linguists have not always taken advantage
of. Narrating a world history of lingua francas seems complex, yet almost
any product we look at, if traced in detail, will reveal a narrative of broad
patterns, usually repetitive and regular. Without seeking anything so for-
mal as “historical law,” I think it is worth noting in what circumstances
particular behaviors are likely to recur. I hope to use a scientific history,
involving some critical insights, several important debates, and the usual
fare of patient plodding.
The book may appear somewhat unorthodox and that may be because I
tend to prefer the unconventional and controversial to the safe and sober. It
lies in a no-man’s-land between recognized disciplines in the social sciences
such as history, applied linguistics, psychology, and anthropology. But of
these four disciplines, its fi rst commitment is to applied linguistics, which
happens to be my disciplinary background, a subject broadly defi ned as
“the study of language and its application to society.” In a no-man’s-land,
it takes advantage of the comparative genre by abstracting particular phe-
nomena related to lingua francas and looks for similarities and differences
in different time zones and geographical landscapes.
But even this involves an important problem. Every sociolinguist is
caught in the web of his own culture and his own time. Fanon’s (1967:
17–18) remark “To speak means to be in a position to use a certain syntax,
to grasp the morphology of this or that language, but it means above all to
assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization” comes to mind
here. The fact that this study is expressed in a Western language, using
social science concepts common to Western culture, is already limiting to
some extent. I also realize that my work is limited by the kind and extent
Preface xv
of information that I am able to obtain, my own ethnocentricism, and also
by my own linguistic constraints. I know only a few languages, but on the
other hand, if I had taken the time to learn all relevant languages, it would
mean that this account would never have been written at all. I have to
confess ignorance of how many more examples I could have found if I had
spent more time and dwelt deeper into the historical literature.
I must admit that I am much influenced by post-Darwinian studies,
especially by scientists who study physical systems and their behavior, or
who seek their laws. These thinkers and workers on chaos, complexity, and
nonlinear systems have become the new evolutionists: They are far beyond
Darwin. Their time frame begins from the Big Bang of perhaps 20 billion
years ago and ranges far, deep, everywhere, and between. They seek lawful-
ness throughout the cosmos, a reasoned explanation of life and humanity,
and the tracks of evolution on a small remote planet orbiting a second-class
sun of the Milky Way galaxy. But my use of chaos–complexity theory is
not new. In the field of second-language learning, for example, this new
science has already been used to explore the complexity of human disci-
pline; Nunan (2001) has alluded to the complexity and dynamism of sec-
ond- language learning. Van Lier (1996) and Larsen-Freeman (1997, 2007)
have referred to the importance of interactions in the complex, dynamic
system. Finch (2001) refers to how chaos–complexity theory provides a
means of exploring second-language acquisition (SLA) process in terms of
their wide range of complicated phenomenon. Language acquisition models
by McLaughlin (1987), Ellis (1999), and Brown (2001) may also be seen as
fragmented views of a single system.
I hope that my model will help in some way to explain the “mysteri-
ous” sociological changes behind the rise and decline of languages and
lingua francas. This study has doubtless introduced ideas that require fur-
ther development and extension. Still, a fi rst step is necessary; I hope that
feedback from the language teaching and learning community will guide
the following steps of this line of research.

THE CHAPTERS

Chapter 1, Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders, comes to grips


with the definitions, rationale, and background of key words pertaining to
the title of this book, such as “lingua francas,” “emergent,” and “world
orders.” It discusses the social, historical, and cultural factors involving such
terms, the inevitability of language change from time immemorial, and ends
with a review on the discourse surrounding English as a lingua franca.
Chapter 2, A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas,
discusses the rationale behind a diachronic perspective for the model. The
model on evolving lingua francas (or the “spiral” model) is presented. Basi-
cally, the model rests on the premise that the universe is infinitely connected
xvi Preface
in more ways than one can ever imagine possible. Because the human being
is an outcome of evolution, he or she and his or her language is subject to
the law of progression through the world orders of the family, tribe, city-
state, nation-state, and the globe.
Chapter 3, Liminality, defi nes liminality in the context of the model
outlined in Chapter 2. It argues that the current period is a liminal one, and
that in such a scenario, a linguistic maelstrom comes to the fore and with it
the emergence of a lingua franca; in this case, English.
Chapter 4, The Last Liminal Period: Emergent Arabic in the Middle
Ages, discusses the reason for the spread of Arabic in the last liminal period,
that is, from the 7th to the 10th century. It also discusses the sociolinguistics
of Arabic as a lingua franca in relation to evolving world orders, such as
bilingualism in Spain, language shift in tribal areas, and the relationship of
classical to vernacular Arabic. The study of the journey of Arabic as a lin-
gua franca in the world order of city-state to nation-state provides a parallel
example by which we may better understand the present position of English
as a lingua franca.
Chapter 5, Three Phases of Liminality, illustrates the three phases of
liminal growth, that is, forming, norming, and integrating, and how indi-
viduals, groups, and governments try to influence their own or other’s lan-
guage behavior and attitudes during each of these phases.
Chapter 6, Embracing Liminality: A Case Study of Singapore, expounds
upon and illustrates how in the light of liminal theory, Singapore has
undergone a dynamic transition from multilingualism to bilingualism to
monolingualism.
Chapter 7, A Case Study of The Peoples’ Republic of China, is a study
of China against the backdrop of the helicoidal model. China can be con-
strued as a microcosm of the world, being a multicultural, multireligious,
and multilingual nation. Countless little traditions, for example, folklore,
cuisine, festivals, clothing, and so forth, exist under the umbrella of a “great
tradition.” In China, since antiquity, different regional dialects have coex-
isted with different lingua francas—which are varieties of Chinese used by
dominant groups in various capitals, such as Beijing, Nanking, or Xian.
Chapter 8, A Case Study of Southern Min Language, is a study of the
province of Fújiàn for the simple reason that if China can be said to be the
microcosm of the world, then Fújiàn can be said to be the microcosm of
China. Fujian borders Zhejiang to the north, Jiangxi to the west, Guang-
dong to the south, and Taiwan to the east, and has a population of 35
million.
Chapter 9, The Place of English in the World Today, examines the poli-
tics and place of English in the world today. It reviews the unanswered
questions and comments posed in Chapter 1, such as issues of language
identity, language shift, and language standards. It reviews and analyzes
the pedagogical implications of the spiral model and concludes with a com-
mentary on world orders, core Englishes, globalism, and linguistics.
Acknowledgments

I wish to remember my teachers Larry Smith and Braj Kachru for fi rst ignit-
ing my interest in the fascinating area of World Englishes at the East-West
Centre, Hawaii, in 1982–1984; my professors Christopher Candlin for
emphasizing always the critical perspective; Richard Day, David Nunan,
and Jack Richards for demonstrating the important aspects of ESL theory;
my colleagues Tom Farrell, Andy Kirkpatrick, Anne Pakir, and S. Gopi-
nathan for modeling the writers’ path, Kevin Blackburn for clarifying my
ideas on nationalism, Wong Tat Chee for introducing me to the fascinating
field of migration studies, Shien Sakai for directing me to certain readings,
and Aw Guat Po for her help with translations.
I wish to thank Mohammad Shariff Abbas, Kamsiah Abdullah, Mohammad
Fikri, Syed Farid Alatas, and Senturk Recep for their help with Arabic sources.
Grateful thanks are also in order to Sinologists Li Yirou, Ma Rongrong ,and
Li Machen for making my stay in Fújiàn in 2008 so enchanting. I wish also
to thank Zhang Yi, Yu Su, Zhang Yuewei, Zhu Saijie, Xie Zhan, Lei Lian-
ghui, Cao Yan, Yan Yan, Huang Ying, and Xu Danjun for their help with the
many Fújiànese dialects. Grateful acknowledgements are also in place for Hu
Zheng Hui and Wu Keyan of Zhāngzhōu Normal University, as well as Zhou
Zhicheng, Rong Yuanhua and Zhang Yi of Jíměi University, for their help in
facilitating my research in Fújiàn province.
My appreciation also to the library staff of the National Institute of
Education, the National University of Singapore, the Institute of Southeast
Asian Studies, and Beijing University for their service. Last but not least, I
wish to express my gratitude to the five anonymous reviewers of this book.
Their comments and suggestions have been invaluable, and all oversights
and errors of omission are mine and mine alone.
1 Emergent Lingua Francas and
World Orders

A DEFINITION OF LINGUA FRANCAS

When asked what the main function of language is, most people will say
that language is a tool used to learn or gather information on topics such
as computing or astronomy. In other words, language is needed to enable
us to fi nd out “things” about the world. While such a function of language
may explain the thriving role of language, it does not tell us why it spreads,
dies, multiplies, colonizes, and rejuvenates, or why it sometimes is used as
a lingua franca (LF). In fact, we rarely utilize language when computing,
as it is often a solitary activity. Accounting, welding, and/or dancing is also
more often learned by demonstration and practice than by speech. So too
when we try to fi nd out information about the world on the Internet or in
the library, a totally literate activity; we are, ironically, once again often
alone. Information is more likely to be digested upon reflection rather than
through interaction. So the “best” answer here as to the primary function
of language is that it is a device for social bonding rather than informa-
tion gathering. In this study, language is viewed instrumentally, and its
social interactional capacity enables it to have far-reaching sociopolitical
implications (Dunbar 2003). This social interactional phenomena does not
only take place within close networks such as families, friends, and neigh-
bors for before long, populations expand and people will feel the need to
communicate beyond these immediate networks due to extended purposes.
The world we live in has long been a multilingual and multicultural one,
and hence people are tempted, constantly, to break down language barri-
ers so as to create a common medium of communication. To do this, new
languages are then created or existing languages made to fulfi ll this com-
municative function.
In this study, a lingua franca (LF) is defi ned as a “contact language”
(Arends et al. 1994), which is used by individuals to overcome the challenge
of Babelization. LF may also be referred to as a “common language” (Kah-
ane 1958; Richards et al. 1996: 214) in the sense of being “common” to
both interlocutors. It can also mean a Hilfssprache, an auxiliary language
“whose native language may not have acquired any status beyond its own
2 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
parochial world” (Harrak 1992:140). The UNESCO (1951: 689) defi nition
is a useful one in this context: “Language used habitually by people whose
mother tongues are different in order to facilitate communication between
them.” LF is a “common” or “contact” language not just within nations
but also between them. Viewed in this cross-nation sense, the LF may also
be regarded as an “international language” (McKay 2008) or as an “inter-
national auxiliary language” (Smith 1978). As intra- or inter-national “lan-
guage of convenience” there are myriad opportunities for people to practice
the lingua franca either in school or on the street, and occasionally laugh
at their own translations. It goes without saying then that border areas are
notorious for the flourishing of LFs as they are basically “contact zones.”
Another reference is to see LF as a “vehicular language” (Heine 1970),
that is, as a “vehicle” or “tool” to enable us to go beyond the boundaries of
our original community and as a means to widen our scope of interactional
strategies. Whereas a vernacular language is used as a native language in a
single speaker community, a vehicular language goes beyond boundaries.
In this sense, a vehicular language is almost always a second language for
communication between communities. For example, in India, English is
used as a LF and as a second language between different Indian cultural
groups such as the Punjabis and the Tamils or between the Sikhs and the
Punjabis. Vehicular languages are often associated with the phenomenon
of bilingualism or multilingualism. Holmes (1997: 86) writes that “the
term lingua franca describes a language serving as a regular means of com-
munication between different linguistic groups in a multilingual speech
community.”
Often, LF are looked upon functionally rather than structurally—the
latter being subordinate to the former as it is the usage of the lingua franca
rather than its form that is uppermost in the user’s mind. Any language
could therefore conceivably serve as a lingua franca between two groups,
no matter what sort of language it is. Many languages in the world today
would therefore qualify as LFs in one sense or another because they are
occasionally used for the purpose of communication with speakers of other
languages when the need arises. Russian is the Soviet Union’s lingua franca
(and still partly is today between former Soviet territories); Mandarin is the
lingua franca of oral communication between Chinese of different Chinese
“dialects”; Malay is the lingua franca of Indonesia and its surrounding
areas. In the past, Greek was the lingua franca of huge areas in the Medi-
terranean and the Middle East to the extent that the New Testament was
written in Greek; Latin became the lingua franca of the Catholic Church,
and Aramaic—a relatively unknown language today—once had a surpris-
ing status of lingua franca in many parts of the Middle East. In other words,
not all languages are LFs but all LFs are languages. If we view LF function-
ally in its primary role as a tool of contact and social interaction, then we
can also extend the name of lingua franca to artificial languages such as
Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, Latino Sine Flexione, and Novial, which have
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 3
been originally designed for communication between speakers of different
native languages.
LFs are often implicated in current discussions on bilingualism, multi-
lingualism, and the emergence of mixed modalities. There are no languages
today without some signs of grammar mixture; for example, Yiddish has
grammatical features from Slavic languages, such as Polish and Hindi,
since they place their verbs at the end of sentences (cf. Uriel 1977). In some
cases, languages mix so intimately that they become new ones, such as
Media Lengua in Ecuador, which uses Spanish words with endings and
word order from the local Indian language of Quechua (McWhorter 2001).
Unfortunately, many people see the natural process of “such mixtures” as a
“deficiency” rather than as an enrichment or natural process. Hence, there
are mixed feelings about LFs, especially prominent ones such as English
and Spanish. Indeed LFs are often associated with less-welcomed social
phenomena such as language change, language shift, language death. They
therefore receive much controversial attention and are likely to continue to
be of great interest not just to linguists but also historians, anthropologists,
sociologists, philosophers, and so forth, not least because their emergence
and dominance are often caused by both internal (i.e., linguistically based)
and external (i.e., historical, geographical, and political) factors. Their
emergence and dominance also result in numerous ripple effects influenc-
ing many sectors of human civilizations. Cross-disciplinary studies have
referred to lingua francas in terms of variables such as its status, the size
of its community, its function as a mother tongue or auxiliary tongue, the
number of countries where it has official status, the number of people using
the “foreign” language (i.e., the LF), the functional range of the language,
the economic strength of the language, and the unplanned promotion of
the language.
While we have defi ned LFs in a general and functional way, we are not
quite sure when the specific term “Lingua Franca” was fi rst used. In a nar-
row sense, the original term, with the capital letters intact, is the Italian
term for Frankish, which was used in Levant and was a mixed language
with vocabulary from Italian dialects and other Romance languages as well
as Arabic, but which lacked their inflections. It was the jargon of maritime
contacts in the Levant, spoken by Arabs in contact with Europeans. Knapp
and Meierkord (2002: 9) refers to it as “a variety that was spoken along the
south-eastern coast of the Mediterranean between approximately the 15th
and 19th centuries probably based on some Italian dialects in its earliest
history, and which included elements from Spanish, French, Portuguese,
Arabic, Turkish Greek.” This Mediterranean LF is believed to have been in
existence since the Middle Ages, and texts of this variety survive from the
16th century.
In a broader sense, however, the specific term “lingua franca” (without
the capital letters) refers to—as previously defi ned—a “contact language”
used by Arab traders, and later the Turks in their contact with travelers,
4 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
prisoners of wars, and crusaders from Western Europe. It has come to
mean a “common language” used between speakers who speak different
fi rst languages. For example, in China in the 19th century along the ports
on its eastern coastline, a lingua franca called pidgin (from the Cantonese
pei tsin “pay money,” which is what traders in Canton called the pidgin
English they used there from the1600s to the 1900s) developed from con-
tacts between English and Chinese in commercial situations and may be
considered a lingua franca (Kirkpatrick 2007b). It has a Chinese grammati-
cal base and an English vocabulary pronounced as in the Chinese. Pidgin
was used by both communities when they needed to communicate, but of
course each of them returned to its own linguistic form (the vernacular
form) outside of these limited exchanges. It is now generally accepted that
the term pidgin derives form the English word “business” relating to the
commonplace function of these languages as vehicles for trade. Eventually,
the term became a generic label for all contact varieties of this type (ibid.).

THE RELATIONSHIP OF PIDGINS AND


CREOLES TO LINGUA FRANCAS

We may also understand the enduring nature of LFs and their place in his-
tory through their relationship to pidgins and creoles, the contexts in which
they are found and their relationship with the written script.
The word “pidgin” has existed long before linguists attempted to attach
such a label. There are evidence of numerous pidgins in pre-colonial Africa,
Asia and North American. Indeed, we may postulate that there have been
countless births of pidgins and lingua francas (around 5000 to 6000),
mostly unrecorded since documented language accounts for only a small
percentage of its total history (Schendl 2001). Pidgins arose to facilitate
communication between groups of different linguistic backgrounds in
restricted contexts such as trade, forced labor, and other kinds of marginal
contact. They are a kind of lingua franca because they allow communica-
tion between two strangers who need to communicate. From early Greek
history, one notes that Hermes was both the god of trade and the god of the
boundary stones, which used to separate one city from another (Orrieux
and Pantel 1999). To facilitate trade between the cities, a pidgin form of lin-
gua franca was used during random encounters of hunting bands or mixed
with warfare in ancient Greece by the 8th century BC). In the more stereo-
typical case, they are formed when speakers of one language engage in
trade with speakers of another language or when speakers of one language
work in plantations managed by speakers of another, and neither knows
the other’s language (McWhorter 2001).
Pidgins may be defi ned as simplified dialects, where commonly shared
features of their language are retained and nonshared features ignored but
where a great deal of communication can still take place.1 Hence, early
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 5
lingua francas are essentially pidgins since we know that there are many
contexts in the world where the lingua franca comprises only a partial com-
mand of the language. For example, Winford (2003) recounts how in the
1700s and 1800s, Norwegian and Russian traders used a makeshift lan-
guage, Russenorsk, with about 300 words borrowed partly from Russian
and Norwegian. Native Americans in North America probably used a pid-
gin of this kind in their encounters with the pilgrim fathers. In this sense,
pidgin may be said to share features of “baby talk” and “foreigner talk”
(cf. Ferguson and DeBose 1977). Indeed, in discussions on second language
acquisition, pidgin-like features are commonly discussed (cf. Adamson
1988). The similarity results because both L2 learning and pidgin speak-
ers creatively exploit their limited resources to achieve their communica-
tive ends. They expand their lexicon through polysemy, compounding and
paraphrase, assign new functions to available morpheme, and create new
syntactic rules. However, pidgins can be differentiated from interlanguage
varieties (imperfect learning) and foreigner talk because unlike foreigner
talk and imperfect learning, they are targets of learning in their own
right.
There is a wide range of LF-pidgins stemming from different types of
contact and influences among peoples, and it is difficult to defi ne them
structurally. Some pidgins are more “restricted” than others, because they
serve as a contact language between two groups and involve limited and
not extensive contact. Hence there is a restricted situation involving con-
tact between groups, where neither has the opportunity or the real need to
learn the other’s language. Some pidgins involved domestic settings—for
example, Butler English 2 —or military invasion—Japanese pidgin English,
Vietnamese pidgin French—or are vehicles for interaction with tourists.
Pidgins also encompass a wide variety of contexts, for example, rudimen-
tary languages like Russenorsk or full-fledged languages like Hiri Motu,
which serves as a lingua franca in Papula, the southern half of Papua New
Guinea.
In the beginning of their lives, pidgins functioning as lingua francas
stretch their small vocabularies with circumlocutions and there is more
reliance on contexts. Examples of such LFs are French-based Haitian of
Haiti, the Congo-based Kituba of Zaire, the German-based Unserdeutsch
of Papua New Guinea (PNG), and the Arabic-based Nubi of Uganda. Here,
one notes the reduction and simplification of input materials, internal inno-
vation, and systematic regularization of structure, with L1 influence also
playing a major role (Sebba 1997). To facilitate learning, such early LFs
will drop difficult-to-learn lexical, phonological items. For example, Zulu,
a language of southern Africa, is one of the Bantu languages that have
some click sounds. One of its daughters, Fanakalo, a contact language, was
developed by Africans from other regions brought in originally to work the
mines in South Africa. Fanakalo speakers usually replace the clicks with a
/k/ to make it simpler for its users. In addition, Zulu has tones; Fanakalo
6 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
does not. However, while most LF-pidgins are “simple,” some are more
difficult than others (Winford 2003).
Over time some pidgins grow to become truly new languages as people
need to communicate on a more nuanced level and the simplicity of a given
pidgin language does not fit their expanding needs. The “new” language is
necessarily a new hybrid rather than a dialect of the language that provides
the words. For example, the South Seas pidgin was used as a lingua franca
to communicate by the English with men from several islands in Oceania
when they came to work on long-term contracts in plantations in Queen-
sland. These migrant workers often continued to use pidgin when they
went home, because of the multiplicity of languages spoken in their home
in PNG and other Oceanic islands. Gradually, this pidgin expanded into
a “real” language—a branch of which is Tok Pisin, spoken today in PNG
alongside the hundreds of indigenous languages there (cf. Ostler 2006).
Such pidgins are often referred to as creoles. For example, one of the
earliest documented LF was the koine dialektos (“common dialect”) of
the Hellenistic age (327–323 BC), used in the Mediterranean. Used in
trade, this LF, in all probability originating as a pidgin, quickly changed
its phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon and grew to become more
creolized. Similarly, around the same time, the Celtic people were using
the Gallo-Brittonic “common language” spoken among the Gauhlish-
speaking Celts of the mainland and the Brittonic-speaking Celts of Brit-
ain. However, through the passage of time, it later became a creole among
the Anglo-Saxon, Jute, and Danish people who were invading southern
Britain (Harding 2004). Unlike pidgins, creoles are acquired as native lan-
guages in the fi rst few years of life. Children of pidgin speakers introduce
complexity into their language, enabling the language to become not just
longer strings of words but a real full-fledged natural language, function-
ally unrestricted and used for a wider purpose. 3 Lightfoot (2006: 140)
points to evidence suggesting structural properties of well-established lan-
guages in creole.
The study of creoles is the most politically charged area of sociolinguis-
tics due to its inherently unstable nature and the fact that it is used pre-
dominantly in marketplaces and fairs, with native speakers being of mixed
races and working classes, as was the case with the Koine dialektos. As
LFs, pidgins and creoles, being LFs, are also associated with the history of
racism and enslavement.4 However, our purpose is not to dwell on territo-
rial defi nitions of pidgins and creoles but to examine how pidgins and cre-
oles may in their own special way and in certain circumstances be closely
related to our story of lingua francas.
The earliest known origin of the term is the Spanish word “criollo,”
which was adopted into French as creole and then into English (Winford
2003). Dell Hymes (1971: 65) suggested that the study of pidginization and
creole is not as unique or marginal as is commonly presupposed, but rather
comprises a central part of our general understanding of language change:
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 7
Pidginization is that complex process of sociolinguistic change com-
prising reduction in inner form, with convergence in the context of
restriction in use.

Creolization is that complex process of sociolinguistic change compris-


ing expansion in inner form, with convergence, in the context of exten-
sion in use.

Pidginization is usually associated with simplification in outer form,


Creolization with complication in outer form.

Hymes’ (1971) defi nition enables us to overcome the hitherto negative


connotations surrounding “pidgins” and “creoles.” For example, it enables
us to apply the term pidginization to trade languages such as Swahili, Ara-
bic or Hindi without precipitating controversy over its negative connota-
tions. It must be remembered that only until very recently, pidgins and
creoles were regarded, especially by non-linguists, as inferior languages,
and perhaps not even languages at all (cf. Mufwene 2001).
Although as “neutral” as it can get, Hymes’ (1971) definition does not
enable us to pinpoint when an LF may suddenly turn from an “extended
pidgin” into a creole. It remains difficult for us to know exactly when mini-
mal development in English (manifested in jargons, pidgins, or fossilized
interlanguage) progress to an acceptable community norm to be considered
as a language in its own right. Both pidgins and creoles involve similar
processes of restructuring over time and there is a lack of structural criteria
which can enable us to distinguish one from the other (Winford 2003). It is
therefore a “soft boundary” when we wish to regard how trading language
or pidgin will no longer be the functional tools or lingua francas of trad-
ers and cultural intermediaries but will evolve into a “normal” language
without the original pidgin-like characteristics and one with its own native
speakers (Holm 2004).5
With even more prolonged periods of time, some LFs will also display
identity marker code switching and the use of nativized norms. Here, the
lingua francas under the influence of the exuberant process of language
change will tend to develop far more machinery than they need. When
this happens, they become what we have defi ned as the “vernacular,” as
opposed to the “vehicular.” The main aim of the vernacular is the high-
lighting of the desire to belong. By choosing this variant or that variant,
the speaker indicates where he places himself, and behind which boundary.
The boundaries of related vernaculars are indicated by regional accent, the
introduction of dialect work in the standard form, or the use of a different
language in multilingual situations. There is a whole continuum of pos-
sibilities in the range, which runs from the cline of vernacular tendencies,
with a likelihood of adopting localized semantic features, to that of actively
working lingua francas, with a likelihood of minimizing mutually exclusive
8 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
features. For example, Malaysian English bears semblance to the manifes-
tation of pidgin and creole-like features in their lexis, syntax, discourse,
and literary creations (Omar 2004).
On the other hand, the progress of time also enables us to see a con-
tradictory tendency. When lingua francas become more widespread or
“international” in their use, there is a tendency for them to have less
and less variation since it is likely that both parties want centrally to
be understood rather than to highlight their respective identities. Firth
(1996) has observed that the central preoccupation of speakers of lingua
franca is basically twofold: to ensure cooperation and to preserve face.
In analyzing a corpus of telephone call from two Danish trading compa-
nies, he noted that participants demonstrate a remarkable ability to “let
it pass,” that is, to try to generalize and/or journey their way through
words and phrases that they do not understand and to seek clarifica-
tion as the conversation unfolds (ibid.: 243). In attaining this stage, such
LFs normally possess less variation in terms of basic grammar and core
vocabulary and slightly more “embellishments” in terms of local vocabu-
lary and everyday expressions. For example, Swahili, East Africa’s main
lingua franca with a large portion of Arab vocabulary, presently learned
by speakers as a second or third language, for instance, is a relatively
“easy” language without any tones and relatively little irregularity in its
morphology and syntax, compared with the 500 other Bantu languages
(Guthrie 1971).6
Like their owners, languages die. So too, those which function as lin-
gua francas. Language death is normally a slow process and becomes
evident when a language shaves off little by little much of the fascinat-
ing machinery that it has accumulated in its earlier phases. For example,
when Arabic began to take over from Latin as the lingua franca over
much of the Holy Roman Empire (see Chapter 4), Latin become more and
more restricted in its range of use and, as a result, its grammatical and
lexical resources begin to atrophy by inaction (Schendl 2001). A reduc-
tion of grammatical structures and the disappearance of inflections take
place and borrowing from the dominant language becomes common-
place. Social nuances of meaning are gradually lost. In such scenarios,
within one or two generations, children become semi-speakers—that is,
they retain extensive passive (i.e., receptive) competence in the language
but lose their productive competence and consequently possess less and
less of their original language to pass on to their children. It should also
be noted that once a generation for some reason or other is not raised on
a language, the language dies, surviving only in writing. Just as a human
being may pass through a second childhood, so too when a language
nears death, it passes though a “pidgin” stage on its way to expiration
(Kaufman 1988).
Another way of glimpsing the intrinsic nature of LFs, besides their rela-
tionship to pidgins and creoles, is to examine more fully the multifarious
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 9
contexts in which they operate, such as agriculture, trade, and commerce,
diasporic settlements, cities, urbanized centers, and empires.

THE CONTEXT OF OPERATION

Lingua Franca and the Invention of Agriculture


Agriculture is said to have begun in the Eastern Mediterranean and Eastern
Asia, spreading later to Mexico and Peru (Childe 1934).7 Before agriculture
was invented, homo sapiens existed in hunter-gatherer groups, possibly
speaking tens of thousands of languages, hardly meeting, hardly having
the need to trade or exchange since it was difficult for a traveling contingent
of hunter-gathers to carry possessions along with them. In all possibility,
some of these isolated groups met and perhaps exchanged people, such as
slaves or brides, as well as foodstuffs, using a makeshift lingua franca.
However, when agriculture became a principle means of subsistence,
and the fi rst town of mud brick arose and generations of humans began
to settle and congregate in one place, food production grew exponentially
(Zohary and Hopf 2000). Being rooted to one place meant also that food
surpluses could be stored and animals domesticated, leading to the accu-
mulation of food and supplies. This meant that the excess surplus could
be profitably exchanged for other kinds of plants and livestock from other
farms, which might be across the river or behind the mountain, with people
speaking a different language or a different variety of language, or even for
some form of specialized labor. With the invention of agriculture, language
became significantly bound to the land and for the fi rst time, one could
identify regional languages as belonging to a certain geographical area.
Not surprisingly, lingua francas became visible as tools of exchange from
this period onward.
With an increased supply of cultivated food, population grew rapidly.
With more food and population, communication became more important.
More people in a village also meant that labor could be divided and become
more specialized, leading to greater productivity as a whole. And when
population has increased to an optimum in relation to the availability of
land or when the fertility of the land begins to decline due to overpopula-
tion and intensive farming, there will be pressure to search for new land.
This will result in migration, and with migration, the spread of speech,
lexical and syntactical patterns from place to place. Indeed, humans are
known to have migrated extensively throughout history and prehistory—
one of the fi rst such migrations being the movement of homo erectus out of
Africa across Eurasia about a million years ago (Trigger 1993).
At other times, what began as a cross-community migration by a small
number of settlers became a larger movement of colonialization. The
spread of agriculture consisted not only of colonizing virgin lands but more
10 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
often of settlers moving into established communities. When settlers were
pleased enough with their new situation, they invited family members to
join them. Initially, settlers had to rely on lingua francas, but after more
prolonged periods of stay, settlers tended to adopt the language of their new
home (Manning 2005). However, if these settlers stayed together, they were
likely to adopt a distinct accent in association with the use of the language
of their new abode.
The spread of agricultural innovation and the migration of agricultural-
ists is a thread that has continued as recently as the 18th and 19th centuries,
as expanded demand for grain brought migrations of farmers to the Ameri-
can Midwest, Australia, Argentina, and eastern Russia (Scarre and Fagan
1997). So too, growing world market for rice encouraged migrations to
rice-growing areas of Thailand and Java. Similarly, a steady rise in demand
for coffee brought workers to Brazil from Italy and to northern Angola
from surrounding areas. In such situations, agricultural migrants learn the
lingua franca of their adopted homeland, and such lingua francas in turn
absorb the syntactical and tonal patterns of migrant speech.

Lingua Francas, Trade and Commerce


Another context where the use of lingua franca is felt keenly is that of trade
and commerce. In a study of trade and commerce, one notices that Western
Asian and northeastern African societies have so much in common in their
technology and other cultural aspects that it can only be assumed that there
was some degree of intercommunication through the use of a variety of lin-
gua francas, the names of which are now lost to antiquity (Trigger 1993).
The lapis lazuli stone from Afghanistan and perfumes such as frankincense
from Arabia have been found far away from their original geographical
sites. According to Diamond (1999), an array of herbs and such things as
the feathers of parrots, testicles of tigers, and ivory hoofs of elephant for
the improvement of health and longevity have been exchanged as far back
in time. Sorghum also came to be grown in North Africa, although the ulti-
mate source of wheat sorghum was northeast Africa (Reves 1956). Archae-
ologists Earle and Ericson (1994; fi rst published in 1977) found seashells
from the Indian Ocean at least 1500 kilometers away in datable fi fth mil-
lennium sites in Northern Syria. Around the same time, large amounts of
obsidian were found on the upper Tigris, even though the closest possible
source can only be eastern Anatolia, some 600 kilometers away.
By 1000 BC, lingua francas were an indispensable part of the long-
distance commerce that had became institutionalized together with the
development of money, banking, large-scale shipping and caravans, major
market places, and ports and caravanserai (Burstein 1995). Five hundred
years later, overland routes linked Yunnan with Bengal and the Indian
Ocean. They also tied North India to Central Asia and linked Northern
Europe and West Africa, respectively, with the western Mediterranean. At
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 11
sea, the main routes were those of the Mediterranean and Black Seas, the
Red Sea (reaching into Ethiopia and the Nile Valley); the Persian Gulf; the
western Indian Ocean (reaching far down the East African coast); the east-
ern Indian Ocean; the South China Sea; the northern Pacific coast; and the
archipelagoes of the western Pacific (cf.. Liu 1995).
The natural habitat of lingua francas are roads, rivers, and ports, since
the act of moving goods from one place to another means that people who
transported the goods had not only to establish cordial relations but also to
communicate in great detail through the use of a lingua franca with those
along the way. Doubtless cities, which were most amenable to language
shifts, were the societies most accessible to reinvention, either being on
the main overland or riverine trading routes (Frank and Gills 1993). For
example, it was along the River Congo that Lingala spread as the lingua
franca for trade, and it was from port to port that Malay became the lingua
franca of Indonesia. Swahili (meaning “coasts” in Arabic), used from East
to West Africa, and initially a sailor’s language, spread in the same way,
predominantly at the fairs and marketplaces along these coastlines where
people exchanged foodstuffs and where quantities of goods from long dis-
tance were displayed. The people who were adept in using lingua francas
were usually groups specialized in exchange—merchants (Olsen 2002).
In 3rd century BC, Mesopotamia, in the Middle East, stretched from the
Persian Gulf northward to Baghdad. Then, thriving languages like Sum-
erian and Akkadian, centered around Sumer in the south and Akkad in
the North of Baghdad, respectively, were as different as English and Chi-
nese. However, the Sumerians and Akkadians must have traded frequently
through a pidgin-like LF because archaeologists have found similar items in
both these places. Gradually, in the struggle for power, the Akkadians grew
more powerful and rich over the centuries. As a result, Sumerian as the
spoken lingua franca fell out of use, slowly atrophied, and was lost.8 With
its demise, Akkadian went on to become the lingua franca of the region and
subsequently (rather than Sumerian), the parent language of the Arabs and
Jews (Aubet 2001).9

Lingua Francas, Trade Disporas, and Settlements


With full-scale commerce came commercial specialists who would move
from their home community and settle either as aliens or settlers in the
trading town. These traders would be fluent linguists, adept with the lin-
gua franca(s) of trade and speaking their mother tongue in more private
domains. Languages such as Arabic, German, Hausa, and Armenian
became widely spoken outside their homelands because of such trading
specialists.10 The communities in which they settled could then serve as
cross-cultural language brokers, helping and encouraging trade between
the host society and people of their own origin who moved along the trade
routes. As time went on, this process became more complex—what began
12 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
as a single settlement grew to a series of trade settlements to what may
be called more aptly “trade diasporas” (Curtin 1984). Families of certain
ethnic groups—the trade diasporas—including Armenians in western and
central Asia, and later Mande-speaking West Africans known as Wanga-
ra—sent family members great distances to establish autonomous self-gov-
erning communities so that they could serve as hosts to traveling merchants
from the homeland, and assist them in conducting their trade—important
until the 20th century (Scarre and Fagan 1997). Here, a process of “infiltra-
tion” (Ostler 2006: 19)—a combination of both migration and diffusion is
discernible. Migration results when a language community moves bodily,
bring their new language along with it; diffusion results where speakers of
one community, because they do not live in large numbers, come to assimi-
late their language to that of another with whom they are in contact (e.g.,
colonialization).
Other trade diasporas left a legacy in the form of cultural and linguistic
minorities in foreign lands even if these minorities no longer devoted them-
selves to long-distance trade. For example, the beginnings of Chinese settle-
ment in Southeast Asia go back to trade diasporas that started to operate
in the fi rst centuries AD though they were later supplemented by contract
laborers and other immigrants. They kept their Chinese languages and
spoke a LF such as Swahili, Lingala, Arabic, and Malay, with their own
distinctive accent, which in turn influenced the native speech communities
they passed through. Baba Malay (sometimes called the Creole Chinese)
is a result of early male Hokien trade emigrants to Malacca who found
themselves in a predominantly Malay-speaking environment and were
thus forced to gradually abandon their Hokien mother tongue and to learn
Malay to survive in the early 17th century. Their subsequent intermarriages
with local Malay women also led them to develop a special sub-variety of
the Malay language after one or two generations of local born descents
(Jürgen 1998). However, in the 20th century, some of these overseas Chi-
nese no longer ran a trade diaspora, though they kept much of their com-
mercial tradition and still tended to dominate wholesale and retail trade
(Watson 2005). Besides in Southeast Asia, similar communities can also
be found in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Their commercial importance
dates only from the 19th century, but they dominated the retail trade of all
three colonies until the coming of independence (Manning 2005).

Lingua Francas, Cities, and Urbanization


Lingua francas fi nd their vibrancy in major centers of population where a
multiplex network exists such as urban villages and cities (Maybin et al.
2007). Multiplex environments are usually found among the middle and
upper classes and are a “network,” because in such environments, individu-
als are linked to each other in more than one function (co-employee, relative,
friend, neighbor, member of sports club etc.) They act as a norm-enforcement
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 13
mechanism, imposing all kinds of behavioral norms—dress, conduct, and
especially language use on their members (Tracy 1990). In such a situation,
the multiplex will usually speak and enforce a variety of the lingua franca
belonging to the most powerful sociopolitical group.
In a city-state, for instance, it is easy to fi nd almost every group of people
within reach of other groups of people with whom to conduct exchanges
or compete for resources. Of all the centers of population, the city-state
attracts the greatest use of lingua francas as it is the least economically
independent. It depends primarily on the hinterland to supply fresh produce
and manual labor. Hence a wide and intricate network of trade between the
city and the hinterland has to be developed. The language or variety spoken
in the city and the hinterland would be different because the one would
normally be of high status, as the seat of power, and the other would be of
lower status, as belonging to the mass rural countryside. The economic well
being of both city and hinterland are mutually interdependent and the LF is
the necessary highway of interdependency. The linguistic component mak-
ing up such a lingua franca, whether it is more city- , rural-, or class-based,
would depend on the sociopolitical variables of each state.
Much like the present day, contending city-states were linked to a web
of commercial activities throughout the world. Active civilizational cen-
ters in key city-states such as those in the Mediterranean, South China,
and India were connected to Europe, West Africa, East Africa, Indonesia,
Central Asia, the North Pacific, and Western Pacific. The most powerful
of the states would be the richest and hence their language would almost
automatically be the dominant language of inter-city trade. Civilizational
lingua francas, for example, Arabic, Greek, and Armenian, were important
in technological and commercial exchange, as cities needed to trade their
own inventions with those of others. For example, around 2000 BC, in the
Indus Valley, there was a set of cities of which the largest were Harappa
in the north and Mohenjo-Dara in the south, a region larger than ancient
Egypt. These large cities, presumably populated by Dravidian-speaking
inhabitants, were marvels of urban design possessing, for example, modern
contraptions such as a sewage system. Their trade with Samaria is well-
documented and was conducted through the LF of pidgin Samarian. They
developed their own unique writing and there is a still-indecipherable script
of the Indus Valley civilization (Eastern Pakistan). Later, horse-riding Indo-
European speaking migrants came with their horses to the Indus valleys,
resulting in all possibility the fi rst Dravidian-Indo-European LF pidgin.
These original Aryan pidgin speakers settled in India, and with time their
languages naturally leveled out to become dominant in their own right.
With the subsequent decline of the Indus Empire, the languages of Harappa
and Mohenjo Daro also gradually disappeared. Predictably, its Dravidian-
speaking subjects quickly and shrewdly switched to the Aryan version of
Dravidian in order to enjoy the benefits that were available with the lan-
guage of the conquerors (cf. Possehl 2002).
14 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
City-states are also magnets of migration from the rural population
because of their higher standard of living. Families have traditionally
looked to the cities as a means of achieving security or of advancing their
economic standing. In 1920, the ten largest cities had an average popula-
tion of 3 million; by 1990 the ten largest cities had an average population
of 15 million. Rapid industrialization often means migration from villages
to suburbs. Villages, once the core of family life, gradually become service
areas for families based in cities (Davis 2006).11 When migrants move to
a city, their fi rst challenge is to come to terms with its personality and its
languages. Today, young males in particular are moved from countryside to
city to fi nd work and income. For those who manage to secure work in the
city, the next stage is normally to bring other members of the family to join
them. The easiest way to make a living is to learn the city’s lingua franca, as
the latter is tied to major areas for administrating, business management,
science and technology, mass media, fi nance, leisure industries, global com-
munication and education. Today, the most populous cities, ranging from
10 to 20 million inhabitants, are now Bombay, Mexico City, São Paulo,
Jakarta, Istanbul, Shanghai, and Moscow—plus New York, Tokyo, and
London (cf. Hoodfar 1997, St. Clair 2003). With time, rural languages in
such cities become less used, disappearing gradually.
With rapid urbanization, languages will often share space diglossically
for a time. Here is a situation where the nonstandard dialect and the stan-
dard one often coexist in a structured relationship in a society. The “H”
(high) variety is used in formal situations, while the nonstandard or “L”
(low) variety is used in an informal one. To linguists, all languages are
equal without an H or L but in practice, somebody is always either above
or below due to differences in roles. For example, in Paraguay, the official
languages are Spanish and the Native American language Guaraní—but
Guaraní is normally used as the L and Spanish as the H. Both Spanish and
Guaraní are lingua francas but for different segments of the population.
Spanish is used among the better heeled of the population while Guaraní
is used by the poorer segment. Workers coming from the outskirts of the
city will desire to learn to use Guaraní fi rst to speak with their peers while
they eke out a living, as this is the more accessible of the two lingua francas.
In such a scenario, the H variety is usually the antiquarian one while the
well-used variety is the one that is more dynamic, flexible, and adaptable
(Wrum et al. 1996).

Lingua Francas and Colonialization


Another context where lingua franca unfolds itself is when the colonizer
meets the colonized. According to Firth (1937), lingua francas are made
not by grammarians but by world powers. For example, the rise in English
as the predominant lingua franca in the world today is not surprising when
we take into account the fact that throughout history, the distribution of
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 15
languages in the world has reflected the distribution of power in the world.
So too, the most widely spoken languages—English, Mandarin, Spanish,
French, Arabic, and Russian—are or were the languages of imperial states
that actively promoted the use of their languages by other peoples. During
the heyday of the Soviet Union, Russian was the lingua franca from Prague
to Hanoi. The decline of Russian power was accompanied by the parallel
decline in the use of Russian as a second language. In like manner, French
became the official language in much of Africa, Southeast Asia, Syria, and
Lebanon due to France’s successful colonial annexations. After its occupa-
tion by Germany in World War II, French lost most of its prestige in its
former colonies.
Much earlier and in similar fashion, Latin became the lingua franca
throughout the Roman Empire, not because its speakers were the most
numerous, but because they were the most powerful. In the same way,
Greek became a LF in the Middle East over 200 years ago not because of
the intellects of Plato and Aristotle but because of the armies of Alexander
the Great. Mandarin Chinese became a lingua franca in China because
it belonged to the most powerful ethnic group in China. Arabic became
spoken across northern Africa and the Middle East chiefly because of the
Moorish armies from the 8th century. Similarly, the lingua franca of Span-
ish, Portuguese, and French are lingua francas in America, Africa, and Far
East because of the imperialist ambitions of Renaissance kings and queens
(cf. Ostler 2006).
Sometimes, when there are competing powers, a country might see its
economic survival as operating more practically on a regional rather than a
global plane, and thus devote extra resources to fostering a regional lingua
franca. For example, South American countries can try to speak Spanish
rather than English, and North Africa can speak Arabic rather than Eng-
lish. The utility of establishing a single language to unite disparate peoples
under a single political power has been understood since the start of the
post-medieval period. Phillipson (2000) recounts how in 1492, an influen-
tial plan was presented to Queen Isabella of Spain for establishing Castilian
as a link language for conquest abroad and as a LF to suppress the profu-
sion of untutored vernacular at home.
Slavery is a byproduct of empires and hence is part of the story of lingua
francas. In the 18th and 19th centuries, some 10 million to 12 million Afri-
cans crossed the Atlantic in captivity to support the expansion of planta-
tion production of sugar, tobacco, indigo, and later cotton. The Brazilian
region known as Bahia became the most populous area of Brazil because of
the arrival of Portuguese entrepreneurs, free men who brought with them
a large number of African and Amerindian slaves (Holm 1988). Their off-
spring were fluent in multiple languages and had complex identities. They
spoke pidgin and later, creole, in various shades and colors. While they
could be identified by language, birthplace, nation or skin color, none of
these categories provided an absolute identity. Out of these distinctions
16 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
came terms such as “settlers” and “natives” in the fi rst generation, “cre-
oles” and “mestizos” in the second generation. Like their language, every
family was mixed (ibid.).
Similarly, slavery expanded in Southeast Asia in the 18th and 19th centu-
ries. The captive populations came not so much from South Asia but from
the Indonesian islands. Indonesian slavery expanded as local and Dutch
planters in Java, Melaka, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) purchased slaves and
put them to work on plantations for coffee, spices, and sugar. These slaves
would then learn to speak the lingua franca of the region, a patois known
as Bazaar Malay, which still thrives today in rural areas and among the less
educated segments of the populace. Interestingly, unlike in America, the
slave-descended population was not segregated but was assimilated socially,
biologically, and linguistically into the free population. So too their patois
continued to be assimilated into Javanese, Standard Malay, and Singha-
lese (Boomgaard 2001). Braukämper (2003) provides another example. In
Arabia, men expressed a particularly high demand for enslaved Oromo
and Somali women from the Horn of Africa. These women became their
wives and concubines. In such cases, the children would either speak the
languages of the father or the mother, depending on the personal politics
of the family. However, the lingua franca in the wider society would be the
language of whoever and whatever was more politically and economically
endowed, for this would ultimately influence the speech of the children.
Colonialization brought not just forced migration of slaves but also an
expansion of migration for economic purposes based on free will. Indeed,
the period from 1850 to1930 was an unprecedented era of migration in
human society (Manning 2005). These people entered new language com-
munities when they reached their destinations. Speakers of African lan-
guages learned each other’s languages, as well as the languages of their
masters (such as English, Portuguese, or Arabic). Similarly, creole languages
were developed by early communities of settlers. Chinese speakers of Can-
tonese learned Spanish as a lingua franca in Peru and Thai in Thailand.
Migrants from Scandinavia, Greece, and Lebanon learned English as a lin-
gua franca as they crossed the Atlantic. The more than 50 million Chinese
migrants equaled the number of European migrants and the 30 million
Indian migrants were not far behind. In Malaya, migrants were attracted
by the work in tin mines and plantations of rubber and palm oil and in
Uganda, they were attracted by work on the railways or as indentured
servants in Fiji and the West Indies. These migrants learned to speak the
respective lingua franca of the burgeoning multiracial societies in Malaya,
Fiji, and Uganda (Jürgen 1998).
. Where the language is transferred from colonial to nonnative speaker,
there will be a restructuring of the morphosyntactical structures of the
colonial language, including the introduction of a signifi cant number of
substrate and interlanguage features (Holm 2004). For example, as Por-
tuguese came to be a major language for trade along the coasts of the
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 17
Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the South China Sea, Portuguese terms
worked their way into the languages of these regions. For example, the
terms cabess (head) and galinha (chicken) came to be used in West Afri-
can languages for quantities of cowrie shells used as money. Similarly,
the Chinese term for tea, cha, has been adopted into almost every other
language along with the movement of tea itself. Last but not least, the
Caribbean term canoe and the Arabic term algebra have spread almost
as thoroughly.

THE WRITTEN LINGUA FRANCAS

We have so far narrated about LFs as if they were basically spoken. How-
ever, there is an important written dimension. The most well known civi-
lizations are usually the ones which have developed a written system,12 for
example, written Chinese was once widely used as a lingua franca in many
parts of South East Asia, and German was a scientific lingua franca until
World War II. In addition, the most well known written lingua francas
are usually those that have developed from pidgins, became creolized, ver-
nacularized, religionized, and imperialized. For example, Farsi, an Iranian
tongue originating in the 6th century BC, was a well-known contact lan-
guage incorporating many loan words from its travels and diverse speak-
ers. Departing from its pidgin and creolized roots, which are now lost in
antiquity, it quickly became a cultural, religious, and official language of
many dynasties. Written in both Cyrillic and Arabic scripts (depending on
which variety we are speaking of), it is linked to many sister and daughter
languages such as Khuzi and Luri (Windfuhr 1987).
We do not know exactly when writing was invented but once it emerged
more or less independently in at least three places—Mesopotamia, China
and Mesoamerica—it was imitated by many societies, very likely through
stimulus diffusion, that is, the transmission of an idea or custom from
one people to another over large areas (Watson 2005). A powerful script
that functioned as a lingua franca was the cuneiform writing system of
Mesopotamia, which was used to illustrate Sumerian, Akkadian, Old
Persian, Canaanite and Urartian in Armenia, old Armenian and Old
Crete. In 1400 BCE, cuneiform writing was the international script of
diplomacy and trade. Even mighty Egypt used cuneiform in its diplomatic
correspondence with its northeastern neighbors. Other cultures, such as
the Hittes of Anatolia (present-day Turkey), from the Indo-European
tribes admired the Semetic cuneiform so much they even copied it. Writ-
ing probably began with the necessity of recording tallies and labels or
bookkeeping in commercial transactions. For example, the Egyptians and
Harappans of the Indus Valley traded activity with the Sumerians and at
a very early date (from 8000 BC) had already adopted some indexical and
iconic signs to represent tally tokens, as seen from clay tablets unearthed
18 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
by archaeologists. Of our 6000 existing languages, only 200 are written
in any real way (Holme 2004).
Just as spoken languages and LFs come and go, writing systems are also
created and discarded. For example, while the cuneiform system originated
perhaps around 3000 BC and its latest use is dated 75 CE (Adkins 2003:
47), it was replaced by the Phoenician script as the preferred written lin-
gua franca. A direct descendant of the Proto-Sinitic script, Phoenician is a
“consonantal alphabet,” or “abjad,” and only contains letters representing
consonants, vowels being generally omitted in this phase of the writing sys-
tem. It replaced Sumerian as a lingua franca for commercial record keep-
ing and was used widely along the western shores of the Mediterranean,
as far as North Africa and southern Spain, into Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus,
and even Greece and Italy from the 3rd millennium BCE. This versatile
and functional LF was much admired by the Jews, Greeks, and Arabs who
later incorporated some of its features into their own scripts, respectively,
Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic (Robinson 1995).
During the time of the thriving city-state of Phoenicia (1550–300 BC),
there were many opportunities for Phoenician to spread to countries such as
Arabia and Greece using existing trade routes between the Mediterranean
and India. There was, for example, the extraordinary expedition made by
Alexander the Great along the banks of the river Indus in 326 BC. It is not
surprising thus that LFs such as Sanskrit are themselves Indo-European
languages because of the influence of Phoenician. Like the multilingual and
multicultural cities of the Mediterranean linked by the Phoenician script,
there too were multiple Indian languages spoken during the time of Asoka
(272–231BC), of which the most prominent were scripts such as Kharosthi
and Brahmi. Being alphabetic, Brahmi can be seen to be heavily influenced
by Phoenician. In like manner, trading routes between India, Tibet, and
Southeast Asia have “Indianized” the written scripts of Tibet, Laos, Thai-
land, Kampuchea (Cambodia), and Burma, although a charting of their
precise evolution is complicated (Solomon 1995).
Like speech, writing experiences fi ne-tuning over time; but unlike
speech, writing is subjected to more willful human intervention compared
with oral speech, which more naturally “evolves” over time. Like a parent
speech that may appear unintelligible over a long period, the same writing
systems may also appear unrecognizable over centuries. For example, the
Latin alphabet has been found to be descended from the earliest Egyp-
tian hieroglyphs although at fi rst glance they do not appear related (Curtin
1984). Similarly, the Georgian may not be related to the Phoenician at fi rst
glance, but there is a connection. This happened when the Greeks adopted
their writing system. However, seeing that there were no vowel signs in the
Phoenician alphabet, they borrowed the transcription of the vowel sound
from the Aramaic alphabet. As Greek overtook Phoenician as the lingua
franca, people such as the Etruscans of Italy (present-day Tuscany) flocked
to learn the “trendy” Greek language. The Greek alphabet was so greatly
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 19
admired that the speakers of Latin, the Coptic, Armenian, and Georgian, all
of which were lingua francas within their own respective regional spheres,
copied the Greek alphabet to inform their own writing systems. Indeed, it
is not just Georgian but all the scripts of Western and Eastern Europe that
are derived from the Greek alphabet.

WORLD ORDERS, LINGUA FRANCAS,


AND LANGUAGE CHANGE

The formation of different languages and of distinct species, and the proof
that both have been developed through a gradual process, are curiously
parallel (Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man).
World orders and lingua francas are never static despite the tendency by
the Greeks to view them as such. In Aristotle’s worldview, movement and
change apply only to the attributes, and never to the substance of objects.
In this bounded static view, an ideal and unchanging substance is the ulti-
mate reality that underlies all outward manifestations of change. Therefore,
the substantive strata of existence that is postulated by Aristotle—stable,
permanent, and unmoving—is regarded as primary, while change and rela-
tionships are the secondary phenomena of reality.
In contrast, in the Chinese world view, change and relationships are
primary. All things either make progress or lose ground and everything
moves forward or backward. Nothing is without motion and movement is
important to existence since all material things progress to a certain point
and then begin to decline. Movement is essential to existence: Nothing that
has life is without motion and the response of Aristotle is nonexistent in
nature (see Chapter 7). In our study, lingua francas are not only products
of changing societies but are essentially protean in nature, adapting their
shapes to suit changing circumstances. A lingua franca is by its very nature
unstable. Hence, the unceasing companion of world order and lingua
franca is change, and together they affect sociocultural political structures
and these structures, in turn, influence and affect themselves.
However, while language change is acknowledged in the specialist
domain of use, it is not acknowledged in the case of everyday usage. Indeed,
the common view of language is that it is “out there,” self-contained, static,
and passive. In our study, we propose viewing language and lingua francas
as open dynamic systems, capable of adaptive self-organization, and an
analogy can be draw here between biological evolution and human lan-
guage. Like plants and animals, languages die and thousands have been
lost in recent times, and even more in earlier times (Margulis 1998). By
a similar logic, one can imagine that not only individual languages but
also whole groupings or phyla of languages have ceased to exist, as their
population suddenly were extinguished or as they became absorbed into
other more dominant languages such as LFs (Schendl 2001). Language is
20 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
therefore not permanent, stable, and fi xed—it is in constant flux, ever-
changing, ever-mutating, dying, rejuvenating, growing.
Historical linguists from William Jones to Joseph Greenberg13 have inter-
preted language change through three broad processes: the “genetic” origin
and change of languages, the borrowing of words, and the mutual influence
of languages. Languages are related to one another “genetically” in that one
ancestral language can give birth over time to daughter languages, which in
turn give birth to other languages with time. For example, one can predict
the grammar and vocabulary of ancient Latin by working back from pat-
terns in the language known to have descended from Latin (Ruhlen 1994).
Classifying language consists of comparing words and structures of lan-
guages to each other, to develop an interpretation of language “families,”
and this process enables us to see how change has occurred. For any two
languages, one seeks to answer two sorts of question: whether the two can
be seen to have a common ancestor, and if, so, how closely they are related
to each other.
World orders, Lingua francas, and languages are apt objects of study
since these entities are continually in a state of flux and can be likened
more to sponges rather than stones. The labels “classical Latin,” “classical
Arabic,” and “old English” underscore the changes that their “modern”
languages have undergone. Ancestral Indo-European, the language once
spoken by a small group of agro-pastorialists around 6000 BC, has given
rise to around 150 descendent languages from Gaelic in the West to Bengali
in the East over an 8,000-year period. Interpolating from these values into
the standard Gaussian logistic growth equation for biological population
growth suggests that the Indo-European language family has evolved at
a rate equivalent to the budding off of a new language from each existing
language, on average about once every 1,600 years, or about as long as it
has taken modern English and Scots to evolve out of Anglo Saxon (Green-
berg 2002).
The best researched language family is the Indo-European one with a
long textual tradition in a wide range of geographically divergent daugh-
ter languages—spoken from India to the western border of the European
continents. Here, Latin has been the most charted language. It started off
as one of the little clusters of languages called Italic. As it was the stron-
gest of the cluster, it was the sole survivor, not least because its owners
were also the founders of the Roman empire. As the lingua franca of the
Empire, Latin began to develop differently in each place, as a result of
which it became a different language entirely. Its descendants included
“new” “Romance” languages such as French, Romanian, and Spanish and
lesser known ones such as Provençal and Catalan. In these we can no longer
hear the original sounds of the parent language, since it has been deeply
influenced by other sounds and syntactical habits of the speakers’ children
living in diverse regions and under the influence of other neighboring lan-
guages (McWhorter 2001).14 A point to note is that since Latin was able to
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 21
develop though the effects of distance and languages encountered, to the
point of taking forms as different as Portuguese and French, it is possible to
imagine what other previous lingua francas Sumerian, Phoenician, Brahmi,
Chinese and Greek could have gone through in a longer period and over a
larger territory.
Language change occurs internally and externally, “internally” because
society, even if monolingual, is made up of multiple speech communities,
that is, each member of the community speaks his or her own idiolect.
Hence, there is a large degree of overlap in codes, the end result of which
is constant accommodation and change. Croft’s (2000: 115) “theory of
utterance selection” postulates that language change results from peoples’
desire to convey an exact meaning, tempting them to practice stretching
or breaking linguistic conventions. Language change occurs “externally”
because when two different communities meet, leveling/simplification may
occur, as in the case of pidgins and creoles. The prolonged meeting of the
two different languages often results in a convergence of a new convention
that is in some way a compromise, typically a simplification, of two or
more communities’ conventions (ibid.: 191).
Geographical isolation also results in the growth of new languages. In
biology, pylogeny states that all new species come into being by divergence
and that a species is a population of interbreeding individuals that is repro-
ductively isolated from other species. Once the former race is more or less
fully reproductively isolated, it has diverged to the point of becoming a new
species (ibid.). Trudgill and Hughes (1996) note that elaborate change, allo-
phonic complexity, and complex phoneme segment inventories are likely to
be found in languages of small isolated societies.15 Conversely, linguistic
changes, such as mergers and simplification, that make it easy for the nonna-
tive speaker and that are commonly found in lingua francas, are more likely
to be found in large societies characterized by high contact (Dunbar 2003).
Evolution is the explanatory principle that connects all biological phe-
nomena, including cultures, into a seamless whole (Ehrlich 2000). How-
ever, to understand language change well is to reopen the topic on linguistic
evolution, which has, since the rise of Nazism and Fascism and their empha-
sis on the superiority of certain languages and races, been a sensitive one.
“Language change,” rather than “evolution” and “progress,” is the pre-
ferred term. But we should not be afraid of “progress” because biological
evolution is incredibly slow to the human eye so that it is very difficult or
impossible to detect in a short period. Also “progress” is very difficult to
defi ne and measure and is likely to be found only in the very long term. On
the other hand, it would be very strange if there were no important progress
in communication in the last million years of human evolution, since the
time in which there lived ancestors common to modern humans and our
nearest cousins, the chimpanzees. It would be strange if language sprang
up from nothing in this period and reached immediately its present degree
of sophistication.
22 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
Indeed, the theory of lexical diffusion has been recognized as the most
important innovation in the study of language change (Labov 1972). Lexical
diffusion is the phenomenon whereby an individual word tends to homog-
enize its linguistic behavior with respect to similar parts of the lexicon.
This phenomenon is typical of cultural evolution, and language is a central
cultural phenomenon. The diffusion among related words occurs because
of the tendency of the brain to use rules as much as possible in producing
language, resulting in considerable standardization. The major advantage
must be the economy of labor, but in our present limited understanding of
the brain, it is best not to say anything more. However, most linguists are
suspicious of the positive effects of language change as language is, more
often than not, a “zero sum game,” that is, one language often gains at the
expense of another. Indeed, today, it is fashionable to describe endangered
languages and dialects, and to maintain, promote, and revive smaller lan-
guages that are endangered by “killer” lingua francas.

DEFINITIONS OF WORLD ORDERS

Lingua francas and world orders both share a common denominator—that


is, change. Historically, the term “new world order” has been used to refer
to a new period of history evidencing a dramatic change in world political
thought and the balance of power. The fi rst uses of this term were during
the time of Woodrow Wilson’s call for a League of Nations following the
devastation caused by the World War I. It was again used following the dev-
astation of the World War II when discussions were rife for the establish-
ment of the United Nations. The most widely discussed application of the
phrase of recent times came in 1991 when Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev
and George H. W. Bush used it to try to define the nature of the post-Cold
War era, and the spirit of global cooperation that they hoped would materi-
alize (Slaughter 2004). In this study, world orders will be defi ned as a kind
of rational parameter, or organizational template, used by human beings
to understand the essential characteristics of the age they live in and as a
tool that enables them to organize their lives accordingly to perceived “cos-
mic” boundaries. It may refer to the dominant means of social, political,
and economic organization, a clearly perceived and delineated era in which
certain things fall into place. For example, the world order in which we are
all living is that of the nation-state. This can be confi rmed by the fact that
everywhere we go, we are faced with immigration checkpoints, flags, and
insignias of the boundaries of power, all of which reveal the hallmark of
national authenticity and dignity. In many parts of the world, people are
still prepared to answer its call and give up their lives for its cause.
A major insignia in the world order of nation-states is language, since it so
clearly marks off those who speak it from those who cannot and because it
evokes immediate expressive intimacy among its speakers. The outstanding
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 23
role played by philologists, grammarians, and lexicographers in so many
nationalisms indicates the importance so often attached to language as a
powerful symbolic code. Indeed, language remains for the nation-state a
vital symbolic realm of authentication and vernacular mobilization. For
example, following independence, most former colonies attempted in vary-
ing degrees and with varying success to replace imperial languages with
indigenous ones regardless of its practicality or economics: Arabic displaced
French in North Africa, Urdu supplanted English as language of govern-
ment and education in Pakistan, and Malay replaced English in Malaysia
(Gill 2002). Similarly, with the end of the Soviet Empire and the Cold War,
major efforts have been underway in former Soviet republics to revive their
traditional languages. Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Georgian,
and Armenian are now the national languages of these independent states.
Among the Muslim republics similar linguistic assertions have occurred,
and Azerbaijan, Kyrgystan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have shifted
from the Cyrillic script of their former Russia masters to the Western script
of their Turkish kinsmen, while Persian-speaking Tajikistan has adopted
Arabic script. Therefore language is realigned and reconstructed to accord
with the identities and contours of new world orders (Huntington 1996).
However, the nation-state, and its ideological partner, nationalism, has
shown its dark side—its capacity for divisions, destabilization, and destruc-
tion through the many wars that have been fought in its name. Just like all
previous world orders before it, namely, the family, the tribe, the city-state,
the nation-state is currently contending with another cosmological parame-
ter—globalism–a buzzword that has come into frequent use since the 1990s.
Since the dawn of the 2lst century, a new defining character for the world—a
“new world order,” so to speak, based not on empty rhetoric but on the
recognition of the interdependence of nation-states in the world today and
an acknowledgement of shared world problems, such as poverty, illness, and
environment degradation, is now center stage. The last three decades have
seen financial markets in America, Europe, and East Asia for currencies,
commodities, and corporate shares increasingly affecting each other. A grow-
ing number of transnational and global corporations possesses a world rather
than a national view and the cities in which they have their offices are resem-
bling each other more and more. It has also become practical for us to think
of ourselves, for many purposes, as part of a single, global community.
Indeed, while living within the boundaries of the nation-state, we are
already engaging in the politics of globalism. We are, it seems, positioned
in a period when the hopes of Marx and Engels (Busky 2002) can be real-
ized—that a common literature and culture can emerge out of the many
national cultures and literatures and that the time has come to remold our
political frameworks and ideologies and sweep away obsolete divisions and
ancient antagonisms. While it may be premature to predict the early demise
of the “nationalism” and the gravitational force of national to global order,
it is undeniable that the era of globalism is already at our doorsteps.
24 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
Changing world orders are associated with the emergence of lingua fran-
cas. The national world order has favored many national languages such as
Spanish, English, Russian, German, Hindi, Mandarin, and French, which
are used as lingua francas in many nations. The global world order, on the
other hand, favors a global language from among the contending national
languages. Today, English appears to aspire to LF status in the global order,
following in the footsteps of a previous lingua franca such as Arabic and
Latin in previous orders. Then, new people, in previous world orders, had
begun to adapt the strange Arabic or Latin tongues to their unacquainted
ones, and in doing so, invented new words as well as syntactical and into-
national patterns. These lingua francas grew steadily by accommodating
themselves to different cultures, giving rise to what we may call “New Ara-
bics” or “new Latins”—or “New Englishes,” as the case may be.
Should we be at the dawn of a “new world order,” we may then question
why, at the beginning of the third millennium, there should be, paradoxi-
cally, a resurgence of ethnic confl ict, nationalism, and religious fundamen-
talism occurring simultaneously with a more unified and interconnected
world, and at a time when trade barriers are falling away and commodities
and labor are able to move freely across continents. The reasons for this
is discussed in greater depth in the discussion of liminality in Chapters 3
and 5, but for the moment it will be argued that these irregularities only
“appear” to proliferate and are often short term and of no lasting conse-
quence. According to Smith (1995), they are not tied to the great structures
and motors of historical change, that is, the international division of labor,
great regional markets, powerful military blocs, electronic communication,
computerized information technology, mass public education, mass media,
the sexual revolution, and the like, which may be considered the chariots
that move societies along to the next world order. These eruptions are small
scale and a comfortable diversion or smokescreen for the growing inclusive-
ness of human communities (ibid.).

ENGLISH AS A LINGUA FRANCA (ELF)

Another goal of this study is to examine the role of English as “emergent


lingua franca” and against the backdrop of a “new world order.” We need
to understand English’s rapidly changing dynamics by juxtaposing it with
other LFs in the past and present and by using resources from comparative
linguistics, comparative histories, and system theories. There are just too
many varieties of English so, as noted by McArthur (2002), there is a need
for a template by which we can make sense of the dynamics of such mul-
tiplication. Unfortunately, a diachronic, broad-based, and macro model is
not easily available.
The polemic that has also surrounded ELF in recent years (cf. Pennycook
1998; Phillipson 2003; Nettle and Romaine 2000; Mesthrie 2006) has
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 25
divided and confused professionals and students in the field of Teachers of
English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and applied linguistics.
Bolton (2003: 42–3) has summarized the various theoretical perspectives
and practical approaches to World Englishes. McArthur (1998), among
many others, offers his own understanding of the phenomenon through
a “Circle Model of World English.” “Linguistic imperialism” (Phillipson
1992) helped popularize the notion in Applied Linguistics that learning
a language means adopting an “alien “ culture and becoming a victim of
cultural as well as linguistic imperialisms. Skutnabb-Kangas (2000) argues
that mother tongues are essential to the continuation of identity, and that
destroying a language is in reality destroying a people and a culture. In
short, divergent responses as to whether lingua francas are in reality politi-
cal tools of global corporations and imperial powers continue to complicate
our discussion in the 21st century and spark arguments about the relation-
ship between knowledge and power (Edge 2006). Language teachers are
unable to teach English without some guilt and uncertainty, hence psycho-
logically impeding efforts in English-language learning.
Last but not least, the question of whether English is the present equiva-
lent of past lingua francas such as Arabic, Latin, Brahmi, Sumeria and
Phoenician may be at the back of everyone’s mind but it is not something
that will be admitted as prevalent. Linguists, politicians, sociologists, his-
torians, and theologians (cf. Erling 2000; Grzega 2005) are uncomfortable
discussing or even thinking about its accessibility, learnability, and obvious
presence.16 Even Ostler (2006), who takes a long-term view of language,
carefully avoids “getting personal” with regard to the dominant status
of English. He circumvents the enquiry of the meteoric rise of English by
focusing instead on a very wide tracing of the languages of the world, their
rise, spread, and demise.
There are many models/templates that attempt to come to grips ideo-
logically and pedagogically with the “sudden” emergence of English and
its many varieties. However, I will highlight only three. The most common
one, still in widespread use today, is the differentiation between English as
a native language (ENL), English as a second language (ESL), and English
as a foreign language (EFL), but this classification has shortcomings. For
one, such a classification invokes resentment that ENL is superior to ESL
and EFL varieties and that ENL should be the “natural” model. Indeed, it
is increasingly difficult to classify EFL countries as English is playing an
increasingly important role in formerly EFL countries (Graddoll 2006).
An alternative classification, popularly known as the Three Circles
Model, broke new ground by raising worldwide awareness of the existence
of dynamic varieties of World Englishes (Kachru 1985). Here, there is the
norm-providing inner circle (i.e., the traditional bases of English), where
English is spoken as a native language, the norm-developing outer circle,
where it is the second language, and the norm-dependent expanding circle,
where it is a foreign language (ibid: 12). This model made it obvious to
26 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
all that English is now a plural phenomenon with multicultural identities.
It also furthered an understanding of nonnative varieties of English and
provided a corrective to the native-speaker-dominated corpora already in
existence. However, it has attracted criticism pertaining to its “relevance”
in an increasingly globalized world where identities are no longer pre-given
or tied to nationalist policies (Pennycook 2003). The model, it seems, has
also appeared to favor the inner circles as the “original” owners and Hig-
gins (2003), for example, has argued that nonnative speakers do orient
toward English in very similar ways to speakers from the inner circle, even
if they do not claim ownership of the language. Nayar (1997) points to the
referential fuzziness within ESL and EFL, which hinders its practicality as
an effective and relevant model. Seidlhofer (2001) laments that the model is
unable to inform and explain the bulk of communication between increas-
ingly large numbers of nonnative speakers in the world today.
The third model is what may be called the English as a Lingua Franca
model (ELF model), a term which began to be used in the 1990s (Jenkins
2007). It is not quite the “World Englishes” of Kachru since it focuses more
on communication in English between nonnative speakers rather than
between native vs. nonnative speakers. It is argued that ELF is a more “neu-
tral” term than either “ESL” or “EFL” or “native-speaker” and “nonnative
speaker” since it no longer connotes English-language contact involving
native speakers as natural and acceptable and those involving nonnative
speakers as in some way “inauthentic.” For example, the influence of the
native language on the acquisition of a second language has often been sub-
sumed under “interference” and this kind of interference typically results
in what is called “foreigner talk.” However, if we think of ELF, it would no
longer be appropriate to speak of “L1 interference” or “L1 transfer” since
it is well established that in learning a second language, a person’s native
language plays a part in shaping the outcome of his/her acquisition of the
second language.
Nevertheless, the ELF model has also had its fair share of critics. Phil-
lipson (2000: 89) argues that terms such as “global English” or “English
as a lingua franca” (ELF) conceal the fact that the use of English serves
the interest of some much better than others and that its use includes
some and excludes others. Ridge (2000:170) cautions that “there is a
real danger that English will not only be dominant but dominating in
its effect. McArthur (2001:1) says that “the term lingua franca has tra-
ditionally referred to low-level makeshift languages, whereas English is
a vast complex which range from high scientific registers to the most
maligned basilect in this world.” Rajagopalan (2008) prefers the term
“World Englishes” rather than ELF, as she believes it does not quite
exist yet but is something in the making. Also, the grammar of ELF is
very unstable, varying from user to user and from one period to another,
making it difficult to chart and making it untenable, both from the pub-
lishing and pedagogical angles.
Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders 27
Regardless, in this study, I will discuss ELF in a broader fashion, that is,
as a term that refers to communication among both native and nonnative
speakers, even though it is likely that the majority of communication in the
future will be among fellow nonnative speakers, whether they be Europe-
ans, Asians, or South Africans. In other words, the term ELF will encom-
passes not just L2 to L2 but also L1 to L1 and L1 to L2. A rather similar
term to ELF is EIL (English as an International Language), a term proposed
fi rst by Larry Smith (1978) as a cover term for a worldview that recognizes
that English no longer belongs exclusively to its native speakers.

CONCLUSION

In brief, lingua francas originated and developed through contact and


accommodation in villages, city-states, and nations. They spread through
the exchanges among people within a community, the episodes of colo-
nialization by small family groups, or the occasional fl ights of a whole
community from overpopulation or disaster. Most of the lingua francas in
human history can trace their origins back as languages of commerce and
trade. Some began as pidgins, progressing on to becoming creoles and later
vernaculars and national languages in their own right. Some have faded
away. Those that have remained have adapted themselves well to contexts
of change in their encounters with new speakers of the language.
In reviewing existing models of English teaching and learning, Bruthi-
aux (2003) suggested a departure from a focus on nation-states in favor of
a sociolinguistic focus on English in the light of globalization, and I think
this is the right way to proceed. However, he does not elaborate on how
precisely this is to be undertaken. In the next chapter, I will take up this
challenge through the design of a simple and self-motivating mode, at the
risk of being overly speculative and particularly engaged. l am fully aware
that to critical linguists (Phillipson 1992; Holborow 1999), poststructur-
alists (Bhabha 1983; Bourdieu1991; Pennycook 1994, 1998; Canagarajah
2006) the notion of universalism as an ideological principle, is anathema,
even if it is rationalist-humanist in origin.17 So it is, too, to language ecolo-
gists such as Anderman (2005), Muhlhausler (1996), Maurais and Morris
(2003), who are concerned with the alarming rate of disappearing lan-
guages. But it is on this awareness that I move to my next chapter and
defi ne my methodology and model.
2 A Model of Evolving World
Orders and Lingua Francas

The future is embedded in the present and the past


(John Naisbitt, Magatrends)

ENLARGING PERSPECTIVES

The fi rst step toward understanding linguistic phenomenon in a wider


frame and more specifically, the role of English in the world today, is to
free ourselves temporarily from the penchant of classifying phenomenon
into boxes and enclosures. One of the boxes today is that of national
boundaries, which have been taken for granted for so long that they have
formed a rather permanent and “neutral” part of our reality. In reality,
boundaries and enclosures are impermanent and arbitrary, based purely
on presuppositions, and act as an impediment to more creative ways of
classification. In the study of language change and lingua francas, for
example, it would be more profitable to focus on dialectal, proficiency,
and functional ranges based on a wide variety of sociolinguistic context,
which may not necessarily be “national.” A study of diverse cultures
within less artificially constructed envelopes will enable us to discover the
comparative set of values, customs, behaviors, language, institutions, and
commodities that most significantly characterize a community’s identity,
that is, the “spirit” or “genius” that distinguishes it from others.
My study of lingua francas will draw across boundaries—from dis-
courses such as history, politics, and anthropology. In particular, history
is singled out for prominence as it is often useful to look back in order
to look ahead. One historical process—globalization—is closely related
to the spread of English as a lingua franca, and is often discussed as
a “recent” phenomenon relating primarily to the development of world
fi nancial markets and technological advances in information and travel.
For example, Giddens (1999: 10) argues that globalization is in many
respects not only “new” but also “revolutionary.” Prado (2001) and
Flowerdew (2002) view globalization, modernity, capitalism, and prog-
ress as “Western ideas,” their spread directly related to the rise of Euro-
pean powers in the 19th century led by Great Britain! Mignolo (2000:
236) has a longer perspective, tracing it back to the 16th century with the
beginning of transatlantic exploration and the consolidation of Western
hegemony. However, such studies tend to view time within a history of
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 29
European and American imperialism and run the danger of not acknowl-
edging the diversity of global forces and locations of globalization. There
have, for example, been other influential but less known “globalizing”
forces in history such as that seen in the Chinese and Islamic empires in
earlier centuries. Globalization, that is, seeing the world in larger and
larger perspectives (Chew and Quek 2003), as we shall see, is in reality a
part of a long historical process; only the manner and speed in which it is
taking place is unprecedented.
That society is permeated by history is obvious, but this concept is
unpopular in sociolinguistics. However, I believe it is a platform on which
the study of lingua francas could more advantageously be positioned.
Bacon (cf. Clegg 2004) said that history makes us wise, especially if we
know how to read its truth. I think what Bacon means here is that we
begin to realize that the era in which we live in and we ourselves are just
tiny “specks” in the vista of time and space. In other words, our preoc-
cupations are not “unique” or “special” in any way and if we realize this,
we become “humble” and therefore, “wise.” Hence, rather than view the
dominance of ELF in the world today as “contemporary,’ “current,” or
“special” (Erard 2008), we should instead widen the context, such as
exploring the past to discover whether this is indeed as “unique” as it
has been assumed to be, or whether it is something that is just a recur-
ring phenomenon. If it is a recurring phenomenon, then it may have some
valuable lessons for us today.
The validity of our conclusions often depends on the scale at which we
observe them. For many of us, our perspectives are often for the shorter
term—the next few days, weeks, or months, or maybe a year or two,
rarely a decade, and certainly not a century or millennium. The short-
term perspective is reinforced by the political process when considering
public affairs, particularly in “national” democracies, where the prime
interest is often on the next election. When public affairs are narrowed
to the economy, the focus is the same. Capital and labor alike worry if
the next year or so will see the crash or rise of the economy. Financial
markets focus on the next quarterly report of companies quoted on the
stock market; others worry about currency exchange movements over
the next three months, and so forth. It appears that only the short term
is important. However, Ostler (2006: 9–12) believes that “the history of
humanity seen from its languages is a long view” and that “this history
told through languages can give an insight into the long term effects of
sudden changes.” Accordingly, his history has provided useful perspec-
tives on the current situation in Iraq (ibid., Chapter 3) and the impres-
sively deep roots of the present confl icts in the Caucasus and Central Asia
(ibid., 434–437). So too Teilhard de Chardin (quoted in Cuenot 1967)
observed that if we mix black and white powder and cast it on the fl oor,
we will see grey powder, but that an ant crawling on the ground will
see black and white stones. Without such a perspective, we shall remain
30 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
bewildered onlookers of unpredictable sociopolitical dramas, and hence
a longer time frame is essential if we are to make sense of the ubiquitous
appeal and enduring hold of lingua francas.
When both diachronic (study of language as it unfolds over time) and
synchronic perspectives (study of language as it appears at a given point
of time) intersect, viewpoints become multiplex, dynamic, and enhanced.
As scholars look through the microscope, their view is of specific points—
what has been called a “microscopic” view. In using this view, we are
advantaged by knowing a lot about a small thing, but we do tend to forget
the whole picture. Therefore, the macroscope, not just the microscope,
becomes crucial, for it allows the inclusion of not just the synchronic but
also the diachronic perspective and allows the distant and near past to
inform the future.
A diachronic perspective also enables us to retain continuous change
as its central thread and to forefront the relativity of our perceptions. If
reality is infi nitely complex, and if particular forms of language use cor-
respond to a specific stage in the historical development of a society, then
it follows that each system of truth and each debate on language stan-
dards can only be partial, limited, and relative. A relative view is also
more suited to a circular, rather than linear, way of viewing time. While
the Western worldview tends to divide the world into two opposing parts
such as “matter and form” and “reality and reason,” the Chinese world-
view, for example, is a circular one. The Biography of Feng Yi, written in
the East Han Dynasty narrates: “What is lost at sunrise can be regained
at sunset.” When a language is lost, that loss can be made up in other
ways as time rotates. Hence, while the West emphasizes the synchronic
opposition between loss and gain, the Chinese worldview combines the
two, through a diachronic perspective, and encloses the opposition (Zuo
2001).
A diachronic perspective will also enable us to “stand back” and sur-
vey the landscape, which is especially useful in view of the fact that evo-
lution moves seemingly at a snail’s pace. Of course, it is impossible for
a human being to jump clear of his situation in time-space and look at
events with the eye of a hypothetical “god.” But there are advantages
in bringing together and fi nding linguistic patterns across world orders,
cultures, classes, and races, which are not often though to be strictly com-
patible. A study of analogies, if kept within bounds, is a useful guide, not
merely to understand the linguistic practices of the past but also that of
the present and the future. The discovery of patterns can raise questions,
build links, and generate predictions and allows a bifocal vision, that is,
the ability to see the parts as well as the whole.
Last but not least, an “enlarged” perspective enables us to take a “mid-
dle path.” Extreme individualism and/or “structuralism” are no longer
possible if inclusion and integration as well as dissection and separation
are to be valued. With extreme individualism, society is often viewed
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 31
as a fictitious entity; only the individual is real; and, social institutions
are only the reflections of a static human nature. Social development
is accomplished by a strategy of changing individual ethics and ideol-
ogy and the agent of social historical change is individual consciousness,
values, and ideas. Structuralism or structuralist theory, on the contrary,
regards individuals as the passive embodiments of social relation and
the structure of society. Like the grammar of language that predeter-
mines the speech acts of individuals and is not created by their speech,
individual acts are embodiments of the structure of society without the
conscious knowledge of the individual actor (Lyons 1999). In this study
however, the “middle” path between the two approaches is preferred—
one that takes into account cultural, ideological, economic, and political
factors as important agents of change but that is opposed to the fatalis-
tic determinism of structuralism, which implies individual resignation.
It is a viewpoint allowing for active participation and interference of
human beings in the dynamics of history and for an active, critical, and
theoretical outlook (Joyce 1994). In other words, the universal rhythms
of the rise, flowering, and decline of languages and lingua francas are
not wholly predetermined but are often due to the particular language’s
response in meeting new sets of challenges in periods of extreme difficul-
ties faced by changing world forces. As Aitchinson (1991) points out,
languages and lingua francas are more likely to die “voluntarily” rather
than by linguistic extermination from an external force—an idea that
expand on in later chapters.

A MODEL OF EVOLVING LINGUA FRANCAS:


ELEMENTS, RELATIONSHIPS, AND RULES

“Only connect” (E.M. Forster, Howards End)

In system philosophy, there are in reality no “systems” in nature. The


universe, the world, and nature have no ability to describe themselves.
That which is, is (Vester 2007). However, human beings like ourselves
need models or conceptual systems to help us understand the environ-
ment in which we live. Hence, we create models of systems only for our
understanding. We often create artificial boundaries to suit our own pur-
poses of analysis, discussion, and understanding; this is true of every
conceptual model that has been devised through which humans try to
understand the universe.
Hence, a “model” is postulated for our study of lingua franca only
because it helps us understand a “process” or a “structure” of the phe-
nomena or object we are interested in. It presents a preliminary pattern,
plan, or representation in miniature to show the main workings of a
system and hopefully it will as well be a reasoned proposal suggesting
32 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
possible correlation between multiple phenomena. A model is quite simi-
lar to a hypothesis since both refer to a provisional idea whose merit
requires evaluation. However, I prefer the semantics of “model” rather
than “hypothesis” or “theory” because it does not involve too heavy a
commitment to an idea. Often the framer of a hypothesis needs to defi ne
specifics in operational terms so that a hypothesis may progress to a
“theory.” Hence, a hypothesis requires more work by the researcher in
order to either confi rm or disprove it. Unfortunately, my model of evolv-
ing lingua francas cannot yet be “proven” in the scientific sense of the
word as I am unable to provide any operational variables. As this is a fi rst
study, it will remain simply a “model” to aid us in our understanding of
evolving world orders and lingua francas.
My model is closely aligned to the qualifier “evolving.” This proposi-
tion of the mechanism of natural selection or “evolution” is standard in
scientific literature (cf. Bowler 2003). Evolution is commonly perceived
as the process of change and the passing on of inherited traits of a popu-
lation from one generation to the next. Like the idea of “globalization,”
evolution is neither new nor “Western,” having existed since the 6th cen-
tury BC when the idea of the transmutation of species was expounded
by Greek philosophers such Anaximander and Empedocles, the Roman
philosopher Luretius, the Arab philosophers Al-Jahiz and Ibn Misk-
awayh (Hamidullah and Iqbal 1993), as well as the Chinese philosopher
Zhuangzi (Chan 1962). However, these ideas became widely accessible
only in 1859 after the publication of natural selection by Charles Dar-
win.1 Since then, despite its wide acceptance by the scientific community,
evolution remains a contentious concept in some quarters, but the objec-
tions have centered more on its social and religious implications than
on the science of natural selection itself. For example, in the field of lin-
guistics, it is not quite a favorite topic because it implies “progress,” and
linguists are generally reluctant to engage in such a controversial process.
Nevertheless, this word should not plague us unduly, even if it is the key
to the understanding of this model, because whatever “progress” there
is, it is discernible, as we shall see, only in the extremely long term.
Any operational model will have to consider elements, rules, and
relationship—the “ingredients” that make up a model. However, we
must remember that this again is an arbitrary exercise true of all models
humans create. The word “arbitrary” however does not mean random—
it merely means without a previous dependency on something else. These
“elements can be tangible or intangible, real or imaginary. If we change
any element, boundary, or rule, then a completely new system appears.
Observations made in one system might, or might not, hold true for a
different system. The elements in my model are the arbitrary terms of
“world order” that will comprise the arbitrary subsets of, for example,
city-state, tribe, nation-state, and the global state. Liminality is an ele-
ment of my model, which describes the interval between the world orders.
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 33
Additional elements such as “norming,” “forming,” “and integrating”
are subcategories of liminality. And these elements all have to be defi ned
more specifically (in this chapter and the next), or otherwise they would
be meaningless.
While an element denotes a “concept” such as “world orders,” a relation-
ship is what that thing is doing. The relationship phenomenon only comes
into play where there are at least two elements existing such as “city-state”
and “nation-state.” Relationships are vital, for in most cases we can only
understand something if it is in relation to something else. For example, in
the model, a city-state is defi ned clearly when it is placed in the context of a
nation-state. Also, we comprehend a systemic whole well when its relation-
ship to its sub-elements is drawn directly. After elements and relationships
comes the rule: The rule is anything describing how the elements are related
or how they behave dynamically. Although stated as rules, they are syn-
onymous with assumptions, premises, or laws underlying the operational
capability of models, and without which modeling would not be possible.
There are six rules or assumptions underlying a model of evolving world
orders and lingua francas: (1) that language is a precondition for any kind of
social organization; (2) that there are no pure languages; (3) that motion is
ceaseless; (4) that the cosmos and human life are integrally related; (5) that
orderliness exists; (6) and fi nally, that the inordinate capacity for self- orga-
nization is present in nature. These assumptions are drawn from tentative
laws that are generalizations of Darwinian, cybernetic, thermodynamic,
and complexity principles (Hemaspaandra and Ogihara 2002). Through
these laws, I hope to fi nd new perspectives of the universal nature of uncer-
tainty and complexity as they relate to language in both a synchronic and
diachronic context. These premises enable me to craft a model of evolving
world orders and lingua francas and the possible reasons behind the exis-
tence or extinction of languages from the dawning of civilization.
First, language is necessary for any kind of social organization, whether
among animals or humans, for without communication there can be no
community and hence no civilization (Deutscher 2005). According to Sapir
(1949: 15), language is “the primary pillar of culture” and “the greatest
socializing force.” In other words, a community necessarily comprises
democratic social interaction and involves changes that cannot take place
without the use of language. Linguistic research, combined with neurologi-
cal studies, has determined that human speech is highly dependent on a
neuronal network located in specific sites within the brain. Association is
an organic process, with humans interrelating as naturally as atoms, stel-
lar masses, and cells, and this implies that humans were created with the
unique ability to employ speech for communication (Lieberman 1998).
Indeed, many evolutionists admit that language is the single, essential dif-
ference separating us from other animals (Jones and Pilbeam 1999). In
short, language is a universal quality of humanity, an omnipresent compo-
nent of our existence.
34 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
Second, there are in reality no “pure” languages. If we were to dissect
a lingua franca and put it under a microscope, we would fi nd it infi nitely
diversified (cf. Kirby and Christiansen 2003). There is one form of cleav-
age and stratification along social and cultural lines, which leads to the
infi nite gradations of standard tongue, vernacular, slang, and so forth.
On the other hand, there is another form of cleavage—horizontal divi-
sions across villages, towns, cities, and nations. The vertical and hori-
zontal cleavages of language are facilitated by migration and impeded
by geographical features such as rivers and high mountain ranges (see
Chapter 1). Migration into or out of a population can change frequencies
as well as introduce genetic variation into a population. Immigration may
add new genetic material to the established gene pool of a population.
In other words, “gene flow theory” (Su, Qu, Zhang, and Wang 2003),
explains that the languages of moving human populations are constantly
coming into contact with each other and that sounds, words, and phrases
are continuously copied or “borrowed” from one language to another
in various degrees of code-switching and mixing. An existing language
is therefore a vertical and horizontal compromise among several forms
of speech. Of course, the further back the copying takes place, the more
difficult it is to separate the horizontal (geographical) results from the
vertical (evolutionary) ones. Even in the most unexpected languages, such
as Israeli, which has been said to have been resurrected and “pure,” one
should expect a hybrid. Indeed, genetically modified, semi-engineered,
layered Israeli is based simultaneously on Hebrew and Yiddish, and is a
hybridic Eurasian language, both Semetic (Indo-Asiatic) and Indo-Euro-
pean. And rather than deny this truth, we should celebrate its complex-
ity (Zuckerman forthcoming). Over time, the family trees of language
groups reveal the steady divergence of languages from one another, as
their speakers become separated in space and time. Distinct language
communities can grow to include millions of speakers if their network of
communications is sufficiently intensive.
That change is the rule rather than the exception is the third law of
our model, and this has already been exemplified in Chapter 1 (see sec-
tion entitled “World Order, LFs, and Language Change). Language—
and everything else in the universe, is in a state of flux and nothing which
exists remain in a state of repose (cf. De Grasse et al. 2000). For example,
while geographic features seem very permanent, mountains are known
to change constantly. Even continents—features riding atop the giant
plates forming the earth’s crust—have shifted dramatically over time.
The Smithsonian Institute has estimated that during the average person’s
60-year life span, North America and Africa have moved farther apart
by about six feet (Smithsonian Foundation 2008)! Similarly, paleonto-
logical evidence (fossils) has discovered that at the level of species, there
is a phenomenal beginning; that is, every species that appears on earth
evolves through successive stages, culminates in an apex of maturity,
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 35
enters into a stage of decline, and at last disappears. A well-known exam-
ple is the evolution of the dinosaurs. They appeared in the Triassic Period
and attained an apex during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods, after
which they disappeared. This tells us that anything which evolves, lives,
whereas that which remains still while everything else moves around it
is dead.
The fact that the universe is intrinsically dynamic and engaged in cease-
less motion is not a totally novel conception, as the universe, or cosmos,
has already been described in ancient Chinese texts such as the Tao-te-
ching as yin and yang, a ceaseless union, “never ending nor beginning”
(cf. Ravagnoli 2008). Like the universe, humanity is also caught in the
cycle of change, but what differentiates it from the previously mentioned
mountains and dinosaurs is that its ideas, knowledge, practices, beliefs,
and the like can be passed on through its well-developed language from
one generation to another. Cooperative groups thrive while selfi sh ones
do not (Fullan 1999). For example, if adaptation is not made to changes
in temperature, extinction of species will result, such as in the case of
insects unable to adapt to temperature changes. However, unlike insects
and dinosaurs, human beings have a greater possibility of increasing their
survival chances as they have the capacity to be receptive to changing
world conditions and to cooperate both physically and mentally through
language.
The fourth relationship underlying the model is that of the intercon-
nectivity of the universe, the central premise of systems thinking and
systems philosophy (Skyttner 2006). Systems thinking is a framework
that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best
be understood in relation to other systems, rather than in isolation (Liu
2004). 2 The only way to understand why something occurs or persists is
to understand the part in relation to the whole. This contrasts with Des-
cartes’ scientifi c reductionism and philosophical analysis. A systems view-
point is supported by work in quantum physics, which treats the totality
of existence as an unbroken whole, in other words, everything affects
everything else (Nichols 2007). In an effort to enhance present-day sci-
entific knowledge, particle physicists, who study the smallest structures
in nature, have linked up with cosmologists, who study the universe as a
whole. David Bohm’s (1987, 2002) conception of “a new order in phys-
ics,” the “holo movement” brings together the holistic principle of “undi-
vided wholeness;” this wholeness is not a static oneness but a dynamic
wholeness-in-motion in which everything moves together in an intercon-
nected process. Bohm (ibid.) notes how “each relatively autonomous and
stable structure is to be understood not as something independently and
permanently existent but rather as a product that has been formed in the
whole flowing movement and which will ultimately dissolve back into
this movement.” Reality is seen not merely in terms of external interac-
tions between things, but in terms of the internal (enfolded) relationships
36 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
among things: “The relationships constituting the fundamental law are
between the enfolded structures that interweave and inter-penetrate each
other, through the whole of space, rather than between the abstracted
and separated forms that are manifest to the senses (and to our instru-
ments)” (ibid.: 185). In brief, there is an unbroken wholeness, a border-
less movement (that is, the universe is open), the parts enfold the whole,
and the whole enfolds the parts.
The idea of interrelatedness is not entirely new. Ancient Greek phi-
losophers have described human beings and their place in the universe
by postulating the interrelationship of the microcosm and macrocosm. 3
These early thinkers viewed the individual human being as a little world
(mikros kosmos) whose composition and structure correspond to that
of the universe, or great world (makros kosmos). 4 Kosmos also means
“order” in a general sense and implies a harmonious, and therefore beau-
tiful, arrangement of parts in any organic system; hence it also refers
to order in human societies, reflected in good government (Hutchinson
Encyclopedia 2008). Their successors, the Arab scientists of the 8th to 12th
centuries, were also interested in developing varieties of macrocosmic
theories related to society and human life (Tymieniecka 2006). They too
viewed the macrocosm and microcosm as a “couple”—that there exists
between the universe and the individual human being an identity both
anatomical and psychical. The macrocosm is the universe as a whole,
whose parts are thought of as parts of a human body and mind, while
the microcosm is an individual human being, whose parts are thought of
as analogous to the parts of the larger universe.
The fi fth rule of the model pertains to orderliness. Dynamic systems
perform and change over time, but they do so according to underlying
laws that are in the process of being discovered (Stewart 1989). Some
systems do it in a completely regular manner, for example the solar sys-
tem, the clock pendulum. There are also regularities in the individual,
for example, the rhythms of sleeping and waking, hunger, sexual desire,
and menstruation. Other systems lack this stability, as seen in the “big
bang” theory of the universe or a cyclist on an oily road. While stable
and unstable behavior is part of the traditional repertoire of physical sci-
ence, what is novel is the concept of something in between—“liminality”
will be elaborated in Chapter 3. 5 Chaotic behavior does not mean
“utter confusion” as its layman meaning implies but rather behavior
that, though it contains regularities, defi es prediction. For example, the
weather: Despite immense efforts in predicting the weather, this effort is
quite limited and forecasts are worse the further ahead they are pitched.
In other words, although weather sequences are highly irregular, they
are not formless or patternless. The indeterminate meanderings of these
systems, plotted over time, show that there is a pattern in the move-
ments. Though they are infi nitely variable, the variations stay within a
pattern, a family of trajectories. 6 In other words, the universe, with its
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 37
evolving world orders, is both exceedingly free and rigidly constrained.
According to Beer (2005: 26), it runs like a railroad train. A locomo-
tive “has many routes it can take to get from New York to LA, but it
cannot leave the rails. It cannot plow through pastures of corn, through
houses, under oceans, through wormholes, or fly the Jet Stream.” A
train—and our evolving world orders—has a limited number of paths it
can take.
The fi nal building block of our model is that of self-organization,
which may be defi ned as the process of attraction and repulsion in which
the internal organization of a system increases in complexity without
being guided or managed by an outside source (Kauffman 1993).7 Self-
organization is a concept used by those associated with general systems
theory in the 1960s, but it did not become commonplace in the scientifi c
literature until its adoption by physicists in the field of complex systems
in the 1980s.8 It is best illustrated in plants and animals—cells can make
independent, automatic decisions minute by minute. For example, our
body is an example of a self-organizing self-creating system with 60 to
70 trillion cells. Right now one of the cells sitting next to our little toe
is making some decisions on its own, not bothering to ask permission
from its leader, the mind; but the odds are that the cells around our little
toe are making the right decision. The system can respond very rapidly
because it has reference to its whole purpose and itself as part of the sys-
tem. Examples of self-organizing behavior can also be found in the social
sciences such as economics and anthropology (Strogatz 2004) and, as we
shall see, in evolving lingua francas.
Something is self-organizing if, left to itself, it becomes more organized
(Heylighen et al. 1999). This is an unusual, indeed quite counter-intuitive,
property; we expect that, left to themselves, things get messy, and that
when we encounter a very high degree of order, or an increase in order,
something, someone, or at least some peculiar thing, is responsible. But we
now know of many instances where this expectation is simply wrong, of
things that can start in a highly random state and, without being shaped
from the outside, become more and more organized. Self-organization
refers to diverse pattern formation processes in the physical and biological
world, from sand grains assembling into rippled dunes to cells combining
to create highly structured tissues to individual insects working to create
sophisticated societies. What these diverse systems hold in common is the
proximate means by which they acquire order and structure. In self-orga-
nizing systems, pattern at the global level emerges solely from interactions
among lower-level components. Remarkably, even very complex structures
result from the iteration of surprisingly simple behaviors performed by indi-
viduals relying on only local information (Camazine et al. 2003). Similarly,
I will propose that individuals and their languages are governed by simple
rules, but that their interaction with each other and their environment leads
to complex patterns.
38 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders

THE SPIRAL MODEL IN OPERATION

In line with the above elements, rules, and relationships imperative in


model making, human beings as well as their languages are also subject
to laws of natural progression that operate not just on physical character-
istics but also on dispositions, tastes, preferences, and attitudes (Kaneko
2006). Just as the life of a human being begins with the fertilization of
the ovum, and continues on through the stages of the birth of the baby,
the development of the child, the boy/girl, the adolescent, the adult, and
concludes with the death of the body, so too language can be said to
fi rst emerge as a seed, develop, be used and flourish, and due to external
changing conditions, may grow from strength to strength or die. Linguis-
tically, if we trace a language back to its roots, going back in time, each
of these languages was once a seed, then evolved to become a language
of the individual and then of the family, and then of the extended family,
the tribe, and so forth. If that language is also functioning as a lingua
franca, its influence will be wider—it will form the bridge to unite differ-
ent families of a tribe, eventually different tribes in a city, to different cit-
ies in a nation, and ultimately to different nations in the world. Language
is never in repose and is always in the forefront of change, more so if
that language is one of wider communication, a lingua franca. In reality,
therefore, language changes and there are no pure languages.
This intrinsic connection on the sociocultural and biological levels
enables us a perspective of relativity toward the understanding of the
growth, existence, or extinction of all beings, including lingua francas past
and present. Whatever language we speak now is always relative, since the
possible changes each language can evolve through are infinite. When lan-
guage evolves, it implies its adaptation to new ideas, discoveries, processes,
and structural or contextual changes in the external world. In other words,
while the original species of the genus does not change and alter, the form,
color, bulk of the genus will change, alter, or even progress. In the same
way, while some languages will be absorbed into others and some extin-
guished, others will grow or merge into others. In this way, everything is
connected to everything else. Not surprisingly, one fi nds that the object of
study of biological sciences (embryology, anatomy, physiology, and geron-
tology), is closely related to that of language (pragmatics, semiotic, poetic,
semantics, syntax) (cf. Ehrlich 2000, Dobzhansky 1970).
Just like Homo sapiens and their languages, the elements of world
orders undertake a similar journey of evolution (Hemelrijk 2005). If we
journey back to about 2000 BC, we begin to see people living together
in what seems to be rather large linguistically stable communities. Lin-
guistic communities are defi ned by the fact that they are biologically self-
perpetuating, share and express common cultural values, demonstrate
internal interaction, and are considered by others to be distinct. Such
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 39
communities begin as families, and then become tribes or clans. How-
ever, archaeologists are unable to fi nd any stability in early tribal commu-
nities as they found that villages appear, disappear, and move around. It
is a semi-nomadic or nomadic existence, an ancient cognitive map almost
extinguished today. During the tribal order (as with other world orders),
we see people experimenting with new paradigms. On some days, some
people at various places and different times may plant seeds in the debris
on a river bank and later notice that plants grew from the seeds. They
tried it again and again and presumably after trying a score of seeds they
got the idea that if they put the seed in the ground, a temporal similar
causal effect would happen. This new knowledge caused them to shift
their beliefs, and in this way, gradually overcome some 8000 years of
nomadic or semi-nomadic existence. They gleaned the notion that they
could manipulate their own existence by being agriculturalists, by stay-
ing rooted to a place, having more control over their lives, and eventually
taking over the planet. This then became the paradigm for a new world
order, whether or not it was written down. In our micro-individual lives,
there are many such important moments that change our modus ope-
randi. So too, on a macro-societal level, one cognitive map or paradigm
or world order may give way to another at a certain moment in history
(Land 1990). While at the local level, this appears disorderly and erratic,
at the macro level, there is orderliness (Beers 2005).
From a far angle, the universe can be seen as a series of states of pro-
gression from one order or level to another in which everything is con-
necting at higher orders or levels. We can view this as a “discontinuous
nonlinear mode of historical development” and picture it as a rising heli-
coidal motion (See Figures 2.1 and 2.2). Each coil of the helicoidalis can
be constructed as a new world order. So what we see is a whole series of
evolutionary cycles in which systems build upon systems. The laws that
govern these changes from system to system are very consistent: They are
basic laws themselves. The reason things happen is because they happen.
This is acausal and self-organizing (Laszlo 2003).
In Figure 2.1, I have depicted social change as a spiral moving relent-
lessly onward enclosing broader levels as time progresses. Looking from
top down, we therefore see a whole series of evolutionary cycles in which
systems build upon systems. The analogy of a telescope may be helpful
here. From the telescopic small end, one can peer into bigger and bigger
concentric circles—such as looking into” the future”; from the telescopic
large end, one looks into smaller and smaller circles—such as looking
backward into time.9 Continuing in this way, a ladder-like series of levels
forms. All levels are vital to the functioning of the total spiral of emer-
gent value systems. Also, there are properties of the whole that cannot be
found in the elements (just as meaning cannot be found in the properties
of the letters you are reading).
40 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders

Figure 2.1 A model of evolving world orders with shaded


areas showing the periods of liminality.

I have no sufficient reasons for abandoning the idea of a more or less


continuous biological evolution, and I have divided the auto-momentum
in the spiral model into broad historical periods such as that of the family,
tribe, city-state, nation, and the global order (cf. Graves 2005). Human
beings have created ever wider levels of social and political organization and
appear destined to complete that process to the planetary level, through a
process of integration moving from the already accomplished stages of the
family, tribe, city-state, and nation. In the family, there are family bands
of early humans with only speech and culture—and probably there are
no human groups still living at this level today. The next level is the tribal
order—here a person fi nds identity as a member of a tribe rather than as an
individual. At this level there is a “magical” view of the world; for example,
there is a shaman and the ancestors are venerated. There are close links to
family and sentimental items and symbols of identity. The city-state fol-
lows with great empires such as the Greeks, Persians, and the Chinese.
Next there is the nation-state—a time of absolute truths—as typified in the
religions of Christianity and Islam and the ideologies of Communism and
Nazism—each seeing their truths as the only truth and differing ideologies
as threats.
Each world order can be likened to another illuminating self-orga-
nizing mechanism—the succession of seasons in the course of the solar
year (Savi 1989). Springtime is characterized by an outburst of life; in
summer and autumn trees and plants grow and yield their fruits; and
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 41
in winter there is an apparent decay and stagnation of every form of
life (trees shed their leaves, certain animals go into hibernation, once-
flourishing vegetation withers and apparently dies). The winter of each
world order will see forces gathering to create the springtime of the next
world order.
One notes that in the helicoil, the end of the coil always stands at a supe-
rior level to its beginning (Laszlo 1987). Therefore, evolution, viewed at the
individual, species, or linguistic level, implies a stage of progress as well as
a stage of regress following that stage wherein that phenomenal being has
attained its highest point of perfection, that is, its maturity (ibid. 2003).
In any reality, both individual and species have a beginning, so it will also
have an end, because any phenomenal reality, in as much as it is phenom-
enal, is limited in time and space. Nevertheless, that individual, species, or
language will be followed by other individuals, species, or language that
will bring theirs forward, although they will do it at another level. Hence,
language evolution does not merely mean the destruction of certain lan-
guages but simply the consciousness that a new world order requires a re-
ranking of social priorities giving the highest value to the maintenance of
the whole.
The general direction of language evolution is no different from the
general direction of evolution in nature. It climbs toward the highest-level

Figure 2.2 A model of evolving world orders with their respective


periods of liminalities indicated in the white bands.
42 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
system through side bursts of activities that come in the wake of critical
instabilities (Hisnanick 2007). With each world order, heterogeneity is
at fi rst an unstable element but it eventually evens out through diffu-
sion, which subsequently creates a kind of integration and bonding. This
integration of diverse peoples through the gradual merging, assimilation,
and eradication of diverse languages generates other or new kinds of het-
erogeneity resulting in a “unity in diversity.” In this manner, historical
and linguistic changes move from chaos to order and in the direction of
increasing complexity and integration of more and more diverse elements.
Later languages are laid layer by layer on earlier ones. In short, languages
evolve either vertically through the forces of evolution or horizontally
through social contact.
There are two rules for the model of evolving world orders:

• It is gradual—usually from a degree of the less to a degree of the


greater.
• It is cyclical. Whenever something reaches its greatest possible per-
fection—the point where it cannot be surpassed—it declines until it
ceases to exist in its original condition; in its stead a new order and
condition is established.

Orderliness assumes that what has happened before is happening again


and will happen in the future. The microcosm co-evolves with the unfolding

Figure 2.3 From the world order of the family: A model of evolving world orders.
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 43
universe. However, as the helicoil is broader at the base and narrower at
the top, the speed of change is geometrically faster as time progresses. For
example, it took many millenniums for the tribe to evolve into city-states
and even more for the family to evolve into tribes. It took a relatively short
period of time for the city-state to evolve into nation-states and for nation
states to evolve into global ones.
Having said that, the higher levels are more able to respond appropri-
ately to a wider range of situations since all previous levels remain active
each time a new level emerges (Lee, Cowan, and Todorovic 2002). Higher
levels are able to compare what they have evolved to from what they have
evolved from. In other words, a higher order incorporates the lower ones
but the lower order cannot incorporate the higher one. For example, a
person living in a national order can look back on the city-state order and
comprehend many things; but a person living in an earlier world order,
for example, a city-state order, cannot envisage what it would be like to
live in a later world order, for example, a nation-state.
The helicoidal model proposes that world orders evolve, at the same
time as their inhabitants, through a self-monitored interaction with the
environment. Language users interact with the environment and the
world order develops in a way that helps them do this. The micro and
macro elements are closely related: They integrate, interact, and rein-
force each other. Over time, as the world order that has been created
gives way to another world order, individuals or societies adapt and rec-
reate themselves and their languages to fit the new world order. This
process “ratchets” up the level of complexity of the value system, and
a new world order emerges out of the previous system, which never-
theless remains as the foundation of the new level (Hisnanick 2007).
Lingua francas are irretrievably bound up with emergent world orders. In
every world order, the lingua franca, often associated with the dominant
political-social cultural power of the day, will fi nd itself in the forefront
of change. It is often altered by speakers bringing a wider repertoire of
both linguistic and nonlinguistic experiences from the other languages
and cultures they possess. Lingua francas are likely to undergo simpli-
fication and reduction in functions, and hence pidginized and creolized
forms may appear as more and more diverse people gravitate to learn the
lingua franca. Hence, great phonetic, morphosyntactic, lexical, and dis-
cursive diversity characterizes speakers. Being prone to borrowings, the
lingua franca will naturally develop its regional, social, and occupational
varieties just as any living language is expected to do. For example, the
standard (or powerful) variety of the lingua franca will cut across these
regional areas, in the same way as standard American English in Amer-
ica or standard Scottish English in Scotland do. The reasons for learning
the lingua franca are mostly instrumental—that is, out of a concern for
effi ciency, relevance, and survival in the new economy. Godenzzi (2006)
refers to it as a “linguistic solution,” that is, the mastery of the lingua
44 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
franca of the nation becomes the most effi cient way to survive the struc-
tural change.

WORLD ORDERS

Family
While we may understand that life is a necessary precursor of biological
evolution, the fact that evolution occurs does not necessarily tell us how
life began (Luisi and Houshmand 2008). Indeed, there is very little discus-
sion on the origin of language or the origin of the family although this
area should belong rightfully to the domain of linguistics, being of intrinsic
interest. The lack of discussion here can be attributed mainly to fears by
linguists of being seen as indulging in metaphysics by the scientific com-
munity. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that the “taboo” was broken once
by Otto Jesperson in 1922 when he postulated three hypotheses as to the
origin of speech. He discussed the answer to this question in terms of child
language acquisition, the language of primitive tribe to represent archaic
state of language, or the history of language and the study of evolution to
its very origin. However, this line of questioning did not generate as much
interest as he had hoped. Nevertheless, if one is to understand the confl ict
that language engenders, I believe that it is fruitful to relive its fear, feel its
needs, and yearn once more toward its goals.
In the world order of family, the origins of language (and speech) are
inevitably shrouded in mystery and buried in an inaccessible fossil past
that leaves only the most indirect traces of behavior. We cannot really be
sure what took place in the very beginning because there are too many
uncertainties, too few controlling parameters, and too many contradic-
tory phenomenons. However, by estimating the rate of change in genetic
composition, a group of geneticists and molecular biologists projected
that the community of Homo sapiens could be traced back 200,000 years
(Boguki 1999).
It would be absurd to claim that “someone, somewhere” uttered the
fi rst word and someone else understood (Deutscher 2005).10 This may be
religiously appealing but it is not quite rational. Language did not “begin”
but rather evolved, in all its myriad forms, over hundreds of millions of
years. But it was only nearer our time of existence that language appeared
in a form that modern humans can identify with and better understand.
It is more sensible to speak of an original multilingualism, that is, of
several original languages such as the primitive forms of Indo-European,
Semitic, Dravidian, which are unrelated since remains of diluvial hom-
inids, regarded as transitional forms between diluvial anthropomorphs
and recent man, have been found in nearly all continents (Reves 1956).11
Let us recount a scenario of the emergence of a human semiology as
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 45
narrated by Calvert (1998): Someone is ill, and groans; this instinctive
cry brings his fellow creatures to see what the matter is with him. He
will use this groan again each time he is ill with the same result, and will
end up by using it when he is not really ill but wants to draw attention
to himself. This passage from instinctive sounds to conventional sounds
might have occurred in different fields, eventually leading to conventional
cries expressing pain, a summons, fear, hunger, desire, and so forth. In
this way, humankind used its fi rst sounds for exploring and knowing
material reality. His earliest linguistic concerns were food, shelter, pro-
tection against natural phenomena, all ways of living in common with his
fellow-beings.
But no matter how monolingual we all are, we are all more or less “mul-
tilingual” within the framework of a single language, in the sense that we
use different forms of one language, and the choice of one form or another
comes down to particular functions. For example, in the same family, chil-
dren may use particular vernacular forms to differentiate themselves from
their parents. No two children hear exactly the same thing and no two
people speak exactly the same way. Even sisters do not speak identically
and speech patterns differ in the lottery of human interaction. Hence we
may conclude that each individual’s speech is as distinctive as their thumb-
print. We all have in our own favorite lexis words that come from our
personal histories and which we only use with a very limited number of
people. There are, for instance, the sweet nothings of lovers, the in-group
vocabulary for close friends, pet names and nicknames reserved for the
family. Every speaker in the family has an idiolect of his or her own, which
will always differ slightly from others in the family.
While everyone has their own idiolect, there might be discerned a pre-
ferred idiolect—a “proto-lingua franca”—belonging perhaps to the patri-
arch or the most articulate member of the group, which most will deem
it advantageous to emulate. When distances were large, the passage of
time ensured that the language evolved to suit the specific needs of that
particular family, soon making this proto-lingua franca unintelligible to
other families around them, whose own languages would also have evolved
around their own special needs. Despite their own distinct idiolect, people
who stay together to become a family will generally speak the same dialect.
This is because of the process of diffusion among related words. It is the
self-organizing process of the brain, after all, to use rules as much as pos-
sible to produce language, a process which introduces considerable stan-
dardization (Cavalli-Sfroza 1994).
However, with the passage of time, migrating families move geographi-
cally apart due to increasing population, land pressures or climatic and
political changes, the once familial language will inevitably diverge into
various sub-languages (cf. Ruhlen 1994, Greenberg 2002). For example,
the practice of occasional home community migration between families has
taken place through the earliest of time, as this has been found necessary
46 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
for the reproduction of the species, in order to maintain a sufficiently wide
genetic pool.

The Tribe
In their wanderings, large families found it advantageous to band together,
as it allows a fi ner division of labor and protection, the fruits of which are
advantageous to all. We know little about the culture of pre-agricultural
societies other than that tribes regulated life in foraging societies nearly
26,000 years ago (Margulis 1998). Tribes were mainly nomadic and orga-
nized largely on the basis of kinship and lineage, usually sharing a common
male ancestor, a common culture, and language.
The tribal world order was the era of greatest linguistic diversity after
the family. Like isolated pockets of families, disparate and distinct pockets
of tribes or clans existed, rarely in contact with one another. This was a
natural isolation of autonomous linguistic groupings whose normal state
was one of equilibrium and very modest gradual changes usually through
areal diffusion (Dixon 1997). In a tribal society of hunter-gatherers, a great
many languages from different families occupy space and people do not
move outside of their known confi nes. In the tribal world order, language is
generally spoken by a relatively small group of people, and these groups are
arranged on the planet in a patchwork. People are not moving, migrating,
or conquering such as we shall see in the next order, city-states.
By the end of the Ice Age, 10,000 years ago, hunter-gathering tribes
began to fi nd the drawbacks of hunting much more daunting than that of
being a settler. For example, a hunter-gatherer had to work much harder,
drawn by the daily quest for food, often would be close to starvation and to
lack possessions such as a soft bed and adequate clothing. Most would then
make the switch to agriculture.12 Early tribes in West Asia, for example,
began to learn to dwell in nucleated settlements within walking distance
of their fields, and to pass their entire lives in a common effort to control
the equally domesticated lives of their plants and animals. As they began to
farm, many birds were domesticated for meat, eggs, and feathers: chicken
in China, various ducks and goose species in parts of Eurasia, turkeys
in Mesopotamia, guinea fowl in Africa, and the Muscovy duck in South
America (Diamond 1999: 158). The switch from hunting to agriculture
reduced humankind’s linguistic diversity because it brought diverse fami-
lies together with the result that many languages tended to gravitate toward
the lingua franca of the dominant family. Tribal chiefs are often gifted ora-
tors and highly polygamous with many sexual partners, which implies a
long-term evolutionary benefit to the posterity of their own idiolects.
The families which congregated together in tribes or clans were
“bilingual”—approximating their family (the patriarch’s) tongue and also
the lingua franca of the most prominent or largest families. The lingua
franca enabled the exchange of knowledge and provoked a steady stream
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 47
of social changes by creating communities in which learning and social
transformation could be cumulative.13 In their choice of ecological special-
ization, tribes could choose to concentrate on life along the waters, or to
move to the valleys and into surrounding higher lands, or to sustain com-
munities with a division of labor between members exploiting each of these
environments.
Agriculture enabled tribes or clans to live on a smaller plot of land and
to share tribal technology with one another. Linguistic, social, and attitudi-
nal factors determine the amount of language change in the sharing of such
inter-tribal communication. For example, the degree of intimacy through
intermarriage, frequent interaction, etcetera determines the degree of struc-
tural diffusion (Winford 2003). The growth of population leads to a short-
age of food and land; the next stage is when people begin to move due to
pressures on the land. Tribe A will migrate to the space of Tribe B and both
will need a lingua franca as a means to stretch across language boundar-
ies and for both tribes to live together peacefully. This contact leads to
a necessary fusion or code-mixing of lexicon, syntax, and phonology. At
such times there may come into existence a restricted language system to
cater for essential needs, common to all the families under its wing. Hence,
a pidgin is formed with initial settler-families, which will later evolve into
language of its own right.
However, language contact can have a wide variety of linguistic out-
comes. In some cases, it may result in only slight borrowing of vocabu-
lary, while other contact situations may lead to the creation of entirely new
languages. Between these two extremes lay a possible outcome of varying
degrees of language influence on one another. The appearance of entirely
new languages or lingua francas often cause the disappearance of existing
languages as communities come into contact. In other words, language loss
may occur when one of their constituent memes is ousted by a rivaling
variant that happens to replicate better under the specific circumstances in
which the changes take place (Ritt 2004). This often happens when greater
communication among people makes one language or one version of a lan-
guage supreme over others. It can also happen in extreme occasions such as
warfare and genocide.
Contact may also come about as a result of inter-tribal marriages rather
than land pressures. Marrying to a new tribe meant further cultural and
linguistic opportunities for both parties. Even after mastering the basics
of communication, the married party must go through socialization and
acculturization, and through the processes of convergence, the language
now becomes revitalized with new words, new ways of expression, and so
forth. The exchange of language leads to innovation, as different ideas are
brought into contact with each other along with new ways of expressing
them (Manning 2005). Change in vocabulary, pronunciation, and gram-
mar take place according to rules and patterns and cannot have been much
different from those we know today. The lingua franca will take on aspects
48 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
of both languages, which will continue to affect each other, until a “linguis-
tic equilibrium” is reached, that is, a process whereby the two languages
become more and more alike (Dixon 1997).
Sometimes, due to differences or scarcity of food, a group(s) will separate
from the tribe geographically and in so doing, develop new branches of the
original language in each new location. Dixon (ibid.) terms this “punctua-
tion,” modeled on the evolutionary theory of paleontologists, who believe
that evolution proceeds in abrupt leaps rather than tiny steps. According to
Dixon, the branching of an old language into a new one is a special circum-
stance, a leaping kind of change distinct from the relative stasis of an equi-
librium situation. But once, say, a group ends up going way off into a desert
where it doesn’t have any friends, it comes up with a different language,
with no contact from the hive. (This is different from a language changing
when it is in a hive, buzzing with other languages.) According to Greenberg
(2002), the Indo-European family of languages may have started this way.
The family began most likely in the southern steppes of modern Russia in
about 4000 BC, and now comprises several subfamilies. Each subfamily
teaches lessons about how language changes. Some of the branches have
stayed closer to what the Indo-European ancestral language was like, such
as the Slavic one containing Russian, while others, such as Albanian, have
morphed so far that they were classified only rather recently as part of the
family (ibid.).
Different tribes need a lingua franca to communicate between them-
selves over issues such as agricultural, hunting, and fishing rights. Usu-
ally the tribe which is the most powerful will have its language used as
the lingua franca. For example, the tribes in Arabia before the 7th century
were a mixture of nomads, cultivators, and traders grouped by a tightly
knit system where kinship was the determining factor in a person’s life.
There were constant quarrels between tribes. Violence, particularly in rela-
tion to blood feuds, was endemic, with generally much brutality. The tribes
were marked off from each other by myths, symbols, memories, and values,
which frequent wars and subjugations (or conquests) became the heritage
and property of the whole population. Tribes were known to engage in
warfare frequently over scarce land and resources, and slavery was wide-
spread. Eventually, the intense competition among the tribes led them to
the logical conclusion that one “super-tribe” should predominate so that
their diverse competitive energies would be better used to the advantage of
all (Lewis 1998).

The City-State
“Super-tribes” founded the early city-states, which are usually part of larger
areas, such as those of ancient Greece, namely, Athens, Sparta, and Corinth.
The period 3000 to 500 BC saw the rise of city-states such as Sumer, the
Nubian and Egyptian kingdoms, the Greek and Hellenistic States, and the
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 49
Mauryan and Gupta states of North India (Manning 2005).14 Such states
are more aptly known as “civilizational centers” since more often then not,
their populations fear the conquest of “barbarians” from outside the city
walls. They are communities organized naturally around a monarch who
ruled by sheer physical prowess or some form of divine dispensation. King
Menes (2300 BC), for example, who established the Egyptian monarchy,
united tribal settlements in both the upper and lower Nile regions over an
area 600 miles long. His language became the lingua franca of the region
since it was best able to sponsor education, military service, trade, and a
common religion, in short order leading to the eventual interdependence
and integration of the various tribes of Egypt (Barfield 1993).
The term “city-state” is a modern heuristic concept invented by histori-
ans to describe city-state culture ranging from Mixtec city-states in Mexico,
to many Malay city-states in Indonesia and from the Viking city-states in
Ireland to the Swahili city-states in Kenya and Tanzania (Van de Mieroop
2002). It is a unique world order exemplified by a political loyalty to the
individual city-state and a cultural and emotional solidarity with one’s
tribe or cultural kinsmen, as interpreted by myths of origin and descent
(Smith 1986). Usually, a city-state covers a comparatively large territory of
towns, for example, ancient Egypt, the ancient Inca Empire, and the states
that emerged in medieval Europe after the Germanic migrations. Usually
the majority of the population is in the hinterland or nucleated in villages
or dispersed in homestead farms. Another way of distinguishing a city-state
is that the population in the urban center usually constitutes a much higher
percentage of the total population than any other type of model before it
(Hansen 2000).
In every new world order, there will be what can be termed “expert dis-
course” (Bhatt 2005) that legitimizes social existence and social production.
It is a habit of thought that makes the standard language and variety of the
day “desirable,” “necessary,” “normal,” “universal,” and “essential,” and
all other language and varieties instances of deficient and deviation. The
city- state, just like every world order before and after it, will try to univer-
salize and neutralize such beliefs. They will denigrate ideas that challenge
it, exclude rival forms of thought, and obscure reality in ways convenient
to itself. The languages of the subjugated tribe would be implicitly ranked
according to each tribe’s social, cultural, and military superiority then pre-
vailing. The amount of power one tribe has over the other tribes within
a city-state would often be manifested by the mechanisms and means by
which linguistic forms are sanctioned and by what language(s) are deemed
to be legitimate in varying settings. In time, some tribal languages would be
lost as the tribes’ once fierce loyalties become gradually assimilated under
the city-state.
Always there are three operational layers, the past, present and future,
each of which is associated with a lingua franca. In other words, if one
belonged to the “average” Abdul of a city-state, one would most likely be
50 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
trilingual: using the tribal mother tongue as an intimate “insignia” at home
and with close friends, the tribal lingua franca for use within the tribe, and
the “city” tongue, the “current” and prestigious lingua franca of the time.
If one were a slave from a subjugated tribe, one would probably speak the
“less valued” tribal tongue. Yet if one were the leader of the slaves and
the intermediary between the ruler and the ruled, one would attempt to
speak the lingua franca of the city-state, although, haltingly, and possibly
the disenfranchised variety of the slave-tribe. Others might have to speak
more than the three languages (especially if they had migrated from a less
economically endowed city-state across a sea or mountain); and yet others
who would only speak one language because the lingua franca of the time
coincided with their “home” tongue, as well as their “tribal” and “city”
tongue. If the state is strong and centralized, the lingua franca will become
very powerful, which means that in time, all the other subjugated tribal
tongues will eventually disappear or sink gradually down the social scale,
to become patois. One single language, the lingua franca, will then distin-
guish the people of that city-state.
Political correctness is fi rst and foremost linguistic as one gains “lin-
guistic capital” (Bourdieu 1991) if one speaks the speech of those in power
and suffers harm and disadvantage if one does not. Hence, ancient Athe-
nians had to use the terms that disparaged the Spartans and upheld Attic
values. So too, after the Roman invasion in Britain, the London Celts were
careful to avoid any Latinism that might insult the original people. With
the invention of the printing press in Europe came more stringent censor-
ship, whereby scribes became writers and editors who were careful to use
language that would not imperil the local prince or bishop (Fischer 1999).
There were also rewards for speaking the lingua franca of the dominant
city-state. For example, where military management was concerned, the
Romans didn’t care who commanded as long as the commander spoke
Latin (Spolksy 2009: 130–131)
As city-states flourished, they also become increasingly competitive; for
example, the earliest cultivations in Egypt and Mesopotamia consisted of
small city-states that had no borders and were often in armed confl ict with
one another. Sometimes the confl ict is temporarily resolved when contend-
ing states split into two different ones, with one migrating further down
the coast or river. The most dramatic and significant contacts between city-
states were when people from one civilization conquered and eliminated
or subjugated the people of another. These contacts were violent but brief
and occurred intermittently. From 1500 BC to 500 BCE, historical record
shows contentious states struggling for power and operating from cities,
for example, the Babylonians enslaved the Israelites, while the Nubian
Kingdom of Kush conquered Egypt in 750 BCE. Although city-states were
often at war, they have common ideas of their origin and pantheon. For
example, among the ancient Greeks, despite the rifts between their city-
states and their incessant wars, there was a heightened sense of pan-Greek
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 51
ethnicity and marked feelings of superiority to foreigners, who could not
speak Greek and therefore did not possess Greek “liberties.” Most commer-
cial, cultural, and military interactions were also within these city-states.
Hence, the Greeks fought each other and traded with each other far more
often than they did with Persians or other non Greeks.
For a more permanent solution to such petty conflicts, a “super” city-
state will emerge with time to unite all the contending cities to form a
“nation” held together not so much by common descent or solidarity with
kinsmen but by a feeling of oneness, solidarity, and self-determination. For
example, the Arab group of city-states was united by the Arabic language
to form the Arab nation and to become the supreme world power from the
7th to 13th century (see Chapter 4). We know very well today that the Assyr-
ians, Copts, Syrians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians are not Arabs, but as they
all began to study the lingua franca (Arabic), it became their “national”
identity. Similarly, although there are many religious groups in Syria such
as Orthodox, Mussulman, the Dorzi, and Nestorians who consider them-
selves Arabs as they all speak Arabic, in reality some of them are Greeks
or Jews. In the same way, the city-states of Athens, Sparta, and Venice all
ended up absorbed into the bigger land mass of Greece and Italy.

The Nation-State
The unsustainable and endemic wars between city-states led to an eventual
fusing into nation-states. Once again, the citizenry of a previous world order
of city-states, held together under the banner of nationhood, will attempt
to speak the lingua franca of “the nation,” albeit with distinct accents and
dialects. In nation-building, new varieties of language are often formed
when groups of people speaking different languages come into contact for
the fi rst time. In every “new” world order, the greatest undertaking for any
individual is to make himself understood. Here, the French Revolution may
clarify the significant pivotal role that language plays in providing the state
with the means of developing a national identity. The revolution made lan-
guage “sacred” in the sense that it was thought that everyone should speak
French in order to be “equal” (Fremont-Barnes 2006).
The world “nation” has gone through a number of substantial changes.
It is derived from the Latin noun, “nation,” which means “stock” or
“breed.” In medieval universities, “nations” were the quarters in which
students of various origins were lodged, according to their places of origin.
In the Oxford Dictionary of the 19th century, the word nation is defi ned as
a “distinct race or people characterized by common descent, language or
history, usually organized as a separate political state and occupying a defi-
nite territory.” In the aftermath of French Revolution, the nation-state was
viewed as the realization of the principle that the source of all sovereignty
resides essentially in the nation, found in the Declaration of the Rights of
Man and of Citizens of 1789. In this study, we will eschew territoriality or
52 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
common descent and instead emphasize the “radical,” “novel,” and “mod-
ern” nature of nationalist consciousness (cf. Anderson 1991). Hence, for
the fi rst time in history, theoretically at least, the nationalistic new world
order enabled class, region, family, sex, and color to become irrelevant to
citizenship. A nation is a group of people held together by a shared loyalty,
history, and identity to a bill of rights or a constitution of sorts. These rights
and duties are laid down formally in writing—in state declarations or com-
mon law, the underlying assumption being that these are codifications of
the national will, expressing the shared pattern of values and traditions
of the community. On a more material level, it is also a “modern institu-
tion” and “a highly organized territorial political unit with a centralized
authority administering in a methodical and systematic manner the affairs
of a common people through a large bureaucracy of government depart-
ment” (Hobsbawn 1992: 46). In brief, “nation” can be said to comprise a
“sovereign people” bound together with common political sentiment and a
unitary consciousness of identity (Greenfeld 1992, Gellner 1983).
The heyday or climax of nationalism can be said to be between the 17th
to the 19th centuries, when European nations managed to conquer and
share large parts of the world, such as the city-states of Southeast Asia and
the tribal areas of Africa. Ironically, when it was no longer fashionable to
be a colonizer at the end of the World War II, every former colony at the
inception of its liberation from the Western powers wanted to follow the
order of “nationhood,” not realizing that the apex was already reached.
Indeed, the nation-state seems to have reached its ultimate limits—as seen
in the Nationalist philosophy of Germany propagated by Hitler as well as
the destruction from the two World Wars.15 As the emergent new order was
amorphous and as yet indistinct, being only in its formative stages, care
was taken by newly independent colonies to reinvent themselves after their
Western masters with elaborate “trappings” of nationhood—a capital city,
a head of state, a national anthem, a state crest, an army, a national airline,
a national costume, a national language, a national flag, and a national
state ideology. It was believed that the national word order would unite the
diverse citizenry, as it had done in the past, in a “national will,” thereby
laying the foundation stone for peace, progress, and prosperity. However,
the newly independent nation was often unable to deliver national develop-
ment and in many instances, famine, war, and corruption left the popula-
tion with a fate worst than imperialism. For example, it may be argued that
Liberia, Sri Lanka and Laos fared economically and socially better with
political stability under British and French colonial rule than after attain-
ing independence, when these countries were wreaked by internal corrup-
tion, a long running civil war, and divisive politics.
It should be noted that up to the advent of the city-state, languages were,
for the most part and for the longest period of time, transmitted from parent
to offspring, that is, vertically, just like genes and surnames. Only a minor-
ity was exposed in language contact, those who were engaged in trading,
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 53
migration, or lived in big cities. But with the rise of the nation-state and
the introduction of schooling, the rule altered and “horizontal transmis-
sion” begins to occur, where people are trained in the school language. In
addition, something happens not possible before: Languages can be delib-
erately and effectively replaced sometimes during the span of only a few
generations, usually by order and sometimes by choice. A case in point is
Brunei Darusalem where inland ethnolinguistic groups such as the Belait,
Bisaya, Dusan, Kedayan, Murut, and Tutong have been subsumed progres-
sively under the Islamic world of Malay language, culture, and identity (Sax-
ena 2007b). Their distinct languages have been reduced to the status of the
“dialects” of Malay. The policies of “privileging indeigeneity” (Gupta 2002:
209) also sees ethnolinguistic groups uncritically crossing over to the politi-
cally dominant Brunei Muslim groups through the process of education or
marriage to the Brunei Muslims. The Bruneization takes place through the
processes of proselytization, education, employment, and urbanization.16
Just as lingua francas are rarely stable, neither are they politically neu-
tral. The lingua franca of a nation-state is usually the one belonging to the
most powerful city-state, which has managed to unite the others into its
fold, as seen in Brunei. Sometimes the promotion of a language to official
lingua franca status in a nation would often create a period of ferment and
unrest. For example, in several eastern European areas, there were strong
minorities of Germans and Jews in the cities, surrounded by a sea of Slav
people in the countryside. In nation-states such as Hungary the landowners
were usually Magyars (Hungarians) while the peasants were drawn from a
variety of Slav backgrounds. A typical quarrel that would result would be
what the official language of the government should be, because the chosen
language would obviously give great advantage to those for whom it was
the mother tongue.
Dinosaurs thrived until the environment changed and size became a dis-
advantage in the emergent new order, paving the way for sprightly smaller
animals. Like city-states, nation-states become weaker as each passing
decade sees them losing more control over the flow of capital and the move-
ment of people. Appadurai (1996: 19), for example, is convinced that the
nation-state as a complex modern form “is on its last legs.” This state of
perpetual unrest and extreme competitiveness will motivate leaders to look
for yet another “new world order” that would channel national energies in
a fairer and less destructive way—hence the birth of the “super” nation-
state, that is, the global state. The integration of nation states under one
global umbrella would, it is argued, be mutually beneficial since it would
not only prevent mutually destructive wars but also allow people to share
and learn from one another. I will argue that the growth of the number,
size and influence of transnational and global corporations, combined with
technological advances in travel and communications, have in defacto cre-
ated the global state, even if politicians have not as yet realized this. The
trademarks of Coca Cola, McDonald’s, and Mickey Mouse are now much
54 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
more recognized than any national flag. And while nationalism has been a
dominant force in social identity, it is losing strength. Nevertheless, in this
“new world order” there is once again great controversy as to which lan-
guage will have the right to be the lingua franca to link the myriad peoples
of the world.

The Global State


The phenomenon of change has been discussed in the previous chapter,
and bearing in mind our spiral, globalization is nothing really “new”
but only a ladderlike step “upward” in the helicoil. Since the base of the
helicoil is broader at the bottom, understandably, it took a very long time
before the family evolved into a tribe and a shorter time for it to evolve
into a city-state and an even a shorter time for the world to become
national and then, global. Like the nation, which is a named commu-
nity of a shared affi nity of city-states, so too is the global state a shared
community of nation states. Globalization is perhaps most visible in the
global marketing of branding, which sees transnational corporations
(TNCs) owning production facilities outside their home countries and
coordinating their activities with many entities throughout the world,
aided by complex networks of production and fi nance. TNCs gravitate
toward the countries with the lowest wages and help extend competition
among workers to a global level. Some TNCs have grown more powerful
economically than many nation-states—a phenomenon that helps explain
the weakened sovereignty of nation-states. Massive offshore outsourcing
of manufacturing jobs has gone on for decades but what is beginning to
happen now is the off-shoring of talent at much higher levels to obtain
skills and knowledge of much greater diversity. As of today, the top off-
shore sourcing destinations are India, China, Malaysia, and the Czech
Republic. At the higher-skilled end, we should add Singapore, Canada,
and New Zealand (Naisbitt 2006).
Giddens (1999) looks on globalization as a package of changes that is
shrinking the globe into one world where there are no superpowers. Bhag-
wati (2004: 3) refers to international “flows” of capital, workers, human-
ity, and technology. For Pieterse (2004), globalization is also empirical in
the sense that economic connectivity can be measured on the basis of the
amount of remittances that a migrant worker sends home, and nonem-
pirical in the sense of “an awareness of. . . global connectedness,” which
is hard to measure. In this study, globalization is all these and more. It is
the coordination of activities based on the world as a global village, driven
by both centripetal and centrifugal forces that do not recognize boundar-
ies. It implies the cultural coming together of humanity and the increasing
acceptance of common orientations, practices, and institutions by peoples
throughout the world, not just within a race, nation, or city (Modelski
2008). Its associated phrase, the “New World Order,” refers to a perceived
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 55
period of dramatic change in world political thought and the balance of
power (Rodrik 2007).
One notes that the concept of uniting larger and larger terrains is not new.
It goes back to the “universal” empires of Hammurabi and Alexander, Justin-
ian and Harun al-Rashid, Genghis Khan and Charles V, Napoleon and the
British Empire in former world orders, which saw and proclaimed themselves
to be the carriers of civilization and regarded others as backward savages
and barbarians. They too proclaimed themselves as “global” cultures of their
time, holding sway over the known world and carried through an elite lingua
franca and a “high” culture that knew no boundaries and that were imitated
everywhere they went (cf. Toynbee 1972). Therefore “globalization” is not a
“Western” phenomenon as commonly perceived, having recurred many times
in history: Ideas from the East have spread through trade, travel, and migra-
tion, such as the decimal system, which was developed in India in the 2nd and
6th centuries and carried to the West by Arab traders (Sen 2004). Bhagwati’s
(2004) definition of “flows” in a globalization is not a linear process from
West to East but a flow initiated from various directions.
Today, the emergent global state, just like the nation-state and city-state
before it, has once again led to intense competition in material connections,
ideas, and languages. Once again, the victorious seek to impose their lan-
guage and culture on the rest, often ruling with their intrinsic self-interest at
heart. As for smaller, politically weaker nations, they gravitate, toward the
discovery of new forms of art, music, farming, and navigational skills steered
by sociopolitical economic incentives from the powerful. A dynamic process
of cultural interaction among different nations will once more result in an
increase of intermarriage, which will help draw the human family yet closer
together. Although weaker nation-states may lose their existing culture even-
tually through such processes, this inevitable attraction also promises a silver
lining—the exposure of different cultures to one another and the broadening
of their perception of the world to create an entirely new culture altogether. A
“regression” is always a “progression” looked at from the other side.
Correspondingly, the ebbing nation-state finds its means, actions, and con-
trol greatly reduced and its credibility undermined. Even the much debated
question of “giving up sovereignty” to international institutions seems more
and more to be “a red herring,” since much of what sovereignty connotes in
the popular imagination has already begun to erode. Hence, basic questions
of political philosophy having to do with power, authority, and distributive
justice—resolved to some extent for the nation-state in the 18th and 19th centu-
ries—are increasingly being raised again, but this time in regards to the planet
as a single political social and economic system. Scholars are divided between
those who see globalization as a benign process (Bhagwati 2004, Sen 2004,
Friedman 2005, and those that see it as harmful (Shiva and Jhaveri 2004,
Sklair 2004). But one thing remains constant: In the flux of change, the spread
of languages and lingua francas—either uniting, splitting, or moving—have
largely taken place in the context of evolving world orders.
56 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
Table 2.1 Shifting Paradigm: From Nation State to Global State

Concepts City state Nation state Global state

Relationships language Language to Language to unite Language to unite


unite different different cities different nations
tribes
politics Absolute Based on state/ Regional represen-
monarchy national tation – based on
constitution population ratio
economy Regional trade International Public interest
Competitive– trade Safety
slave trade Market forces-
Risk and reward

society Regionalized Centralized Decentralized


Large scale Small scale
Hierarchal flexible

Core Environment Environment Environment-


values -unaccountable –controllable balanced
Means more End-result more
important important

SUMMARY

This chapter has explained the importance of a diachronic perspective in


the study of evolving lingua franca as well as presented an account of lan-
guage as it evolves from “chaos” to order. While some linguists may desire
to view all languages as intrinsically equal, the process of evolution has
deemed that some languages are more equal than others. Evolution has also
enabled some languages to live a far longer time than others, being spoken
by important historical personages and larger populations. This in part is
due to languages’ uncanny ability to adapt to circumstances and to align
themselves with powerful forces. Others unfortunately are born and may
die in obscurity.
We have also seen that motion is ceaseless, and the human condition
together with its language, as part of the larger macrocosm, mirrors its
dynamic state. In the model presented, both are changing from a degree
of the less to a degree of a greater and are caught in a helicoidal spiral
which defi nes that when something reaches its zenith, it will cease to
exist in its original condition but instead must reinvent itself in a new
defi ning order and at another level. Such a model implies also a stage
of “progress” as well as a stage of regress in the sense that language
evolution does not merely mean the destruction of certain languages but
A Model of Evolving World Orders and Lingua Francas 57
simply the consciousness that a new world order requires a re-ranking
of social priorities giving the highest value to the maintenance of the
whole.
Based on the evidence we see around us in the world today, it is obvious
that we are in a stage of transition or liminality where processes are in place
which are ready to move us from a degree of the less to that of the greater,
and from the nation state to the global state; in short to the next rung of the
helicoil. For this, we need to turn to the next chapter.
3 Liminality

We have seen how stable and unstable behavior are part of the tradi-
tional repertoire of physical science, but what is novel is the concept
of something—liminality—in between chaotic behavior and harmony,
which also contains regularities of its own but which, like chaos, defi es
prediction. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) (1989) defi nes limi-
nality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) as a psycho-
logical, neurological, or metaphysical subjective conscious state of being
on the “threshold” of or between two different existential planes. The
OED notes that “liminal” fi rst appeared in publication in the field of psy-
chology in 1884, but the idea was introduced to the field of anthropology
in 1909 by Arnold Van Gennep (1960) in his seminal work Les rites de
passage. Van Gennep described rites of passage such as coming-of-age
rituals and marriage as having the following three-part structure: (a)
separation; (b) liminal period; and (c) reassimilation. The initiate (that
is, the person undergoing the ritual) is fi rst stripped of the social status
that he or she possesses before the ritual, then inducted into the liminal
period of transition, and fi nally given his or her new status and reassimi-
lated into society.
In this study, liminality is a condition of “betwixt and between” but
this does not ensure marginality in any way. To be “marginalized” is to
be edged out, not part of the whole. Similarly, to live in a “marginal”
period is to live in an “appendix” of sorts, on the edge. On the other
hand, this rather ill-named “appendix” is an integral part of the whole
since it encloses the two halves together, while being in between the two.
While “marginality” usually means that one is “put there,” and is a “pas-
sive” agent, liminality is a more “active” position and has a “right” to
be there. Without liminality, the two halves that it encloses cannot be
shaped or defi ned (Laughlin 2005). In this study, the state of liminality
possesses several qualities—emergence, instability, fluidity, mobility, and
temporality.
The quality of emergence is displayed in self-organizing systems. In
philosophy and system theory, emergence refers to the way complex sys-
tems and patterns arise out of novel and coherent structures, patterns,
Liminality 59
and properties during the process of self-organization in complex systems
(cf. Goldstein 1999, Corning 2002). More specifically, we can fi nd emer-
gence when we:

1. notice radically novel features such as features not observed previously;


2. see an coherent or integrated whole that is able to maintain itself over
a period of time;
3. discover that it is the product of a dynamic process (it evolves);
4. realize it can be “ostensive,” that is, perceivable.

Emergence is realized during liminal periods when world orders begin


to change. During this time novel features appear; social, linguistic, and
political changes accelerate; and things begin to become relatively unpre-
dictable in relation to preceding periods. In our study, the liminal period
stretches from the end of one world order to the beginning of the next
world order. For example, as the old “national” order begins to topple with
the display of emergent properties, the liminal period begins to take shape
and continues until the next order (the “global”) is ready to take shape and
replace the old order.
In liminal periods, there is fluidity and indeterminacy; behaviors can
be changed more easily, as liminal periods are relatively more open and
less ambiguous. In contrast, at the time when world orders are in a stable
equilibrium, human beings tend to be locked into stable work patterns
and attitudes, and relatively little will be happening. However, in liminal
periods, which are far from equilibrium, behaviors change easily, not least
because boundary lines are shifting and confl ict is more easily provoked.
In our study, world orders are separated by these “edge of chaos,” or phase
transitions, which exhibit a sort of bounded instability—an unpredictabil-
ity of specific behavior within a predictable general structure of behavior
(Rosenhead 1998).
Another quality of liminality is its relative mobility, that is, the freedom
of the individual to live either in the previous or the emergent world order.
There is a temporal and spatial aspect related to mobility. For example,
while the nation-state has been the central organizational force for many
centuries, many groups still prefer to live—physically—in tribal arrange-
ments. In other words, while one may be living in a state that is organized
under the national order, one may elect to “retreat into the spiral” (see page
66), that is, to live in a previous time, for example, in a tribal order, and
some states may condone this kind of elected living as long as “the tribe”
keeps within certain rules set by the state. Sometimes this election to a past
time is not just physical but also metaphorical. For example, while groups
may visibly give allegiance to the abstract principles of nation-states, when
it comes to the crunch, they may revert to tribal loyalties within the state
by, for example, voting on the basis of cultural or racial allegiance rather
than of national ones. Hence, they may be said to have adhered to the form
60 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
but not to the essence of nationhood and in reality are basically “tribal.”
Here, following the terminology used by Dawkins (1997), we can refer to
such mindsets as a v-meme or value-memes. While a gene transmits the
genetic code that allows a species and its language to propagate itself into a
new generation, a meme is like a gene but exists in the realm of the human
mind rather that in the physical world. Unlike a gene, a meme is an idea,
concept, image, design, or other element that can be held in our mind such
as self-propagating ideas, habits, or cultural practices. These memes, often
coming together in clusters, are able to spread rapidly from mind to mind,
propagating themselves as they go along (Graves 2005). At each world order
(family, tribe, city-state, nation, global state etc.), we fi nd people possess-
ing common clusters of menes. For example, people who are in the global
order will tend to gravitate to menes such as a world tribunal, a United
Nations, multinationals, international trade and so forth while those from
a national order will gravitate toward menes such as statehood, authoritari-
anism, state flags, and so forth. The optimum achievement is when both
the microcosm and macrocosm are in synchrony, in other words, when all
v-memes are in synchrony with the world order in which they fi nd them-
selves. Finally, mobility also means that the individual is able to move not
just across time but also across space. This means that the individual can
migrate geographically since not all places in the world gravitate to the
order of, for example, the national or global world order at the same time
and therefore it is physically possible for the individual to choose which
order he prefers to live in by exercising his geographical options.
The last quality of liminality is temporality, or the absence of perma-
nence. In other words, we as the human “microcosm” must affiliate our-
selves to the macrocosmic new world order or retreat into “safer abode”
back into the spiral. It is not possible to remain betwixt and between for too
long. A human analogy can be found here: Adolescence is state in-between
childhood and adulthood and lasts only a relatively short period in relation
to one’s total age. It is not possible to stay liminal for too long—one has
to move on and take on allegiances if one is to grown into “adulthood”
and craft personal outcomes. In other words, one cannot be in a state of
ambiguity forever, for without a more definite affi liation to the ideology
of maturity, that is, “adulthood,” it is not possible to achieve the successes
(and the tribulations) that are part of the cycle of growth. Of course, it may
also be possible for the adolescent to retreat and stagnate in the seemingly
safer stage of childhood.
We may conclude that these five qualities of liminality—emergence,
instability, fluidity, mobility, and temporality—constitutes a study of a
microcosm by itself with its own special laws and auto movements. Yet the
microcosm is also part of the macrocosmic universe, and its own inherent
actions contribute indispensably toward the bigger picture. The wholeness
permeates all and the cosmos and consciousness are unbroken manifesta-
tions of the holomovement’s wholeness (Bohm 1987, 2002).
Liminality 61

LIMINALITY AND WORLD ORDERS

Language is intricately related with each world order since all human com-
munities organize themselves around language (as well as around race,
religion, etc.). Major changes in language habits and the fortunes of each
and every language are associated with each world order. In other words,
accompanying the movement to increasingly complex world orders are often
associated lingua francas, which will enable each world order to achieve a
forward momentum in human thought, language, religion, and culture.
There are many signs that we are moving from the smaller to the larg-
er—from the national to the global order. The rise of the big blue marble as
the icon of the age is one example. It is the inevitable backdrop to television
news as the logo for international conferences, sports events, and com-
mercial enterprises. Transnational corporations (TNCs), nongovernment
organizations (NGOs), and nonprofit organizations (NPOs) are gaining
increased importance at the expense of the state. The welfare system of
the state is shifting to the mode of “economic autopoiesis” or the system of
civil society. Some researchers have even discarded research in “nations,”
fi nding it more meaningful to do so with “cities” as belonging to simply one
globe. Sociologist Richard Sennett (2001), one of the academics research-
ing the evolution of cities, believes that the rise of cities is changing their
relationship with the countries they are in. Some cities are bigger than
many industrialized nations, for example, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Mexico
City (easily 20 million each) and are growing at a dizzying rate, sucking in
workers from rural areas. Economically, many of the world’s great cities
are already divorced from their nation-states, with their main streams of
investment coming from other great cities (Rohrer 2006).
Liminality is the buffer between the two world orders. As we have seen
in Chapter 2, all events work toward convergence, but the path to conver-
gence is strewn with obstacles, and most of these obstacles occur during
the period we have labeled as “liminal.” The flow of people, information,
energy, goods and manufactures, technologies and skills created by indus-
trial and post-industrial societies transcend all boundaries. Yet today such
flows are able to form dependable hypercycles taking us to the next rung
of our spiral (Laszlo 2003). However, convergence among societies means
that the interactions of nations have coalesced into transnational hyper-
cycles. A transnational community emerges, formed by the interacting,
interdependent, and now also integrated member nation. Lacking transna-
tional mechanisms of regulation and control, such flows are prey to selfish
motivations and interests. They tend to benefit the strong and debilitate the
weak. They result in highly asymmetrical forms of interdependence and fail
to create the level of integration that would assume mutual interests and
mutual benefits.
In liminal periods such as the present era, we live in confl ict-torn, self-
centered national states locked into global interdependence. However, the
62 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
processes of social evolution do not stop when national government decree
themselves sovereign, because spurred by modern technologies, transna-
tional flows continue to intensify and to interact. Sooner or later they would
also have to interlock in the hypercycles of global society. These hypercycles
are already seen in intergovernmental organizations, but these are actually
international rather than global bodies—they operate between, and in the
perceived interests, of nation states—they are not yet global. Their powers
of decision are strongly curtailed in the sense that their members declare
themselves sovereign and view the organizations as promoting their own
national interests. They are effective as long as members states can use
them to further their own interests but lapse into mere bureaucracies for
the rest of the time. Similarly, multinational corporations are committed
to their own interests or those of their home countries; while they create
transnational flows, they are not yet truly global.
In other words, while a global society is looming, it is not emerging
smoothly in small graduated steps. This is not surprising since this is nei-
ther the dynamic of change in complex systems nor how evolution pro-
ceeds. The evolution of complex dynamic systems is always discontinuous
and jagged, marked by local peaks and intervening valleys (Figure 3.1).
Hence, the general direction of historical evolution is not different from
the general direction of evolution in nature. It climbs toward the highest-
level system through sudden bursts of creativity that come in the wake
of critical instabilities in the lower-level systems. Therefore the hopeful
signs are not the struggles of the present international systems but rather
the crises themselves—the progressive destabilization of today’s obsolete
national systems with their eternal self-interests, jealousies, and narrow
competitiveness. In this sense, the fi nancial meltdown of September 2008
may be considered as one such crisis, for it is out of this chaos that the new
order will arise.
In psychology, liminality is that ambiguous phase where the initiate is
outside of society but preparing to reenter society (Van Gennep 1960). In
world orders, it is the time when one order has ended and the next one
is about to begin. Between each world order, such as the transition from
tribes to city-states or city-states to nation-states, are the episodic occur-
rences—the liminal period (See Figure 2.1). This is a period in which the
linear progression of an incremental system, bounded by self-management,
begins to change. It is an era that signifies the destruction of the old social
political and economic order and the emergence of the new one. Here, all
preconceived notions of psyche and society are exploded, scattered, and
reversed and order re-emerges in a completely different form (ibid.). It is a
confused period of a calamitous nature, organic in character, and a period
in which a sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disori-
entation. We can parallel such historical liminal periods to similar periods
in an individual life, and if we do so, liminal periods will be those of vital
significance associated with changes in both attitude and expression, being
Liminality 63
and beliefs, such as rites of passage, for example, the birth of a fi rst child,
marriage, death in a family, religious conversion, and so forth.
Liminal periods also take place in linguistics and may be parallel to
what Dixon (1997) has called a “punctuation,” a period of upheaval that
causes innovation, dialect leveling, and even language replacement. It is a
period where speakers of one language migrate and conquer other people,
spreading their language across wide areas. In contrast to punctuation,
“equilibrium” as a state usually lasts hundreds or thousands of years, when
many languages share space in constant contact with one another, with no
language threatening any other one to any significant extent over a long
period of time.
Historical bars are also periods of greatest contacts where family, com-
mercial, cultural, and other types of exchanges occur between populations
that speak different languages. Each luminal period will always see new
lingua franca(s) rising to the fore in relation to others. This is neither an
unusual nor a recent phenomenon. In 2000 BC, for example, Akkadian
replaced Sumarian, although the speech community retained the latter
language in certain learned use. Also it is a familiar phenomenon for one
language to serve as lingua franca or language of special function (reli-
gious, commercial) over a large area of many languages, for example, San-
skrit, Greek, Latin, Arabic, and French. In a micro-perspective, it appears
unreasonable for one language to take ascendance of others but in a macro
perspective, it is a recurring historical phenomenon as lingua francas are
instruments of world orders, driven mainly by instrumental goals of an
advancing civilization relentless in sweeping everything under its spiraling
motion. The “masses” of the microcosm, that is, people, are almost always
“automatically” driven to the language or lingua franca with the most
economic, cultural, and symbolic rewards (Bourdieu 1991) as a means of
alignment with the new world order.
Such a convulsive period may also be compared to, for example, the
political evolution of the United States—the stage which marked the emer-
gence of a unified community of federated states. At that historic moment
in 1776, one may imagine a deepening confusion, a process of disintegra-
tion that may have filled the minds of its founders before a faint glimmer
could be discerned. But the founding fathers were confident of the stirrings
of a new national consciousness and the birth of a new type of civilization,
infi nitely more advantageous than any of its component parts could have
hoped to achieve.1 In this way, the founding of the United States may be
compared with the culmination of the next phase of human government yet
to come in the global world order; where many differing states are at the
liminal threshold of fusing into a bigger whole.
Based on the evidence we see around us in the world today, it is obvi-
ous that we are once again moving from a degree of the less to that of the
greater. In short, we are moving into the next rung of the helicoil and we
have been doing that for some time already. We are just beginning to notice
64 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
that we are living in a very interdependent world and that official reality is
not what it is said to be (Land 1990). We have been trying to grapple with
a new notion of reality and this has been our preoccupation in the last
century. It is a gigantic shift from the world order of the nation to that of
globalization. We are at this point in time observing the disintegration of
“homogenous nation” in many societies, whose cultures and narrative of
national identity are becoming increasingly hybridized and ambivalent. In
its place is the emergence of looser, polyethnic societies, in short, a “new
world order.” In a disintegrating world order one sees the disruption of law
and order, the spread of oppression and poverty and of pessimism and indif-
ference, and the loss of sincere and capable leaders. In short, meant as both
a blessing and a curse, the Chinese have a saying: “We are certainly living in
interesting times.”2 So too, interestingly, the opening sentence of A Tale of
Two Cities, Charles Dickens’ exploration of the French Revolution, echoes
that thought: “It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.” The
luminal age is one of expectation of hope as a global lingua franca takes its
place as well as deepening contradictions and uncertainties.

THREE PHASES OF LIMINALITY

Despite humankind’s great powers over other creatures, scientists and


philosophers fi nd it difficult to penetrate the profound currents of social
change that are upon us, which alter our landmarks and change our rules.
I will, however, attempt to understand this by borrowing the terminology
of George Land (1990), that is, “forming,” “norming,” and “integrating to
describe the process of liminality (see Figure 3.1). While this section tries to
explain the phases of liminality in direct relation to the functioning of the
model, Chapter 5 will describe and elaborate on language scenarios that
accompany the three phases.
These three phases of liminality bear a striking correspondence to each
particular rung of the helicoil, which is the duration of one world order. In
other words, if we were to examine each order, be it family or tribal, we
will fi nd that it can also be fairly easily segmented into forming, norming,
and integrating phases. This replication is not surprising, bearing in mind
the interrelatedness of all phenomenon and the orderliness and reduplica-
tion within each self-organizing mechanism (see Chapter 2). Just as world
orders try to make themselves “whole,” so too does the liminal period.
Hence, while we describe the phase of each liminal order, we do realize that
it is also strikingly synonymous to the description of each world order.
The initial “forming” phase is very confusing because it is formless.
There is no pattern. When one looks at the early behavior of anything, one
fi nds chaos, or what appears to be chaos. It is like what we see in the begin-
ning of every system, whether it be the growth of a language (or child, or
organization or molecule or crystal): It is an initial period in which the thing
Liminality 65
that is growing is attempting to fi nd a principle by which it can organize
itself and the environment around it. Its internal pattern must match what
is going on outside because of the organism’s integral drive to organize the
environment. On later examination, however, one discovers a pattern in
the sense that this is a creative process—a process of invention, of reach-
ing out in the environment, trying different bits and pieces, attempting to
assemble them into a pattern of sorts (Land and Jarman 1993).
In the subsequent norming phase, the model stops investigating, explor-
ing, and creating. Instead, it goes into a system of replication and incremen-
tal improvement (ibid.). It creates a process or mechanism by which it can
avoid what is different. It looks into the environment for things like itself,
similarities, and resonant congruities, and grows on the basis of the exten-
sion of this likeness. It deals with differences according to how big a threat
they manifest. If they are small enough, the organism ignores them; if they
are larger, it may kill them. If they are too large, it runs away from them.
Compared with the previous forming phase, the organism is very successful
in what it tries to do. In a sense, it organizes its environment so effectively
that it soon runs out of things to do; hence initiating a period of diminish-
ing returns. This becomes problematic, and the organism will soon fi nd
itself going through another transition—another big change.

Figure 3.1 The three phases of liminality.


66 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
The last phase is the integrating phase when the new “pattern” is now
opened up and room is available for the integration to itself of what is dif-
ferent. It is also called integrating because the last phase of liminality is now
“integrated” to the next rung of the helicoil. Here, the organism avoids the
previously a priori rule, which was to avoid the new and different. Instead,
it fi nds it necessary to open up the pattern and make room for the integra-
tion of the new and different. The organism goes into a process (which we
may term “wholing”) where it makes itself whole, and now having been
made “whole” through the passage of time, it will move to a “higher” level
of organization, in other words, the next helicoil. A new phase or para-
digm begins at that crossing point. This crossing usually involves a “tip-
ping point,” that is, the levels at which the momentum for change becomes
“unstoppable.” It is also the moment of “critical mass,” “the threshold,” or
“the boiling point” (Gladwell 2000).
We can understand the tipping point as a network with many agents
all linked and interacting closely. If we take out one agent at a time, it will
be possible to test how effective the system remains. We will fi nd that the
system is remarkably resilient at fi rst because other agents can take over
the role of the lost agents. This means at fi rst there is not much difference
in effectiveness, but as more and more agents are taken out, the system
reaches a “tipping point.” At this point its effectiveness reduces suddenly
as too many agents are missing and the remaining ones are fi nally over-
whelmed. The system suddenly collapses, which enables the liminal period
to come to an end and the world to gravitate to the next rung of the heli-
coil. Similarly, a human body can sustain serious damage and continue to
function surprisingly well, but if the damage reaches the tipping point, the
disintegration is quick and one can die quite suddenly. Where world orders
are concerned, the tipping point is “the last straw,”—for example, an inva-
sion from outer space, or a political, economic, or natural catastrophe of
unusual proportions that forces, say, every tribe to gravitate to the city-
state or every nation to gravitate to the global state as a means of survival.

RETREATING INTO THE SPIRAL

In studying evolving systems, when the next phase begins to be visible—a


period which we have termed the liminal period—there is a tendency to
go “back to basics,” that is, there may be parts of the microcosms, that
is, people, who are agitated about the unknown and highly skeptical of
the advantages of the new order, preferring thereby the existing order.
Hence, the supporters of the old order progressively invest more and more
in “defense”: People began to protect their national territories, defi ning
their autonomy, identifying their control, and protecting the languages that
make up their “identity.” The costs are enormous, because this retreat is at
odds with the systemic evolving momentum, and because with all the effort
Liminality 67
put into resistance to the new and different, there are no more resources
left when it becomes apparent that going back is not an option. At this
stage then, the organism or entity may go into rapid decline and sometimes
extinction.
While history marches on with each loop of the helicoil toward what is,
in present time, a noticeable cliché, a “unity in diversity,” it should be noted
that it is possible to traverse backward on the spiral temporarily or even
permanently. For example, nationhood can also be degraded, if there is not
care and sensitivity, into a negative force of excessive nationalism involving
contempt, hatred, and violence against peoples of other cultures. This would
deter nations from coming together as a global state. For example, fascism
emerged at the time of nationalist favor but it was dedicated to obtaining
special privileges for certain nations or races at the expense of others and it
is generally authoritarian, intolerant of minorities, and hostile toward wid-
ening the spiral of inclusivity. In its extreme form, the “national” social-
ism of fascism was taken to its logical conclusion with policies of genocide
against Jews and Gypsies, the systematic killing of the handicapped, hor-
rific, inhumane medical experiments and enslavement of others. Such lega-
cies generate suspicion and hatred and make it difficult for victims to trust
the logic of uniting nation states under a “suprastate” (Meyles 2006). In
such situations, people prefer to linger within an order they have grown
comfortable in as a safeguard toward an intolerant super- state.
Also, on other occasions, in other geographical areas and other time
zones, there will always be minorities and interest groups who will prefer to
stay in their existing spirals and preferred world orders. Hence, the longer
our historical time frame, the more the number of groups discerned which
are left behind in the time zones or time capsules of their choice, living
under previous world orders either out of necessity, choice, or accident. For
example, while the last millennium saw the rise of nations, there were still
groups that continued to live in city-states and a significant number of them
in tribal orders. Correspondingly, today, as many nations begin to global-
ize, there will be groups and even nations that will retreat to their special
time and space through political means and/or geographic seclusion.
Understandably, such nations are not well-known or favorites of media
attention because they are not part of the emergent global or even national
order, living for the most part in a strange twilight with only a few admir-
ers. Two cases in point are the republics of Niger and Benin, former French
colonies that have been ushered into the age of nationhood and national
self-determination through the institution of a presidential system of
government replete with a constitution, legislature, and judicial system
through the guidance of bodies such as the United Nations and France.
Since national independence, both nations have had their fair share of mili-
tary coups and weak governments (Mwakikagile 2001). Both are plagued
by city-state loyalties to ancient kingdoms and tribal politics inherited from
a former world order, which are still alive and well. Hence appendages of
68 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
old order, pre-modern nation-state social practices such as illiteracy, child
and forced labor, allegiance to kin and kingship continue to be part of daily
practice.
For example, Niger, once an important economic crossroads for pre-
vious African empires such as Songhai, Mali, Gao, and Kanem, (former
African city-states), has a problem uniting disparate and insular tribes such
as the Tuaregs, of Berber and Arab descent, with the other tribes in their
nation. The Songhais, for example, are more likely to be akin to the Gaos,
inhabitants of the former city-state of Gao, a part of the former Songhai
(also known as “Songhay”) empire, which was a pre-colonial great civili-
zation in the 15th and 16th centuries, deriving its immense wealth though
trade with the cities of Timbuktu and Djenne as well as the Arab world.
Songhais living in the Niger, with their own sociolinguistic preferences,
would naturally prefer to align or give allegiance to those who speak their
language (that is, the Songhai language or Gao, one of its sociolinguistic
subsets) and who follow their customs rather than other Nigers who spoke
Mali (a language of yet another pre-colonial city-state with an empire) or
Kanem, the language of descendents from yet another neighboring city-
state empire of the past (Lange 2004). In like manner, Benin comprises a
mixture of tribes such as the Ketu, Dassa, and Icha on the Abomey Plain,
each with its own sub-ethnolinguistic tribal and familial loyalties. Hence
although states such as Niger and Benin are dressed in the pomp and rega-
lia of nationhood, this is but an outer attire, enclosing many surviving
loyalties form former world orders. 3
In a parallel fashion, there have also been many actual cases of hunter-
gatherers who saw food production practiced by their neighbors and who
nevertheless refused to accept its supposed blessings and instead continued
to remain hunter-gatherers; for example, the aboriginal hunter-gatherers of
northeastern Australia traded for thousands of years with farmers of the
Torres Strait Islands, between Australia and New Guinea. Hence, when the
Europeans reached the highlands of eastern New Guinea in the 1930s they
“discovered” dozens of previously uncontactable Stone Age tribes, of which
only some of them, such as the Chimbu tribe, proved especially aggressive
in adopting Western technology to overwhelm their conservative neighbors
(Diamond 1999: 252). In contrast, Khoi herders west of the Fish River of
South Africa, who traded with Bantu farmers east of the Fish River, did not
fi nd the innovation of farming particularly useful (ibid: 105). Efforts are
now made to “preserve” them from extinction, as they remain a source of
data in many fields of scientific investigation.
However, we should not assume that all aborigines are trapped in a time
capsule in our helicoil because even among the supposedly conservative
Aboriginal Australians there are receptive aboriginal societies along with
conservative ones. At one extreme, the Tasmanians continued to use stone
tools superseded tens of thousands of years earlier in Europe. At the other
extreme, some aboriginal fishing groups of southeastern Australia devised
Liminality 69
elaborate technologies for managing fish population, including the con-
struction of canals, weirs, and standing traps (ibid: 253). This explains the
concept of mobility.
A retreat into the spiral is also noticeably discerned in religious orders
that, having profited from their vested interest in previous world orders,
are reluctant to advocate a forward spiraling leap “into the unknown” and
to face very likely “a change in fortune.” We have seen how the Catholic
Church in the 16th and 17th centuries was reluctant to endorse the find-
ings of Copernicus and Galileo and preferred the confi nes of politics rel-
evant only to the prevailing city-state politics of the Vatican, ignoring the
scientific aspirations of newly established European nation-states, imbibed
with the spirit of the “Renaissance,” which were unafraid to venture into
the geographic or scientific unknown (Olsen 2004). In the same way, Iran
under Ayatollah Khomeini from 1979 to his passing in 1989 attempted
to reverse the spiral and retreat into a “purer” religious past. Certainly
then, like language, religion has a fi rm grip on the human psyche (Adib-
Moghaddam 2008). For example, Egypt maintained by means chiefly of
religious devotion and motivation a civilization that endured for three mil-
lenniums irrespective of evolving world orders. Being entrenched in a previ-
ous world order, religions are often the last institutions (if at all) to accede
to the demands of a new world order.4
Religion is often a conservative force and depends on language (often
a “revealed” one) as its primary handmaiden to enforce its authority and
esteemed status. In this sense, religion often works to retard linguistic
change. For example, in the case of Saudi Arabia, English is still very much
a “school subject” and many Saudis speak excellent English, but religious
authorities have frustrated attempts to introduce English classes in primary
school (McBeath 2007).
Where religious language is concerned, there is quite a common fond-
ness to adhere to what has been called the “religious classical” (Fishman
1989) form and this can be seen in the religious orders of Hebrew, Ara-
bic, Latin Sanskrit, Pali, Hindi, Chinese, and English.5 There is a desire
by religious authorities to “freeze” the language of its prophet, savior, or
guru as a means to enhance or retain its special potency and power. For
example, the work of the Christian church inherited from the Romans not
only established Medieval Latin but also kept alive some interest in Greek
and assured contact with Hebrew and Arabic. Some of the fi rst grammar-
ians who held high positions in the Anglican Church tried to raise lan-
guage standards as a means of raising morality. Egginton and Wren (1997)
recount that “a moral and intelligent person would mind their “ps” and
“qs” and use Latinate words where an old English word would suffice/do
and adhered/stuck to Latin based syntax such as using I/we shall instead
of I/we will.” Another example is classical Arabic, the language of the
Koran, which is used for religious teaching, as was Latin in some countries
of Europe in the Middle Ages (Zayn 1996). This form has been enriched
70 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
and modernized and forms the source of the present-day national language
(what is called “modern Arabic,” “middle Arabic,” or “official Arabic”),
used widely in the media and public life. These classical forms are greatly
different from “mother tongue Arabic” (called dialects although they are
not mutually intelligible) such as Egyptian, Lebanese, Jordanian, Syrian, or
Berber, real-life vehicles for day-to-day communication. Similarly, a retreat
into the spiral can be seen with Sanskrit, which like Latin and Greek in
Europe has influenced most modern languages of India. It was the impe-
rial language spoken by the elite Brahmins and ancient kings, the liturgical
language of Hinduism, and other Indian religions. However, today it is
no longer spoken on the street and great efforts are made to keep it alive,
at least ceremonially, in the form of hymns and mantras spoken by a few
temple priests (Wilke 2008).6

ENGLISH IN THE LIMINAL PERIOD:


CLAIMS TO GLOBAL STATUS

Whatever the world order we fi nd ourselves in, humanity’s journey from


chaos to order, and always, to greater complexity and integration, moves
on. LFs are connected to the integration and dislocation of human flows.
They advance and retreat, are birthed and demised by social interactional
patterns greatly influenced by the ebb and tide of liminality and world
orders. By some stroke of its own sheer good future, the English language
seems to be bound up with our discussion of globalism just as Arabic is tied
up with our discussion of nation-states in Chapter 4. Hence this section
will discuss the place of English in the present liminal period and highlight
some key factors behind its meteoric rise.
First, English has gained this status not least because it is the much loved
medium of youth culture, a phenomenon due in large part to the influence
of the media as well as the younger segment of the population receiving
part of their classroom lessons increasingly in English in many parts of the
world (Graddoll 2006). For example, although football is an “international
game,” when it comes to making tough calls on the field, since the 2006
World Cup, the decision is given in English (Still 2006). This is because
since 2006, World Cup referees and their assistants have to show profi-
ciency in written and spoken English in order to be among the 44 officials
taking part in soccer’s global tournament (ibid.).
Second, the British Empire is a historical factor behind the widespread
dissemination of its language around the world (Kachru and Smith 2009).
In India, for example, a denial of English will be “cruel” to socially dis-
advantaged Indians as it will hurt their chances of closing the education
and income gap with the urban sophisticates, and “while the latter can
afford to send their children to expensive schools with well-paid teach-
ers who impart education in perfect English, the former are doomed to
Liminality 71
dependency on government-subsidized schools for the foreseeable future.”
(Sengupta 2007). Colonialism provided stimulus for the spread of English
to North America, South Asia, and the Caribbean—and later to Africa,
other parts of Asia, Australasia, and the South Pacific. Not surprisingly,
English has an official governmentally recognized status in more than 70
countries, and it would be quite impossible to fi nd any African university
offering instruction in any indigenous African language since academic
and intellectual life takes place in English, French, Portuguese, Arabic,
and Afrikaan. Also, as the dominant world power before the World War
I, Britain controlled underpopulated areas known as ‘settler colonies” to
which large numbers of migrants went from its shores and to which people
today still aspire to migrate, and thus, of necessity to learn the language of
the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand–which “happens”
to be English. This gives English a significant advantage in many non-
English-speaking countries simply because of the number of speakers and
the fact that English is by far the most widely distributed language. There
are, for example, more students studying English in China than are study-
ing English in the United States and more speakers of English in India than
in Britain (Crystal 2003).
We have narrated in Chapter 1 how rapid urbanization and migration to
the cities promote the extinction of vernaculars and the rise of the vehicu-
lar. For example, if parents speaking different languages have children in
the city, the parents are unlikely to pass both, or even one of the languages,
on to their children, and even if they try, the city’s lingua franca will likely
be their children’s primary language. And whatever they learn of their par-
ents’ language, these children are unlikely to pass their mother tongue on
to their own children due to economic and other practical reasons. The
phenomenon of urbanization attracts many indigenous families to relocate
to cities, which in turn promotes the replacement (and extinction) of indig-
enous language and the corresponding rise of the global languages, often
used in cities.
What is striking is that English’s long-competitive European cousins are
slowly but surely reconciling themselves toward using a lingua franca—Eng-
lish (cf. Phillipson 2003). So in the last decade, we suddenly have a situa-
tion whereby English is the official language of the European Central Bank
even though the bank is in Frankfurt, Germany, and no predominantly Eng-
lish-speaking country is a member of the European Monetary Union.7 The
European languages are hardly dying, of course, and British and American
managers working in Europe would do well to pick up bilingual skills. But
new forces, including the Internet, are pushing Europe toward a common
language. Companies such as KPNQwest, the pan-European phone com-
pany based in the Netherlands, has a rule that all e-mails must be written
in English, even communiqués between German engineers. In 2001 (Baker
et al. 2001), at Germany’s huge gas and water utility, RWE, fully 30% of
the employees were busy studying English—a necessity for advancement in
72 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
a company that operates in more than 100 countries. Indeed, Europe’s Eng-
lish divide closely mirrors its economy. The wealthy parts—Sweden, the
Netherlands, western Germany, and cosmopolitan cities such as Paris and
Milan—are also rich in English, and getting richer. English-poor regions,
from the Mediterranean to Eastern Europe, lose out on foreign investment
and jobs. A case in point is Ireland, which has enjoyed job growth averaging
5% a year since the mid-’90s to 2007 with much of the new employment
resulting from U.S. investments, which are attracted to its young, English-
speaking workforce. Not surprisingly, in France, Italy, and Spain political
leaders are pushing to introduce their nations’ children to English at earlier
ages. Nearly 300,000 Spaniards are piling into state language schools this
year (Baker et al 2001).8 By 2020, native speakers will make up only 15%
of the estimated 2 billion people who will be using or learning the language.
Already, most conversations in English are between nonnative speakers who
use it as a lingua franca (Erard 2008).
English now serves unchallenged as the main international academic
language. It is not hard to see why this is so. For one, the nations using
English, particularly the United States, which alone spends almost half of
the world’s R&D funds, have become the academic superpowers. There are
also several major academic systems using it—the United States, Britain,
Australia, New Zealand, and most of Canada. In addition, the emerging
academic systems of the former British Empire—especially India, Pakistan,
South Africa, and Nigeria—have traditionally used English as the main
teaching and publishing language (Altbach 2007). The academic journals
and books published in English and edited from the United States and the
United Kingdom increasingly dominate world scholarship. These publica-
tions are almost the only ones internationally circulated. They are the most
prestigious journals, and academics worldwide compete to publish in them.
The main scientific and scholarly journals are published in English because
their editors and most of their contributors are professors at universities in
the English-speaking countries. These journals are listed in powerful net-
work functions and de facto rankings such as the Science Citation indexes
and its sister indexes. This implies that scholars must conform to the inter-
ests of the prestigious journals if they wish their work to be published in
them (Hyeonsik 2009).
The influx of foreign students studying English at the university level
points to its emergent status as lingua franca (Ruiz and Sarmiento 2009).
The English-speaking academic systems host more than half the world’s
international students. Many of these graduates return to their home coun-
tries with a zeal for English and for the foreign universities at which they
obtained their degrees. Possible student mobility is a huge change underway
in Europe, especially with the advent of the Bologna Process and growing
emphasis on creating global centers of excellence.9 Many universities are
converting not just courses but programs to English to compete for for-
eign students who they believe will bring new ideas and perspectives to the
Liminality 73
classroom and to the wider community (Lambert 2007). We can see that
the many overseas campuses of British and American universities testifies
to this, attracting tuition fees and other spending (ibid.). One telling sign
is the frequency of a given language used in research papers. In the past
40 years, the share of English in scientific papers has “suddenly” doubled,
from 43% in 1961 to 82% in 2000 (Sana 2002).
It is also part of the relative good fortune of English to have been de-
ethnicized (as with previous lingua francas such as Akkadian, Aramaic,
Greek, and Arabic) and that neither its British nor its American foun-
tainheads have been viewed in an ideological context for the past quarter
century (Huntington 1996). A language is more likely to be accepted as a
lingua franca if it is not identified with a particular religion or ethnic group
or ideology. It is precisely because people want to preserve their own cul-
ture that they use English a lingua franca to communicate with peoples of
other cultures.
Globalization is linked to the Internet—the new frontier. The growth of
online communities of interaction that provide opportunities to communi-
cate free from national hindrances and restrictions is a powerful symbol of
globalization. The creation of communities is a central objective in Face-
book, MySpace, Orkut, Hi5, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Nang. In cooperative
enterprises such as Wikipedia and Second Life, communities of interaction
naturally develop as contributors strive toward a common goal. This excep-
tional rate of growth in online social networking and interaction signals
the importance of the dominant Web language—English—that has domi-
nated the IT industry from research and development to the design of hard-
ware and software. While Dor (2004) claims that Mandarin and Arabic
may overtake English in terms of Internet users, he fails to recognize that
Mandarin suffers from the lack of standardized forms for Chinese char-
acters on the computer due to the sociopolitical influences among hanzi
using countries such as China, Japan, and Taiwan. Also, it will be difficult
for the languages of other nations, especially those of former colonies, to
match the technological expertise of English and other European languages
since they are already fully developed for use in the full array of domains
of expertise in the modern world with vocabulary and writing systems and
the technology to support them (Smith et al. 2005).
Nevertheless, while English is in the forefront, it should not rest com-
fortably on its laurels, as the fortunes of lingua francas rise and fall in the
theatre of history with remarkable regularity.

CAVEATS TO THE MODEL

At this juncture, a caveat must be added to the discourse on emergent lin-


gua francas and world orders. Doubtless, writing a history of the future
may be a fascinating enterprise, but has a high chance of inaccuracy. I do
74 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
realize that while it is possible to extrapolate linguistic patterns on the basis
of new system sciences and evolutionary processes, this does not mean that
the extrapolation has the force of necessity and certainty in the real world.
One notes that much of the results cited in the literature on complexity are
not empirical in nature. They are the outputs of computer simulations. Typ-
ically, some simple laws of behavor and interaction are postulated, and the
computer is used to see how the operations of these laws would translate
into long-term development or macro-behavior, as in the Kaufman (2002)
models. Thus, a prediction of what will happen in the future is not always a
guarantee of its realization. This is because both the logic that is exhibited
in history and that which is exhibited in nature is based more on prob-
ability than necessity. Therefore, although a global state as the next level
is a logical possibility in the model, it is not guaranteed. Neither can we be
assured that it will appear in the short or long term. As Ostler (2006: xxi)
notes in a similar effort: “Writing ‘histories of the future’ is fascinating but
also fraught with errors.”
Indeed, a reversal of the spiral, which is unlikely in the long term, is
very possible in the immediate short term. This is because the histori-
cal process always manifests a high degree of randomness and chance in
its unfolding as deviation and fluctuations of all sorts are expected phe-
nomena toward a long-term goal. Such reversal and deviations that may
change the pattern in the short term include nuclear or environmental
catastrophes in which case the long-term future might also be affected.
For example, if there is such a disaster, it would lead to a great reduction
in human population and might trigger a dark age of isolated warring
communities. If the degradation were not permanent, the surviving com-
munities would eventually, after some time, become prosperous and grow
populous again and would once again, after this temporary setback, set
out toward the path of globalism through, as was before, multiple pro-
cesses of differentiation and integration. However, if the globe becomes
uninhabitable or habitable only for a low-population density due to per-
manent damages in the eco-system, this will result in the disappearance
of Homo sapiens—and with them our model. Even then, it should be
noted that this would in no way be an anomaly in evolution, since 99%
of all the species that at one time inhabited this planet have now become
extinct, and a large proportion of the culturally specific human groups
and their respective languages that arose in the history of humanity have
likewise vanished. The only difference would be the geographic time scale
of the die-out (cf. Laszlo 1987, Land 1990).
According to Rosenhead (1998), systems behavior may be divided into
two zones, the stable zone, where if it is disturbed the system returns
to its ideal state; and the zone of instability, where a small disturbance
leads to movement away from the starting point, which in turn generates
further divergence. The type of behavior is determined by the kind of
disturbance it faces. Here we may draw from catastrophe theory, which
Liminality 75
deals with large changes in a total system that may result from a small
change in the critical variable in the system, for example, as seen in the
physical properties of H 2O as the temperature reaches zero. One interest-
ing historical event that influenced the sociocultural linguistic history of
Homo sapiens can be said to be the super-volcanic event (Category 8 or
“mega-colossal) explosion that took place 70,000 or 75,000 years ago
at Lake Toba on Sumatra. According to scientist Stanley H. Ambrose,
this event reduced the world’s human population to 10,000 or even a
mere 1000 breeding pairs, creating a bottleneck in human evolution (cf.
Dawkins 2004). This massive environmental change may have created
population bottlenecks in the species that existed at the time, which in
turn accelerated the differentiation of the isolated human populations,
eventually leading to the extinction of all the other human species except
for the two branches that became Neanderthals and Homo sapiens
(modern humans).
In addition, this model might be viewed as reductionist in some quar-
ters. However, I would like to point out here that most improvements in
our understanding of nature have come through some form of reduction-
ism. It is unfortunate that reductionism has become a dirty word in the
context of the human species despite its usefulness. This often happens
because historiography is a simplifying and idealizing process, and we
sometimes have to play down the multiplicity of backgrounds because
we wish to impose an order on the narratives they deliver. Hence, when
we attempt to write linguistic history, we often write it as if there is a
beginning and an end when in reality, language contact has always been
present and language has always existed amidst a multilingual milieu.
Also, reducing the human being’s “specialness” and its relation to lan-
guage and the cosmos to a simple model might appear to be demean-
ing to some, since we may wish to feel we are really very unique and
indefi nable, with layers and layers of fascinating mystery surrounding
us. Nevertheless, resistance is a companion of change and, paradoxically,
all new models need to test their validity against resistance in order to
refi ne themselves. In addition, the researcher also has an impact on the
“researching” scene. There is no “objective” distanced observer, and as
researchers, we are a part of those we “study.” In other words, we assume
that the universe is objective, but our experience is tempered by our sub-
jective understanding—we only see what we look at.
Where English as a LF of the global age is concerned, Graddol et al.
(2007) has ticked off an array of eventualities, for example, political
alliances that have yet to be formed, technological innovations where
English is little spoken, the probable rise of regional trading blocs such
as Asia, Arabia, and Latin America, in which the United States and other
English-speaking countries will be little involved. The position of Eng-
lish may also be altered by major world-scale political and economical
changes, such as the increasing importance of the European Union or
76 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
a coalition between Japan and China. Such powers might wish and be
able to promote a language other than English, possibly a constructed
language, for international communication (Graddol, Soukhanov, and
Wallraff 2000). Of particular interest will be Ostler’s (2006) provocative
conjectures about a future in which Mandarin or Arabic take the lead or
in which English fractures into several tongues. Ostler (ibid.) argues that
the rise of English to global status owes much to the economic prestige of
the Industrial Revolution, but its future as a lingua franca may falter on
demographic trends, such as booming birth rates in China.
Last but not least, poststructuralists are generally suspicious toward
meta-narrative and have a particular anathema to any violation of “human
rights.” There is a tendency to reject universalism although in science, the
more universal a theory the more accurate it is likely to be. From a his-
torical perspective, these suspicions may be seen as the final efforts of vari-
ous segments of humanity to establish and affi rm their present respective
boundaries. From a psychological perspective, these developments are an
essential aspect of the development of human societies, as well as a human
individual.

CONCLUSION

We have defi ned liminality in terms of its own internal features such
as emergence, instability, fluidity, mobility, and temporality. We have
also defi ned it externally—in view of its integral relationship to emer-
gent world orders. Liminality is of great interest to us today because
many sociopolitical and linguistic signs point to the fact that we are
living in such an era. While the forming period of liminality has passed
by without much heraldry, its norming phase has not enabled it to be
concealed so easily. This is because the hoisting of the big blue marble
as the backdrop of media and the icon of the age has brought it to the
forefront of human consciousness. Perhaps what is more telling about
liminality is the miracle of a united Europe; after years of eliminating
each other in preceding world orders, the nation-states of Europe have
come together through the European Union by practicing what French
philosopher Chantal Delsol (2006: 40) calls “techno-politics”—a ratio-
nal approach superior to “the atavistic passions and superstitions that
fi red nationalism.” Such a period of “between and betwixt,” of nation-
hood and globalism together with the rise of a language such as English
and the decline of other languages, has engendered both great excitement
as well as huge resentment. Signs of withdrawal are evident, with some
groups retreating into the spiral rather than taking the leap to the “brave
new world” (Huxley 2000).
While Chapter 2 and 3 have generally detailed the operation of the spiral
model, it must be said that it is not quite a fi nished model and that a few
Liminality 77
of my wild speculations may yet have to be tempered further. The model
is therefore not perfect, and this study is a preliminary one in lingua fran-
cas and world orders. My conception of liminality and the part it plays in
world orders continues to evolve the more I study and experience in life.
Hence, the premises and conclusions of the model stand open to criticism
and suggestions for further refi nement.
4 The Last Liminal Period
Emergent Arabic in the Middle Ages

Arab scholars were studying Aristotle when Charlemagne and his lords
were learning to write their names (Hitti 1943)

INTRODUCTION AND RATIONALE

This last liminal period in world history may be said to basically encom-
pass the 7th to the 9th centuries and saw the convulsive transition not so
much from nation to global state, as we are facing now, but from city-state
to nation-state. The lingua franca that came into world prominence at that
time was not English but Arabic. By the 10th century, liminality may well
be said to be over; the Arabic empire had extended itself remarkably over
a wide area of the world, Arab culture had become universally secure, rec-
ognized, and ascendant, and the order of nationhood over that of a city
order had become intellectually acceptable. As the language of commerce,
science, and statehood, Arabic was fi rmly entrenched. In just a few centu-
ries, it had spread over a significantly wider area than the previous imperial
lingua franca, Latin (of the city-state of Rome). In examining this little
known liminal period, we will enjoy the advantage of indirectly juxtapos-
ing it with the present liminal period explained in the previous chapter, and
in so doing hopefully clarify some of its unknowns and extrapolate some of
its lessons. Most liminal periods share approximately the same features and
in this sense, a focus on the 7th to 9th centuries may afford us some insights
into events that have been obscured through the passage of time.
Another advantage of studying this period is that this era remains a rela-
tive blind spot in world history. The part that Arabic played as a LF in Arab
civilization is little known for several reasons. First, our historians have
for too long concentrated on the rise and fall of empires, the militaristic
clash of nations, and the succession of dynasties; only lately have historians
begun to trace the rise of civilization itself, which on closer inspection is
also coincident with world orders. Second, looking across the vista of time,
it was also until relatively recently that the West remained insular; not until
the French Revolution did the history, arts, and religion of Oriental coun-
tries begin to interest the Western mind.
Third, lack of profi ciency in the Arabic language has been a consider-
able obstacle. Until the present century, few Western scholars could read,
let alone translate, this once influential LF. By keeping to the former
The Last Liminal Period 79
LFs of Latin and Greek, Western historians are exposed only to records
espousing Hellenic points of view. By faithfully keeping to Latin, an LF
from a previous world order (the city-state of Rome), the Western histo-
rian has only an inadequate account of southwest Asian and Egyptian his-
tory. Finding nothing striking in their research, they therefore conclude
(erroneously) that these were therefore “dark ages,” as nothing notewor-
thy happened. For example, a traditional Western history will follow
the history of Southwest Asia and Egypt in Greek and Latin records
over 1,200 years, beginning with the antecedents of the establishment of
the Archaemenian Persian Empire as recorded in Greek by Herodotus,
and coming down to the campaigns of the Roman Emperor Heraclius
as recorded in the same language by George the Pisidian. Then, at the
advent of Islam, the Greek-literate Western historian suddenly fi nds that
the language that has served as the key to the history of the 12th century
no longer suffices—and he/she confi rms there is a break in the continuity
of history. He does not realize that a gigantic language shift of all the
conquered territories has occurred during the period of liminality and
that Hellenistic languages have given way to Arabic as the lingua franca
(Khursheed 2000).
The fi nal advantage is due in part to the contrastive novelty of the period.
Once liminality has cleared by the 9th century, this period of resplendent
nationalism stood in striking contrast to the lowest ebb of European cul-
ture. At a time when the rulers of the Islamic empire lived in splendid
luxury in Baghdad, then the social cultural and economic capital of the
world, Europe was embroiled with endemic city-state confl icts and tribal
allegiances. It was overrun by Germanic tribes whose invasions stunted
cultural growth (Toynbee 1939). In contrast to Europe’s rural, feudal, and
solemnly ascetic life, the Islamic culture was urban, commercial, exotic,
cosmopolitan, and “modern.” Its streets were paved with stone and lit with
lamps. There were public gardens and fountains, a plentiful water supply,
sewers, public baths, and a library. European towns, on the other hand,
were muddy, undrained, and without public water. Europe would enjoy the
fruits of nationalism only with the fi rst stirrings of the European Renais-
sance in the 15th century, by way of Arabic Spain (Watt 1964). In such a
scenario, the inherent material advantages, which had come with the “spirit
of the age” a few hundred years earlier in Arabia, were also withheld from
a dark Europe.
Arabic, a hitherto obscure language from the Arabian peninsula, became
the lingua franca of the vast Islamic empire (Arab empire) from 700 AD
to 1492 CE, and at a certain point spread from the borders of China and
Northern India through Central Asia, Persia, Asia Minor, Middle East,
and North Africa all the way to Spain and Portugal in the west. Today, the
Encarta Encyclopedia (2002) lists Arabic as the second largest language
among first-time speakers (after Chinese). It is used by more than a billion
Muslims and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.1 At
80 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
the height of its influence (around 1200 CE), more books were written in
Arabic than at any other time.
Like most LFs including English, Arabic is hardly homogenous in nature.
Its function as the LF of a new world order in the 7th century had generated
an exceedingly complex linguistic situation (Suleiman 2006). Like English,
it became acutely diglossic with its spread. The powerful would speak the H
variety and the striving and disenfranchised would speak the L variety and
this would be apparent in many Arabic cities around the world. For ease
of classification, we may presently recognize three variants in any given
Arabic-speaking region: classical Arabic, Modern standard Arabic, and a
colloquial variant, each with identifiable features and a domain of usage.
To facilitate our juxtaposition objective, classical Arabic may be equated
to the canonical language of Shakespeare, the language of the King James
bible, or the language of Samuel Johnson, Jonathan Swift, and Charles
Dickens. On the other hand, Modern Standard Arabic can be equated to
the standard English studied and used in schools today. Finally, colloquial,
or vernacular Arabic may be equated to the Arabic dialects or vernacular
spoken by each individual and or family, including the various creoles and
pidgins that may or may not be mutually intelligible. This is much like the
Scots or Irish English, Jamaican English, and other new Englishes. It must
be noted however that over the millennium, imperial Arabic has inevita-
bly given birth to many sons and daughters, many of whom, predictably,
no longer understand each other. Indeed, because these many Arabic ver-
naculars are called “dialects,” they conceal the fact that they are actually
distinct languages, not mutually intelligible. In comparison, and ironically,
the daughters of Latin are called languages even though they are relatively
more similar to one another (Ostler 2006).

FROM TRIBE TO CITY-STATE TO NATION-STATE

How was Arabia so suddenly transformed from a tribe to city state to


nationhood? How did Arabia’s bold venture into the world of a nonmate-
rial abstract nationalism inspire the birth of subsequent European national
states? And how was the rise of Arabic, as its associated language and
lingua franca, intricately related to its political, sociocultural, and eco-
nomic ascendancy? What were the key characteristics in this past period
of liminality?
The origin of the word “Arab” is obscure—although philologists have
offered varying explanations. It was fi rst applied by inhabitants of Mesopo-
tamia to peoples of the west of the Euphrates valley (Nicholson 1969). The
earliest classical reference is in Aeschylus, who in “Prometheus” mentions
Arabia as a remote land whence warriors with sharp-pointed spears come.
In Hebrew, “Arabha” means “dark land” or “steppe land” or “erebh”, a
word meaning “mixed and “unorganized.” Linguistically, the word Arab
The Last Liminal Period 81
means deserts and barren wasteland, waterless and treeless. As for Arabic
the language, we are not sure of its origins, but what we do know is that it
was originally the language of the Arabs and it originated as a dialect in the
Western part of the Middle East—Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia and Iraq—
where languages close to Arabic, such as Aramaic, were already spoken. Its
written script evolved from the Nabataean/ Syriac variation of the Aramaic
alphabet.
Long before the dawn of liminality in the 7th century, the dominant polit-
ical organization was that of the city. Along the caravan routes, through
Western Arabia from Palestine to Aden, a string of cities, each with their
respective rulers, had emerged in major oases such as Abyssinia, Ghassan,
and Lakhm (Lapidas1988). Tribal loyalties from a past world order were
resurging. Not only were the insular Arabian tribes constantly fighting
among themselves but their cities, which were usually under a king, were
also always rivaling with other city-states for supremacy. For example, the
city-state of Mecca comprised a number of Arabian tribes, the most famous
of which were the Banu Quraish (Arabic for “Sons of Quraish”), which was
in turn divided into several subclans and which controlled Mecca from the
5th century onward. Their language naturally became the lingua franca of
the Meccan dwellers, since that was where all the symbolic rewards were.
Among their loose confederation of client tribes were the Banu Tanim,
Banu Thaqif, and Banu Utub, each with its own distinct dialect. In the
disintegrating city-state order, each tribe was an independent unit, and if
one member was harmed, the clan would avenge him. Certainly then, if
the ruler of the city-state was not strong enough to control the multifarious
groups, the security of life and possessions was at most tenuous. As a typi-
cal city of the liminal era, Mecca was also the target of continual migration
from the economically poorer hinterland, and migrants speaking a diver-
sity of languages with differing religious beliefs added to the cosmopolitan
nature of the city (Hansen 2000).
The city-state of Mecca is of special interest to us since the Prophet
Mohammad once dwelt in that city and will feature significantly in our
story. The Prophet’s family had belonged to the clan of Hashim, a branch
of the dominant Quraysh tribe and He was a native-speaker of Quraysh.
According to Balyuzi (1976), it was Mohammad who provided the key
“pull” in the liminal bridge to nationhood. This He did through the force of
religion and a sincere and enlightened will. On the other hand, the “push”
factor—the widespread disenchantment with the endemic wars between
city-states and the squabbling among its many dissident tribes within its
boundaries—also played its part. Life in the city-state hung by the whim of
the city monarch, whose concern was often the precarious maintenance of
power and wealth in relation to the neighboring city-states. City inhabit-
ants were masters, slaves, ruler, or subordinates. The liminal period saw
city-states disunited and vastly destabilized facing the appendages of tribal
orders that were attempting to make a powerful comeback. City-states faced
82 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
a convulsive “punctuating” (Dixon 1997) period of endemic tribal racial
and religious disputes. Some tribes were considered superior while others
were considered inferior, and this created an atmosphere of disenchantment
due to the deterioration of the social order and the ensuing chaos.
Medina was then a rival city-state of Mecca’s, sharing most of its political
and social characteristics. In 622 CE, 2 Mohammad withdrew from Mecca
to Medina to fi nd more sympathetic ears to the new sociopolitical religious
doctrine he was proposing. He moved, too, to counter the sociopolitical
unrest then prevailing, Muhammad drafted the Constitution of Medina,
which united the eight Medinian tribes and emigrants from Mecca. He did
this through a redefi ning of the different community roles that specified the
rights and duties of all citizens and the relationship of the different com-
munities in Medina. This remarkable feat was not only the fi rst written
constitution, but one which preceded the fi rst English Bill of Rights, the
Magna Carter of 1215, by almost six centuries (Watt 1964).3 While West-
ern historians may cite the Treaties of Westphalia in 16484 as the beginning
of the modern nation-state era, one notes here that the less-known Medina
Charter promulgated equal rights to every citizen in a plural society by giv-
ing them a say in governmental matters.
The Medina Constitution provided a federal structure with a centralized
authority, with the various tribes in various districts constituting a unit and
enjoying autonomy in certain matters of a social, cultural, and religious
character (Guillaume 1955). It was a paradigmatic leap, for it provided the
people with a central public institution for seeking justice, instead of as in
the previous order, of seeking it with the power of their own hand or at
best, that of his family, tribe, or city. According to Hamidullah (1992), it
was an epoch-making institution that brought to an end for all time to the
chaos of tribalism, which the city-state was unable to handle and which
laid the basis for a wider institution viz a state. The Constitution enabled a
relatively “abstract” state to provide equality to its multifarious members
and protection against oppression (Clause 16). It proclaimed the brother-
hood of believers and gave each one a right and support to give protection
to any individual, excepting an enemy (Clause 15). It also extended help
to its members in debt or in fi nancial difficulties in regard to payment of
ransom or blood-money (Clause 12). It sought justice by prohibiting help
or refuge to be given to a murderer (Clause 22). Last but not least, freedom
was guaranteed for each distinct community to practice its own language
and religion (cf. Ahmad 2008).
In short, the Medina Constitution may be considered a watershed, which
signaled the dawn of a larger national order in the sense that it espoused
protective laws that promoted shared patterns of values and traditions
across city-states. It contained a codification of the national will—defi ned
not on race or tribal ties but through a more abstract concept of a common
brotherhood (Foley 2004). While it is difficult to fi x an exact date when a
historical bar is crossed or a liminal period begun or ended, for our limited
The Last Liminal Period 83
purpose we will recognize it as a time when a new world order begins to
be accepted, at fi rst by a small group of people, and gradually by many
others.5 In other words, by 622 CE, seemingly by the miraculous stroke of
the pen, the world had attempted to cross a historical bar through an ideal
based on the welfare of the common people in accordance with the precepts
of the Islamic brotherhood founded by Mohammed, and upheld by the
Koran. Islam lifted the nascent nation-state above consciousness of race
or color, and for the fi rst time in history, at least theoretically, the nation-
state—in contrast to the order of city-states before its time—enabled class,
region, family, gender, and color to become irrelevant to citizenship (Sen-
turk 2005).
This constitution kept the Islamic world united culturally. The proof of
this novel idea succeeding beyond imagination can be seen in the satisfac-
tory condition of the masses during the fi rst few centuries of Islamic rule.
Practically all of the Middle East and Persia, 90% of the population of
Christian Egypt, and all the peoples of North Africa became Muslim. This
they did of their own choice, for conversion was not forced upon the con-
quered, as commonly believed (Bukhsh 2000). The lingua franca that held
these people together was Arabic. Hence, while the Assyrians, Copts, Syr-
ians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians are not Arabs, they all began to study the
lingua franca (Arabic), and it became their “national” identity. Similarly
there are many religious groups in Syria such as Orthodox, Mussulman, the
Dorzi, and the Nestorians, who consider themselves Arabs as they all speak
Arabic, although in reality some of them are Greeks and Jews.
It must be noted that the birth of the nation-state did not mean the
disappearance of the city- state, just as the birth of the city-state many
centuries before did not mean the disappearance of the tribes. In prac-
tice, city-states continued to exist as physical entities, but the culture they
practiced was a “nationalistic” one, giving their allegiance to the principle
of the Islamic state, bounded by faith and the laws of Islam, and ruled by
a single sovereign, the Caliph. Indeed, to enable this desired world order
to operate smoothly, the domain of “international law” was conceived
and many Arabic scholars specialized in this area. The desire to realize
this ideal remained a recurring theme and a powerful motive through the
centuries of Islamic history, even if at times certain cities-states tried to
exit from the national order to become once again an entity to themselves
(Senturk 2008).

THE SPREAD OF ARABIC AS A LINGUA FRANCA

It was the “Arabization” of the conquered provinces rather than the mili-
tary conquest that is the true wonder of the Arab expansion just as it was
the “Englishization” of the colonized people rather than the military occu-
pation that was the true wonder of the British colonialization. The main
84 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
impact of Arabization was the spread of Arabic as a lingua franca, just as
the key effect of Western colonialization was the Englishization of the colo-
nies through the ideological tool of English. Within a hundred years of the
Medina Constitution, Arabic was spoken from Spain to Southern France to
the borders of China and India, a spectacular and much sought after lingua
franca of the age. According to Lapidus (1988: 52), the spread of Arabic as
a lingua franca was faster than the spread of Islam, and this is similar to
the situation where many people may speak English today but are not Eng-
lishized to any significant extent. The reasons for the wide acceptance of
this once obscure tongue can be summarized in this section under political,
economic, scientific, sociocultural, and religious factors.
First, the language of the most powerful nation in the world is always a
powerful magnet for the periphery to admire and emulate. From a small city-
state commanding a single oasis, the Islamic state incorporated the whole
of Arabica, the whole of the Sassanian Persian Empire, and the Roman
Empire’s dominions in Syria and Egypt (Hitti 1970). While the Crusaders
had founded some states in the Levant, most were eventually liquidated, and
their territories reincorporated into the Islamic world. In addition to Spain
and North Africa, the Arabic state embraced oriental regions never affected
by Pax Romana, for example, India. The Byzantine Empire was pushed
back, province by province, and eventually extinguished with the Turkish
(Islamic) conquest of Constantinople in 1453. One notes here that “Byzan-
tine” is a term of modern scholarship; these peoples were actually Romans
who instead of speaking Latin, spoke Greek.6 Many ancient Roman and
Byzantine urban centers were changed into Islamic cities and their official
language from Hellenic to Arabic. The architectural layout of the Islamic
city was thought superior for its time, characterized by a mosque in the city’s
heart, religious schools in all its neighborhoods, markets with their suqs;
citadels lying next to the defense circuit, densely populated habitation areas,
often subdivided into quarters, some for the ruling class, and sometimes
centered on a palace. In short, since the advent of Islam, there have been
only Islamic states in the Middle East.
The economic wealth of a united Arabia under the Umayyads and
Abassids can be seen in the institutionalization of long-distance commerce,
exemplified by sophisticated coinage, letters of credit and checks, large-
scale shipping and banking, horseback postal routes, and the creation of
international law (Sarjeant 1980). The trade journeys could not be fulfi lled
unless security of caravan routes and intertribal peaceful coexistence were
provided. Arab rule introduced a more stable situation than any previously
known in the Middle East. Like the British, both the Abassid and Umayyad
Caliphates built powerful navies that protected trade and turned the Medi-
terranean into a virtual Muslim monopoly. The armies of Islam were care-
ful to abuse neither the countryside nor its inhabitants. In fact the orders
given by the Caliph Ali regarding merciful treatment of noncombatants
was the fi rst humanitarian step taken in the history of warfare: “All men
The Last Liminal Period 85
are from Adam and Adam is from clay. There is no superiority of an Arab
over a non-Arab, nor a white person over a black person except in taqwa
(level of piety)” (Quran 49:13). Migration and travel was rife—scholars,
teachers, and administrators were able to move from city to city and court
to court in the Empire in search of career opportunities. Suffice to say, the
share of a new wealth was only accessible if one could master the lingua
franca that facilitated the new world order—that is, Arabic.
As the preeminent language of science, Arabic as LF was sought after
by the intellectuals of the world. Just as to read English today is to have
most of the latest world knowledge at our fi nger tips, hence to read Arabic
was to have the entire world’s literature at one’s feet. It was to have access
either originally or in translation to the world’s greatest clearinghouses of
philosophical and scientific thought—the public libraries of Jundishapur or
Alexandria. One notes that as soon as the Arabs conquered Egypt in 641,
they took possession of the library in Alexandria and translated Greek sci-
entific treatises, such as those of Archimedes, into Arabic. Where Hero of
Alexander’s Mechanics was concerned, they applied his principles to two
important inventions, the watermill and the windmill. The watermill was
an improvement over the Roman waterwheel and employed extensively to
irrigate regions of Spain and North Africa. Its success led to its adoption
in medieval Europe, where it was known by its Latin name noria, derived
from the Arabic naurah. The fi rst windmill known to history was built in
640 AD by order of Caliph Omar and used throughout the Islamic world;
it ground wheat, crushed sugar cane, and pumped water. Greek, Jewish,
Christian, Syrian, Hindu, and Persian texts had mostly been translated into
Arabic. For example, Schramm (2001) narrates how Frederick II of Hohen-
staufen (1194–1250), then King of Germany, Italy, and Burgundy, adopted
Arab dress, customs, and manners and helped diffuse Arabic biological
science to Europe through his The Art of Falconry, which was exceptional
in the then-contemporary approach and methods employed in those fields.
In this treatise on Falcony, Frederick drew from the fund of knowledge of
Arab practitioners.
In the area of medicine, standards were raised. For example, in 931 AD,
the Abassid Caliph al-Muqtadir had all practicing physicians examined,
and those who passed were granted ijzah (certificates); in this way, Baghdad
was not only able to get rid of its quacks but so too did universities (Hitti
1970). The ijzab was the principal means by which scholars passed on their
teachings to students, granting them permission to carry on their teachings.
Significant advancement were made in curative drugs. Examples of medical
terms of some Arabic origin still commonly used in European languages
are: Elixir, Alcohol, Antimonio (English Antimony), and Alcanfor (cam-
phor). Many Christian members of the nobility from Europe visited the
hospitals and universities of Moorish Spain either to be cured or to study
and took home a greater knowledge of medicine; among them were two
famous monks, Gregory of Cremona and Abelard of Bath. Al Razi, known
86 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
to Europe as Rhazes (865–925), a Persian living in Teheran, wrote a medi-
cal encyclopedia, “Al Havi,” later known to Europe in its Latin translation
as Continens.7 In addition, Ibn Rashid (known as Averroe in the West) in
his Quamin (Canon) presented the world the fi nal codification of Graeco-
Arabic medical thought. His work became the most authoritative medical
text of the Middle Ages, and was used in all the medical schools of Europe,
passing though numerous editions.
While it is often thought that the “modern scientific” method or the meth-
odology of science was developed in the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, in
reality, it was already developed by the Arabs in the Middle Ages (Khursheed
2000).8 For example, while the Greeks were taken in by the deductive method
and underplayed sense perception and observation, Muslim scientists went
beyond this and based their investigations on observation and experimenta-
tion. Ibn Haytham’s work on optics through the scientific method proved
Aristotle’s thesis that light is reflected from the object to the eye and not the
reverse, as was thought. What is important is that he arrived at this conclu-
sion via observation and experimentation with lenses, by testing the angles
of reflection (Alatas 2006). The father of Arabic chemistry, Jabir, known to
Europe as Geber, made significant advances in theory and practice of his sci-
ence, developing new methods for evaporation and sublimation and perfect-
ing the process of crystallization His works, translated into Latin, exerted
a tremendous influence in Europe until the beginning of modern chemistry.
Such books opened up the possibility of describing nature in more advanced
and general mathematical terms than was hitherto possible. In the 13th cen-
tury, schools of thought grew up in Europe that began to reject the former
Augustinian theology for a new one based upon the Islamic world view, but
it was to take another few centuries for the European Renaissance to become
aglow with the Islamic spirit of learning.
The astronomer, Copernicus, for example, was reportedly influenced by
treatises of Muslim astronomer Al-Battani, whose work included, among
other things, copious catalogues of stars and planetary tables. In the 10th cen-
tury, Persian astronomer Abdul al-Rahman al-Sufi was the first human to
record a galaxy with his own eyes. Gazing at the Andromeda galaxy, he called
it “a little cloud”—an apt description of the slightly wispy appearance of our
galactic neighbor. 12th-century geographer Al Idrisi, a European Muslim, pro-
duced an atlas comprising 70 maps. The atlas, known as the Book of Roger,
showed the Earth as being round, contradicting the idea, common among
Muslim scholars, that the Earth was spherical. Observatories were erected,
and Arabic mathematicians correctly estimated the circumference of the globe
to be 25,000 miles.9 Most of the names of stars in European languages are
derived from Arabic origin, such as Rigel, Orion, Lepus, Nihal, and Deneb.
Roger Bacon, for instance, was undoubtedly influenced by Al-Kindi’s book on
optics, which was translated into Latin under the title of De Asectibus.
Indeed, the lingua franca of Arabic was used to facilitate the medieval
cross-fertilization of ancient cultures. Arab trade with the Chinese in the
The Last Liminal Period 87
8th century had enabled the Arabs to produce a cheaper and more extensive
book production in the liminal era. From India, the Arabs expanded on
their decimal and algebraic systems. From China, they found new uses for
the compass and gunpowder. From Greece, they added the science of trigo-
nometry, both plane and speria (Reisman 2004). In short, in the almost
illiterate world of the newly occupied land, the rich Arabic tongue must
have appeared in almost the same light that English appears today—as a
passport to the world’s store of accumulated knowledge.
Arabic was not just the language of science but also of the arts and cul-
ture. The Socrates and Aristotle of Arabic, Ibn-Sina (known in Europe as
Avicenna), as well as Ibn-Rushd contributed 28 commentaries on philosophy
and drew up an encyclopedia to contain the knowledge of is time (McGinnis
2006). Indeed, the idea of a “book” as a physical entity, a bound collection
of pages with a title and beginning and end saw its birth through the Arabic
language. The pottery, wood, stone, metal, carpentry, and ivory finds of 9th-
century Iraq show a continued output of Byzantine, Indian, Chinese, and
Persian craftsmanship, local imitations of these, and new experimentation to
the creation of individual and characteristic styles, distinctively Islamic (Mus-
tafa 2001). Even today, the tempo and lilt of Spanish music (and indeed of
all of Southwestern Europe) is more akin to Arabic than to European music,
and the guitar, the most “Spanish” of all instruments, was an Arab invention
(Hitti 1970). The finest swords and finest metal decorative work of Europe
came from Damascus, Bagdad, and Cordova. The very word “damascene,”
meaning to adorn metal work, harks back to the origin of the word for
Damascus. Last but not least, the first European coffee house, which opened
in Venice in 1645, made use of an original Arab invention—coffee.10
Arabic grew to become the premier language of education in the new
world order. Teaching was considered a sacred duty and a school was a
necessity in almost every town or village throughout the Arab world (Siba’i
2002). In the early liminal period, teachers lectured from memory without
the aid of a written text. Soon, however, they began to use notes. Another
practice was the division of students into groups according to their achieve-
ment, and whenever this practice was applied, a student could be one level
in one subject and at a higher or lower one in another subject. Another
method was “discussion and questioning; students engaged in lively discus-
sion and were encouraged to expose views that differed from their teachers.
Therefore the art of dialogue and discussion was a well-established practice
in the quest for knowledge (Sarjeant 1980).
The maktab (lower elementary) and kuttab (for older students) were
schools providing basic instruction in the reading and recitation of the Koran
during the first century of Islam (just as the Bible may be considered the first
textbook for English in England in the Middle Ages).11 There were also madra-
sahs, which provided the best professors, libraries, and scholarship (Dodge
1962). According to Makdisi (1981), the European universities that emerged
spontaneously in the 12th century after the liminal period were borrowed
88 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
from Islam. The proof Makdisi offers is that the colleges, or madrasahs in
Islam, were charitable trusts (awaqf) just as in Europe, and that the internal
structures of both types of colleges were similar. Muslim colleges had the
sahib (fellow) and mustafaqqih (scholar), with the Latin translation of sahib
being socius. Although the Latin term universitas predates Islam, its use as a
reference to educational institutions in Europe appears for the first time only
in 1221. On the other hand, the term jami’ah, meaning “universal,” was
used to refer to Al-Azhar in the 10th century (cf. Dodge 1961). Islamic edu-
cational institutions were also degree (ijazah) granting. This predates degree
granting in European medieval universities. The Latin word baccalaureus
may have originated from the Arabic haqq al-riwya (the right to teach on the
authority of another) and the notion of facultas (faculty) is a direct transla-
tion of Arabic quwwah, which refers to “the power inherent in an organ”
(Ebied and Young 1974).
Unlike the past order, freedom of thought characterized academic life in
the Islamic city. The Arabs admonished the transmission process of teach-
ing from one generation to another without the use of questioning. For
them, a new world order would be one where “reason” (aql) would be
uppermost in efforts to discover truth, and ultimately the Truth (Sarjeant
1980). Not only was respect for the learned and the learners stressed but
also the practical rather than the theoretical application of education. For
instance, Sufi-philosopher Rumi warned against dashing against each other
like boats on an open sea in the search of truth. He advised on how to
prevent intellectual contests from serving the cause of social conflict and
illustrated the process by a story about a disagreement over the description
of an elephant that could be felt but not seen:

The elephant was in a dark house: Some Hindus had brought it for exhi-
bition. As seeing it with the eye was impossible, each one was feeling it in
the dark with the palm of his hand. The hand of one touched its ear: to
him it appeared to be like a fan. Since another has handled its leg, he said
“I found the elephant’s shape to be like a pillar.” Another laid his hand
on his back: he said “truly this elephant was like a thorn.” Similarly
whenever any one heard (a description of the elephant), he understood
(it only in respect of the part that he had touched). If there had been a
candle in each one’s hand, the difference would have gone out of their
words. The eye of the sense-perception is only the palm of the hand: the
palm has not the power to reach the whole of him (the elephant). . . we
are dashing against each other, like boats our eyes are darkened, though
we are in the clear water (Rumi, quoted in Shah 1974).

From this much retold tale, Rumi emphasized that there should be room
for the advocates of different ideas, because none represented the truth in
its totality despite the sincerity of the claims by the advocates. Therefore,
those who have ideas should recognize their own limits and the merits of
The Last Liminal Period 89
others. Total knowledge is beyond human reach: we can acquire only a
partial knowledge of the universe.
The spread of Arabic in the liminal era was also made possible through
the stimulus of a newly revealed religion, which was Islam. According to
Lapidus (1988: 244), once Arab conquests were secured, elites of the former
Sassanian Empire, “soldiers, officials, landowners make common cause
with the conqueror, learned their language and easily converted to Islam.”
European accounts usually cite militaristic, political, or economic reasons
for conversion due to the historical rivalry between Christianity and Islam.
However, most conversions were voluntary as there were many other incen-
tives for someone to convert to Islam. For example, Southeast Asia, as with
other parts of the world, was not converted by the sword but rather won
over to Islam through persuasion by Arab and Indian merchants who plied
its seas (Mutalib 2008). Even in the Hinduized region of, for example, Java
and the Kingdom of Srivijaya, the fi rst converts were local rulers who sought
Islam’s superior culture as well as to attract Muslim trade traffic (ibid.). In
addition, the advantages of being under Muslim judicial rule, rather than
the arbitrary whim of the city-state monarch, were also attractive to former
Byzantine and Sassanian aristocracies including officials, landlords, and
others (Lapidus 1988).
If there is a difference in the spread of English and Arabic as lingua
francas in their respective liminal eras, it may be in the domain of religion.
Both lingua francas were languages of religion before they became lan-
guages of colonialization, that is, they have had their roots in missionary
activities before spreading to other domains of use. However, while Ara-
bic remained intrinsically hinged to religion and religious education (for
example, Quranic education, madrasahs, and the Shariah law), English has
refused to be identified with any religion. When Europe adopted national-
ism, science had already won the battle with the church; hence it was not
the language of the church that was to be the unifying agent but rather the
designated official language of the nation that would enable citizenship (cf.
Wright 2006). Hence, we fi nd English missionaries attempting to translate
the bible into native languages, in contrast to Muslim missionaries who
persuade their converts to learn Arabic, which they believe to be the mother
of all tongues as well as the irreplaceable language of the Quran.
We may then summarize that a new cognitive map was already opera-
tional in the 7th century. There was a sense of idealism and purposefulness in
belonging to a larger entity, hitherto unimaginable: Berbers, West Africans,
Sudanese, Swahili-speaking East Africans, Middle Eastern Arabs, Turks,
Iranians, Turkish and Persian peoples of central Asia, Afghans Pakistanis,
millions of Indians and Chinese, most peoples of Malaysia and Indonesia
and minorities in Philippines. The Arab Eempire, with Arabic as its lingua
franca, had managed to convince its adherents to the practical realization
that people of different creeds and origin needed to coexist peacefully in a
new world order.
90 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders

THE SOCIOLINGUISTICS OF ARABIC


AS A LINGUA FRANCA

We have seen how Arabic, the native language of a group of Arabs from
a relatively obscure part of the Arabian Peninsula, arose to because the
lingua franca of the Arab Empire (Islamic Empire) in the 7th century. Just
as with previous imperial lingua francas such as Sanskrit, Greek, and Pali,
Arabic would also fall sway to the transforming mechanism of language
change and would continue to differentiate itself dynamically in the cor-
ridors of time. As we have recounted in Chapter 1, language is never in
repose and always in the forefront of change. Woidich (2003: 291) esti-
mates that there are over 100 varieties of Arabic scattered over a large and
disparate area, many of which are mutually unintelligible. The passage of
time has taken an undeniable toll and today it is more apt to term them
as languages rather than varieties. If one surveys the written products of
Arabic through the centuries a picture of gradual change seems to emerge
(Versteegh 1997, 2003). For example, dialectal traits such as the use of the
genitive exponent or the use of aspectual particles with the imperfect verb
are rarely found before the 18th or 19th centuries. Indeed, time’s relent-
less passing has seen many offspring, conjugal relationships, liaisons, and
so forth stemming from the imperial lingua franca. However, unlike the
daughters of Latin, which are now called French, Spanish, Italian, etcetera,
the various daughters of Arabic, as well as the written language and the
Arabiya (classical Arabic) of the Koran, are still called “Arabic.”
A discussion of how such changes came about through the spread of Arabic
as a lingua franca will enable us to glean invaluable insights in our attempt
to understand the present liminal age. This section will attempt a diachronic
construction of Arabic as a lingua franca through a kind of “thought experi-
ment” by posing hypothetical questions that employ subjunctive reasoning,
for example, “what might happen. . .” or “what might have happened. . ..”
Although the explanatory value of thought experiments are often minimal
and cannot be directly proven due to the lack of data, nevertheless, it is a
time-tested way of affording important insights not possible otherwise. In
short, what we can do is demonstrate that such and such a scenario is plau-
sible and that such and such was very likely the case. In the following section,
we will discuss the evolution and flowering of Arabic as a language par excel-
lence, the sociolinguistic implications of its spread, and finally, the resultant
opposition to the loss of mother tongues due to its relentless spread.

The Flowering of Arabic


While foreign words can be found in almost any language, a lingua franca
is usually more susceptible to foreign influences because of its accessibil-
ity. Through an exponential growth of users, a lingua franca will usually
grow to become a much fuller and functional language than what it was
The Last Liminal Period 91
originally. Just as English enlarged its vocabulary with lexical items from
Britain’s amassed territories, so too did Arabic form its own empire. The
borrowings from other languages, which it came into contact with, grew
exponentially. Just as English borrowed greatly from Latin, so too did Ara-
bic borrow administrative terms from the Persian, theological and religious
terms from Hebrew and Syria, and scientific and philosophical terms from
the Greek (cf. Versteegh et al. 2007). Similarly, while Arabic (and Eng-
lish) borrowed words from the languages it encountered, the encountered
languages also borrowed from themselves. For example, 57% of Pushto,
42% of Urdu, and 30% of Persian words are made up of Arabic words and
terms. Arabic has loaned words to Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Swahili and even
to European languages such as Spanish and Portuguese and English.12 Once
a tribal language with a limited culture, Arabic quickly grew to take its
stand proudly beside former imperial LFs such as Greek and Latin.
The prestige of Arabic as a lingua franca saw its script adopted by other
languages such as Malay, Kashmir, Uyghur Hausa, Sindhi, Tatar, Turkish
Kurdish, Kazak, Kyrghyz, Morisco, Pashto, Uyghur, Morisco, Kyrghyz, and
Punjabi.13 The Turks also had their older literature written in older scripts,
and like other converts to Islam, they abandoned their older writing and
adopted the alphabet of the Quran, along with a considerable vocabulary of
Arabic and also of Persian words.14 Written Arabic was considered supreme
and soon supplanted hieroglyphs and cuneiform in Egypt and Mesopo-
tamia (modern Iraq). Indeed, except in Iran, it permanently replaced the
older written languages of civilization and to a remarkable extent, even
the spoken languages of the cities and the countryside (Lewis 1998). Even
for those who did not identify with the Islamic faith, who retained their
Christian or Jewish faith, in time adopted Arabic as the language of much
of their own religious literatures (ibid.).15 Even beyond the vast areas that
were permanently Arabized (like the English colonies), Arabic exercised a
tremendous influence on other Muslim (European) languages, for example,
Muslim Persian and Turkis). It remains the most widely used writing sys-
tem in the world after Latin.
As Arabic mingled with other languages in the crowded and noisy hive
of its brilliant conquests, it united its multicultural legacy in a spectacularly
creative way. It evolved into a poetic tongue of remarkable richness; elaborate
and intricate meter, rhyme, and diction; and classical exactitude of form,
with a power of expression that was considerably greater and more subtle
than any existing language the world had ever known). Arabic expanded
not just by borrowing new words and expression but also by development
from within, forming new words from old roots, giving new meanings to
old words. Arabic also had its Shakespeare—one Amir ibn Bahr (also know
as al-Jahiz), whose versatility, originality, and charm helped expand the
lexical and syntactic capabilities of Arabic and whose talent showcased
Arabic as a language rich in passion and imagery. Sufi poet-philosophers
such as Rumi and other literary leaders such as Sulayman also enlarged the
92 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
vocabulary and grammar of vocabulary of Arabic, as with hundreds of its
writers who refi ned grammatical structure and vocabulary through their
thousands of stories of courage, romance, and magic.
Just as with the English in the King James Bible, the Arabic of the Koran
had beauty and power, written in the descriptive flowing language of
poetry. This kept Arabic from dying and maintained a spirit of unity above
that of the city-state. Arabic developed an enormous vocabulary and it has
been said that for any object to be found in their barren and inhospitable
land, the Arabs had a wide spectrum of words. It has also been said that
a poet had no trouble rhyming his verses for he had a large storehouse of
synonyms from which to draw. We may then imagine that it was not quite
an easy task to translate Greek science into the somewhat poetic and ora-
tory idiom of the Arabs. Hence a whole new terminology to convey the
ideas of science had to be created, and this ambitious undertaking forced
Arabic, just as it forced English from the 17th century onward, to gradually
evolve as a vehicle not just for familial and religious thought but also for
scientific ones.
As Arabic became the favored tongue across the civilized world, there
were concerns about preserving a “standard”—a ploy not just to downplay
regional loyalties and distinctiveness but also to ensure comprehensibility
within the vast expense of the empire. Hence by the 8th century, grammar-
ians were employed to codify and standardize what is today known as clas-
sical Arabic, so that it would remain an important cultural and religious
artifact, undiluted by optional variability and one that is tied up with the
development of a supralevel of group solidarity beyond that of the city-
state. Due to the linguistic efforts undertaken, there is less variation in
terms of basic grammar and core vocabulary and slightly more “embellish-
ments” in terms of local vocabulary and everyday expressions in Arabic
and its varieties. Certainly, the vernacular of the time seemed poor and
primitive by comparison.

Language Spread
Being in the forefront of change and cross-cultural encounters, lingua fran-
cas are never stable. They are often influenced by encounters with speakers
who bring a wider repertoire of both linguistic and nonlinguistic experi-
ences from the other languages and cultures they possess. Lingua francas
are also likely to undergo simplification and reduction in functions, and
hence pidginized and creolized forms may appear as more and more diverse
people gravitate to dialogue with the newcomers. Hence, great phonetic,
morph syntactic, lexical, and discursive diversity characterizes its speakers.
The earliest record of an Arabic-based pidgin in Africa is the text of Maridi
Arabic from Mauretania written by Arab geographer Abu Ubayd al-Bakri
in 1068.
The Last Liminal Period 93
I will now attempt to sketch the sociolinguistics of Arabic as it emerges
in the liminal period stretching across the world orders of the city- state
and nation-state. As people attempt to come to grips with the new world
order, they begin to realize the necessity of learning the lingua franca as
a means of socioeconomic progress. I will draw from the field of language
learning theories in order to enable us to acquire a glimpse of the sociolin-
guistics of Arabic as a lingua franca. This focus on processes of language
learning determines the locus of the change and enables us to discuss the
demographic and other nonlinguistic data that provide the proper context.
However, issues of identity and loyalty cannot be fully understood without
invoking social and historical contexts that envelope them; so if we juxta-
pose insights from language acquisition with the demographic, social, and
cultural circumstances of the liminal period of Arabization, we will obtain
some arguments with regards to the nature of the interaction between the
original and new speakers of Arabic.
Second-language learning always affects the linguistic structure of both
languages. Hence, a number of inevitable changes would have been trig-
gered to result in the emergence of a new type of Arabic. If in the past two
centuries it has not been possible to prevent English from being pidginized
all over the world, even with help from the media, mass literacy, and tech-
nological advances, how much more widespread the pidginization must
have been that took place with the spread of Arabic from the 7th century
on? Hence, we may imagine that pidginization was a major process in the
creation of Arabic subvarieties, the vernaculars of Arabic today. This could
have happened from multifarious encounters with Arab traders, from the
commercial diasporas (the merchants who moved from their home commu-
nity to settle as aliens in the newly conquered territories), by education (the
Islamic missionaries) or by contact with defense personnel (the military).
Let us examine one of these scenarios, for example, that of preliminary
encounters between the military and the inhabitants of a captured city.
To communicate in such a contact zone, both sides will attempt to speak
as simply as possible by making internal adjustments to their language. In
their efforts to communicate, grammars from different languages are nec-
essarily mixed and usage becomes more important than form. Such accom-
modation processes have taken place in all linguistic communities, and
there is abundant evidence of the effects they have on the structure of the
language that is being used, such as reduction of categories, restructuring,
simplification, and so forth. A pidgin is the inevitable result, and their small
vocabularies are stretched with circumlocutions and a greater reliance on
context (Versteegh 2003).16
In areas where the languages are not so much disparate but alike, such as
between neighboring districts that are not separated by deep geographical
features, the language interchange that takes place will be characterized by
features of koinéization, simplification, and innovation rather than pidgini-
zation (cf. Thomason and Kaufman 1988). A koiné (common language) is a
94 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
standard language or dialect that has arisen as a result of contact between
two mutually intelligible varieties (dialects) of the same language. Since the
speakers understand one another’s language before the advent of the koiné,
the koineization process is not as rapid as pidginization and creolization. A
koiné variety emerges as a new spoken variety in addition to the originating
dialects; it does not change any existing dialect. This separates koinéization
from normal evolution of dialects.17
When people using a simplified register as their principal means of com-
munication intermarry, their children tend to receive an impoverished input
from their parents. In the absence of a strong monitor such as a private tutor
or a school environment, they naturally start to restructure the language
according to their native language learning abilities, in the process gram-
maticalizing the input and imposing fi xed rules on the existing variation.
They begin to nativize the variety and become, in effect, native speakers of
a new language. In the second-language learning process, the native acqui-
sition of such a pidginize variety is called creolization. Such processes have
taken place in all languages and are a necessary part of second-language
learning taking place outside the classroom. In this way, we begin to have
many of the Arabic varieties that we fi nd today. Through the passage of
time, this creole may also assume a certain prestige since it is related to the
colonial power. Just as occasionally English becomes the LF because it is
seen as “neutral” from the multifarious local languages (Corson 1994), so
too were Arabic and its prominent varieties adopted in regions because of
their neutrality potential.
At an even later stage, usually after the chaotic convulsion of the initial
liminal period, the new variety will be affected by a preoccupation with
standardization as a means of getting nearer to the center. As a result, the
new speakers will be motivated to change (improve) the way they speak and
will try, through the process of accommodation, to match the more presti-
gious speech of the capital. This is a form of decreolization, which would
have happened in different places and at different times in the history of the
empire. Here, schools also play their part in their efforts to teach people the
“standard Arabic” using the Koran as the main text. However, despite the
proliferation of Islamic writing schools in the Arabic empire, I believe that
the influence from the standard Arabic, whether written or spoken, could
never have been very strong because the vast majority of people were illiter-
ate, and were therefore virtually unexposed to the source of decreolizing
influence. Dodge (1962) and Rahman (1982, 1999) have also pointed out
that the schooling system in the early centuries of Islam were incapable of
affecting the language of the lower strata of the population.
Perhaps the more recent case of Juba Arabic in Southern Sudan can
afford us a glimpse as to how a lingua franca fi rst spawns its offspring.
Juba Arabic-based pidgin fi rst emerged in the 19th century where the vast
majority of Egyptian soldiers did not speak Arabic when they tried to con-
trol Sudan. Hence a pidgin resulted as a vehicular means of communication
The Last Liminal Period 95
between the army recruits as well as the multilingual population in South-
ern Sudan (Versteegh 2003). When Sudan became independent, the Arabic
pidgin remained in use under the name Juba Arabic. In the cities of the
southern Sudan, wherever mixed marriages took place between heterolin-
gual people, the children acquired this pidginized variety and creolized it.
Juba Arabic is now a distinctive language in its own right with a strong
in-group identity. In turn, it has given birth to its own subvarieties such as
KiNubi. This is not unusual because a living language will always naturally
develop its own regional, social, and occupational subvarieties. In recent
times however, the native speakers of the Juba Arabic Creole have been
undergoing the pervasive influence of Standard Arabic and the Arabic of
Khartoum. Mahmud (1979) demonstrates the decreolizing effect of this
influence on their language. One specific example he gives is that of the
personal prefi xes of the verb in the Arabic of Khartoum. At fi rst, these are
borrowed and analyzed as aspectual particles, but later people start using
them as person markers so that they correlate with the subject of the verb.
In this respect then, Juba Arabic is developing toward a normal Arabic dia-
lect, with a distinction between a prefi x and a suffi x conjugation.
Another present-day example exists in the secret language (kalamo) spo-
ken by the Anakara clan of the Antaimoro tribe in the southeast of Mada-
gascar (Verseegh 2001). This tribe migrated sometime in the 12th century
from the Arabian Peninsula. Their sacred writings (sorabe) are written in
Arabic script in a mixture of Malagasy and Arabic. The secret language
kalamo contains a large number of Arabic loanwords, as well as Mala-
gasy words that have been coded by various phonological processes. The
analysis of the loanwords helps to elucidate the origin of the kalamo, which
may contain elements of a pre-existing Arabic pidgin. Their phonetic form
shows that the Islamic migrants in Madagascar indeed may have come
originally from the Arabian Peninsula.
In other circumstances, migration may cause a quick language shift.
There may not have been pidginization, which is a gradual and quite gentle
process, but rather a more aggressive language shift within one or two
generations, especially if it was in a nondescript town or tribe with little
power. Arab conquests are usually followed by a large migration of Arab
people into empire regions. With the defeat of the Byzantine and Sassanian
empires, large Arab migrants began to settle in towns, suburbs, and vil-
lages on the outskirts of existing towns. Such migration to the conquered
territories will quickly change the linguistic landscape of the area.
Also, in other territories where there are stronger traditions and cultures
such as in formerly urbanized and imperial societies such as Cairo, Isfahan,
and Constantinople, bilingualism and biculturalism, rather than pidginiza-
tion, is likely to be the norm. In such a scenario, the population maintains
its mother tongue while learning the lingual franca. In bilingual communi-
ties, learners do not merely adopt elements from their mother tongue and
the target language in their efforts to achieve communication in the latter,
96 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
but also creatively adapt the resources they use, formulating and testing
hypotheses to expand their development of the L2 grammar (cf. Briscoe
2003). Depending on the particular historical period, attitudes and politi-
cal persuasion of the learner, this would be an additive or subtractive bilin-
gualism (Vaish 2007a,b). The strategies learners use include various kinds
of regularization of grammatical structure, or other types of “elaborative
simplification” that compensate for their limited knowledge of the target
language grammar. In time, such strategies would contribute to the estab-
lishment of a distinctive variety of the L2 lingua franca.
Additive bilingualism and language maintenance took place in 9th cen-
tury Seville and Cordova, commercially prosperous towns in Spain, with
their own pre-Arab culture and tradition (Lapidus 1988: 378). The Arab
conquest brought diverse speaking groups such as the Bergers and the
Moors from North Africa and founded new kingdoms such as al Andalus.
Although present-day Spain prefers to acknowledge the spiritual and cul-
tural heritage of Latin and its European speakers, nevertheless it is still
possible to see mixed modalities apparent in the surviving skills relating to
material life, especially in art, architecture, music, and literature. Spanish
poetry has an Arab flavor with syllabic prosody from the Arabic tradition
and a rhyme scheme from the Romance tradition. The urbane Baghadi style
was introduced through the poet Ziryab (789–837) to Cordova. The Arabs
also married into Spanish society, and the distinction between original Arab
elite and assimilated Arabs gradually blurred to become a more homoge-
neous Hispano-Arab society. There is a kind of fusion but not replacement
of modern Spanish language, especially in the south. This fusion explains
why Spanish has, in many cases, both Latin and Arabic derived words for
the same meaning. For example, aceituna and oliva (olive), alacrán and
escorpión (scorpion), jaqueca and migraña (migraine), or alcancía and
hucha (piggy bank).18
Just as the varieties of the main cities are often emerging as compet-
ing standards in the civilized world, for example, the role of Indian Eng-
lish, Australian English, and Canadian English today, so too was this the
case with Egyptian Arabic, Persian Arabic, and Iraqi Arabic then and as
it is now. At the time of the fi rst wave of the Arab conquest, the urban
and military centers were starting points for the Arabization process and
played a significant role in the formation and diffusion of the modern dia-
lects. After the liminal period, however, the urban vernaculars of the main
capital cities are likely to have taken over the role of a regional or national
standard. Urban centers, being often wealthier, have dialects that are more
prestigious, and the city becomes a frame of reference. In such a setting, a
number of scenarios may occur and both past and contemporary narratives
indicate that neither a unilateral development nor a single model is pos-
sible. Miller (2003) recounts how in some areas, urban dialects expanded
toward the rural areas and become the prestigious regional/national stan-
dards; and how on other occasions, urban dialects that were associated
The Last Liminal Period 97
with particular urban classes receded in front of new urban forces with a
rural or Bedouin background.
We should not assume at this point that the contingents of military
invaders were all speaking classical or mainstream Arabic. Most probably
they spoke different versions of the lingua franca, having been recruited
from different parts of the Arabic empire as well as from different warring
tribes. We know, for instance, that there were already differences in the
Arabic of the different tribes even in pre-Islamic times. Hence, we must
remember that there are different inputs of the lingua franca in different
parts of the empire by different military legions to make up the different
pidgins. These varying inputs will lead to the formation of different subva-
rieties, which in time will become more and more distinctive. Holes’ (1986,
2004) insight was that the differences between the modern Arabic dialects
must stem from the input, which was not the “Arabiyya” but a range of
slightly different geographical/tribal dialects that shared certain typologi-
cal similarities in opposition to the Arabiyya. Finally, it must be noted that
at times different Islamic practices are associated with dialectal difference,
in the same way that the East-West split of Christianity is seen in the use of
either Greek or Latin (Joseph 2006).

LANGUAGE DEATH AND LANGUAGE RESISTANCE

Lingua francas, particularly those associated with imperialistic powers, are


also not politically neutral tools, being in the maelstrom of great political
and social changes. Like all LFs, the advent of Arabic sounded the death
knell to many of the smaller languages existing at that time. There were a
far greater number of languages in the world then, and the Biblical story of
the tower of Babel may be no exaggeration. Many of these languages were
local and ephemeral, but a significant number became languages of civi-
lization, of government, religion, and literature, each with its own script.
Many of them have long since disappeared through the processes of migra-
tion, colonialization, conquest, and empire and by religious change and
cultural influence (McWhorter 2001).
The lingua franca is often a “killer language,” a “monstrous weed” (Good-
man et al. 2007) in its swift rise to glory. In almost all the provinces west of
Persia, the old native languages has died out once Arabic became the lan-
guage of prestige (Lewis 1998). Hence throughout the liminal period, many
languages, dialects, and varieties of past city-states (together with the towns
and villages they controlled) were all superseded, militaristically but mostly
voluntarily, by the advent of Arabic. Through Arab conquests, what we once
know as “classical” Latin and Greek disappeared. Hellenization, Roman-
ization, Christianization, and now Arabization completed the process of
obliterating most of the ancient languages. Two outstanding ones, which are
not uncoincidentally related to religious impulses, have managed to survive:
98 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
Aramaic and Coptic. Today they are still spoken—although not written—by
small village populations in remote areas in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran.
However, these obliterations must pale in contrast when we think of the Ara-
bization of Southwest Asia and North Africa, regions of ancient, advanced,
and deep-rooted civilizations. The total and final obliteration of these civili-
zations and their replacement by Arabic and Arabization must rank as one of
the most successful cultural revolutions in human history (Hitti 1970).
Languages that did not creatively destroy themselves were those that
sought to survive by borrowing many words from Arabic, such as Swahili,
Persian, Turkish Urdu, and even languages such as Spanish and Portuguese.
According to Aitchison (1991), languages tend to “commit suicide” in their
encounters with dominant languages. This happens when speakers of an
old language continue speaking it but gradually import forms and con-
structions from the socially dominant language, until the old one is no
longer identifiable as a separate language.
As Arabic began to threaten the ancient languages of past empires in the
period of liminality, there was the usual resistance and efforts to maintain
mother tongue status. As evidenced today, the group of people who found
it hardest to accept the new world order and the accompanying linguis-
tic change were usually the ones with memories of past independence and
greatness. In 9th-century Persia, for example, there was a social movement,
chiefly literary, that aimed at denigrating the Arabs and their language and
glorifying instead the non-Arabs, as a means of protecting the Persian lan-
guage. Shu’u’bi philologists went to the height of challenging the power of
Arabic. The historian Hamzah of Isfahan (circa 961) set about the task of
proving that Persian was much better than Arabic since many Arabic words
had their origins in Persian. Persian poets spoke of the glory of Chosroes and
of the mythical heroes of ancient Iran. The stories related in Shahnama, the
Persian Book of Kings, served to buttress the sense of Persian national iden-
tity within the Islamic fold. Despite such measures, Persian reverted to the
Arabic script rather than the older Pahlavi script.19 Persian also underwent
major grammatical and lexical changes. Its grammar, like Anglo-Saxon
grammar (during the Norman conquest) was broken down and simplified
under the impact of conquerors who spoke another language. Its intellec-
tual and spiritual vocabulary became almost entirely Arabic, rather like
the French and the classical vocabulary of post-conquest English. How-
ever, as a sign of cultural protest, although the Persians adopted Arabic
as the language of religion and law and culture and science and contrib-
uted mightily to Arab culture, they did not become totally Arabic speakers.
They retained their own language and identity but in a different form. For
example, although Arabic was for a long time retained as the language
of scripture, theology, and jurisprudence, it was replaced by neo-Persian
as the medium of literature and the instrument of government. Later on,
Persian would join Arabic as the second major classical language of Islamic
civilization, especially in central Asia and Muslim India.
The Last Liminal Period 99
In like manner, although some groups thought it was alright to learn
Arabic and to identify with Arab nations, they were not willing to give
up everything. Lewis (1998) recounts how the Christians and the Jews,
although they spoke Arabic fluently and lived comfortably within the Ara-
bic empire, were not prepared to adopt the Arabic script in their own scrip-
tural writings. For example, while the Arabic-speaking Jews continued to
use the Arabic script when writing on science, medicine, and other topics
of general interest, they used the Hebrew script when writing on matters of
religion and religious law (ibid.).

CONCLUSION

I have recounted how in the course of human history, periods character-


ized by great upheavals and innovations have been followed by periods of
fruition, and later by periods of stagnation and regression. In between such
periods are the liminal periods whereby amidst the confusion and chaos, a
hitherto obscure language may arise to the position of preeminent world lin-
gua franca. In such a scenario, a linguistic maelstrom comes to the fore and
with it the emergence of a lingua franca that must be birthed in a baptism
of fire. Once again, as a means of using the past to illustrate the present, the
preliminary study of the journey of Arabic as a lingua franca in the world
order of city-state to nation-state provides a parallel example by which we
may better understand the present position of English as a lingua franca.
In this last liminal period, Arabic and the Arabs moved ahead to become
the vanguard of civilization. This process weakened allegiances to tribal
society and city-states, and instead fostered new sociopolitical and com-
munal structures, which ultimately led to the formation of mixed Arab
and non-Arab communities. As Arabic spread, the distinction between
Arabs as conqueror and Arabized as conquered faded into insignificance;
and while all who spoke Arabic and professed Islam were felt to belong to
a single community, the term Arab, which had once originally been used
as a form of racial or national descent, became no longer of economic or
social significance. This happened at a time when one cognitive map of the
world gave way to another—the vision of a collective community above
race, religion, and color. For example, impressed by the high standards
of moral conduct and the fact that leadership was based on meritocracy
rather than inheritance, non-Arabs, including Jews and Christians, became
converts and associates and even joined the Arab militia in the new order.
Those who were part of the new order prospered; they became landown-
ers, merchants, and settlers in new land. The Arabs were able to implement
this because the then-novel idea of nationhood afforded them a quantum
organizational leap. Hence, the Islamic civilization was no mere replication
of previous dynastic cycles, but rather the seed of a new world order, an
evolutionary leap into the next cycle of the helicoil.
100 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
The significance of Arabic in the past liminal age cannot be overlooked.
Arabic provided linguistic unity for an otherwise divided world of city-
states. It enabled a melting pot of learning, where the cultural traditions
of India, Persia, Babylon, Egypt, the Byzantium Empire, ancient Greece,
and the Roman Empire were brought together under the patronage of
one language, one way of life, and one common faith. Anyone literate
in Arabic had the opportunity to study the scientific records of almost
all the ancient preceding civilizations in the libraries and many centers
of learning scattered throughout the Islamic empire. The mathematics,
the astronomies, the medicines, the philosophies—in short almost the
whole corpus of ancient knowledge and wisdom which evolved over the
millennia—merged together under one lingua franca. If the existence of
a common means of communication was an advantage to the merchant
class, it was an untold blessing to physicians, scientists, scholars, and
artisans.
In the liminal period under study, Arabic rose in the 7th century as
an obscure language to become a major lingua franca. In the 8th and 9th
centuries, Arabic was involved with sociolinguistic processes such as pid-
ginization, creolization, decreolization, code-mixing, language accom-
modation, bilingualism, language loss, and language shift. From the 10th
century onward, both the Arab nation and its lingua franca had become
secure and widely accepted. By the 11th century, it had become not only
the chief idiom of use from Persia to the Pyrennes, but also the instrument
of culture, superseding traditional LFs such as Coptic, Aramaic, Greek,
and Latin. The evolution of Arabic both as a language and as a harbinger
of a new world order was only interrupted in the 16th century by the Euro-
pean Renaissance. The Europeans developed the idea of nation-states and
a common purpose to a new height in the 17th and 18th centuries through
elements such as “national” or state languages. 20
Today, Arabic still enjoys the legacy of its former imperial status. It
is one of the six official languages of the United Nations and is used by
more than a billion Muslims around the world. 21 While English enjoys the
position as the foremost lingua franca in international communication
today, Arabic numerals retain their legacy as the world’s most used way of
counting. Not surprisingly, in modern narrative, Arabic is often thought
of as “the other” (cf. Pecora 2001), a representative of the past and the
traditional, just as English is seen as a representative of the future and the
modern. This preliminary study of emergent Arabic in the past liminal
period will hopefully enable us to envisage the interactional, transgres-
sional, and transforming relationship between succeeding world orders
and lingua francas. 22 No longer should we be confi ned by Roman/Greek
paradigms of confi ning binary oppositions such as future/past, civilized/
savage, and enlightened/ignorant (which allows the fi rst term of the binary
to unconsciously dominate the second) but be more open to envisage in its
stead a more dynamic helicoil of succeeding world orders.
5 Three Phases of Liminality

As seen in the study of emergent Arabic in the last liminal period, transitional
eras may last a few hundred years, causing tremendous linguistic upheav-
als and attracting varying emotions to languages’ advent and demise. Just
as every world order has forming, norming, and integrating phases, so too
are these phases are discernible in the liminal periods that occur between
world orders and act as a kind of “buffer zones.” While I mentioned these
phases in Chapter 3, it was in terms of the more abstract elements, rules,
and procedures in the functioning of the model. In contrast, this chapter
describes and elaborates in a little more depth on historical and linguistic
scenarios that usually accompany these three phases. This chapter attempts
to understand the reasons behind individuals’, groups’, and governments’
efforts to influence their own or others’ language behavior and attitudes
during the liminal period. It analyses efforts behind attempts to control,
favor, or repress particular forms of languages or varieties in use. This
chapter is organized diachronically, beginning from the fi rst phase, “form-
ing,” continuing with the second “norming” (our major focus), and ending
with the last phase, “integrating.”

FORMING SCENARIO

In all organic formations, the fi rst phase is very confusing because it is


formless. There is no pattern; if one looks at the early behavior of anything,
one fi nds chaos or what appears to be chaos. On later examination, one
discovers not randomness but a creative process at work. It is a process
of trying out different bits and pieces by assembling them into possible
patterns—patterns discernible only at a later stage. A parallel to this pro-
cess can be found in quantum physics where at the beginning of the 20th
century, science ran into a mountain of discontinuities and disorderliness,
which ended with the emergence of quantum physics. From these scientists,
we learn that whenever we try to predict anything based on the past, we are
going to make a mistake. For example, if we try to track a particle that has
been moving from A to B. and we now try to project its trajectory from B to
102 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
C, it will be difficult. In out attempts to predict, the odds are extraordinary
high that we will be wrong. In the present liminal period when new things
are coming together, new juxtapositions are producing in their syntheses
new energies and new phenomena that could not have been predicted. They
are producing “quantum” discontinuities, especially those that have never
before been experienced in the history of civilization. However, when the
phenomena are looked at in aggregate, they will always add up to predict-
able patterns! The interesting thing about probability theory in itself is that
it is not about probability: It is about certainty (Skyttner 2006).
The forming period signifying the beginning of liminality is predictably
dim, shadowy, and with a lack of clear direction or defi nition and fraught
with hesitations and hiccups. If we wish to date it, we could say it began in
the second half of the 19th century and continued right up to the 1960s. It
is a period that “sowed the seeds” and established the foundation of many
things that we live by today. In this period, one may see the world mind
condensed in a new dimension of thought that carried humankind to the
next rung—from the classical world to the infinitely open world. At the
start point, many people are still unclear as to which direction the world
is heading and hence, many of the important innovations, which mark its
identification as the forming period, affect only the elite. The Industrial
Revolution began the road to factory-fi lled cities, gas street lighting, steam
ships, railroad, the fi rst trade unions, free trade, department stores, pho-
tography, typewriters, sewing machines, the Suez Canal ,and the fi rst uni-
versity degrees granted to women. This period saw a tidal wave of scientific
discoveries that were to change forever the platform of running almost
everything that was known. For example, the period from 1880 to 1890
alone saw five amazing discoveries: electricity (platform for all electrical
devices), the telephone (platform for telecommunication), the automobile
(platform for transportation); and aviation and radio (new platform for
communication).1 The generalists of that era were many, and their joint
roles were to dissect the universe, its structures and functions, its directions
and its purposes. In short, it was a period that saw the inception of many
scientific discoveries although it is not possible for us even yet to realize
their full implications.
The new wave of science included Edward Burnet Tyler’s treatise, “A
Science of Culture,” which laid the foundation for cultural anthropology.
Adam Smith gave world dimensions to the new science of economics with
The Wealth of Nations. Darwin abolished the biblical Eden with “On the
Origin of Species.” Marx and Engels expanded Darwin’s theory via Das
Kapital, Herbert Spencer wrote First Principles, a comprehensive science-
based account of evolution. Of special interest, linguists became interested
in language change at the same time that biologists wanted to know how
species changed and political thinkers wanted to know how societies and
political systems changed. They read up on each other’s work and gave
rather similar kinds of answers. According to Lightfoot (2006), linguistics
Three Phases of Liminality 103
began as a historical science and turned out to be tremendously influential
in the 19th century—indeed, at the very center of intellectual life of the
century! Linguists, biologists, and historians talked to each other and read
each other. The work of the linguistics influenced major developments in
biology and history, outstandingly through the work of Charles Darwin
and Karl Marx.
The forming period also saw the destructive powers of a national world
order as it reaches its height and extremity—a natural progression in the
helicoidal movement. This was manifested by multiple eruptions in a sea
of vast sociopolitical cultural confl ict. Contrasting languages were dragged
to the fore—yet another manifestation of the birth of new world orders.
Symbolized by their national languages, nations were compelled to prove
their mettle and pit their might against each other in their struggle for
supremacy, perhaps a sign of defiance, in the face of structural forces that
appear to push nations together toward convergence in increasingly closer
physical contact.
One way to view the battle is in the competition for global lingua franca
status, much like the competition for gold in the Olympic Games. This
competition for supremacy is symbolic of the converging forces toward the
next rung of the helicoil. The individual jealousies of nations compel them
to indulge in a war of “civilizations” where ideas will die, arise, or hybrid-
ize in rapid succession, in turn galvanizing forces in motion for the next
world order. This was most evident in the 20th century where two high
stakes World Wars were fought in the name of nationalism and their atten-
dant national languages. This was also seen in the last liminal period (see
Chapter 4), when Arabic had to compete for supremacy with languages
belonging to major city-states of that time such as Persian, Greek, Egyp-
tian, Aramaic, and Coptic. The myth of a single origin for language and
linguistic superiority of certain languages over others are resurrected as
rallying points for political and ideological conquests. For example, in the
display of Arab nationalism, the assertion that Arabic was the language of
Adam and of paradise can be found in both the apocalyptic literature and
in common Islamic usage (Calvert 1998). One fi nds in common Islamic
usage the idea that no other language can surpass Arabic in eloquence of
poetry, Arabic being the language of God, Adam, and paradise; and the
Arabs as “the chosen people.” However, in the 20th century, languages
connected to university teaching, science, and scholarship, for example,
French, German, Russian, Japanese, and English, rather than those linked
to prominent religions as in the last liminal period, became top contenders
for world lingua franca status.
Of these, German and French were strong contenders in the norming
period. German had become a literary language during the period of Ger-
man classicism, and in the 19th century, it had also earned the reputation
as a worthwhile language of science. In many disciplines, knowledge of
German was a basic requirement internationally up to 1945. Indeed, up
104 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
to the advent of World War II, German was a widely used international
scientific language. However, the expulsion or annihilation of Jews and
other politically “inconvenient” intellectuals lost German much of is inter-
national reputation. Similarly, French was the language used in the royal
courts of Germany, Russia, and Italy as well as the language of diplomacy
up to the mid-20th century. The French have spent enormous amounts of
money to support French teachers all over the world as well as on the Aca-
démie Française to maintain standards of literacy taste as well as to purify
French of foreign loanwords, but unfortunately, to little avail against the
United States, whose dramatic political and economic rise after World War
II capped French ambitions.
For a time, in the middle of the 20 th century, even Russian and Japanese
were strong contenders for global lingua franca status. Russians remain
proud of the fact that their language was the fi rst one spoken in space and
was the lingua franca across most of the Communist world. In the 1950s
and 1960s it was the favorite language not just across the Soviet Union but
also was the favorite foreign lingua franca in China. Unfortunately, today,
Russia suffers from an image problem, with Czechs, Poles, and residents of
other former Warsaw Pact member states resentful at having been forced to
study a language linked with an occupying foreign power. Across former
states of the Soviet Union, only Belarus still recognizes Russian as a state
language; in Turkmenistan, the post-Soviet leadership has sought to erase
all traces of Russia. Finally, although badly emaciated by the World War
II, Japanese as a lingua franca was a notable contender during the heyday
of Japan from the 1960s to the 1980s, the three decades most associated
with what has been called the “Japanese economic miracle,” which lead
many people to gravitate to the learning of Japanese so as to trade or gain
employment with Japanese multi-national companies, then establishing
itself all over the globe.
This is a period that has witnessed the acceleration of population mobility,
the emergence of multicultural societies in many places, and an exponential
increase in human interactions (Chew and Quek 2003). Such phenomena
in multiple destinations lead to the increased occurrences of code-mixing,
borrowing, and other accommodative strategies. Language begins to break
into new varieties in many places, and its diversification is countered by
nationalistic elites anxious to stem the tide of language attrition and the
emergence of new varieties, such as has been evidenced in Persia in the
last liminal age. Scholarly articles extolling the “purity” of the native lan-
guage, concerns about the loss of identity, and other calls to stem the tide
of linguistic change through the propagation of a “standard” will appeal
to the popular imagination and gain mass support. This is not surprising,
since for most inhabitants, their ideas of life would have evolved through a
mindless process of osmosis and unquestioning adoption of norms, induc-
ing a tendency to resist all kinds of change. Understandably, the penetra-
tion of unintelligible foreign speech combined with the attachment to what
Three Phases of Liminality 105
they have grown familiar with all their lives become a destabilizing and
threatening factor. For the well-heeled, linguistic change creates the great-
est discomfort, as they have made enormous personal investment in their
mother tongues and have enjoyed much of their present status and position
as a result of that investment.
Another discernible characteristic of forming is that of political, social,
and linguistic ferment, seemingly without obvious forms of order or direc-
tion. Confl icts over political identities and ethnic fragmentation become
commonplace with the redrawing of political boundaries and the introduc-
tion of new social norms. In the aftermath of European colonialization for
example, most new nations emerged multilingual and multicultural with
geographical boundaries redrawn without much regard to historical, cul-
tural, or linguistic criteria by their former colonial masters. In such sce-
narios, questions such as which local language should be the “national”
or “official” one of the fledging nation became potentially explosive. One
wrong decision would create unrest and civil wars as evidenced in Sri Lanka
since 1983 and in many African states such as Angola from 1975–2002
and the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1960–1965 (Berman, Eyoh,
and Kymlika 2004). 2 Even “stable” societies such as Canada, Britain, Bel-
gium, Spain, France, Italy, and Germany have occasionally felt the trem-
ors of popular ethnic movement and xenophobic racism due in no small
part to passions associated with linguistic chauvinism. Everywhere ethnic
and national identities and their respective languages, linked to the flag of
nationalism, remain highly charged and politically sensitive.
Such eras see people forming ready coalitions against each other on lin-
guistic grounds (Ritt 2004). For example, the violent disintegration of the
Soviet Union follows linguistic borders. Crystal (1997) narrates how for
decades, many people in former Yugoslavia made use of Serbo-Croatian
as a common language but through the cultivation of nationalism since
the civil war of the 1990s, the Serbs have referred to their language as
“Serbian,” the Bosnians to theirs as “Bosnian,” and the Croats to their as
“Croatian,” with each group drawing attention to the linguistic features
that make them distinctive. Another example is that of the “forming” wars
in Africa, which are fought almost exclusively between tribes speaking dif-
ferent tongues. For example, the war in Congo in 2003 drew in factions
and diverse rebel groups with tribal and linguistic connections to the armed
conflicts in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Central African Republic, Congo
Brazzaville, and Angola (Porteus 2004).

NORMING SCENARIO

In the norming scenario, the system no longer appears formless and ran-
dom but takes some kind of discernible shape. This is effected through the
system’s slowdown in the exploring and creating process and an increase in
106 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
its replication and incremental processes. Here, the system will avoid what
is different, look into the environment for similarities and resonant congru-
ities, and try to grow on the extension of its likeness. A creative, integrated
paradigm now begins to emerge. Compared with the forming phase, the
system is very successful in what it is trying to do—that is, to bring to
everyone’s notice (and not just to a small minority), the consciousness of
a new “kind” of world. The beginning of this phase is marked by a mass
realization of perceived increase in global interconnectedness as illustrated
by the strikingly graphic portrait of the Earth that gained prominence at
Expo 1967.3 It was the fi rst icon denoting globalism—a visual that could
not have been imagined as late as the 1950s (Wilson 1991). The replication
of the Big Blue marble since then has been pervasive. Like the crucifi x, the
satellite picture of the Earth is used as a popular and symbolic motif on
clothing, accessories, posters, and advertisements.
Norming is a time when people in general begin to realize that when
we wish to get better in what we do so as to deal with the changes around
us, old solutions simply will not work. This is because we are not dealing
with change that is more rapid, turbulent, and complex but rather with a
new kind of change.4 The only surprise we get today is that we are not sur-
prised. For example, in transnational competition today, some companies
do not even bother with competition anymore: Their issue/vision/goal is
to provide the maximum value for their customer and to make the world
“a better place” (Land and Jarman 1993). One forgets to “compete,” the
business paradigm of the old world order where it is believed that the lack
of competition leads to complacency. This new view is very true of internet
companies that suddenly fi nd themselves in the money, for example, You-
Tube, Amazon, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and so forth. Another example
is that of Wikipedia, founded in 2001, produced by volunteers who add
entries and edit any page, and which has since grown to more than 1.8
million articles in 200 languages. In a bid to wed the comprehensive, grass-
roots information factory of Wikipedia with the authority of the traditional
encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Britannica is opening the floodgates for online
user submissions to its 240-year-old publication, a move it long resisted as
it felt it was a kind of “intellectual pollution” (Buskirk 2008). Suddenly,
customers of these companies get delightfully enamored with what these
innovative startups are trying to do for them that profits begin to pour in
for these companies from other directions. This is quite an amazing con-
cept because it violates, in so many ways, the old business paradigm.
This is an era manifested by a society torn politically and strangulated
economically by forces difficult and too complex to understand. Accord-
ing to futurist John Naisbitt (2006: 22), globalization is a “bottom-up
phenomenon” with all actions “initiated by millions of individuals,” the
sum total of which is globalization; “no one is in charge” and no one can
anticipate what the sum of all the individual initiatives will be before the
result is manifest. It is a time when the man-on-the-street—and not just
Three Phases of Liminality 107
the intellectual elite—is physically and electronically connected through
airplanes, telecommunication, and the Internet. It is a period where the
educated masses are beginning to notice that they are living in an interde-
pendent world and that is trying to grapple with the notion of reality.
Linguistically, this period is characterized by: (a) the rise of a single lin-
gua franca versus that of multiple contenders in the forming period; (b) the
destabilizing orientation of “glocalization” that is, a pull and push between
the local and global; (c) the reality of economic interdependence, which not
only affects the viability of whole nations but also individuals and their
families; and last but not least, (d) by both fascination and repulsion toward
the rise of a dominant LF as well as its precocious offspring.

THE EMERGENCE OF GLOBAL LINGUA FRANCAS

We have recounted in Chapter 3 how English, through some stroke of its


own good fortune, is bound up with our discussion on globalism. While
previously we have highlighted the key factors behind its meteoric rise, this
section will broaden the discussion by bringing in the rise of other regional
lingua francas within the backdrop of norming tendencies. The forming
phase saw German, Russian, English, French, Japanese, and so forth as
strong contenders. However, by the late 20th century, most of these lagged
behind in relation to later entrants—Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish—for a
variety of reasons. At the turn of the 2lst century, the competitors seem
to have been reduced to two: English and Mandarin. This is surprising as
English did not dominate scholarly communication until the 1950s with
the rise of America (Altbach 2007). Similarly, until the late 1970s, China
was very much a “closed-door” Communist country much like what North
Korea and Myanmar are today and its language, Mandarin, was of little
consequence.
The rise of Mandarin can be likened to the rise of the learning of Japa-
nese in the 1960s. At that time, Japanese economic power had stimulated
the learning of Japanese by non-Japanese; today, the economic power of
China is producing a similar boom in Mandarin. Mandarin is rapidly dis-
placing English as the predominant language in Hong Kong and, given the
role of the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, it has become the language
in which much of the region’s international business is transacted. As the
economic power of the West gradually declines relative to Asia, the use of
English and other western LFs will face fierce competition, and if at some
point in the future, China displaces the West as the dominant civilization
in the world, English will give way to Mandarin (Huntington 1996). Chi-
nese is now a much sought after lingua franca and like English, is able to
assess key domains of knowledge and influence such as science, history,
geography, medicine, archaeology, and sociology. Ho (2008) recounts that
in 1969 Chinese was seen as an exotic and difficult language to pick up in
108 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
the U.S.. By 2002, however, as China grabbed more headlines globally, an
estimated 300,000 students from elementary school to college level in the
U.S. were learning Mandarin and they were no longer “heritage learners.”
The 2008 motto of the Olympic Games, “One world, One dream,” repre-
sents Chinese ambitions where globalism is concerned. As China rushes
toward superpower status, English speaking nations such as the United
States are increasingly concerned by the lack of expertise in a language
considered critical to national prosperity and security. There is a rapidly
growing interest in Chinese in major cities and universities and in train-
ing American teachers of Chinese. A National Security Language Initiate
(NSLI) announced by President Bush in January 2006 aimed to strengthen
national security in the 2lst century through education in foreign languages
such as Mandarin. 5 Whether Mandarin will prove to be just a “flash in the
pan” as Japanese was, remains to be seen.
However, in assessing the competition between Mandarin and English,
one notes that it is English rather than Mandarin that has already been
given “global” epithets such as “English as a lingua franca,” “World Eng-
lishes,” and “English as an international language.” Such labels provide
rich picking for the research community and have spawned numerous pub-
lications (e.g., Rubdy and Saraceni 2007, Joseph 2006, Edge 2006, and
Omoniyi and White 2006). According to Kirkpatrick (2008), Chinese may
not win because “the vast majority of people can’t even pronounce the
language, let alone understand them.” Kirkpatrick believes that the script
prevents its rapid growth as a lingua franca and that the effort required
to master Mandarin’s writing system is much greater than that for Eng-
lish. In addition, more Chinese speakers are learning English than English
speakers are learning Chinese (Aglionby 2005). Also, while the U.S. and
Britain make money teaching their language, other countries have to spend
resources in order to encourage speakers of other languages to learn theirs.
In other words, while people are willing to pay from their own pocket to
learn English, they often have to be bribed in order to learn other languages
(Ager 2001).
Notwithstanding, the competition for world lingua franca status is
not completely over. As economic competition becomes fiercer, small
groups of world languages will continue to form an “oligopoly,” each
with particular spheres of influence and regional bases (Graddol 1997).
Since some trade, especially between neighboring countries in Asia and
South America, becomes more important than flows between regional
blocs, we can expect languages that serve regional communication to rise
in popularity. Presently, there is a trend of countries trying to dominate
and create some sort of order among themselves by creating Unions and
Alliances among them; for example, the European Union, African Union,
Association of Southeast Asian Nations, etcetera. In the very near future
we are likely to see more unions and alliances being formed: a bigger
European Union with new member states such as Macedonia, Croatia,
Three Phases of Liminality 109
and Turkey; a union of Asian and Eurasian countries such as Russia,
Mongolia, China, and India; a union of Islamic countries from Middle
East and Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia; a stronger African
Union; a union of Central and South America—for example, Panama,
Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela; and eventually a North American Union
of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Much like the global lingua franca, regional lingua francas also acquire
increasing volatility. They will also begin to change and absorb the lesser
languages with which they come into contact. Regional LFs therefore form
the fi rst line of threat to the national languages of sovereign states, just
as the national language forms the fi rst line of threat to local vernaculars.
In the case of the latter, Vaish (2008) recounts how the rise of Hindi in
India has resulted at the expense of minor Indian languages such as Guje-
rati and Rajesthan. With the growth of intraregional trade and the gradual
demise of smaller languages, regional languages will become “richer” as
they acquire more diverse speakers and extend the range of their functions.
For example, Mandarin will becomes regionally more important, begin-
ning as a lingua franca within Greater China (Hong Kong, Beijing, and
Shanghai, Taiwan) and business communication with overseas Chinese in
Southeast Asia, before competing for world dominance. All things being
equal, it will be a regional rather than a national language that will be a
more likely contender to English. However, regional languages are unlikely
to threaten the dominance of English unless there is some kind of cataclys-
mic change (as outlined in “Caveats” in Chapter 3).

THE PHENOMENON OF “GLOCALIZATION”

Anthropologists, sociolinguists, and postmodernists often perceive lin-


guistic globalization as an evil that runs counter to the cultural interests
of local, indigenous, or minority language groups. However, other more
pragmatic segments of society, such as capitalists, technologists, and sci-
entists, tend to gravitate toward the synergy and cooperativeness inherent
in the era of globalization. Confronted by these alternatives, the masses
are naturally confused as to where their loyalties should lie. At such a
historical bar, we are, typically, experiencing two concurrent, intensify-
ing, and opposing processes—globalization and localization; hence the
term “glocalization.” Here, two opposing macro-cultural orientations
prevail, one representing a globalist perspective and the other a localist
perspective (Alsagoff 2007). Each of these perspectives is associated with
a cluster of referential ideologies relating to culture, capital, and identity.
“Global” looks toward the new order while “local” looks toward the
existing order. The global order is therefore more macro-culture, driven
by economic capital, and is linguistically oriented toward the interna-
tional lingua franca.
110 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
The United Nations and the European Union may be said to be emblem-
atic of glocalization since both are good examples of global bodies with
one foot in the present and the other in the emergent world order and they
therefore can be viewed as marking the interval between the forming and
norming phases. In the case of the United Nations, it has elected, among
the world’s 6000 existing languages, only Chinese, English, French, Rus-
sian, Spanish, and Arabic as official languages, but uses only English and
French as working languages. As early as 1995, the U.N. Commission on
World Governance (1995) called for a looser interpretation of the report of
national sovereignty through eloquent and timely arguments on the inter-
dependence of national economies and the environment. However, this was
done gingerly, ostensibly because the U.N. did not wish to antagonize the
governments that are their paymasters. Were the reforms proposed by the
1995 Commission to be realized, the world would have immediately pro-
ceeded to the integrating phase, because that is precisely what the Commis-
sion advocated without admitting it. One cannot then begrudge the U.N.
the innocent cover of “world governance,” a phrase that makes a distinc-
tion without a difference. Indeed, in the political and ideological climate
then and at present, prominent political figures would risk their standing
were they to utter the words “world government.”
The European Union, a more recent and delicate body that must display
its sensitivity to the language diversity of its member nations, has recog-
nized many languages by making them official ones. In practice, however,
administrative action in Brussels is increasingly likely to be in English, as
multiple translations would render it impractical for administrative effi-
ciency (Phillipson 2003). Like the U.N., the European Union may be said
to be neither here nor there, with one foot in each cycle, for it must protect
is saliency by shrewdly reflecting both the viewpoints of a resilient localism
and an emergent globalism.
The glocal period is one of great political, social, and cultural confl ict.
Politically, while the definitions of sovereignty or state, or even nation may
begin to loosen and vary, every government jealously guards its preroga-
tives. Governments of nation-states are not ready to surrender any elements
of their power. In fact, the trend of the last several decades has been toward
the multiplication of national sovereignties, as evidenced in the rise in mem-
bership states in the United Nations.6 National introversion and neonation-
alisms are on the rise. The more governments are frustrated by problems
that are intractable on the national level, for example, the fi nancial crisis of
2008, the more likely they are to take recourse in protectionism and arma-
ments to safeguard their perceived interests. In the First World, the welfare
state prompts an expansion of the public sector and impedes structural
adjustments that would otherwise be available in liberal free-market soci-
ety. In the Third World, national elites continue nation building with key
words such as “national unity,” “national economy,” “national culture,”
and “national identity.” In the norming era, it may be concluded that it is
Three Phases of Liminality 111
intellectually difficult to go local or global. For example, French philoso-
pher Charles Manent (2007: 49) sees the nations’ past as made up of “col-
lective crimes and unjustifiable restraints;” yet he is also troubled by the
erosion—perhaps the dismantling—of the political form “that for so many
centuries has sheltered the endeavors of European man.”
Like their owners, languages compete aggressively for power in a
changed world. However, once a language comes to the fore in a state’s
education system, a storm of both opposition and acceptance will often
arise. Its status will be fiercely debated in public. Basically, there are two
groups of “realists.” One is fundamentally Hobbesian in nature, who will
assume an environment of hostility or suspicion toward arguments for a
“supra” organization above the existing one. In the tribal world order, they
will argue that just as multi-tribes will never be united into city-states, so
too will multi-tribes never speak the same language. There is therefore no
necessity for a supralanguage (cf. Kahn and Kellner 2007).7 For example,
today, the French, in resisting the “imperialism of English,” will argue that
they are not anti-English, but simply resisting uniformity—and that that
is about safeguarding cultural and linguistic diversity (Wright 2006: 42).
The “resistance” also surfaces in the book series on linguistic diversity and
language rights edited by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (2000) and case studies of
perspectives of language problems and diversities (Razool 2007). There are
real fears here that the rise of English signals a hegemonial ideology whose
beneficiaries are primarily a few big transnational-corporations (TNCs)
that are mostly situated in the North. There are also fears of cultural loss.8
For example, young English-speaking Pakistanis are already disserting their
traditional music for Western pop music, which they can understand. In
Korea, traditional music such as the Aark, the Hyang-ak, and the Dang-ak,
which has lost its mass appeal to that of Western-style pop music, is now
performed very rarely except through government sponsored organizations
such as The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. Last
but not least, the relationship between the self and “the other” is a key area
in post-colonial studies, and there are many discourses about colonialism,
and of colonial and colonized nations, for example Castle (2006) and De
Lange (2008).
In contrast, the other group of realists will recognize the possibilities of
establishing an equilibrium that will lead to the advantages of economic
and cultural cooperation. Janina Brutt-Griffler (2002) looks at English lan-
guage learners not as passive recipients but as active agents of appropriation
of the language. Her interpretation of English as the preferred language at
international levels is rooted in the desire by whole speech communities
across the world to acquire the language as part of their struggle to be
freed from the colonial burden. As great a paradox as this may seem, Brutt-
Griffler quite reasonably argues that colonized people have used the colo-
nizer’s language as a fundamental tool in their quest for freedom. Juliane
House (Global Envision 2004) notes that the spread of English can actually
112 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
enhance the preservation of local dialects since it motivates its nonnative
learners to insist on the maintenance of their own language for identifica-
tion and for binding them emotionally to their own cultural and historical
tradition. Sengupta (2007: 17) notes that the LF is often the gatekeeper of
education and power, and if access to high proficiency English is limited, it
may serve to perpetuate neocolonial power structures instead of getting rid
of them. Others such as Ostler (2006) notes that there may be “something
different” about English, because of the scale of language spread as well as
the presence of the broadcast media, computer networks, and text messag-
ing, “aspects never seen before.”
Such ongoing debates will naturally add fuel to nationalistic and ethnic
ferment, essential ingredients of liminal ages. People become conscious of
their own diversity where they were not so before. Indeed, the paradox is
that the more global we become, the more consciously (or unconsciously)
concerned we will be about cultural identity. This pull and attention is one
of the constancies accompanying ideological and linguistic change (Ager
2001). For example, France has passed laws making it a criminal offence
to use some English words. Belgium has been divided along linguistic lines
(Ulrich 2001). Quecha is looked upon as a threatened language in need of
protection and support (Maurais and Morris 2003). Anti-Hispanic feeling
in the United States has led to some states declaring English their official
language and barring welfare provisions for illegal immigrants speaking
other languages (Napoli 2003). More recently in 2009, Malaysian NGO
rallied in the streets with coffi ns to protest against “the death of the Malay
language” as a means to pressure the government to “Save the Malay
language” in view of its recent decision to increase curriculum time for
English.9 Just as English is now the fi rst language of most of the people
in Wales, so Welsh has also experienced a revival in recent years (Mar-
shall 2004). Similarly, some speakers of “Doric” in Scotland seems to have
resisted change quite strongly, and that has drawn attention to the area
(ibid.). The European Charter for Regional and Minority languages has
been approved by more and more governments, and many more people
have gone to the courts to protect their linguistic human rights to use one
language rather than another (Ager 2001). Recent advances in personal
computers are also enabling much smaller social and political groups and
ethnic and linguistic communities to create and sustain their own dense
social and cultural networks, in opposition both to the nation-states and to
a wider continental global culture.

ECONOMIC INTERDEPENDENCE:
PEDAGOGY IN THE NORMING ERA

The reality of economic interdependence has direct repercussions on the


state education system and hence, the life of the individual. For one, it
Three Phases of Liminality 113
makes the lingua franca “a commodity” as signified by, for example, the
fact that English is the official language of the European Central Bank
even though the bank is in Frankfurt, Germany, and also by the fact that
no predominantly English-speaking country is a member of the European
Monetary Union. As a commodity, it is often taken out of, and treated
differently from, other languages in the foreign languages curriculum all
over the globe and repositioned, as Graddol (2006) puts it, as a basic skill,
alongside basic literacy, numeracy, and computer skills.
There is a global push to teach English at ever younger ages in formal
instructional settings (Hayes 2008). In the forming period, countries such
as India, Malaysia, and the Philippines promoted nationhood through the
elevation of a single native language within their linguistically and often
racially and culturally diverse populations, for example, Hindi in India,
Tagalog in the Philippines, and Bahasa Melayu in Malaysia. Today, how-
ever, an “about turn” is seen in Malaysia, which has recently announced its
intention to train 30,000 teachers to teach mathematics and science from
primary school level through English (Whitehead 2008). Vaish (2008) notes
that instead of offering English in secondary school as required by the tra-
ditional Three Language formula in India’s education policy, many govern-
ment schools in Delhi are offering English from nursery school on as one of
the mediums of instruction.10 This is the case not just in former British colo-
nies but also in French ones such as Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam (Tsui
and Tollefson 2006). Even noncolonial countries such as Thailand have
recently launched its fi rst royal blog with the aim of persuaded its citizens
to embrace English. Last but not least, in Taiwan in 2001 English officially
became a required course for all 5th graders (Chang 2008). Such a “rever-
sal” on the part of former colonies to implement the widespread teaching
of English in elementary school is a marked contrast to the nationalistic
linguistic ideology that they expounded some 50 years preceding; when at
the fi rst flush of independence these new nations were inspired to use their
own language as the medium of instruction and language of work. One
Kenyan author, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, recalls his decision to reject English as
the medium of expression for his work in favor of Gikuyu and Kiswahili,
on the grounds that language had became the most visible and significant
existential marker for the nation (Goodman et al. 2007). Half a century
later, English is beginning to appear no longer special, odd, foreign, or even
the language of a former imperial power and no longer a second language.
It would be unusual to expect another Ngugi wa Thiong’o today.
The teaching of ESL and EFL in elementary schools is not only taking
place in former colonies but also among the former imperialistic states in
Europe! Enever’s (2007) report shows a strong preference for a starting age
of approximately 6 years old, with a secondary preference for those 8 to 9
years old. Some 14 nations now introduce a second/foreign language in the
fi rst year of schooling.This phenomena of an early start with global English
contrasts with the forming period when Europeans brought peasants into
114 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
the workforce by teaching them to read and write the national language; in
the norming period, the equivalent challenge is to master Europe’s lingua
franca! Those that fail—countries, companies, and individuals alike—risk
falling far behind. According to Baker et al. (2001), speaking the lingua
franca separates the haves from the have-nots. English speakers are reported
to earn more, have better jobs, more opportunities in jobs from offices to
the factory floor; recruiters say that workers who speak English often com-
mand salaries 25% to 35% above those who do not (ibid.: 2).

Precocious Offspring: the New Englishes


Last but not least, the norming period sees the inevitable birth of varieties
of the dominant lingua franca, the so called “New Englishes.” New Eng-
lishes are usually birthed at the stage when English becomes a Medium of
Instruction (MOI) in the school system, as in the case of India, Malaysia,
and the Philippines. This is a situation where people begin to use English
seriously, leading inevitably to distinct experimentation of the language, a
process that causes it to change irretrievably. For Tollefson and Tsui (2004),
MOI are the most powerful means of intergenerational transmission and
the most direct agent of linguistic genocide. Not surprisingly, English as
MOI are often strongly opposed and strongly welcomed.11 A case in point
is the Republic of South Korea, which is facing massive opposition in its
efforts to introduce an immersion program in primary school, not least
because of the practical shortage of fluent English teachers (Straits Times
2008). Nevertheless, some impatient 100,000 South Korean families have
sent their children outside Korean with their mothers in an effort to learn
English through the methodology of immersion (MOI), rather than wait
for street protests to simmer down (Park and Bae 2008). The last decade
has seen South Koreans with their children studying overseas—starting in
elementary school—in the belief that they will absorb English more eas-
ily at that age.12 It used to be only wealthy families who would send their
children abroad, but in the last few years, middle-class families have also
headed to less expensive destinations such as Canada, Australia, New
Zealand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore (Onishi 2008). In this
way, they are not unlike the “study mamas” (陪读妈妈), from the People’s
Republic of China (PRC), who have accompanied their offspring to various
parts of the world in search of English medium education for their children
(Chew forthcoming).
Kachru’s (1985) model of New Englishes points to an “inner circle” of
extremely fortunate people whose mother tongue is the lingua franca and
who are likely to be emulated; a second “outer circle” of those who are
bilingual in both their mother tongues and a variety of English; and a third
“expanding circle” group that is grappling to learn the lingua franca as a
“foreign” language (see Chapter 1). An example of New Englishes is Indian
English, of which there are many subvarieties. For example, “Hinglish,”
Three Phases of Liminality 115
is a vague phrase that can refer to a use of English containing occasional
Hindi words or to a much more fundamental code-mixing of the two lan-
guages, unintelligible to a monolingual English speaker, and heard daily on
FM radio in Delhi. However, Indian English is a much broader notion than
Hinglish, applicable to the whole of India, including those regions where
other languages are used. There we fi nd Punglish (mixing with Punjabi),
Tamilish (mixing with Tamil), and many others.
As with Arabic (Chapter 4), the emergent lingua franca becomes increas-
ingly volatile, alongside the structure of other languages with which it has
been in close contact, either by way of borrowing, code-mixing, or via the
process of linguistic assimilation known as Englishization (see Chapter 4).
Baik (2001) has noted the process of Englishization in Korean. Similarly,
the Englishized variety of Mandarin in Taiwan is at a morpho-syntactic
level. In both cases, the degree of compatibility of the Englishized features
with the native Chinese grammar determines the degree of their usage and
their attitudinal acceptability by the public. Already language mixing is
predominant in advertisements worldwide (Hilgendorf and Martin 2001).
According to Moag (1992), attitudes to varieties of New Englishes
become changed through time as a result of contact with local languages
and cultures. It is a model that bears striking resemblance to the three
phases of liminality. This is because the indigenous variety is at fi rst con-
sidered inferior to the originally imported one but gradually it becomes
accepted and institutionalized. For example, in the fi rst phase, the speakers
of the local variety are prejudiced against it and believe that some imported
native speaker variety is superior and should be the model for language
learning in school. The second phase sees the existence of the local and
imported variety existing side by side, where the local variety is now used
for a wide range of purposes but still considered inferior to the imported
model. The third phase sees the local variety recognized as the norm and
becoming the model for language learning in schools.

INTEGRATING SCENARIO

The last phase—“integrating”—occurs when the new “pattern” is opened


up and room is made available for the integration to itself of what is dif-
ferent. This phase is also “integrating” because liminality, having run its
course, is now heading toward its eventual integration with the next rung
of the helicoil. Here, the organism avoids the a priori rule operational in the
previous two scenarios, that is, avoiding the new and different. Instead, it
fi nds it necessary to open up the pattern and make room for the integration
of the new and different, which will signify “the new world order.” We do
not have a commencement date for this period—but it will become obvious
once it has begun, for out of chaos can only come certainty (see Chapters 2
and 3). On the linguistic stage, “purist” concerns and ecologically inspired
116 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
references to a past period of “linguistic excellence,” versus current periods
of “linguistic decadence,” will be relatively scaled down in relation to the
two preceding phases.
The global-local, universalist-particularist, homogenous-heterogeneous
divide that characterized the norming phase now gives way to a less ago-
nistic outlook. There is instead a universal recognition for global com-
munication in the service of a potentially explosive ethnolinguistically
heterogeneous world. There will be less resentment and dissension about
the role of the lingua franca; most will agree that its primary function is
international research, information management, media, technical coop-
eration, military communication, and informal interethnic contact. In
contrast with forming periods where politics overwhelm economics, the
norming and integrating period attracts an opposite motion. The new eco-
nomic order becomes an entity that engages the attention of politicians,
economists, and sociologists. The movement of sovereign wealth funds
adds to the interconnections of nations, and each and every nation becomes
bound to the well-being of the other. The logic of market exchange begins
to put considerable pressure on the underlying foundation of nationhood
and many states begin to fi nd themselves forced to make pragmatic deci-
sions rather than purely nationalistic ones (Wu 2008). In such a scenario,
such questions as “Which is better: to belong to a loving family of three
or to a loving extended family of thirty-nine?” and “Is it better to belong
to one nation among competing nations or to a united world?” and “In
which conditions do we have the greater opportunity for our own personal
development?” come to the fore.
Meanwhile, the powers of sovereign states will continue to “decline”
with the practice of outsourcing by transnational corporations, many of
whose annual incomes ironically exceed that of nation-states. Birthed and
considered “unique” in the norming phase, the practice of “outsourcing”
will be considered commonplace in the integrating phase, with many trans-
nationals owning facilities outside their home countries, coordinating their
activities with many entities throughout the world, and aided by complex
networks of production and fi nance. For example, in the sector of trans-
national health care, more than 85% of the Philippines’ certified health
care workers are already working abroad.13 In addition, in his study of
population movements and transnational labor mobility in Japan, Chapple
(2008) notes a trend toward tabunka kyosei (multicultural co-existence),
with many Japanese visiting health care facilities in Thailand, in the same
way that Indonesians and Vietnamese seek health care facilities in Malay-
sia and Singapore (Toyota 2008). Finally, many countries, for example,
Kazakhstan and Russia, are experiencing a demographic crisis that can
only be offset by the acceptance of migrants (Dave 2007).14
Corporations will gravitate toward the countries with the lowest wages
and help extend competition among workers to a global level. Let us take
the case of e-tutoring as an example. Here, foreign tutors, for example,
Three Phases of Liminality 117
from India and the Philippines, can provide struggling learners alterna-
tive avenues for learning at an affordable cost. An American or Taiwanese
tutee can received unlimited hours of e-tutoring assistance with homework
in various school subjects from, for example, India’s e-tutors by paying
$100 per month. By contrast U.S.-based online tutors charge an average
of $40 per hour for academic assistance. It makes sense then for a lan-
guage learner to source for tutors around the world through communica-
tive devices such as Skype and better ones yet to be invented (cf. Liu 2007).
Despite the fact that people may question whether an Indian tutors’ input
would lead to possible fossilization of a foreign accent by students, these
remain essentially chauvinistic questions that are asked from the perspec-
tive of the norming period but which will become increasingly irrelevant in
the integrating period.
Since the LF cannot be sans culture, it becomes transformed through the
adaptation of many voices (the New Englishes) and in this way it realizes
different cultural ways of thinking and behaving. Initially, new Englishes
were created by the uneducated due to insufficient mastery of the language
or a lack of exposure. However this nonstandard form catches the popular
imagination and in time becomes a functional variant in the sense that it
is adopted for use by the educated in a wide range of domains at will (e.g.,
Kenya, Mauritius, and the West Indies). The sociolectal variety of English
that a speaker will use will depend on the tension between the centripetal
and centrifugal forces. The centripetal forces push it toward homogeneity
or sameness with the rest of civilization while the centrifugal pushes speak-
ers toward heterogeneity. According to Alsagoff (2009), the type of English
used, whether international or local, depends on the sociocultural orienta-
tion of its users. The use of the international (standard) variety will signal
a global perspective implying formality, distance authority, educational
and economic value. On the other hand, the use of the local or vernacular
variety will signal a localist perspective associated with informality, famil-
iarity, equality, and membership. Speakers of New Englishes will operate
along their sociocultural orientation.
As more and more people speak English as a lingua franca, they become
the inevitable majority and, in time, it is likely that speakers from the outer
circles will be regarded as native speakers rather than those from the inner
circle (cf Jenkins 2007: 28). Indeed, the word “native” will no longer make
any sense as all local standard varieties will be “native.” The idea of enfran-
chising those who have been referred to as nonnative teachers of English
has already been set in motion in 1998. The NNS in TESOL (NNEST)
Caucus was formally constituted with a clear political agenda of emanci-
pating NNS teachers of English worldwide from their currently pariah sta-
tus (cf. Crystal 2004a). The integrating phase will commence when English
isno longer “special,” “odd,” “foreign,” or even viewed as the language of
a former imperial power, and where resistance is kept at a minimum. In
other words, while opposition to the lingua franca may be potent in the
118 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
forming and norming eras, it will be less so in the integrating era, for by
then more and more people would have graduated from English-medium
schools. While the rise of English gave English-speaking nations a head
start advantage in the world arena, this is possible only in the forming
and norming phases, for as more and more nonnative speakers begin to
learn English from an early age, the “hegemony” of English will disappear
and along with it “linguistic imperialism.” Indeed, in the integrating phase
more and more nonnative speakers will begin to compete with traditional
native speakers for the top literary and journalist prizes—and win them.15
The sheer numbers of nonnative speakers of English will ensure that the
New Englishes will no longer be seen as “inferior” and British/American
English as the only “proper” English. Indeed, language examining boards
will be forced to look seriously into considering as standard the educated
variety of all the new Englishes.
Already, the number of nonnative speakers of English, which in 2005
outnumbered native speakers 3:1, means that they will not just absorb the
language but also shape it, and in the process empower themselves. The
ratio will continue to widen and with it, corresponding ripples with world-
order implications. According to the British Council (Breaking News 2004),
two billion people will start learning English around the world by 2015,
and three billion people—half the planet—will be speaking it The case
of India may enable us to see the ramifications of such a scenario. India’s
population reached 1 billion in the 1990s and has been growing at 3% a
year since then. Crystal (2004b), quoting an India Today survey, suggested
that about a third of the population had the ability to carry on a conversa-
tion in English, given the steady increase in English learning since 1997 in
schools and the fact that there are at least 350 million among the upwardly
mobile (a figure equal to the combined populations of Britain, the U.S.,
Australia, and New Zealand). Indeed, according to Graddoll (2006), many
English language teachers may be out of a job by 2050 because by then,
many people will be able to speak English because of efforts commenced in
the norming period for it be used as a medium of instruction in universities
and at elementary levels.

THE JOURNEY OF MULTILINGUALISM,


BILINGUALISM, AND THE LINGUA FRANCA

Convulsive forces will irretrievably continue to push the world to the next
spiral, which in itself will activate unprecedented language change. The
integrating period will see “bilingualism” rather than multilingualism,
used as a cover term to refer to the learning of “native tongue (NT) as well
as the LF,” to “LF as well as NT” and fi nally to “LF instead of NT.”
No longer will bilingualism mean the learning of any two languages
as in the forming and norming phase but rather will refer to the learning
Three Phases of Liminality 119
of two languages, one of which must be the lingua franca of the world.
Here, the official/national language of the nation is learnt for a smaller,
more immediate sphere of interaction while the global franca is learnt for
communication in the global age. This is not so much natural bilingualism
achieved through informal acquisition but academic bilingualism. It will
be a situation much like the European Union is in now—attempting to
fi nd a single language agreed upon by all member states in addition to the
mother tongue (Wright 2000). It is a case whereby the global language pro-
vides access to the world community and the native tongue provides access
to a local community, such as in East Africa, where Tanzania is develop-
ing alongside English (Maurais and Morris 2003) and in Paraguay where
Guarani is being developed with the aim of using it to increase national
awareness (Engerman and Metzer 2004). Countries will give the emergent
lingua franca a special place within their communities, such as a priority
in a country’s foreign language teaching program, even though they have
few or no mother tongue speakers using it. They will make it into an offi-
cial language, or a medium of communication in schools, courts, media,
etcetera. Currently countries like Scandinavia and Holland, out of practical
necessity, already represent the linguistic situation that will soon prevail
elsewhere in the world.
Commodified bilingualism (Heller 2000), a child of globalization and
corporate capitalism, becomes prevalent. The new economic order places
some form of language mix at the center of power and status, since a “hip”
hallmark of post modernity is hybridity, as are other forms of blurred and
multiplex identities and practices. Saxena’s (forthcoming) study on Bru-
nei youths shows that youths habitually codemix and codeswitch between
Malay and English so as to create particular effects, for example, to rede-
fi ne a situation as formal or informal or to project a particular temporary
identity. For Heller (2000), bilingualism is both a means of wielding and
resisting power. She notes that popular culture, such as that displayed in
the multilingualism of the songs of the Pet Shop Boys, includes the voice
of elite multilinguals who also invoked the voice of monolinguals who feel
marginalized by elite multilingualism. While schools may have been a safe
haven for non-LF minority families in forming and norming phases, they
will increasingly become a site of struggle over a commodified bilingualism
in the integrating phase (ibid. 2000). This is because schools have a mission
to prepare students for entry into the modern world, which is to acquire
forms of linguistic capital that are understood as having value, not primar-
ily within the confi nes of the minority market, but rather on the broad,
global market.
As in previous world orders, a “bilingual policy” often means a mini-
mum of three languages in use: that is, the mother tongue (usually unrecog-
nized and belonging to the former world order), the tongue of the national
order, and the tongue of the emergent world order (see Chapter 2). Out-
side the home, the citizenry is likely to speak the national tongue among
120 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
themselves while also actively using a metropolitan language, which in the
present era is likely to be English, Arabic, Spanish, or Mandarin to commu-
nicate with insiders. Academic bilingualism will eventually become natural
bilingualism. In big populations, such a process may exist for generations,
but in small populations it usually leads to a relatively swift replacement by
the metropolitan tongue. This is because once contact is established with
a “powerful” lingua franca, parents the world over will always urge their
children to accommodate themselves, wishing for their safety and better-
ment, even if they themselves do not do so (Spolsky 2007). The children
will then proceed to be “bilingual” in school and are likely to later become
more fluent in the lingua franca than the native language in the global
world order.
In the longer term, a bilingualism associated with the dominant lingua
franca often leads to “monolingualism,” especially in public domains. Bilin-
gualism will move from “NT as well as LF” to “LF as well as NT.” In this
sense, bilingualism is usually a cover term for language shift because shift
cannot be effected without an intervening period of bilingualism in the
“shifting” community. What usually happens is that in the initial phases of
the bilingual relationship, the languages may show specific distribution pat-
terns over specific domains. More public and formal domains may, by force
of circumstances, be allotted to the dominant societal language with more
informal and personal domains, such as the home, allotted to the minor-
ity language. Language shift will involve the progressive redistribution of
the languages over three domains, usually with the home, religion, and
folk songs and tales being the last bastions of survival for the dominated
language. Eventually bilingualism will not even mean “LF as well as NT”
but rather “the LF instead of NT.” This is partly because more and more
people will arrive at the logical conclusion that translations are in reality
inefficient and time-consuming ways to communicate or gain knowledge.
In addition, no translations can adequately convey the subtle meaning of
words themselves; especially in unfamiliar cultural contexts that are now
at our doorsteps.
This is not quite a dreadful monolingual situation as one may fear, since
the concept of monolingualism is in reality a myth even in “monolingual”
countries such as the U.K., U.S. Canada, South Africa, and Australia (cf.
Edwards 2004). This is because even when one is speaking one’s native
language, there are often many varieties of that language that must be mas-
tered. For example, Standard English is not an acquired “mother tongue”
but a learned variety even for native speakers (Baldauf 2005). Monolin-
gualism will involve the speaking of varieties of English and hence a bilin-
gualism of sorts will still be the order of the day, but it will all stem from
the varieties of the lingua franca. In other words, even if everyone on the
globe spoke English, they would not speak English the same way.
The LF, should it be English, will undergo a “baptism of fi re” in the sense
that it has to “die,” by absorbing the multifarious semantics and syntax of a
Three Phases of Liminality 121
sea of language, in order to “live.” To extinguish oneself is not as terrifying
as it sounds since our cells, like our languages, are dying all the time and
new ones are replacing them. Linguistic changes in the English language in
the past have been staple, but breakneck changes have become more rapid
from the dawn of the liminal period in the 19th century. These changes have
stemmed, obviously, from its process in going from being a language of a
nation to a language of a wider community. One notes, for example, that
the spoken language of the educated classes of English is moving further
and further away from the written language of the 19th century (Brinton
and Arnovick 2006). Indeed, the more sophisticated the young people, the
greater the difference. The many phases of the movement toward modern,
spoken, or colloquial standards in literature, drama, translation, and pub-
lic speaking are merely symptoms of the linguistic revolution of the forming
period. In 1937, Firth (1937) himself expressed the opinion that English
has changed more during the past 25 years than in the previous century in
which events moved at a greater pace than ever before in human history.
In the integrating phase, English will no longer be the “English” we
know today since language has a habit of multiplying into different sublan-
guages. As a lingua franca, English would have changed to accommodate
all the lexical and syntactic resources of the world’s culture and would have
become “simplified” or “nativized” to such an extent that people all over
the globe would feel comfortable using it. The English, like the Qurashi
tribe of Arabia (see Chapter 4), would have lost the ownership of “their”
language. Only in this way can English spread, perhaps not as a “monstrous
weed” but as a “benevolent” breeze (Goodman et al. 2007). The different
regions in the world will speak English with their own distinctive accents
and lexis. In this era Salman Rushdie’s (1992) insight: “to conquer English
may be to complete the process of making ourselves free” becomes real. It
will also be a time when technological innovations in the media industry
will ensure that the minimum intelligibility criteria will be met whatever
the choice of English. The increasing varieties of Englishes that exist will be
translatable into each other (just as different languages are translatable into
each other today through technology) through the use of handheld voiced
computer devices (Pagnucci and Mauriello 2008).
The many standard varieties of English around the world will be mutu-
ally intelligible, thanks to the pervasive influence of the mass media, tech-
nological advancements, and budget travel. This will foster an age whereby
“everyone would have fluent command of a single world language since this
presents us with unprecedented possibilities for mutual understanding and
fresh opportunities for international cooperation” (Crystal 1997: viii). Such
an age calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has
animated for the human race. It insists upon the subordination of national
impulses and interests to the imperative claims of a unified world. It repu-
diates excessive centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at
uniformity on the other. Its watchword is “unity in diversity,” a phrase that
122 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
has been bandied about widely since the norming era but not reflected on
deeply.16
The end of the integrating phrase will come when English extinguishes as
a “lingua franca” and is rebirthed as multiple Local Standard Englishes. At
that moment of critical mass, “the tipping point,” the momentum becomes
unstoppable and the liminal period comes to an end, and with it the strug-
gle of a substrate nationalism and a suprastate world order.

CONCLUSION

As with every liminal age, two paradoxical tendencies can be discerned—


“shrinking” and “growing.” The shrinking here refers to the world getting
smaller and smaller, resulting in what has been called globalization. The
growing tendency, on the other hand, is apparent in the fact that the United
Nations has more member states than it has ever had before. Thus, while
technological inventions integrate diverse people and create the global vil-
lage, another process—a destructive one—also threatens to tear it apart.
This is evident in such phenomena as the upsurge in racial and national ani-
mosities; the spread of terrorism and violence; the breakdown of families;
the corrosion of human relations; and the increasing signs of suspicion and
fear. One significant fact emerges and that is, that whether or not a nation is
caught up in the growing and shrinking processes, all nations are becoming
more and more economically interdependent. As the world shrinks, people
are thrown together more and more and a lingua franca becomes vital for
communication. Similarly, as the world grows, with ever increasing smaller
states, such states become less self sufficient than before and thereby more
and more interdependent on other states for their political and economic
survival, once again necessitating the need for a lingua franca. However
one looks at it, structural processes such as these are intertwined with the
emergence of lingua francas.
In the forming period, such a momentum is discernible only to a small
group of people. However, by the norming period, it would have affected
the lives of masses of people, perhaps not directly but through the educa-
tional and work environments. There is much resentment and injustice due
to the asymmetrical and abrupt nature of the process, and the spread of
the emergent lingua franca will symbolize for many the domination of the
weak by the strong. However, by the integrating period, the flow of interde-
pendence is no longer as asymmetrical as before,but becomes one in which
interdependence is transformed into a more level playing field as younger
generations now speak the global lingua franca and become transnationals
both literally and metaphorically.
While globalization is barely perceptible in the forming period, it has
reached the level of mass consciousness in the norming period. Neverthe-
less, while it enters into popular consciousness, its spread is superficial and
Three Phases of Liminality 123
nonassimilationist, allowing only for cultural differentiation and variety in
local contexts. In the integrating period, however, there is likely to be more
assimilation of the dominant culture and language and correspondingly, the
erosion of local languages and cultures, but this comes with less resistance.
While lingua francas fight for supremacy in the forming period, usually one
appears to dominate the stage in the norming period, leading that language
to be bathed in cultural mixing and hybridity. By the integrating period, the
growth of new varieties of the dominant lingua franca would have shown
that the interaction was not just one way but also bi-directional. Accord-
ing to Bhagwati (2004), globalization is beneficial because public policy
and structural reorganization to the global environment, which often lags
behind socioeconomic and personal transformations, will eventually come
to pass and create a level plain field or a “flat world.” Nevertheless, in the
short term, as amply shown in postcolonial perspectives, globalization is
likely to benefit only a minority, mainly the elites who are the fi rst to pos-
sess the linguistic capital of the global world order.
On a reflective note, the study of systems also indicates a possibility
that there will be a time in the distant future when even larger regional
languages too will be lost. As history has shown, one need not be a minor-
ity to lose one’s language. For example, most of Europe’s majority lan-
guages were replaced by minority Indo-European tongues in various waves
of incursion from the East. Languages that are likely to survive through to
the next world order are likely to be those that are linked to languages pos-
sessing powerful religions texts such as Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit,
Latin, and Pali (cf. Fishman 1989).
Finally, it should be noted that although I have charted the “framing,”
“norming,” and “integrating” to be just like family, tribe, and city-state
distinctly and sequentially for ease of description (see Chapter 2); in real-
ity, these phases are not as neat, obvious, or sequential as they may appear.
They are likely to merge into one another, and sometimes even regress or
stagnate. These are patterns seen from a far rather than near perspective.
For a nearer perspective of how these phases may work for a particular
nation, we now turn to a case study of Singapore.
6 Embracing Liminality
A Case Study of Singapore

While liminality is basically a “punctuation,” a chaotic period between


two states of equilibrium, it is not completely formless or unpredictable,
and has been divided theoretically in my study (Chapters 3 and 5) into the
three key phases, namely forming, norming, and integrating. The forming,
norming and integrating phases can also be seen as metaphors applicable to
phases in the systemic growth of organisms and entities, with the boundar-
ies undeniably “soft,” as overlapping features may be found in each period.
I will now attempt to apply this model to processes of language planning
in Singapore.1
LFs are not alien to the history of Singapore. For example, Papiah
Kristang (spoken Portuguese) dates from a 15th century Portuguese pidgin
used by traders along coastal Africa and south Asia, then creolized with
Malay following the establishment of a Portuguese presence in Malacca
upon their arrival in the 16th century.2 It is a subvariety of Kristang (Chris-
tian), a lingua franca used across four continents, including South America
and East Indonesia (Waas 2002). Although almost extinct in Singapore
and Southeast Asia, Kristang is still found today in enclaves such as Cape
Verde, Mozambique, Angola, Goa, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Malacca,
Macau, Mindanao, and Timor. It also exists in topographical terms such as
mountain and river names in the Moluccas, Tugu, Larantuke, Banda, and
Borneo. It is the proud source of more than 400 words in modern Malay,
for example, the Malaysian long blouse, the kabaya, from the Portuguese
cabaia, and sekolah, from the Portuguese Escola (school).
Taking the place of Kristang were subsequent lingua francas such as
Baba Malay, Hokien, Mandarin, and of course English. 3 Baba Malay, once
the mother tongue of the Babas was a lingua franca of Singapore from the
17th century right up to the 1960s (Rudolph 1998).4 Although a spoken LF,
it also had its written counterpart in a wealth of loose translations of Chi-
nese classics in Romanized Baba Malay such as the herita dulukala books
or Tales of Long Ago, as it is known in English, biblical and Christian
works in the forms of poems (pantun and syair), in short-lived Baba maga-
zines and newspapers such as Bintang Timor (1894), the fi rst Romanized
Malay newspaper. It was cherished in its lifetime, not least because Malay
Embracing Liminality 125
was then the only “vernacular” language encouraged in education by the
British colonalizers and because the Babas were wealthy merchants favored
by the British. After the war, however, Baba Malay progressively ceased
to be a lingua franca due to a variety of reasons, which will be explained
later. No longer a respectable language with the changed political environ-
ment, it came to be called Bazaar Malay, a “low” language for inter-ethnic
communication.
The decision to study LFs and liminality in Singapore is due in part to
the latter’s small-state status. Like Hong Kong, Singapore performs no irre-
placeable functions in the international system fully cognizant of the fact
that it is a survival of the fittest. A microcosmic study of proactive small
states may then afford us an understanding of the macrocosm. In the words
of its chief architect, Lee Kuan Yew (2004):

. . . Singapore is the microcosm of what has happened to the rest of


the world—it cannot change policies but is a mirror of what is taking
place outside. .. so what we will be in 100 years depends upon what the
world will be in 100 years. If the world progresses and if we are adapt-
able and we adjust our policies to meet that changing world, then we
will continue to play that role and improve upon it.

In other words, small states grapple with the structural changes “hands
on,” and their nimble and “cutting-edge” language policies are worthy of
study since they are often trailblazers. It is rare to fi nd other countries
that have undergone over time, such dramatic changes in language policies
such as Singapore. Understanding what has happened may also afford us
a chance to write a history of other “slower-moving” states. Hence, small
states tend to be chameleonlike where language policies are concerned, and
the relative speed of their linguistic reforms becomes an advantage when
one seeks to discern diachronic patterns in a brief historical landscape.
In Singapore, one may see how language spreads, dies, infiltrates, colo-
nizes, and rejuvenates in compressed time. The speed of change is made
possible by (a) the discourse of crisis and survival, (b) the legitimization
of the language policies through the educational system and (c) its stable
authoritarian government. As only a 704.0 km (272 sq mi) entity, the entire
island functions as a single metropolitan area with a population of about 5
million.5 The discourse of crisis and survival can be seen by periodic circu-
lation of both real and imagined crisis such as Westernized individualism,
welfarism, complacency, emigration to external risks (e.g., Islamic funda-
mentalism, threat of water scarcity, neighboring instability, haze, etc.)6 Its
education system is the primary site of political mobilization and the key
modality for the management of rights, risks, and responsibilities for citi-
zens. Whenever an argument or issue is foregrounded in education, it has
seldom been contested. Hence power is exercised through a legitimized
agency (Cheung and Sidhu 2003: 47). Finally, its political authoritarianism
126 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
affords us a fast shuttle through the canvas of liminality. Lee Kuan Yew still
serves as Minister Mentor7 in the cabinet, and power continues to remain
overwhelmingly in the hands of the People’s Action Party (PAP), which is
freely elected. Opposition parties are inconsequential and civil society—
such as trade unions, free churches, liberal professions, and nongovernmen-
tal organizations—is weak.
This chapter frames the linguistic history of Singapore in terms of our
helicoidal model and the intervening period of liminality in which we fi nd
ourselves. In Singapore’s forming period from 1959 to 1965, a time of
experimentation, we see a fledging nation groping for solutions, experi-
menting with ideas, which included a political merger with Malaysia
(1963–1965), and an anxiety to maintain racial, religious, and linguistic
harmony through an ingenious but impractical multilingual platform of
linguistic equality. In the norming period from the 1970s through to the
end of the 1990s, it became more cognizant of multilingualism and the
need to proactively systematize and remake the ingredients of its statehood
into something efficient and economically productive. This led it to stream-
line an unworkable multilingualism into a more efficient bilingual one. In
the integrating phase of the 2lst century, as the shape of “ a new world
order” becomes clearer, Singapore decouples the old and “restructures”
its economy, politics, and linguistics to the new. In its anxiety to engage
with the forces of globalization, its linguistic policies become essentially
“monolingual.”

FORMING: NATIONALISM AND MULTILINGUALISM

Like the world at large, Singapore’s population was heterogeneous. Accord-


ing to the 1957 census, the population was 77% Chinese, 15% Malay, 6%
Indian, and 2% of other ethnic defi nitions. The Census also identified 33
specific mother tongue groups with their own parallel institutions such as
schools, religions, and economic socialization. Then, three lingua francas
were used by the multilingual, multiracial, and multireligious population at
large—Bazaar Malay, Hokien, and English. According to the Census (1957:
162–164), 9% of the Chinese were able to speak Malay, 21% were able to
speak English, and 30% were able to speak Mandarin in the households.
This plural society (Furnival 1980) scenario is not uncommon in postcolo-
nial nations. For example, at the onset of independence, Guatemala, after
five centuries of Spanish influence, had to choose among 23 distinct lan-
guages. To avoid referencing one language over another, Guatemala elected
Spanish as the official language while preserving regional languages and
dialects (Ahmad 1976).
Singapore’s forming period (from the mid-1950s through to the 1960s)
was characterized by the prevalence of political considerations over economic
ones. The aim of the government was to achieve economical, political, and
Embracing Liminality 127
racial stability, and language planning was seen as a dependable resource
toward this end. Which language, then, should a multilingual polyglossic
Singapore choose? Mandarin could have been the choice, in view of the
fact that the population was predominantly Chinese and that 59.2% of
the school-going population was at the time in Chinese-medium schools
(Wong 2002: 5). However, if Mandarin had been elevated merely on the
basis of majority statistics, such a move would have undoubtedly alienated
the minority Malay, Eurasian, and Indian races and would have created a
potentially unstable political situation. Worse, it might have delayed the
handing over of power from the British masters as this was a period where
ideological concerns surpassed economic ones and any attempt at “Man-
darinizing” the colony would have delayed the transfer of power from the
British colonialists to the proindependence nationalists. At the time, Brit-
ain, like its ally the United States, was in the grips of the Cold War and
highly suspicious of China’s close friendship with the Soviet Union.
English could also have been chosen on the basis of “administrative
ease,” bearing in mind that it had long been the colony’s language of gov-
ernance, as apparent in the courts, Parliament, civil service, and higher
education. The abundant supply of English textbooks and English teachers
made this the most practical consideration. However, in the height of post-
colonial fervor, what aspiring nation-states want most of all is to cut the
knot with their colonial masters, even if it is only symbolic. The retention
of Singapore’s colonial language was not then a fashionable proposition,
as these were the halcyon days of language planning, and ambitions were
rife to experiment with the crafting of nationhood through the linguistic
process.
Bazaar Malay and Hokien, then the lingua francas of Singapore, were
alternative choices. However, these languages were nonprestigious—spo-
ken by the lowly and the illiterate, and raising their stature would not have
given the new nation the prestige and economic advantages it needed to
become viable in the league of nation-states. Hokien was a language of
Fujian, then a backwater of the Republic of China and a language synony-
mous with poor migrants. Bazaar Malay was regarded as a “corrupted”
form of Malay spoken by the uneducated and one in which even neighbor-
ing Malaya was hoping to abandon in favor of standard Malay. Already
in 1956, moves were made in Malaysia with the Razak Education Com-
mission that a “new” Malay, not the lowly LF Bazaar Malay, would be
codified, elaborated, standardized, and implemented (Lo Bianco 2007). In
brushing aside considerations for the elevation of these two lingua francas,
Singapore may be placed directly opposite to Papua New Guinea, which on
independence elevated its hitherto low-status LF, Tok Pisin, to prominent
national language status.
Fresh and inexperienced and fearing the potential fragmentation of
society through religious, ethnic, and linguistic rivalries, the newly elected
PAP government decided unequivocally on a policy of multilingualism.
128 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
This meant the maintenance of the four language- medium stream schools.
Infused with idealism from the Declaration of the UN Charter of Human
Rights, 1948, it reasoned that each race had a right to its own rich cul-
tural heritage and that multiple languages would not only preserve the rich
heritage of the country but also enable the citizenry to develop a wider
perspective (Chiam 1985). This policy of multilingualism may be under-
stood against the structural political changes in the postwar period, a time
when a wrong move would result in the country exploding like a tinderbox
going up in flames, as evidenced in Angola from 1975–2002 and Demo-
cratic Republic of Congo from 1960–1965 (Berman, Eyoh and Kymlicka
2004). In 1956, the government of Sri Lanka adopted the controversial
anti-English law, the official Sinhala Only Bill, a decision that ultimately
led to civil strife and over time contributed to the outbreak of civil war in
1983 (De Silva 1998). PAP chairman, Dr. Toh Chin Chye explains:

Our education system must have a purpose. There cannot be edu-


cation for education’s sake. It must be considered in relation to our
political and social needs. Our education must fulfi ll the purpose of
nation-building and the purpose of economic and social reconstruc-
tion. (Straits Times, 4 June 1959).

A multilingual policy was understandably “the safest” in view of the


potentially competitive nature of racial-linguistic rights and privileges,
although not the most practical economically. The newly elected indepen-
dent government pledged the equitable allocation of resources for all four
language stream schools and parents were encouraged to personally choose
the preferred language-medium school for their children (Bell 1975: 621).
The abundance of linguistic choice in this period saw indecisive and rather
confused parents “hedging their bets” by sending some of their children to
English stream schools and others to either the Tamil, Chinese, or Malay
stream schools (ibid.).
To wield together the different language-medium schools, locally pro-
duced textbooks all with a common-content syllabus, were written to
promote a new national identity. This contrasted sharply with the Brit-
ish era when each language stream school had been inspired by differ-
ent independent curricula, consistent with the colonialist divide-and-rule
policy. Another novel innovation was the building of integrated schools.
This meant the housing of different language-medium streams in the same
building so as to foster mutual participation in sports and intermingling in
the same canteen and school compound. New Town Integrated Secondary
school, for example, which opened in 1965, had the fi rst two floors in Chi-
nese-medium and the upper two floors English-medium (Ahmad 1976).
The legitimization of four language stream schools paralleled the newly
emplaced four official languages of Singapore, English, Chinese, Malay,
and Tamil, which corresponded to the four major races in the Republic.
Embracing Liminality 129
“Official” status meant that the language would be used in Parliament,
the courts and in the civil service as well as the freedom for that lan-
guage to be used freely in the press, radio, television, and movies. While
this appeared on the surface to be “fair and rational,” it must be noted
that the four languages chosen were not the mother tongues, as it would
obviously appear to an outsider, but rather the “symbolic” languages of
the different races. This is because the Chinese do not speak Mandarin,
the Indians do not speak Tamil, and the Malay do not in reality speak
Malay—they might instead be more likely to speak Hokien, Malayalam,
and Boyanese, respectively. To take one example, in 1957, the Chinese
having migrated from different regions of China spoke the following,
mostly unintelligible, languages:

Hokkien: 40.6%
Teochew: 22.5%
Cantonese: 18.9%
Hainanese: 7.2%
Hakka: 6.7%
Foochow (Hokchiu): 1.5%
Shanghai: 1%
Henghua: 0.8%
Hokchia: 0.7%
Kwangsai: 0.03%
Other: 0.1%
TOTAL: 100% (Census 1957: 155–156)

A similar situation prevailed among the Singapore Indian community


who spoke a diversity of languages such as Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi,
Hindi, Tamil, and Urdu. The Malays spoke languages such as Boyanese,
Bugis, Minangkabau, Bawaenese, Madurese, Acehnese, Javanese, Suda-
nese, and so forth (Trocki 2006). Hence, the institution of the four official
language schemes meant that the typical Singaporean child would have
to learn at least two or three “new” languages in addition to his mother
tongue, making him effectively multilingual. A typical school-going student
would speak the home language (either Hokien for a Chinese, Telegu for an
Indian, or Bazaar Malay for a Malay), and then also learn either English,
Tamil, Mandarin, or Malay as a “fi rst” language, depending on which
language-medium school he was enrolled in, and he would also have to pick
a “second” language from among the four official languages. Last but not
least, he would have to go for Standard Malay lessons since that was Sin-
gapore’s newly designated “national language.” Along the streets and with
friends, he would communicate in languages that were not recognized in
the new nation-state, such as Cantonese, Telegu, and Bazaar Malay. Platt
(1980: 64) has characterized the verbal repertoire of a Singaporean Chinese
in the 1960s and 70s as follows:
130 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders

It usually includes: It may include:


The native Chinese dialect English
The dominant Chinese dialect Mandarin
One or more additional Chinese dialects Baba Malay
Bazaar Malay Malay

It was a situation that he described as polyglossia, where several languages


and varieties of a language exist side by side (ibid.).
Hence, while the “four races” and “four languages” policy was the insig-
nia of the new nation, the linguistic truth was usually much more compli-
cated. One notes however that such convenient multilingual groupings of
students under major language groups such as “Chinese,” “Indian,” and
“Malay” is a quite clever sleigh of hand, doubtless a manifestation of the
liminal period in its traumatic journey from the old to the new world order.
New governments are usually over-anxious to rationalize and streamline
and systematize, in the process contributing unwittingly to the death of
many native tongues. For example, in Luxembourg, as elsewhere, while
schools presume to teach formal French, there are many students speaking
a vernacular and contact variety of French, which may not be mutually
intelligible (Weber 2008). So too in Brunei, the many inland ethnic groups
are termed as part of the politically dominant Malay Muslim population
and accepted uncritically (Saxena b 2007: 272). These examples of socio-
linguistic engineering show that home languages are often ignored in the
efforts of nationalistic societies as they systematically maneuver to erect
what they perceive as “the mother tongue” in the education system, osten-
sibly for national unity.
The formative phase of the liminal period also sees an affi nity to the
use of national languages as a “brand” or emblem of distinctiveness, as
evidenced in the revival of traditional languages such as Georgian, Esto-
nian, and Latvian by newly independent former Soviet states. In Singa-
pore, Malay (Bahasa Kebangsaan) was elevated to the status of national
language for political and geographical reasons. Singapore saw advan-
tages in merging itself to the larger Malay hinterland due to the advan-
tages afforded by economies of scale, in view of its small size. Hence, in
1963, it merged with Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak to form Malaysia.
Second, it saw itself geographically as “a predominantly Chinese fi sh in
a potential dangerous Malay sea” (Murray 1971: 5). This would be like
living in Latin America and not speaking a word of Spanish. The ascen-
dancy of Malay does not refer to Bazaar Malay, which was in reality
the lingua franca of the street at that time, but rather standard Malay.
The elevation of Malay saw an increase in the enrollment of Malay
language classes offered by the Adult Education Board (MOE Annual
Embracing Liminality 131
Report 1961: 12). The Straits Times, a daily with the largest circulation
in Southeast Asia, carried daily lessons in Malay. A National Language
Action council was also formed to urge Singaporeans to learn to use
Malay sincerely and consciously and bonuses were paid to teachers who
successfully completing a national language training course (Bell 1975:
624). Last but not least, Malay also became a compulsory subject for
students in the Chinese-, Indian-, and English stream schools.
One notes that the discarding of Hokien, then the LF among the Chinese
in Singapore, was explained in the following way:

Here, pride in the Chinese language and culture plus the revival of
China as a great power creates a tremendous problem. The idea that
Malay should be the national language, occupying a more important
place than Chinese is difficult for some to accept. And worse, any at-
tempt to teach Malay in a way so as to make it the national language is
resisted. This must be resolved. We cannot afford the luxury of blind
Chinese chauvinism. (Peoples’ Action Party 1958: 6.)

Initiatives in the norming period are relatively more piecemeal, experi-


mental, and random. Not surprisingly, the political union with Malay-
sia only lasted two years (1963–1965) after which Singapore seceded to
become an independent Republic in 1965, joining the United Nations in
the same year. Countrywide measures to learn standard Malay subsided
significantly after this period. Nevertheless, the geopolitical dominance
of Malay meant that Malay would be retained as the national language,
even though its role would be more symbolic than real. Hence, a national
anthem, Majullah Singapura, was written in standard Malay even though
only a minority could read it (Hong and Huang 2008).

NORMING: FROM MULTILINGUALISM TO BILINGUALISM

Language policies formalized at the beginning of liminalities are often


manifestations of political and social turbulence and are often not peda-
gogically sound, being often a result of political compromise rather than
pragmatic ones that are cognizant of broader perspectives and changing
world orders. In contrast, in the norming phase there is a tendency to look
further away from the self and into the environment for more resonant
congruities so as to try to grow on the extension of its likeness. A more
pragmatic sense begins to prevail as the fledgling nation becomes adept to
the changed and changing environment. The norming phase in Singapore
may be said to be from the beginning of the 1970s through to the 1990s.
By 1968, the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) had become the only party ruling
Singapore, a political and authoritarian dominance that has continued to
the present day. This decade of self-governing experience pushes the more
132 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
confident PAP toward “building and shaping” rather than “experimenting
and compromising.”
Industrialization became an economic priority and took center stage,
led by multinationals that wanted to employ English-speaking profession-
als. In 1966, the Employment and Industrial Relations Act was passed to
eliminate the risks of strikes and to promote industrial peace and disci-
pline among the workforce in 1968. So too in the same year, the Economic
Development Board was reorganized, and the Jurong Town Corporation
and the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) were set up. By 1970, the
Monetary Authority of Singapore was established to formulate and imple-
ment Singapore’s monetary policies. As economics began to take ascen-
dency over politics, language policy became a useful handmaiden to the
economic imperative.
In Table 6.1, the year 1968 is selected arbitrarily to show the results of
the primary and secondary students:
The high failure “wastage” rate in all language-medium schools, espe-
cially in the English and Chinese streams, in the public examinations had
become an issue of public concern, deemed not to be conducive to indus-
trialization, which needed more educated and skilled labor. The poor pass
rate was due in large part to the multilingual policy of the previous decade
where, as we have seen, a typical student would have to grapple with three
to four languages (Gopinathan 1980). Bearing in mind any organism’s ten-
dency to systematize and simplify, the government began to look for pro-
active ways to make the system work more efficiently—and bilingualism,
rather than multilingualism, became the answer. A pedagogical bilingual-
ism is a strategy often widely favored in the norming period (and this is
where most of the world is today) and one which is regarded as “neutral,”
“acceptable,” and “practical” by the vast majority of people. For example,
Calvert (2008) states that “bilingualism is the cement of the galaxies of
language” and that there exist about ten languages that act as an axis of
gravitation for more than 6000 languages. Then, in 1972, after their elec-
tion victory, the PAP announced that bilingualism would from then on be
the cornerstone of the education system and that all teachers would eventu-
ally have to be bilingual.8

Table 6.1 Percentage Pass of Primary Ad Secondary School Students in 1968


Language stream Primary % pass Secondary % pass
English 56.6% 52.65
Chinese 59.9% 58.6%
Malay 33.3% 43.4%
Tamil 44.8% 54.0%
Source: Ahmad (1976:46-7)
Embracing Liminality 133
While the All Party Report of 1956 (40–41) of the forming phase had
viewed dialects (home languages) as exerting a positive influence on pupils
learning Mandarin:

We are reliably informed that there would be no trouble at all for the
pupils in Chinese schools in which the pupils predominately speak one
dialect to learn Mandarin . . . we are also informed that versions in
literary as opposed to colloquial Chinese, whether in Hokkien, Can-
tonese, Hakka, Hockchia, Hockchiu, Shanghainese, etc. dialects, have
very close affi nities to the Mandarin version, and these no doubt help
the Chinese child to adopt Mandarin as the common medium of com-
munication in schools and outside them.

The Goh Report (1978: 4.4), emblemic of Singapore’s norming phase, had
a quite contrary view: :

The majority of the pupils are taught in two languages, English and
Mandarin. About 85% of these pupils do not speak these languages at
home. When they are at home, they speak dialects. As a result, most of
what they have learnt in schools not reinforced.

Newman (1986: 59) outlined the government’s view in the Goh Report as
follows:

Assumption: Learning a language is difficult.

Most people can cope with learning two languages, but not three.

Problem: Many school children use dialect outside the classroom.

The more dialect is used, the less Mandarin is used.

Solution: The use of dialect must therefore be restricted, in order for


the bilingual policy to be effective. To restrict the use of dialects, par-
ents and pupils must use Mandarin instead of dialect.

Hence, home languages were viewed as an impediment to the learning


of officially valued languages such as English and Mandarin. There was a
belief that should multilingualism (as typified by dialects) be controlled,
the learning of English would be more effective. In this era, the government
saw a less than satisfactory multilingual situation: Hokien remained the LF
of the Chinese population used and understood by 64% of the population
(Eddie Kuo, quoted in Leong 2002: 354). Bazaar Malay had also continued
its traditional LF role—being understood by people from different ethnic
backgrounds. Also, there were more Indians who understood Malay than
134 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
there were Indians who understood Tamil, although Tamil was decreed
officially as a “mother tongue” of Indians (ibid.).
As before, schools were the main implements to effect the transition
from multilingualism to bilingualism, and the norming period of Singapore
history (1970s to 1990s) can be said to be characterized by educational
streaming that placed children in different classes based mainly on their
linguistic ability. The fi rst and second language (i.e., English and one other
language) and mathematics were used to determine which stream a child
would be channeled to. Streaming began as early as primary school and
much of the streaming was based on the weighting of proficiency in two
languages (Goh 1978).9 At the end of Primary Three, those who scored low
in points were put into the monolingual stream from which they then pro-
ceeded to vocational and technical education.10 Tan (2008), whose mother
tongue is Baba Malay, reminisced how his 10- year-old son was streamed
into a vocational institute and classified as educationally subnormal as his
Mandarin was abysmal. He thought something was very wrong as his son
was a precocious kid who by the age of ten had read most of Agatha Chris-
tie’s novels. Like many parents of this era, he chose migration as an option
for his children’s educational advancement.
By 1973, the second language paper became of equal importance to the
fi rst language paper, with both languages carrying twice as much weight
as mathematics or science (Gopinathan 1980). In the classroom, exposure
to the second language in the primary curriculum was increased to 25%
from 20% in 1973, and to 40% in 1975 (The Mirror, 1972). From 1979,
secondary pupils had to obtain a pass in the second language in order to
gain admission to pre-university classes. A related policy gave priority of
admission to pre-university classes with distinctions in fi rst and second lan-
guages, and where a student would otherwise fail to qualify, greater weight
was given to good fi rst and second language results. Private tuition became
a booming business, especially in English and Chinese. In this period lan-
guage aptitude became recognized as the prime factor for success in the
educational system
It should be noted that bilingualism in Singapore does not mean mastery
of any two of the four official languages but rather English and one other
official language. Kachru (1983) termed this “English-knowing bilingual-
ism” and Pakir (1991) has discussed the specific case of Singapore in his
model. In this period, English was designated as the fi rst language of the
school and so it was referred to as “the first language” while the other
official languages such as Mandarin, Tamil, and so forth were described
as the “second language.” The real mother tongues, which are likely to be
Hokien, Teochew, and Telegu did not have a status but might be referred
to occasionally as home languages, or the vernacular. In other words, the
bilingualism that Singapore wanted was linked to the dramatic rise of Eng-
lish, evident in the norming period. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew summa-
rizes his view of the English-knowing bilingual (Lee 1971: 4–5):
Embracing Liminality 135
Suppression of the English language, which gives access to the superior
technology of the West, will be damaging to the developing countries.
Not only will it blindfold the next generation to the knowledge of the
advanced nation, it will cause a brain drain. But so many new countries
have stifled the foreign language they have inherited. Sometimes this
is done, not so much to elevate the status of the indigenous language,
but to take away an advantage a minority ethnic group has by hav-
ing greater competence in the former colonial language. This has been
damaging. It blindfolds the next generation to the knowledge of the
advanced countries. Worse, it leads to an exodus of the professionally
trained. They can emigrate to the advanced countries, and do because
they do not intend to allow their children to be crippled by language
blinkers. To get access to new knowledge, the best course would be to
continue using the language of the former metropolitan power, par-
ticularly where this happens to be English.

The compulsory acquisition of English in schools under the rationalized


cloak of the English-knowing bilingual led to a dramatic rise in the enroll-
ment of English-medium schools, from 47% in 1958 to 91% in 1979 to
99% in 1983 (Soon 1988: 7, 21). One notes here that in adopting English,
Singapore was not unlike many postcolonies in the world that had adopted
the language of the former colonial power for similar pragmatic reasons,
for example, Guyana, Central Africa, and India. This early Singapore pol-
icy is very similar to the situation in which the European Union is now, in
trying to fi nd a single language agreed upon by all member states in addi-
tion to the mother tongue (Wright 2000).
While English-medium schools were attracting students from the Malay-
and Tamil-medium stream schools by the droves, another “rationalization”
campaign was under way, not so much at the national but at the com-
munity level. A “norming” process would now have to be applied to the
Chinese races who were speaking numerous dialects, most of which were
mutually unintelligible. Plans were underfoot to replace Hokien or Bazaar
Malay with Mandarin, especially as Mandarin was postulated to be a lan-
guage of great potential value. These evaluations led to the highly success-
ful Speak Mandarin Campaign of 1979. Since exposure time to Mandarin
then seldom exceeded 40% in English-medium schools, it was proposed to
ensure effective mastery of Mandarin over radio and television through the
rescheduling and eventual phasing out of radio and television programs in
dialect (Teo 2005). As a result, the percentage of Chinese households using
Mandarin as the dominant language rose from 13% in 1980 to 30% in 1990
and to 45% in 2000. On the other hand, the figures for Chinese dialects fell
from 76% in 1980 to 49% in 1990 and 30% in 2000 (Census 1991, 2001).
This is a dramatic shift considering that in 1957, 98% of all Chinese con-
sidered a dialect (other than Mandarin) to be their mother tongue (Murray
1971: 125). There have also been Indian and Malay children who have
136 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
taken Mandarin as their second languages rather than their own mother
tongues, making this campaign perhaps the most effective over a short-
term period in the world (ibid.)11
Today, outside the home domain, it has been found that two-thirds of the
Chinese population usually use Mandarin as one of the language varieties,
replacing Hokien as the LF among the Chinese population. Presently, code-
switching between English and Mandarin is a common linguistic phenom-
enon both at home and for out-of-home communication. However, English
is used in more formal domains such as in government, banking, and busi-
ness, while Mandarin is used in more informal ones such as hawker centers
and businesses. English is used to discuss formal topics such as work, study,
and administration, which require technical or academic vocabulary and
style. Mandarin is more often used to discuss informal topics such as daily
routines, rituals, friendship, etcetera (Liu et al. 2007).
Hence, language shift has taken place smoothly and uneventfully not
just within the Chinese community but also within the Indian and Malay
communities. Ramiah (1991) and Saravanan (2001) found Indians in Sin-
gapore becoming increasingly more English–speaking, replacing Bazaar
Malay with English as the LF of the intra-group. In the words of Schiff-
man (2007): “the cultural capital available to English-knowing elites has
been too much of a temptation.” According to Saravanan (Ibid.), Tamil
and Mandarin, are under serious threat from English.12 The Malay com-
munity has been more resilient with regards to language shift, probably
because of the presence of extended families, a traditional umbrella that
encourages the keeping of close ties in the mother tongue. In the 1980
census, 96.7% of Malay households used Malay but in the 1990 census,
the figure had dropped to 94.3%. Correspondingly, the use of English
in Malay homes increased from 2.3% in 1980 to 5.5% in 1990 (Census
1981, 1991). Although the percentages here are minimal, it may become
more pronounced in time to come as future generations will be educated
in English. According to Subhan (2007), in the short and medium terms,
the Malay language is well-maintained, but in the longer term, the Malay
language will face more serious challenges. Its survival will depend on the
response of the Malay community to influences from English through the
ever widening use of the Internet and advances in information and com-
munications technology (ibid.).
The swift and draconian implementation of English-knowing bilin-
guals has, as predicted in the helicoil model, led to an uneven acquisition
of English—what can be called in many parts of the world as the “New
Englishes, a phenomenon reminiscent of the koineization and indigeniza-
tion of the languages of the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisian in England
(Mesthrie 2006). One example of the New Englishes is Singlish, the sur-
vivalist basilectal form of Singapore English, which draws its roots from
several Chinese dialects, Malay, Tamil, as well as English. Using DeCamp’s
(1971) post-creole continuum hypothesis, Platt (1975) defines Singlish as
Embracing Liminality 137
a “creoloid,” a variety that has many features in common with creole lan-
guage except that it did not originate from a pidgin. Singlish is popular
and has been exploited in local plays, poems, and Singaporean sitcoms. It
is also considered “cool” in some quarters as it is a source of humor and a
solidarity builder. Coming to prominence in the norming period of intense
bilingualism and language shift, Singlish was proclaimed an institution-
alized variety (Kachru 1985; Pakir 1991; Foley, 1998; Tay 1993; Gupta,
1995; Wee 2005) rather than, as previously thought, an “error-filled” inter-
language associated with low-proficiency learners (cf. Tongue 1974, Crewe
1977). It received its biggest boost in 1999 when Times-Chambers Essen-
tial English Dictionary (1999) became the fi rst dictionary to incorporate
Singapore-Malaysian Englishes into its pages.
In short, Singapore’s linguistic efforts in the 1970s may be viewed as an
early version of “glocalization.” Here, two opposing macro-cultural ori-
entations prevail, one representing a globalist perspective and the other a
localist perspective, with each of these perspectives associated with a cluster
of referential ideologies relating to culture, capital, and identity (Alsagoff
2007). While such a perspective is commonly spoken of and increasingly
acceptable today, it was relatively novel in the 1970s when multilingualism
and the maintenance of the status quo were the popular options.

INTEGRATING: BILINGUALISM TO MONOLINGUALISM

Systems tend to build on systems, organizing themselves to become more


cohesive, orderly, and systematic. Instead of avoiding the new and the
unusual, or merely rationalizing or growing the process, the integrating
phase of liminality often sees an organism embracing the new and the dif-
ferent, incorporating the context to the specific, the global to the national.
The gradual adoption of globalization as an inevitable force has brought
with it a new conversation on how civilization may evolve for the better
through “global synthesis” (Canton 2006: 187). Just like the adoption of
the global lingua franca is feared by the guardians of existing local lan-
guages, globalization is feared by nation states whose political control and
traditional economies have become impotent in the face of global competi-
tion (Chew and Quek 2003).
In the 2lst century, a formed and normed Singapore sees itself as intrinsi-
cally global. It has actively embraced “the new world order,” as seen by its
rating in 2006 as “the world’s most globalized country” (A.T. Kearney/For-
eign Policy Globalization Index).13 The Republic today offers greater gov-
ernmental transparency and islandwide broadband access with fi nancial
and legal institutions complementary to global operations in London and
New York. Foreigners make up over 30% of Singapore’s workforce.14 Not
surprisingly in 2007, 40% of Singaporeans were found to have opted for
marriage with either a permanent resident or foreigner.15 Singaporeans are
138 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
urged to be “more creative,” with less conformist subjectivities and with a
vibrant sociocultural life. The Singapore government wants the island to
be a multifunctional cultural metropolis, and has asked its supporters to
accept the undisputed dominion of global capital (Wee 2008: 149).
Singapore’s openness, cosmopolitanism, and heterogeneity may also be
evidenced in its population policy. For example, there was been a novel sug-
gestion by Parliament in 2004 to double Singapore’s current population of
4 million to 8 million so as to enable it to gain a more competitive global
edge. It is a proposal not to be taken lightly, being already in quiet practice
even before its official announcement. For example, Singapore’s popula-
tion grew from 2.4 million in 1980 to 3.1 million in 1990 and to 4 million
in 2000 (Census 1991, 2001). In other words, between 1980 and 1990,
the population grew by 29% and between 1990 and 2000, it grew by yet
another 29%—a total of 67% in 20 years.16 Yet this doubling is not a result
of the natural birth rate, since fertility had reached below replacement level
as early as 1975, and currently is one of the world’s lowest at 1.26 in 2007
(Chew 2007). Population growth has therefore come from migration, nota-
bly from China and India. The proposal is indeed unique, since no country
in the world has ever wittingly sought to make its citizens a minority in the
name of economic growth.17 Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew explains: “We
are multiracial. So absorbing new migrants of different races and religions
and cultures doesn’t worry us. In fact, it makes us more attractive as a cos-
mopolitan center, and makes us more relevant to the world” (Straits Times
2004a). Such openness is symbolic of an “integrative phase” and may be
contrasted to Japan where the relative lack of foreign contact has created
a homogenous people with a strong sense of cultural identity, the center of
which is the Japanese language (Koike 2008).
An openness to the global order often leads to a more wholesale adop-
tion of the emergent LF. Hence, between 1990 and 2000, the proportion
of Singaporeans speaking English most frequently at home increased from
19% to 24% among the Chinese, from 6.1% to 7.9% among the Malays.
and from 32% to 36% among the Indians (Census 2000: 4). Across all
age groups in the Chinese, Indian, and Malay communities, the younger
the child is, the more likely the child is speaking English (Census 2000:
5). For example, Vaish’s (2007b) survey shows that the number of chil-
dren entering Primary 1 who spoke predominantly the English language
has risen from 36% in 1994 to 50% in 2004. For such a short period,
the increase has been dramatic—leading Chinese language scholars, Liu,
Zhao, and Goh (2007), to predict that while the last school-going genera-
tion has seen the shift from Chinese dialects to Mandarin, the next genera-
tion may see the shift from Mandarin to English. Chinese Singaporeans
are moving toward a less complex language situation where English has
become dominant in formal communication, Mandarin in informal com-
munication, and Chinese dialects almost disappearing in Chinese commu-
nities. In another study by Xu et al. (1998: 143), the domains of friendship,
Embracing Liminality 139
street business, and government show sharp contrast between English and
dialects. English indices are in generally ascending order (39%, 35%, 52%,
and 63%) whereas dialects are in descending order (51%, 25%, 13%, and
8%). Despite the fact that 80% feel at home with Mandarin, only 60%
to 70% feel it is prestigious. This contrasts with 0% viewing English as
“nonprestigious.”
The rise in the use of English in both private and public domains in
Singapore has led to a general decline in bilingual abilities. In his memoir
published in 2000, the founding father of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan
Yew, wrote that bilingualism has held back some pupils who would have
attained higher levels had they been able to go at their own pace in only
one language: “If you use capacity to study one language, you have less
brain capacity for other things” (Straits Times, 2004b, 2004c). He quoted
examples of Mauritius and Luxembourg where second-language newspa-
pers there revealed that standards for secondary languages were usually
lower. Lee is now convinced that bilingualism is possible only for “the
exceptionally able and very determined” (ibid.), and that “while individu-
als can achieve equal fluency in two languages, the norm is for individu-
als to be dominant in one language.” A headline in the Straits Times in
2007, “Bilingualism: Many are Masters of None” (Straits Times 2007),
reminds the citizenry that bilingualism is no longer mandatory. According
to Cornelius Kubler, “If we defi ne a bilingual as being equally good in two
languages, then few people are really bilingual” (Ho 2008; Straits Times
2008).18 Xu’s et al. (2004) and Goh’s (2001) research on Chinese Singa-
porean students found that few were able to reach as high a standard of
Mandarin as when Chinese was taught as a medium of instruction in the
forming phase. Beardsmore’s (1998) research on bilingualism in Singapore
shows an imbalance in competence across two languages with great indi-
vidual variation depending on myriad factors.
Three decades of experimentation with bilingualism has convinced
Singapore’s leaders that the average citizen is unable to manipulate two
codes with equal profi ciency (Teo 2004). There was a general consensus
that those who were not linguistically inclined should not be held back
educationally (Silver 2005). Bialystok’s (2008) study also reported that
bilingual children control a smaller vocabulary than their monolingual
peers and adult bilingual adults perform more poorly on rapid lexical
retrieval tasks. Not surprisingly, measures were taken to dilute the rigor
of the bilingual policy. For example, the syllabi were revised to include
a new syllabi to emphasize higher mother tongue (Mandarin, Tamil,
Malay) learning in 1999 for those who were linguistically inclined (to
rear profi cient bilinguals whom they believe comprised a minority); and
another “B” syllabus came in 2004 for students who faced difficulties in
mother tongue studies. The B syllabus was a much watered-down sylla-
bus that emphasized practical communication skills rather than reading
and writing. In addition, curriculum time in cultivating bilingualism
140 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
was reduced signifi cantly. More signifi cantly, mother tongue admission
criteria in universities were relaxed. In other words, Mandarin, Malay,
and Tamil scores are no longer counted as essential criteria for univer-
sity admission as was the case before (cf. Liu, Zhao, and Goh 2007).
Therefore, it is possible to conclude that whenever bilingualism
includes a powerful lingua franca, that bilingualism will more often than
not be a deficit one. In the 2lst century, this is due in large to the global
concern with the habitus (Bourdieu 1991), the linguistic competence to
speak in a certain way and the linguistic capital that accompanies it.
For example, both the 1990 and 2000 census of Singapore have shown
a correlation of English with higher-income families and of Mandarin,
Indian, and Malay with lower-income families. Not surprisingly, despite
the success of the bilingual policy in the eradication of dialects, there
is increasing evidence today that Chinese language teachers are facing
even greater challenges in engaging and motivating students to learn the
Chinese language and that the students’ Chinese language proficiency
level has been declining (Liu, Zhao and Goh 2007). Singapore Chinese
teachers have already expressed their worries of a Chinese language and
cultural crisis since most students, in their opinion, have not achieved a
basic level of language proficiency that would enable them to be under-
stood in China and Taiwan. They have complained about the decline
in the standard of Mandarin and the unwillingness of parents to treat
Mandarin as important.
Similar problems are faced in the Malay and Tamil communities.
Teachers have complained of diffi culties in motivating pupils to study
Malay even though the Ministry of Education has recently introduced
Malay language programs and an incentive points system for entry into
junior college and local universities. It appears that there are sections of
the Malay community that look down on their own language and are
concerned they may be viewed as backward if they use Malay in pub-
lic, even if it is the Republic’s national language (Abdullah and Ayyub
1998). Another worrying trend for pro-Malay language lobbyists is that
Islamic religious teaching is being taught in the English language as
more children are more comfortable in English than in Malay. English
is also being used during Friday prayers at the mosque, although not
frequently. These two trends in the home and religion indicate that the
link between language and culture in the Malay community is weaken-
ing and that a language shift will soon become more pronounced in the
Malay community.
Unifying forces in world orders often brings with them preferences
for exonomative rather than endonormative standards (Rubdy 2007).
We have seen the emergence of Singlish in the norming phase (as with
other World Englishes), lauded and celebrated for its inventiveness and
uniqueness. In the integrating phase, as globalization becomes more pro-
nounced and economic criteria overwhelm political ones, governments
Embracing Liminality 141
become conscious of the need for international intelligibility. The lack
of standards would affect economic viability, and if bilingualism can-
not be sustained, then monolingualism—in the global language—would
become the inevitable choice. Hence in 1999 then Prime Minister Goh
Chok Tong warned: “We cannot be a fi rst-world economy or go global
with Singlish. . . Poor English reflects badly on us and makes us seem
less intelligent” (Goh, 1999). A year later, at the launch of the “Speak
Good English Movement” (SGEM), he elaborated: “Investors will not
come if their supervisors and managers can only guess what our workers
are saying. It will be hard for Singapore to be a fi nancial center. TV pro-
grammes and fi lms will be diffi cult to succeed because foreigners do not
understand Singlish—this will affect the fi rst-world economy we hope
to achieve” (Goh, 2000). Clearly, Singlish would have no place in an
international global hub especially where joining the export league for
English was concerned. Colonel Wong, Chair of the SGEM in 2000, reit-
erated: “It is important that while we develop a brand of English which
is uniquely identifi able with Singapore, it should not be a Singlish type”
(Straits Times 2000).
Like its predecessor campaign, the Speak Mandarin Campaign of
1979, the SGEM and its many partners provide expertise in various areas
of learning English, from basic English courses to business communica-
tion, and from storytelling to teaching children to read. Each year, there
are hundreds of activities and programs on good English at schools,
libraries, and community clubs. At the same time, the mass media has
discreetly cut down on its use of Singlish, especially in popular televi-
sion sitcoms. The SGEM campaign has had its fair share of critics, most
notably, Braj Kachru (2005: 239): “Singapore is “barking up the wrong
tree in order to avoid confronting the functional and pragmatic reali-
ties in imparting English education.” Arguing that the “people’s version
of their language was under attack” (ibid :240), Kachru compares the
SGEM campaign with that of the African-American English in terms of
its structure, its identity with African-American, and its relevance to the
educational system, “whose so-called deficiencies has been rebutted by
renowned linguists such as William Labov.” Rubdy (2007) also identifi es
English as a creative resource useful in the teaching and learning strate-
gies of its students. Alsagoff and Low (2007) warns that the denial of
Singlish in the classroom effectively disempowers teachers who sees it as
an integral part of their identity and culture.
While this remains a perpetual confl ict in the integrating phase, it
can be resolved through an application of Alsagoff’s (2007) cultural ori-
entation model (COM) (see Table 6.2). The confl ict between Standard
English and Singlish is explained by means of the existence of an ever
present tension between two orientations in language and culture. In
other words, in the integrating phase where English is used increasingly,
there will be two kinds of Englishes: One is centripetal (moving toward
142 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
the center-assimilationist, which is the International English, for exam-
ple, International Singapore English (ISE), International Indian English
(IIE), or International Filipino English (IFE). These are also called Stan-
dard English or Standard Singapore English, as the case may be. Such
international “I” Englishes are the Englishes used in the areas of pub-
lic administration, law legislation, banking and fi nance, and economic
capital. They are exornomatively defi ned by global forces—that is, they
must be intelligible enough to function in international economic and
fi nancial markets. The local “L” Englishes on the other hand, such as
Local Singapore English (LSE), Local Indian English (LIE), and Local
Philipino English (LPE), will be centrifugal (tearing away from the cen-
ter to become differentiated). They are the result of linguistic common
sense, which tells us that language is always influenced by culture and
expresses local identities. It is a cultural orientation model because while
the I languages are motivated by a globalist orientation, the L languages
are motivated by the localist orientation.
One advantage of COM is that it can account for complexity of
speech, that is, a speaker can choose to stress authority and yet signal
community membership. For example, while a speaker may orientate
to I to signal authority, he may also exhibit some L features to indi-
cate a local perspective in order to stress membership in the community.
Such variation is not so much “code-switching” but “style-switching,”
which employs the idea that speakers of L Englishes can avail them-
selves of a variety of linguistic features in order to identify or mark a
change in cultural orientation or style. So even in a single utterance,
speakers can vary the type of L or I features in their speech, resulting
in a variety of different styles of staying the same thing. Alsagoff (2007)
notes that L has a relatively expansive range of grammaticality allowing
speakers to signal either gloablist or localist tendencies. L can repre-
sent ethic voices, for example, meh and ma (Chinese) and lah (across
ethnic group) in Singapore English, making it an inclusive linguistic
resource for the expression of sociocultural meanings, identities, and
practices.

Table 6.2 The COM Model (with International Singapore English and Local
Singapore English as an Example)
International Singapore English (ISE): Local Singapore English (LSE):
globalism localism
Economic capital Socio-cultural capital
Authority Camaraderie
Formality Informality
Distance Closeness
Educational attainment Community membership
Source: Alsagoff (2007: 39)
Embracing Liminality 143
As the global use of English spreads, there will in time be subvarieties
of Englishes, and not just from former colonies. For example, in Singa-
pore, the L variety—affectionately called Singlish—originates from the
Republic’s multilingual and multicultural roots. Although Singaporeans
are not multilingual in the literate sense of being able to understand,
read, and write in three languages, at least they have comprehension of
words and idioms of various languages, especially Hokien, Malay, and
perhaps Mandarin, and it is this facility that gives rise to Singlish, a
mix of all these languages (Ho and Platt 1993). Singlish tends to be well
developed among the younger generation in institutions like the army
(where interethnic mixing facilitates the interchange of languages) and
popular culture (where local pop songs, cartoons, and books of humor
play on the oddities and fl avor of Singlish) (Leong 2002). The L variety
is usually more dynamic, especially among youth who have a creative
capacity to invent, borrow, and mix dialects. It is also more volatile;
for example, in a comparison of Singlish data in 1975 and 2005, one
notices distinct changes. For one, Singlish is becoming more Manda-
rinized (rather than Malayanized) and it has incorporated words like
Japanese, Korean, Shanghainese, and Mandarin as well as American
and Australian slang, which were nonexistent among the last generation
of Singlish speakers. This is due in no small part to the migrants who
have embraced Singapore citizenship in the last 15 years and who today
comprise more than a quarter of the original Singapore population. L
Englishes are more easily acquired by transnationals and migrants, and
its form is particularly susceptible to lexical and phonological borrow-
ings from new people.
The aim of SGEM is the achievement of the Singapore variety of ISE
(which is mutually comprehensive to other I Englishes) over that of the
LSE, that is, Singlish. It is envisaged that an ISE will become an accept-
able dialect of English alongside American British, New Zealand Eng-
lish, etcetera, not least because it possesses a common core of lexical,
phonological, and syntactical features, a valid theoretical concept in the
world of many different Englishes fighting against their own subdivi-
sion. The ISE will bridge educational differences and mark educational
attainment. On the other hand, the uneducated variety, the LSE, will
usually be ungrammatical since there will always be a group of less-
educated people in a meritocratic Singapore who will be unable to mas-
ter the language. According to Alsagoff (2007), we should not accept
the L variety as the standard as this would be a convenient cover for
people who are unable to master ISE. Nevertheless, unlike the aims of
the SGEM, the LSE should not be directly ostracized or eradicated (like
Chinese, Indian, or Malay before it), since this remains part of Sin-
gapore’s identity and culture, whatever of it that is left. Left alone to
evolve, the ISE and LSE it will run their liminal course, closely in touch
with sociopolitical forces in the world at large.
144 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders

CONCLUSION

In Singapore, some features stand out in the fast-paced progression from


multilingualism to monolingualism. First, it must be noted that while
monolingualism is much more acceptable today, bilingualism remains the
official cornerstone of language policy in Singapore schools, as reiterated
by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, careful not to alarm a population that
was already on the verge of losing its mother tongues:

Let me reiterate that despite the recent changes made by the Ministry of
Education, the government has not changed its longstanding bilingual
policy or shifted its position on the mother tongue. Bilingualism and
learning the mother tongue will remain the cornerstone of our educa-
tion policy (Goh 2004; MOE 2004).

While the government has been at pains to emphasize that mother


tongue standards have not been reduced and that the bilingual policy is
still fundamental to the Singaporean educational system, it is obvious that
such speech is becoming more symbolic than real. This is a traditional
ploy much like what was done with the raising of Malay as the national
language of Singapore in 1959. In other words, while Malay remains the
national language of the Republic resplendent in the state crest, currency
notes, national anthem, and army commands, in reality it is hardly used
in the working lives of Singaporeans, much less is a lingua franca of the
streets as it was in reality before it was raised, ironically, to national lan-
guage status. As Lee Kuan Yew confessed while explaining his choice of a
multilingual policy as early as 1959:

We realized that English had to be the language of the workplace and the
common language. As an international trading community, we would
not make a living if we used Malay, Chinese or Tamil. With English, no
race would have an advantage. But it was too sensitive an issue for us
to make immediate changes. To announce that all had to learn English
when each race was intensely and passionately committed to its own
mother tongue would have been disastrous. So we left the position as it
was, with four official languages—Malay, Chinese (Mandarin), Tamil
and English (Lee 2000: 170; also quoted in Silver 2005: 53).

Second, the choice of English over Mandarin, Tamil, and Malay as the
medium of instruction in schools can be summarized as a “bottom-up”
rather than a “top-down” process. The population valued a situation that
left identity and culture at risk but with material well-being intact—what
Pakir (1999) has called “a pragmatic multilingualism.” Singaporeans view
English not so much as a threat to their mother tongues but as the key to a
share of the world’s symbolic power (Chew 2008). This early realization
Embracing Liminality 145
of language as “linguistic capital” rather than “cultural capital” may be
attributed to the fact that 80% of its population is largely immigrant
Chinese or Indians, people who have been historically wrenched from
extremely deep roots and plagued by insecurities. Sociologists Tan and
Chiew (1995) found Singaporeans to be basically sojourners, adaptive
people moving from low-tech to high-tech, from commerce to manufac-
turing, from flowers to toys to circuit boards; with an ingrained respect
for authority figures, viewing their affi liation to the country primarily
in instrumental terms. This is not unlike De Klerk’s (1996: 111) study of
non-English-speaking students at Rhodes University in Grahamstown in
the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, where he found his respon-
dents “not willing to sacrifice their own futures on the altar of linguistic
diversity.” Indeed, students who spoke the least English were attracted
to the appeal of English, believing it to be an agent of modernization
and social change, and a provider of access to mobility and advancement
(ibid.: 111).
Third, while the rise of English in Singapore may be a bottom-up phe-
nomena, it is not entirely resistance-free as change must always invite
resistance (Chapter 3). Hence, as English becomes increasingly the mother
tongue of Singaporeans, there is discernible too a nostalgia in the com-
munity at large for “good old dialect.” We see this in the 1998 Hokien-
Mandarin movie, which has achieved the record as the highest grossing
Singaporean fi lm, “Money No Enough.” The movie follows the shenani-
gans of three friends as they try to resolve the fi nancial crises of their lives.
In addition, while a whole generation of youths has grown up not speak-
ing dialect, a recent online survey by MediaCorp, Singapore’s dominant
broadcasting station, on whether it should implement dialect programs,
polled a 90% affi rmative answer! However, according to Seah (2006),
the positive answer may stem partly from a belief that since Mandarin is
“already rooted,” there is “no risk” in allowing dialects to be used over
TV, radio, and the movies. Not surprising, the three-decade ban on dialects
in the mass media has been lifted and there are today dedicated channels
for programs in English as well as the various mother tongues, making it
possible to access different media content in all languages. In my opinion,
this usually represents nostalgia for traditional ethnic culture rather than a
genuine desire to reverse direction or to “retreat into the spiral.” This situ-
ation is much like native South American languages; these are beginning
to be recognized and used in education in many parts of South America
today but their low social status mitigates against the very success of lan-
guage maintenance (Hornberger and King 2001). Spolsky (2008) has also
commented that very often, revival movements are in reality ethnic mobili-
zation around the language policy; for example, the observation that once
Ireland became independent, the urgency of revival seems also to have
been lost. This reminds us of Bernstein’s (1972) early observation that
while groups may fight over language issues in order to secure or preserve
146 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
what they do best, underlying the sentimental concerns about language are
material motivations or access to socioeconomic goods.
Fourth, the story of Singapore may be seen as an extreme case response
to liminality, where the embracing of globalization and its attendant lingua
franca has came about without violence or public argument, even though
most Singaporean family histories reflect loss of mother tongues within
a generation, with grandparents often unable to communicate with their
grandchildren (Gupta 1994). It should not be forgotten that just as there
are entities that retreat from world orders, there are also entities that retreat
from liminality. Certainly, in sharp contrast to Singapore, it is possible
to perceive more ethnocentric states that resist and reject social, political,
linguistic changes, viewing instead everything in terms of nationalistic
encroachment and Western imperialism, rather than globalism. They fend
off the media and dream of returning to an idyllic past where boundar-
ies both political and metaphorical are clearly delineated without “border-
crossings” and impure influences. However, between these two extremes
of integration and retreat, are the “middle” nations that engage with both
the centrifugal and centripetal forces as a means of both advancing and
regressing. For example, while Thailand encourages the learning of English
as seen by the booming numbers of English language teachers in its schools,
it also tries to slow down the process by the placing of many restrictions
in the use of English in advertising. In addition, while English can only
be used in foreign brand names or jingles, in the rest of the advertisement
standard Thai is required (Masavisut et al. 2007).
To conclude, ambitious small states survive in the liminal period by
attempting to remake themselves constantly. This means reversing poli-
cies, re-ranking priorities, retrofitting existing sociopolitical policies, and
reinventing language policies. Pinpointing English as the emergent global
lingua franca today is likely to be a no-brainer, but envisioning it in the
1970s just as the big blue marble began to loom on the geoscape was quite
remarkable. The fact that Singapore has managed to coalesce its population
to switch from dialects to Mandarin a generation before the new China
made its global presence felt is also remarkable. Similarly, Singapore may
be said to be a post-ideological state long before the end of the Cold War,
being committed to an engagement with multinationals in the 1960s, at a
time when such processes were critically described as neo-colonialist (Wee
2008: 156). In view of these initiatives, perhaps the current promotion of
free trade agreements, the astonishing liberalization in migration/popula-
tion policies, and the tendency toward monolingual practice, all symbolic
of the integrating phase, may well be seen as trailblazers when viewed from
a point in the future.
The journey from multilingualism to bilingualism to monolingualism
is a route toward globalism. A case study of Singapore has enabled us to
see the three phases of liminality at a shorter extent of time than normally
thought possible. The struggle of substrate nationalism and a suprastate
Embracing Liminality 147
world order, the pull of multilingualism and monolingualism, has been
resolved through a series of sociopolitical experimentation in rather com-
pressed time. Careful not to indulge in “linguistic nationalism,” Singapore
has emerged from colonial status to nationhood, experimented with mul-
tilingualism, bilingualism, and monolingualism, and has restructured its
economy several times over in its effort to keep pace with changing liminal
conditions (Mok and Lee 2003). Its pragmatic dynamism in traversing the
three phases of liminality in half a century has enabled its observers to tra-
verse the liminal era in a comet-like fashion.
7 A Case Study of the
People’s Republic of China

“If you would know the future, study the past.”


(Confucius)

INTRODUCTION

We mentioned previously about microcosms as a reflection of macrocosms.


Here, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) can be said to be a microcosm
of the world, being a multicultural, multireligious, and multilingual nation,
a territory more diverse than most other nations. To study China is to study
a country of astonishing demographic, statistical, and sociolinguistic propor-
tions, and in this sense a study of China may serve as a substitute study of
the world.1 I will first discuss four common misconceptions about China, an
examination of which will subsequently help us in our understanding of this
chapter and the next.
The first misconception regards “the Chinese” (cf. Quale 1975; Strassberg
1994; DeBernardi 1991) as a monolithic hold. While a coarse racial clas-
sification of world peoples lumps all Chinese people together, this category
conceals much more variation than the differences between, for example,
Italians, Irish, and Germans within Europe. Actually, five major stocks make
up the huá, the core being the Hàn, and these comprise around 90% of the
population; 55 other nationalities such as the Tibetan, Manchus, Mongols,
and the Huí comprise the other 10%.2 However, some scholars (Ramsey
1987, Friedman 1994, Kane 2006) have conveniently (but controversially)
divided the Chinese continent into just north and south of the Yángtze River,
for a variety of reasons. The climate of the North is drier and cooler; the
South wetter and hotter. Genetic differences imply a long history of moder-
ate isolation between peoples of the North and South. North Chinese are
most similar to Tibetans and Nepalese, while South Chinese are similar to
Vietnamese and Filipinos. With regard to languages, the Northern dialects
have been influenced by Altaic languages3 while the Southern dialects have
been influenced by a great variety of languages. In addition, the Northern-
ers have developed different expressions and elaborated different areas of
the vocabulary because of the differing environments and occupations of
Northern and Southern Chinese. For example, in the North, the Chinese
rode horses and gave orders to command others. Southerners, by contrast,
were seafarers, and used physical force to subordinate others. As a result, in
Mandarin there is only one verb meaning ‘to hit,’ dǎ (打), while in Southern
Min (as we shall see, in Chapter 8), there are many terms for different kinds
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 149
of hitting such as phaq [phah] to hit (most commonly used, transcribed with
the character (打), harm [ham] hit the top of the head with a fist (榨), long
[long] hit with arm/hand (敲), siexn [sian] slap cheek (掌), zehg [cheng] hit
sideways, and koxng [kong] hit with a rod (De Bernardi 1991).
The second assumption is that of “Chineseness” as an objective, con-
crete, and static entity, part of a “continuous” political Chinese tradition
(Chesneaux 1979, Mente 2000). In reality, however, this “Chineseness” is a
fluid and subjective process, and the governance of China has in reality been
interrupted repeatedly by alien regimes. While China has its minority races,
these minorities played a significant part in Chinese history and were not
quite “minorities” since they had their own kingdoms with civilizations that
were different from but no less impressive than that of the Hàn Chinese. For
nearly two millennia, many of the “minorities” ruled their own territories,
and sometimes conquered parts of China or all of China. For example, the
Mongols ruled China for around 200 years and the most recent, the Manchus,
lasted 368 years. The Táng dynasty (7th century), although more “Chinese”
than the ones we have mentioned before, was founded with the military assis-
tance of the Tiele Turks and was later sacked by the Ulghurs and Tibetans in
mid-dynasty (Faribank and Goldman 2006). Hence, today, the word for Chi-
nese (唐人) means “Táng person.” Also, while Western Europe has evolved
or acquired about 40 languages in just 8000-odd years since the arrival of
Indo-European languages, fossils attest to human presence in China for over
half a million years. These facts hint at the immense diversity that lays hid-
den behind the “veil” of the monolithic Chinese script. We can still see some
of the remnants of this enormous diversity today in the countless little tradi-
tions, for example, folklore, cuisine, festivals, clothing, and so forth, which
still exist under the umbrella of a “great tradition” (Kane 2006).
Finally, there is a tendency to regard the multifarious mutually unintel-
ligible Chinese Han languages as “dialects” under one distinctive and rather
dominating script (cf. De Francis 1984, Strassberg 1994). Indeed, the Chi-
nese government is averse to discussing the presence of many languages in
the country and prefers to use of the term fāngyán 方言 (regional language)
to refer to Chinese multilingualism, despite the fact that many fāngyán are
mutually unintelligible and are more synonymous with what we would call
a language (Blum and Jensen 2002). Official documents of the “One-Lan-
guage, One–Nation” policy (一种语言,一个国家的政策) in China refer to
their many different languages as dialects of a single language in the fear that
the recognition of more than one language will be tantamount to destroy-
ing China’s political unity and identity. Perhaps if the writing system were
alphabetic, we would have been more aware of the vast amounts of linguistic
differences especially between North and South China.
A rule-of-thumb most commonly used as to whether something is a “lan-
guage” or “dialect” is that of whether they are mutually intelligible. Using this
rule, English, French, and German are held to be languages; however, Chinese
varieties are, for political reasons, held to be “dialects.” For the Chinese, there
is typically a conscious distinction between “language” or “dialect” when
150 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
referring to these languages unless the subject matter requires the distinction
to be made, and even then the distinction is not always made. If, for example,
a Shànghǎi inhabitant refers to the Sūzhōu dialect, he talks about “Sūzhōu
speech” or Sūzhōuhuà 苏州话; not Sūzhōu dialect (苏州方言 Sūzhōu fāngyán)
or the like. In this sense, and in view of the fact that many Chinese languages
are not mutually intelligible (being as similar as German, Italian, Swedish, and
English) it may be more accurate here in our study to term different branches
of the Chinese languages as “topolects” rather than dialects (Groves 2008).
According to Mair (1991), the Chinese term fāngyán is a much looser term
than dialect—the stress being more on the language or speech pattern of a
given regional locality. In my study, I will use both terms, the Chinese fāngyán
and the Western dialect, depending on the point that I wish to make.
In addition, different languages, or fāngyán, have been designated lingua
francas at different epochs in Chinese history. These lingua francas are usu-
ally the fāngyán used by dominant groups in various capitals, such as Běijīng,
Nánjīng, or Xī’ān. For example, when the classic Shū jīng (the book of his-
tory) was written, it was done in yǎyán (雅言) (elegant speech), the lingua
franca used during the Western Zhōu (1100–771 BC).4 In the Southern Sòng
Dynasty (AD1127–1279) the fāngyán that became the lingua franca was
based on the dialect of Jīnlíng (today’s Nánjīng). When Dàdū (today’s Běijīng)
was designated as the capital by the Yuán emperor, the lingua franca gradu-
ally shifted to Northern Mandarin. When these strong centralized regimes
faltered and disintegrated every few centuries, China would be carved into
contending states and its linguistic fortunes reshuffled. China’s linguistic his-
tory is therefore the story of a congeries of Chinese languages; some forgotten
while others were of great political, cultural, and lasting significance.
The final misconception, and one which is closely related to the third, is
the fact that Chinese is often referred to as “a language,” which in fact it is
not. Chinese is in fact a language group (yǔzú) (语族), one of four groups
in the Sino-Tibetan family (cf. Hannas 1994). Within this group linguists
generally agree to seven varieties, each with its own subdialects (Mountain
1992: 218):

1. Mandarin (North subdialect, e.g., Beǐjīng; Northwest subdialect,


e.g., Xī’ān, Southwest dialect, e.g., Chéngdū; Southeast subdialect,
e.g., Héféi)
2. Xiāng (Chángshā, Shuāngfēng)
3. Gàn (Nánchāng)
4. Hakka (Méixiàn)
5. Wú (Sūzhōu, Wēnzhōu, Hángzhōu)
6. Yuè (Yángjiāng, Cháozhōu)
7. Mǐn (Xiàmén, Fúzhōu)
Note: Although there are many subdialects and their subsequent
derivatives, only the Mandarin subdialects are shown in this list (oth-
erwise, the list will become too unwieldy).
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 151
These subgroups, each with many more subgroups of their own, have
been termed dialects, without further qualification, by the great majority of
writers (cf. Ramsey 1987: 17–18). This is not unlike that of the Arab world
in which classical Arabic exists side by side with the so-called mutually
unintelligible “dialects” of Arabic (Chapter 4). The result is an overarching
sense of unity, in China, as in Arabia, despite the fact that the spoken lan-
guages of different regions diverge greatly, not only in pronunciation, but
also in lexicon, and to some extent syntax.
The rest of the chapter will now proceed to discuss China against
the backdrop of the helicoidal model proposed in Chapter 2; and will
be discussed under the headings of family, tribe, city-state, nation, and

Table 7.1 Chinese World Orders


World orders History and archaeology
Family
– pre agricultural 1,000,000 BC Mythological accounts
– agricultural 10,000 BC Xiǎochángliáng, Xīhòudū
Tribes 6000 BC Yǎng sháo
2500 BC Lóngshān
City states 1765? Shāng and Zhōu
1122? Western Zhōu
770 Eastern Zhōu
City state empire Qín 221–206 BC
Hàn 206 BC to 220 CE
Three Kingdoms
Wèi 220–265 CE
Shǔ Hàn 221–263 CE
Wú 265–316 CE
Jìn 265–420 CE
16 kingdoms 304–420 CE
Southern & Northern Dynasty 420–618 CE
Suí 581–618 CE
Táng 618–907 CE
Five Dynasties 907 CE to 960 CE
Sòng 960–1279 CE
Liáo 907–1125 CE
Western Xià 1032–1227 CE
Jìn 1115–1234 CE
Yuán (Mongols) 1279–1368 CE
Míng 1368–1644 CE
Qīng 1644–1911 CE
Nation Republic of China 1912–1949
People’s Republic of China 1949– current.
152 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
global state. While this chapter will discuss China as a microcosm of
the larger world macrocosm, the next chapter will only discuss the Mǐn
linguistic family, one of the seven main language families of China, as
a microcosm of the Chinese macrocosm. Like the Chinese proverb: “to
throw out a brick in order to bring forth a jade” (抛砖引玉), this article
is humbly intended to serve as a brick that will hopefully bring forth
some fresh insights on the diachronic role of lingua francas in China’s
history.

Table 7.2 A Chronology of Chinese Dynasties 中國朝代 (中国朝代)

黃帝至舜 黄帝至舜 Age of the Five Rulers 27–22 Cent. BC

夏 夏 Xià 22–16 Cent. BC

商 商 Shāng 16 Cent. BC–1066 BC

周 周 Zhōu 1066 BC–771 BC

春秋和戰國時代 春秋和战国时代 Spring & Autumn 770 BC–206 BC


Warring States

秦 秦 Qín 221 BC–206 BC

漢 汉 Hàn 206 BC–206 CE

三國 三国 Three Kingdoms (Wèi, Shǔ 220–280 CE


Hàn & Wú)

西晉和東晉 西晋和东晋 Western & Eastern Jìn 265–420 CE

十六國 十六国 Sixteen Kingdoms 304–420 CE


南北朝 南北朝 Southern & Northern 420–581 CE
Dynasties

隋 隋 Suí 581–618 CE

唐 唐 Táng 618–907 CE

五代 五代 Five Dynasties 907–960 CE

北宋和南宋 北宋和南宋 Northern and Southern Sòng 960–1279 CE

遼 辽 Liáo 907–1125 CE

西夏 西夏 Western Xià 1032–1227 CE

金 金 Jīn 1115–1234 CE

元 元 Yuán 1279–1368 CE
明 明 Míng 1368–1644 CE
清 清 Qīng 1644–1911 CE

中華民國 中华民国 Republic of China 1912–

中華人民共和國 中华人民共和国 People’s Republic of China 1949–


A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 153

THE ORDER OF THE FAMILY

Most of the early history of China is lost in mythology, but we may pre-
sume that individuals existed in the order of families, an institution that
still exerts a strong influence on the Chinese mind. These families under-
stood each other and gravitated around the language of the pre-agricultural
patriarch. Recent archaeological studies show stone tools used by families
of Homo erectus at Xiǎochángliáng site, magnetostratigraphically dated
at 1.36 million years ago, as well as records of the use of fire in Xīhòudū,
Shānxī, about 1.27 million years ago (cf. Nivison 1993).5 The existence of
agricultural families can be traced back as early as 10,000 BC with evi-
dence for millet carbon-dated to about 7000 BC. With agriculture came
the usual ability to store and redistribute crops and to support craftsmen
and administrators. Traditional legends speak of the Sān Huáng or “the
three august ones,” who are credited with initiating marriage and bestow-
ing upon the Chinese the knowledge of agriculture, smelting, weaponry,
and porcelain.
The institution of marriage initiated the cultural idea of the “family.”
With time, the cultural idea of families grew to include extended fami-
lies (Mair et al. 2005). For example, in Inner Asia in the Steppe lands,
the extended family had many economic advantages because a single man
could not manage separate herds of large and small stock without assis-
tance. It also made it easier for the women to carry out cooperative tasks
like millet processing or felt making (Higham 1989). Large groups of kin
also provided protection against theft and allies in disputes with other
groups. These extended families may also have lived in the forests where
they developed techniques such as the use of bows and arrows for hunting.
Other families who lived along the coastal sites lived primarily on fish and
shellfish and created new improved tools such as needles for sewing and
fishhooks now made of bone. While some families stayed for prolonged
periods to cultivate plots of land that were fertile, some were inherently
mobile—moving to places where food and shelter could be found. Nomadic
pastoralism was based on flexibility of movement, and attempting to main-
tain too many people or animals in one place reduced the viability of the
land. When local pasture was insufficient, some families would migrate to
other areas. If they maintained political and social ties, linguistic intelligi-
bility would be maintained; intelligibility would be erased with the passage
of time (Barfield 1989).
Nevertheless, once the family grew too large, it became difficult to main-
tain. Large groups are by nature more unstable; for example, because indi-
viduals owned their own animals, they could break away if dissatisfied. Due
to various pull and push factors including “cultural collusion,” extended
families tended to gravitate toward tribal orders, or “clans” as they are bet-
ter known in China. My narration will thus center on the Huáng Hé (Yel-
low River) areas where a clan, most likely speaking a variety of the Turkic
154 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
or Tibeto-Burman group of languages, is thought to have fi rst settled at the
upper reaches of the Huáng Hé around 5000 years ago (Moser 1985).

THE TRIBAL ORDER

Like tribes, clans are united by kinship and descent, and even if actual
lineage is unknown, clans members will tend to name an apical ancestor
so as to encourage and foster a symbolic unity. At Dàmàidì in Níngxià in
6000–5000 BC, clansmen have been found to carve 3127 cliff carvings fea-
turing 8435 individual characters such as the moon, stars, and suns as well
as scenes of gods, the sun, moon, stars, and scenes of hunting and grazing
(Stover and Stover 1976). As the fi rst people congregated together into clans,
and disparate families would have to speak a pidgin, but with the next gen-
eration, such a pidgin would have adopted creole-like features, and by the
third generation (a space of 60 years), the pidgin would have become a lan-
guage in its own right. Indeed, that particular Chinese language would now
begin to have a subtle vocabulary that would distinguish between concepts
such as eat 吃 chī, swallow 吞 tūn, gobble (贪婪地、大口地)吃 (tānlándi,
dàkǒudi)chī, nibble (小口地)咬 (xiǎokǒudi)yǎo, bite 咬 yǎo, taste 尝 cháng,
lick 舔 tiǎn, and munch (大声地、用力地)嚼 (dàshēngdi, yònglìdi) jiáo. These
words with the root “口”are related to “eating” in Chinese: 嚼 jiáo chew , 咀
嚼 jǔjué chew, 咽 yàn swallow, 啃 kěn gnaw, 啮(literal) niè gnaw and, last
but not least, 嗑 kè cracks between the teeth.
Archaeological sites have evidence of bones of domestic pig, dogs, water
buffalos, white silkworms, ducks, and geese (ibid.). Such evidence of inten-
sive farming by organized clans meant that productivity would increase
and that a family could support itself on a relatively tiny plot or plots.
Domestication and widespread agriculture was evident with villages and
clans. These plots, still evident in small villages in China today, were
grouped around village clans, 20 or 50 families on average who walked
short distances to their fields, morning and evening. The Yǎng Sháo culture
(circa 2500 BC) showed permanently settled village clans storing excess
grain reserved in large storage pit. The role of the village depend upon the
extent of contacts with the local herders and farmers, the size of the village,
its nearness to the city and water system. Village administration included
rotating and protecting crops, appointing village officials, levying water
dues and other national taxes. Within the village were also various guilds
representing the weaving industry, controlling apprenticeship, settling dis-
putes, and mediating between weavers and city contractors.
Clans were distinguished by the language they spoke. Hence, one’s
speech was likely to give clues to the hearer of one’s origin. Members of
the clan would marry among themselves but a Chinese preference is to
seek marriage partners from another village, as most of one’s fellow vil-
lagers were likely to be relatives of some degree. The “other” village would
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 155
usually be 10 to 20 miles away or on the other side of the mountain and
whose people would speak a language with some distinct difference. When
this happened, it was the custom for the female to move to the male’s vil-
lage, and hence she would have to accustom herself to the different accents,
which in time would become her own. A patriarchal system enforces the
male language as dominant. The xìng (姓) (family name) is important, and
historically, women take their husband’s xìng as well as his language, after
marriage.
It is common to think that China evolved on its own rather than being
influenced by early developments in southwest Asia, Mesopotamia, or the
Indus Valley due to the fact that the writing system does not enable us to
trace phonological sounds that might have originated from elsewhere (its
writing system does not correspond to the language it is recorded in and
therefore we can only guess how the language was spoken). However, recent
research by Zhou (2006) shows that Chinese civilization also went through
“cultural collusion” at significant periods, and that various ancient civiliza-
tions polarized, syncretized, and affected each other. Similarities between
the Phoenician alphabet and the Chinese calendar signs, the tiāngān dìzhī
(天干地支), or heavenly stems and earthly branches, have been remarked
upon by a number of linguists such as Lee (1999). Rhoads (2006) points to
the nonnative wheat, barley, alfalfa, donkeys, the horse and the spooked
chariot as being diffused to China between 1800 to 600 BCE.
Thanks to the clan, villages were largely self-governing and self-reg-
ulating (Mair 2005). The behavioral norms of such folk culture are still
in existence (but fast disappearing). However periodic outbreaks of vio-
lence between clans began to encourage certain clans of similar ideologi-
cal nature to group together as a means of defending themselves against
invaders. If we add up every one of the million village clans of China,
one may then look for a leader, possessing military chariots and bronze
weapons, to head the contending clans grown distinctive and contentious
through the millennia. This leader (or king) would situate himself in the
main village, which would grow into a city and become the “capital” of
all the villages in its vicinity (Lewis 2000). In short, the era of city-state
became the prevailing order when it was realized that it was a superior
organization that could not just defend a way of life but also recruit group
work for purposes such as the control of floods and the storing of grain
for lean years.

THE NATURE OF CHINESE CITY STATES

Chinese city-states are associated with the name of the royal family or
dynasties that lasted on average about three centuries, preceded by a brief
whirlwind period of empire building, consolidation, and then decline
(see Figure 7.1). A city-state culture may be said to begin with the Shāng
156 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
Dynasty (1600–1066 BC) and Zhōu Dynasty (1066–771 BC) with its capi-
tal at Ānyáng and Hào, respectively (Hansen 2000). By 2000 BC there were
hundreds of small states, each with its city complex, immediate hinterland,
and army, as well as its city walls. Indeed, by the late Shāng, the Chinese
character and the spoken word for “city” were the same as “wall” (城) and
remain so to the present. Each of these city-states comprised many towns
and each town comprised several villages (Skinner 1977). Within each city
would be key public sites such as the market, the public square, where peo-
ple could meet and discuss issues, and the temple. A larger city-state would
usually be a complex of a few cities and a few armies and often controlled
by the ruling house. The king designate would usually originate from one
of the allied tribes. To aid him in his administration, he would normally
delegate power to members of his family or some trusted kinsmen from his
own clan. The empire was dominated by one dominant tribe/clan, and their
language was usually the language of public administration and the lingua
franca for many provinces of its rule.
Dynastic names such as Shāng, Zhōu, and later, Táng, Sòng, and Míng,
denote the surnames adopted by the chiefs of the dominant city-states (see
Table 7.2). Prior to the Qín Dynasty (3rd century BC), China was largely a
feudal society and such early city-states were actually fiefdoms divided and
subdivided among descendants, so additional sub surnames, known as shì,
were created to distinguish between different lineages among the nobles,
although in theory they shared the same ancestor. The fi rst century of a
new dynasty would be marked by political, economic, and cultural vigor,
expansion, efficiency, and confidence; the second would consolidate what
the fi rst has achieved; and in the third century, corruption would mount,
banditry and rebellion would multiply, and the dynasty would ultimately
fall. In other words, all dynasties tended to be cosmopolitan and expan-
sionist in their fi rst century, complacent in their second century, and over-
whelmed by problems in their last century (Rhoads 2006). Unlike what
we saw in Arabia (Chapter 4), a new group coming to power from among
the rebels would rarely attempt to initiate a new world order—indeed, the
clan–city-state (and later city-state–empire) alliance was so popular that it
remained with China till the downfall of the Manchus in 1912. City-state
culture will hence form the dominant discussion of this chapter.
One of the more comprehensive records pertain to the Shāng (1600–1066
BC), which controlled 1800 tribal clans as well as a vast array of cities,
towns, and villages. Of course, modern Chinese has changed tremendously
from the Chinese spoken during the Shāng. Its capital city, Ānyáng, and its
language, Ānyáng huà, was the prestigious lingua franca of this realm. Trad-
ing was rampant and there were reports of Ānyáng huà as the lingua franca
of the surrounding regions such as Xiǎonánhǎi, Nèihuáng, and Lóngshān,
as well as other Chinese cities such as Zhèngzhōu and Hángzhōu.
As dynasties fall, new dynasties take over, favoring new capital cities,
and through such activities, changed the language of prominence as well.
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 157

Figure 7.3 The Sinitic languages.


158 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
The Zhou Dynasty (1066–771 BC) took over the Shāng after defeating
them in many battles. Their language, the western Zhōu dialect, became
the lingua franca. It was called yǎyán (雅言) (“elegant speech”) and was
widely desired because of its linguistic and cultural capital. The Zhōu
rewarded their generals and family members with lands, hence creating
a category of 1773 districts (according to distinctive clan groupings) that
were almost autonomous but which paid tribute to Zhōu, sending them
military conscription whenever needed. In these areas, anyone wishing to
liaise with the powerful Zhōu leadership would have to speak yǎyán. Trad-
ers began to use yǎyán for purposes such as trade, which took place far
beyond the inter-village level, linking distance provinces or sub regions
and reaching overseas. In this way, yǎyán as the lingua franca united the
clans, so that by the end of Zhōu rule, discernible administrative areas
(of tribes) were reduced from 1772 to only 130. However, it must not be
assumed that yǎyán resembled modern Chinese in some small way. For
example, philologists puzzling over the rhyming of the 305 poems in the
Shī Jīng, or Book of Odes (900–600 BC) found that the end-of-line rhymes
didn’t rhyme, at least not in the pronunciation known to modern Chinese
scholars. Working back from the present by postulating the previous pro-
nunciation that could combine, for example, a present s/sh and a k into an
earlier rasping palatal sound (x), they ascertained the probable pronun-
ciation of ancient Chinese (500 BC and 500 CE) and of Archaic Chinese
(prior to 500 BC). They postulated a yǎyán possessing a more complex
and inflected grammar and with evidence of prefi xes like modern Tibetan
as well as the presence of nominative, accusative, and genitive case forms
(Tweddel and Kimball 1984).
The collapse of the Zhōu in 771 BC led to the era of warring city-states,
about 500 years of endless brutal wars that devastated the countryside
and prevented any cultural advancement. This unfortunate state of affairs
could only end with the advent of one state, subjugating the rest, into an
empire. In 221 BC, this was made possible by Qín Shǐ Huáng, a native
from the city-state of Qín. Although the Qín Empire (221–206 BC) lasted
barely a decade, its significance lay in the fact that it showed what a larger
unity could do for China. During this period, Qín Shǐhuáng centralized
his rule at Xiányáng city, close to Xī’ān. He also launched the then novel
concept of a centralized government, the standardization of laws, curren-
cies, measurements, width of axles, coaches, roads, and so forth as a part
of a vision of a united China (Norman et al. 1988). In a way, this was a
liminal period for China for it marked the transition from city-state to
city-state empire. Succeeding dynasties did not look back from this vision,
and although remorseful at the loss of past diversities, realized its inherent
advantages over that of the old world order. The idea that one dominant
city-state should be militaristically strong enough to rule all the other city-
states (a concept similar to the Srivijaya Empire, the Aztec Empire, and
the Roman Empire) was taken as “heaven’s way” and accepted widely as
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 159
the “the common good” (Dringer 1982). So enamored was China with the
framework of a city-state empire, that it remained such so for the next two
millennia, long after the world order of the city state had lost its popular
legitimacy.
One notable reform of Qín was the official adoption of the small seal
style script, xiǎozhuàn 小篆, as the lingua franca, and correspondingly the
abolition of the many other forms of Chinese script, as both a practical
and symbolic measure of the city-state empire concept. At that time, there
existed many diverse scripts within China’s vast territories, not just because
of the great distances and geographical barriers but also because of the
decentralization of power seen during the later years of the Zhōu dynasty
(770–256 BC). Thus, the characters that were different from those found
in Qín were discarded, and xiǎozhuàn 小篆 characters, as defi ned by his
chancellor, Li Si, became the standard for all regions within the empire
(Gascoigne 2003). Scholars who opposed the “burning of the books,” were
ruthlessly executed. Qín would also have liked to ensure uniformity not just
for the written but also the spoken medium, but because this was impos-
sible with the large distances, he had no choice but to allow the common
people to continue to speak their oral fāngyán (Mair 1991).
It is important not to confuse a city-state culture with that of a nation-
state, which China would only gravitate to in the 20th century. Qín Shǐ
Huáng did not propagate a national-state—there was no constitution such
as the Medina constitution that listed of rights and responsibilities of citi-
zens. Qín was operating in the framework of a city-state, with kingship
as a divine right and with people outside “the wall” defi ned as barbar-
ians. Indeed, Qín’s city-state empire was more a loose political federation
of disparate city-states each with their own proud and distinct cultures and
fāngyáns. Relative to the Arabic Empire, it was a “top-down” regime with
the emperor always on guard against possible rebellion since he held the
state by sheer power rather than through a linguistic or religious ideology.
Emperors lived in real fear of strong leaders emerging from within their
clan or elsewhere that could unseat them (Mote 1999). For example, in the
9th century (874–884CE), Huáng Cháo (d. 884), with help from the city-
states of Sìchuān and Shāndōng region, rebelled against the Táng Dynasty,
and in so doing, effectively diluted the power of the center, reverting China
back into city-state minus the empire, under a period called the Five Dynas-
ties and Ten Kingdoms Period (see Figure 7.1).
Neither should it be assumed that one dynasty succeeded another
smoothly. The intervals between succeeding industries were usually chaotic
ones with contending leaders from different cities and clans, until such a
time when one might powerfully arise to subjugate the others under his
military might. For example, the Yellow Turban Rebellion (黄巾之乱) broke
out in 184 CE, ushering in an era of what has been termed warlordism.6 So
too, in 303, the Dī people rebelled and established the independent city-state
of Chéng Hàn. The period of the Sixteen Kingdoms (304 CE–439 CE) also
160 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
saw short-lived linguistically different sovereign city-states taking turns in
ruling whole or parts of Northern China in the 4th and 5th centuries.7 Simi-
larly, from 907 CE–960 CE, during the period of the Five Dynasties, five
regimes succeeded one another rapidly in control of the old imperial heart-
land in Northern China. During this same time, ten more stable regimes
occupied sections of southern and western China (see Figure 7.1).
In addition, it must be noted that just because the term “empire” is
used, it does not presuppose that the entire empire was “secured” under
centralized rule as some states, usually the more remote ones, were only
loosely aligned and were often distinctive entities to themselves (Fairbank
and Goldman 2006). Due to periodic disagreement, such states might also
disengage from the center for short periods until forced later (either mili-
taristically or through political alliances such as bribery and marriages)
to return to the fold. In the time of the Sòng (960–1279 CE), for example,
there merged in the provinces of Gānsù, Níngxià, and Shǎnnxī in North-
west China, a Western Xià Dynasty from 1032 up to 1227, established by
Tangut nomadic tribes (Mote 1999).8
Indeed, as late as the Qīng dynasty (1644–1911), nationhood was dis-
missed as a fanciful idea (Fairbank and Goldman 2006, Gascoigne 2003).
For example, on assuming the Chinese throne in the 17th century, the Man-
chus set up the “Eight Banners” system (八旗制度) in an attempt to avoid
upholding their tribal order and to avoid assimilation into Chinese society.
Hence, as late at the 17th century, “race” was still an important ingredient
and had privileges even in an era where nation-states were enjoying their
“heyday” in Europe. The Eight Banners were military institutions, set up
to provide a structure with which the Manchu “banner men” were meant
to identify. Banner membership was to be based on traditional Manchu
skills such as archery, horsemanship, and frugality. In addition, the men
were encouraged to use the Manchu-Tungusic language spoken in North-
east China rather than Chinese. Banner men were given economic and legal
privileges in Chinese cities. Nevertheless, such efforts failed to preserve the
Manchurian language, and the small numbers of Manchus relative to the
large Chinese population meant that it was only a matter of time before it
would be totally assimilated and extinguished. (Lehmann 1975).9

CITY-STATE–EMPIRE

In this section, we recount some major dynasties such as Hàn, Táng, Sòng,
and Míng operating under the framework of “City-State–Empire,” which
would enable them through the next two millennia, to manage—aston-
ishingly—territories as large or larger than that of a later world order, the
nation. Such an order enabled three major achievements: the spread of the
Northern Chinese language to the south, either through trade or politi-
cal instability, which ensured a greater cultural unity; the establishment
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 161
of various capital cities of succeeding empires such Nánjīng, Kāifēng, and
Běijǐng, which enabled previously unintelligible fāngyáns to ascend as the
lingua franca of the empire; and last but not least, the linguistic cross-
fertilization of ideas from outside the empire.
The Hàn Dynasty (221 BCE–206 CE) rebuilt Cháng’ān (present day
Xī’ān) to become what was then “the most populous state surpassing the
contemporary Roman Empire and rivaling it in status and prestige” (Dubs
1955:79). As a means of standardizing the use of different languages in the
empire, the scholar-poet Yáng Xióng (53 BCE–18 CE) devoted 27 years
of his life to a survey of the many regional languages in China but died
before completing it (Gunn 2006). The fāngyán (方言) one of the earliest
of all dialect dictionaries, showed great cultural and linguistic differences
with the Zhōngguó (i.e., Chinese, or the lingua franca). Hàn Dynasty texts
stereotype regional speech and personalities. For example, Sīmǎ Qiān’s
Shǐjì (Records of the Grand Historian) describe men of Western Chǐ as
“customarily truculent and easily angered” and ‘Bān Gù’s Hàn shū (汉书)
(History of the Hàn Dynasty) comments that “Shāndōng produces states-
men; Shānxī produces generals” (山东出 政客 ,山西出将军) (ibid.). These
stereotypes were of course, viewed from the perspective of Cháng’ān (206
BC–9 AD) and later the Luòyáng (25–220 CE) language, which were then
the prestigious lingua francas, in short, the language of the court. In view
of the great number of languages, the futility of such an exercise was real-
ized and this became a project of low priority.
The reasons behind the splintering of the Northern Hàn language, the
“Latin of East Asia,” into numerous mostly mutually unintelligible fāngyáns,
can be attributed to the many migrations in China (cf. Ulrich 2001). In the
fi rst great wave of migration, the Northern dialects expanded southward
and formed the Xiān-Jiāng Mandarin dialect, for the area on both sides of
the Xiān-Jiāng river that flows generally northward from Southeast Chi-
na.10 For example, migration was pronounced in the Western Jìn Dynasty
(265–317 AD) and continued through the Northern and Southern dynasties
(420–589 AD). In the former, the Yǒngjiā uprising caused large numbers
of Northern refugees to migrate south with refugees from the provinces of
Shānxī, Shaǎnxī, Gānsù, Héběi, and Hénán, crossing the geographical and
metaphorical North-South boundary, the Yangtze River, and settling in
Jiāngxī or in southern Ānhuī and Jiāngsū. Similarly, during the period from
the Eastern Jìn Dynasty (317–420 AD) to the Southern dynasty, the area
around Nánjīng was fi lled with immigrants from the North. The influx of
new people from the North to different areas in the South will always bring
about language shift.
Language loss is especially pronounced considering that the number of
the immigrants in the region from Jiānglíng in Húběi to Chángdé in Húnán
was over ten times that of the native population, as seen in the 8th century
during the Táng Dynasty (618–907 AD) (Ma 2002). Here the Ān Shǐ upris-
ing of 755 CE brought chaos to the whole of Northern China, causing once
162 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
again large numbers of Northerners to migrate even further south. This
second wave of mass migration brought large-scale movement of Northern
peoples into Jiāngxi and instigated the initial development of the Gàn and
Kèjiā languages (Zhou and Sun 2004). With the passage of time, these new
languages split into subvarieties. For example, during the Sòng Dynasty
960–1279 AD, the Kèjiā language split into many varieties when it spread
into southwestern Fújiàn and northwestern Guǎngdōng, as a result of a
later third wave of migration during the Míng (1385–1662 AD). So too the
Qīng (1662–1912 AD) era saw the spread of the southwestern Mandarin
dialect to Sìchuān, Gùizhōu, and Yúnnán as a result of the migration of
refugees and troops usually because of periodic unrest.

CAPITAL CITIES AND THE LINGUA FRANCA

There have been many historical capitals of city-state–empires such as


Běijīng, Nánjīng, Luòyáng , Cháng’ān, Xī’ān, and Hángzhōu, just to
name a few. Capitals were often chosen with regard to the hometown or
support base of the conquerors. Hence, depending on where the capital
was situated, so too did the lingua franca of the particular city became
the “natural” lingua franca of the empire. For example, in his study
of the diachronic variation of the phonology of early Chinese, Coblin
(1999) discovered that in the 7th century, there were Tibetan transcrip-
tions of Chinese words and Chinese transcriptions of Tibetan words. He
found that the Sino-Tibetan treaty transcription of 821–822 reflected
the phonology of the Cháng’ān dialect in the 9 th century, then the lin-
gua franca of China. This was not surprising since Cháng’ān was the
capital of the Táng Dynasty. Cháng’ānhuà therefore reflected the proud
culture of one of the largest planned cities—of 30 square miles and with
1 million people and another million outside its walls. As the cultural
model for all other Chinese cities, Cháng’ānhuà commanded imperial
legitimacy.11
With the fall of the Táng and the rise of the Sòng (960–1127 CE), another
capital city, Kāifēng, became the capital.12 Hence, Cháng’ānhuà began to
fade in importance relative to Kāifēnghuà, for the simple reason that it was
the language of the emperor and the court. Kāifēng was then the “model
city” just as its language became the route for ambitious aspirants to the
socioeconomic wealth of China. Official tributary embassies and less for-
mal visitors and merchants or adventurers would learn Kāifēnghuà, taking
back with them the image of Kāifēng as the epitome of the Sòng civiliza-
tion. Kāifēng exported silk and other textiles, lacquerware, and some iron
and steel in return for spices and other tropical products. It is believed that
Kāifēng was the largest city in the world from 1013 to 1127 and the use of
Kāifēnghuà was crucial in order to generate trade across the vast territories,
for transferring money through the equivalent of letters of credit, as well
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 163
as for other aspects of banking and fi nancing that were practiced (Twedell
and Kimball 1985).
As the main purveyors of the lingua franca in their dealings with the cos-
mopolitan crowd, such as Indians, Persians, Syrians, Vietnamese, Koreans,
Japanese, Jews, Turks, and Arabs, who came to Kāifēng, merchant guilds
acquired immense economic power in the lower Yangzi and the southeast
coast.13 The west wanted Chinese crops such as soybeans, hemp, citrus
fruit, tea, apricots, peaches, and pears, whereas the Chinese wanted crops
and animals such as barley, cows, and horses, and to a lesser extent, sheep
and goats (Curtin 1984: 110). Guilds controlled much nonagricultural pro-
duction, marketing, and long distance trade. Merchants needed at least a
degree of literacy especially since they had to deal with the state and the
official bureaucracy as well as the keeping of records and accounts over
long distances. Some of them also acquired a good deal of classical educa-
tion and read poetry both classical and popular. In short, Kāifēnghuà has
been one of the more prestigious fāngyán, being the language of the capital
city of many Chinese governments such as the later Liǎng Jìn, Hàn, Zhōu,
and Northern Zhōu dynasties. Indeed, today one can still fi nd ancient Chi-
nese words in Kāifēnghuà that are not in Pǔtōnghuà.
Another famous capital in the South is Nánjīng in Jiāngsū province. Its
fāngyán, Nánjīnghuà, which is at least a little more similar to Mandarin
than to Kāifēnghuà, nevertheless possesses distinct differences in pronun-
ciation as well as unique grammar and phrases peculiar only to the area.
Nánjīnghuà’s prestige comes from the fact that it was the language of many
capitals in China, bearing in mind the fact that China’s main food source
comes from the South. It fi rst became a capital in 229 CE during the period
of the Three Kingdoms Period. It was then called Jiànkāng and remained
the capital until the Suí Dynasty reunified China (581–618 CE). During the
Táng Dynasty (618–907CE) it was renamed Jīnlíng and later Xīdū. The
fi rst Míng emperor, Zhū Yuánzhāng, also made it his city in 1368 (Mote
1999), and adopted Nánjīnghuà even though it was not his native tongue.14
Indeed, as late as the early 20th century, the position of Nánjīng Mandarin
was considered by some higher than that of Běijīng. Even the Chinese Postal
Map Romanization (邮政式拼音) standards set in 1906 included spellings
with elements of Nánjīng pronunciation. Nevertheless, by 1909 the declin-
ing Qīng Dynasty had established the Běijīng dialect as guóyǔ (国语), or
the “national language.”
Mandarin, or what is in reality, Běijīnghuà (after the name of yet another
Chinese capital), the Northwest dialect of Hénán province, came into view
only in the 13th century. Then, Kublai Khan, although a speaker of Mon-
golian, chose Běijīnghuà as the lingua franca of the capital with Běijīng as
his capital city.15 With its elevated status, Mandarin, then just one of many
Sinitic languages of North China, underwent rapid, extensive phonetic and
other changes (Moser 1985). Indeed, since the 13th century, the languages
spoken in the North have become, under the name of guān huà, (官话)
164 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
“language of civil servants,” a sort of administrative and intellectual lingua
franca. As the language of the political capital, Běijīnghuà then logically
acquired “the prestige” and status to become the phonetic basis for the
Pǔtōnghuà and Mandarin dialects.
In brief, with migrants coming from different dialectal regions toward
the city, a lingua franca was essential for trade and commerce and would
likely be the lingua franca, whatever fāngyán it may have been, and would
have its fair share of hybridity and dialect mixing. If the city remained
stable and prosperous for long, and its inhabitants remained there for long
periods, dialect leveling or convergence toward a common norm would
occur, the norm being the lingua franca of trade and power.

CULTURAL EXCHANGE, EMPIRE, AND LINGUA FRANCA

I will illustrate how one such capital city, Lín’ān (today’s Hángzhōu), the
capital of Zhèjiāng province, will suffice as an example of cultural and
linguistic excellence. Located 180 kilometers southwest of Shànghǎi, it was
fi rst mentioned as a city of the Qín Empire more than 2000 years ago. Dur-
ing the Suí period (581–618), a Grand Canal was built to link it the North
China Plain, making it a very important commercial center for Northern
capitals such as Cháng’ān (Táng Dynasty 618–907). Hángzhōu was its
commercial center, a defacto “second capital” after the fi rst administrative
one. Since then, north Zhèjiāng has, together with the neighboring south,
Jiāngsū, been synonymous with luxury and opulence in Chinese culture.
When Marco Polo visited Hángzhōu, he called it “Kinsay,” the “fi nest and
noblest city in the world.”16 Later however, Hángzhōu became a capital city
in its own right—during the Southern Sòng Dynasty (1127–1279 CE) until
the Mongol invasion of 1276).17 As both administrative and commercial
capital, it served not just as the nexus of the main branches of the civil ser-
vice but also as a center of trade and entertainment. From the 9th to the 13th
century, the city was the gravitational center of Chinese civilization. Espos-
ito and Gladney (1999) recount that taxes from maritime trade provided
one-fifth of imperial revenue. As a “center,” its language, Hángzhōuhuà,
one of the subdivisions of Wú, which in turn is one of the sublanguages
of Chinese, was the pride of philosophers, politicians, and literary figures
such as Sū Shì, Lù Yóu, and Xīn Qìjī and the famous scientist Shěn Quò
(1031–1095). The possession of such a linguistic capital meant the posses-
sion of power, wealth, and opportunity, more so in view of the fact that
the Wú fāngyáns are very diverse, especially in the South, where one valley
may speak a fāngyán completely unintelligible to those in another valley a
few kilometers away.18
Hángzhōuhuà was the key to scientific and intellectual capital. It was
the avenue for important inventions such as block printing and movable
type, which was developed in the 9th century and 11th century, respectively,
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 165
as evidenced in the earliest recorded printed text, the Buddhist Diamond
Sutra, in 858 CE and the classical books of Confucius in 982 CE.19 Other
Chinese inventions included the magnetic compass, gunpowder, and ocean-
going ships, which were subsequently used by Europeans, who curiously,
according to Needlam (1970) did not know where they fi rst came from.
Indeed, long distance trade between Arabic speakers and China not only
brought goods and raw materials but also religious beliefs, artistic styles,
languages, and customs. In 660 CE, Uthman, the third Caliph of Islam,
had sent a Muslim envoy to Cháng’ān headed by Sa’dibn Abi Waqqas. The
Ancient Record of the Táng Dynasty (唐书) recorded the historic meeting,
where the envoy greeted Emperor Gāozōng and reportedly tried to con-
vert him to Islam. Although the envoy failed to convince the Emperor to
embrace Islam, the Emperor was impressed enough to allow the envoy to
teach the faith to the Chinese and to establish the fi rst mosque in the city.
Through this fi rst encounter, the Muslim population in China now num-
bers approximately 100 million. 20 Chinese Muslims maintain an Islamic
mode of dress and dietary rules within a Chinese cultural framework; they
continued to speak local dialects and read in Chinese. Many of the original
Muslims married Hàn Chinese women and simply took the name of the
wife while others took surnames such as Mo, Mai, and Mu. 21
The famous Muslim physician, Al-Razi, records the visit of a Chinese
scholar to his home in Baghdad, in the 10th century. He recorded how his
Chinese guest stayed there learning Arabic in 6 months, and then trans-
lated the works of Galen into Chinese, after which he left to return to
China. Scientific collaboration between Arabs and Chinese were common.
For example, water clocks were widespread, as were water-powered mills
to grind grain and to perform some manufacturing functions, and Islam
books at the time describe several types of water clocks in 1080 (Pacey
2004). It could be that Muslims learned from Chinese or vice versa, or
that they invented it in a shared way because of the exchange of technol-
ogy. Needlam (1969) narrates how the Chinese scientist, Kou Shou-Ching
(1231–1316 CE), arrived at his invention by modifying the “torqutum,” a
kind of computing machine for performing transformations between coor-
dinate systems, which was fi rst designed by the Spanish Muslim Jabir ibn
Aflah, and that it was introduced into China by the scientific mission of
Jamal al-din in 1267 AD. This kind of exchange continued right through
Mongol rule (1279–1368 CE), where Needlam and Wang (1954) recorded
how Chinese astronomers such as Fu Meng-chi had worked with Muslim
astronomers. In addition, Muslims served as administrators and generals
and helped administer the empire under the Mongols (who were Muslims)
and who used them to help put down uprisings and rebellious city-states.
For example, in 1070, the Sòng Emperor Shénzōng invited Prince Amir
Sayyid’s 5,300 men from Bukhara to settle in China as part of his campaign
against the Liao Empire in the Northeast (Gladney 2004).22 These men
settled between the Sòng capital of Kāifēng and Yānjīng (today’s Běijīng).
166 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
The effect was to create a kind of “buffer zone” between the Chinese and
the Liao.
Trade with India, as with Arabia, was rife. 23 There are Chinese refer-
ences in 636 AD to many Brahmin books on astronomy, medicine, and
mathematics. Indian astronomers were invited to share their knowledge
with Chinese scientists, and during that time, there were also Chinese refer-
ences to Indian knowledge of mineral acids (Needlam 1970: 19). There are
also records of Buddhist activity in the building and repairing of bridges
along routes connecting China to India, and large bronze statues of the
Buddha have been found as early as 734 AD. By the 12th century, Buddhist
mathematical textbooks in China were very common (ibid.). A 12th cen-
tury Confucian scholar cited by Needham states “Nowadays even children
learn mathematics from Buddhist textbooks which deal with the counting
of infi nite numbers of sand grains. . .” (Ronan 1980: 38–39).
While Needlam (1986: 581) believes that it was “cultural factors,” such
as the belief of abstract notions such as chi and tao, 23 which prevented
these early Chinese achievements from developing into what can be called
“Modern Science,” I feel that an additional equally important reason why
modern science did not maintain its momentum from the Middle Ages in
China was because China was not in synchrony with the dominant world
order of the time, that is, the nation-state, and therefore was not in syn-
chrony with longer periods of political stability, mass support, or the pro-
motion of mass literacy essential for the sciences to strive. While Chinese
science flourishes under strong city-state empires, they were almost always
completely destroyed by the intervening years of dynastic succession. Nev-
ertheless, the Chinese achieved much relative to the Harappan, Phonecian,
and European medieval city-states because theirs was an “empire” united
by a single script—a kind of intermediate point between a “city-state” and
a “nation-state.”

CHINESE SCRIPT AS LINGUA FRANCA

While the Hàn state (206 BC–220 CE) realized that it was impossible,
much as they would have liked to, to promote one lingua franca for the
whole Chinese empire due to its vast expanse, they did succeed in creating
a common identity not so much through uniform speech but through the
shared experience of a common script. This section analyzes the sociolin-
guistic implications of hànzì, 汉字 (the logogram used in writing Chinese)
amidst the backdrop of evolving world orders.
Current theories and evidence pinpoints the fi rst emergence of Chinese
writing along the East Coast between the Late Neolithic and the early
Bronze Ages. There are stories of a heaven-sent “river-horse” or turtle that
appeared from a river before a legendary emperor. This turtle did not speak
Chinese but he carried the gift of writing as a set of strokes on his back.
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 167
The laws of writing were then written down. Alternatively another Chinese
theory is that we have an “emperor” who after listening to the birds, and
after they have flown away, silently copied the light marks in the sand their
delicate feet left behind. Chinese characters instead were directly suggestive
of the words for things, largely independent of sounds or alphabets. The
earliest written language is the so-called Jiǎgǔwén 龜甲獸骨文字 (Oracle
Bone Script), around 1500–1000 BCE. Consequently, scholars have been
using oracle bones as historical documents to investigate the reigns of
later Shāng monarchs. The shape of these characters is often described as
“pictographic,” in that they resemble stylized drawings of the objects they
represent. Of the 3000 or so characters found, around 2400 have been
deciphered as ancient precursors of modern-day hànzì.
Like spoken language, written language also evolved, but in a much
more controlled manner. The scripts evolved from Jiǎgǔwén to Dàzhuàn
(大篆) (Greater Seal), which appeared on cast bronze vessels and were used
from the Late Shāng to the Western Zhōu Dynasties (1100–700 BCE) and
then to Xiǎozhuàn (小篆) (Lesser Seal). This script had a less linear and
more angular look and is the direct parent of the modern unsimplified Chi-
nese script. In the Hàn Dynasty, Chinese characters saw more development
and replacement of the Small Seal Characters. The new form is known as
Lìshū (隸書), or Scribe Characters. These were easier to write and their
dimensional proportions was roughly rectangular, wider horizontally than
vertically. The Lìshū form further progressed into the regular script, or
Kǎishū (楷書) style. The regular script has remained the standard written
style of writing for publication and official documents until recently, a time
span of about 2000 years (cf. Rohsenow 2004).
The written speech served as the emblem of a united China, although
beneath this “veil” were hundreds of mutually unintelligible Chinese lan-
guages. And even if a certain fāngyán was intelligible, the phonological
variations (accents) were almost always different, making comprehensi-
bility difficult. For example, even if people spoke Běijīnghuà, it still did
not mean that they would all have the same pronunciation. Even today,
Pǔtōnghuà, supposedly based on the phonology of Běijīnghuà and propa-
gated in Běijīng institutions, may be very different when one steps out of
a Běijīng classroom and hears it spoken among the native street vendors
along the streets. In the 17th century, the Empire set up Orthoepy Acad-
emies (正音書院 Zhèngyīn Shūyuàn) in an attempt to make pronunciation
conform to the Běijīng standard but with little success. Indeed, San (2000)
reports that as late as the 19th century, the emperor had had difficulties
even understanding some of his own ministers in court, who did not always
try to follow any “standard” pronunciation.
Written Chinese was the “high” language, greatly esteemed by all, being
influenced by the fact that it was learning, rather than the ownership or
inheritance of great estates, which was the preferred route to political
power (Rhoads 2006). Written Chinese involved learning tens of thousands
168 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
of distinct characters and used to be very hard to learn and write. In theory,
an able man could rise to office through examinations, although of course
the sons of the rich and well-connected had an advantage through their
leisure time for education. Nevertheless, there was a remarkable degree
of upward mobility for its time. The prestige of wényán (文言) (classical
Chinese) was added by the fact that literacy was rare. We have no accurate
means of measuring literacy in traditional Chinese society and the gentry
group in China probably never constituted more than 2% of the population
(ibid.). In 1487, a set form was established for the writing of examination
papers in eight categories using no more than 700 characters altogether,
following a prescribed style of polished commentary on the Confucian and
Neo-Confucian classics.24 The government supported schools at the county
and prefecture levels, offered classical education to able boys, the best of
whom were brought to the capital for further study and training as appren-
tice officials.
Like classical Arabic, classical Chinese has no native speakers. It is never
spoken but is an artificial “universal language,” using a posteriori prin-
ciples much like those used to create Esperanto and other modern artificial
languages (cf. Krejci 1990: 215). It was constructed based on the notable
works of the classical era and the spoken language conventions of their day
that most resembled the written styles on record from the past. Much like
the Esperantists of the 19th century, the originators of classical Chinese
concentrated on creating a written language rather than one that could be
effectively spoken. Indeed, some linguists have considered Classical Chi-
nese so rigidly defi ned as a communication system that they felt it should
not be classified as a language at all (Gledhill 1998). Similarly, a Chinese
poem is at the same time a musical and also a pictorial (calligraphic) piece
of art and thus virtually untranslatable into any other language. In other
words, like classical Arabic, classical Chinese was a written standard, not
a spoken one. There are many ways of sounding written Arabic just as
there are many ways of sounding written Chinese. Chinese writing has the
special characteristics of not really being lined, from the phonetic point of
view to a particular language: A person speaking the Běijīng dialect cannot
communicate with someone from Guǎngzhōu, but they can both read the
same newspaper and communicate in writing. The characters refer to ideas
before referring to sounds, and a person can read them without knowing
how to pronounce a single Chinese word, in the same way that a comic
strip can be read without words. Similarly one and the same Chinese ideo-
graph stands for a concept that can be read by people, who in the spoken
language, do not understand each other; thus the logographic script, inde-
pendent of pronunciation, became the main unifying factor of the Chinese
culture, both in its geographical and historical dimension (cf. Zhao and
Baldauf 2008).
Correspondingly, written Arabic (also known as “standard” or “formal”
Arabic) is similar throughout the Arab speaking world (cf. Versteegh et al.
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 169
2007). It is used for literary and technical communication, as well as for
diplomatic correspondence. It is however markedly different in its vocabu-
lary, grammar, syntax, and stylistic requirements from any of the standard
dialects. Indeed, written and conversational Arabic differ enough to con-
stitute, for all practical purposes, different languages. While in English it is
possible for us to tell our students to speak correctly so that we can write
the way we speak, this is unfortunately not the case for Arabic or Chinese.
Learning to write not brilliantly but adequately in classical Arabic and Chi-
nese requires years of disciplined instruction. Indeed, classical Arabic used
for writing and formal speech must be learned in school, as the details
of the language are subtle, intricate, and arbitrary. Like classical Chinese,
the writing of classical Arabic presents an imposing technical challenge,
enough to daunt any but the most accomplished experts.
The significant difference between Chinese and Arabic is that while
the Arab Empire united its diverse peoples through a religio-nationalistic
framework, the Chinese city-state empire was able to do this through their
logographic script. Indeed, the hànzì has been a highly successful lingua
franca for the storage of information and has been the primary means of
communication from around 200 to 1920 CE. For many centuries, it was
the language of the literati, of diplomats, and of government officers.25

NATION-STATE

Frustrated by the Qīng Dynasty’s allegiance to the antiquated order of the


city-state empire and inspired by the relatively modern and nationalistic
ideals of Sun Yat-sen, young officials, military officers,and students over-
threw the Qīng Dynasty and created the Republic of China in 1912. Influ-
enced by Western ideals of democracy and the nation-state, China became
a late entrant to the world order of the nation. It gravitated to a concept
of nationalism 中国民族主义 (Chinese nationalism) based on cultural and
political theories that promoted the idea of a unified and cohesive people
under the abstract notion of a single nation-state.
Of many Western ideas, two linguistic ones were seized as panaceas that
could solve China’s problem (Fitzgerald 1986). One was the notion of one
state with one nation and one language (只有一个民族和一种语言的国家)
and the other was the Romanization of the Chinese writing system. Many
intellectuals came back from aboard and wanted to craft China in the light
of Europe. Influenced by the French, Chinese nationalists perceived the
modern nation as an aggregate of individuals participating in a common
political life through their use of a common language. The experience of
Europe taught them that language played a pivotal role in providing a nation
with a distinct identity that separated it from other nations (Ager 2001).
At that time in China, two written languages co-existed: wényán (文言)
(written language of the administration and the educated), and báiyán
170 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
(白言) (“white or easy language”), very close to the written language of the
North, in which all well-known novels and plays were written. After the
May 4th Movement, an anti- wényán (文言) movement was born along with
a movement in favor of guóyǔ (国语) (national language). 26 It is this idea of
a single symbolic national language that was taken up after the revolution
of 1949, under the name of Pǔtōnghuà (普通话 “common language”).
While the nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek chose the more
refi ned and chauvinistic term of guóyǔ, the Communist government under
Mao Tze-tung chose Pǔtōnghuà, which is what is also called Mandarin
or the Chinese language today, as the base of the standard spoken norm.
Pǔtōnghuà was originally a low-class variety of Mandarin from the North,
which came into common parlance at the end of the Qīng Dynasty, and
had the connotation of being an adulterated form of the standard guóyǔ
then spoken (Chen 1996). Pǔtōnghuà appealed to the Communists, as it
was a relatively more broad-based term, a “common speech of the masses”
to guóyǔ, a term identified with the previous nationalistic government and
which is still in use in Táiwān today (Ladefoged and Maddieson 1996). Guo
(2004) designated three phases of language development of the Communist
government: 1950–1980, 1980–1990, and 1990. The fi rst, 1950–1980, was
characterized by official and mass understanding that Pǔtōnghuà, with its
phonological basis in Běijīnghuà, would eventually and naturally replace
all Chinese fāngyáns. Premier Zhōu Ēnlái made this point in 1956 on the
nationwide official promotion of Pǔtōnghuà:

Many unintelligible dialects have hindered the communication be-


tween people from different dialect communities and caused many in-
conveniences for China’s socialist construction . . . . These phenomena
must be effectively eliminated in order to protect the interest of China’s
political, economic, cultural and national defense development “(Guo
2004: 47).

The uniformity of speech was naively taken as a favorite tool to craft the
sovereignty of China. Pǔtōnghuà was not only to become the official lan-
guage of China but also the lingua franca between the Hàn dialect speakers
as well as the minority tribes. Hence, measures were taken to ensure that
script and Pǔtōnghuà conform. Pǔtōnghuà was spoken not just in Běijīng
but even in small mountain villages and border towns. For example, in the
once isolated district of Wēnzhōu in Zhèjiāng province, it was difficult to
promote Pǔtōnghuà, but as Wēnzhōu people became more engaged in busi-
ness activity and needed to communicate with the outside world, they spon-
taneously learned Pǔtōnghuà. While minor dialects with fewer speakers
are seen to be most at risk from modernization, major dialects such as the
Shanghai dialect have also come under threat. Professor Qián Nǎiróng 27
says that while there are more than 10 million speakers of the Shànghǎi dia-
lect, the sphere in which it is being used has become significantly smaller. 28
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 171
Even the once elite Manchurian dialect, the official fāngyán and symbol of
the elite during the Qīng Dynasty, is predicted to die within the next few
years. The official Xīnhuá news agency reported that in a recent survey,
only several dozen elderly people who lived in remote villages in Northeast
China could speak Manchurian, although there are tens of millions of eth-
nic Manchurians (Straits Times 2001).
However, such fears of extinction may well be exaggerated because the
unification of speech relative to writing remains a difficult process (French
2005). As late as 2004, research revealed that only 53% of China’s popu-
lation could communicate in Pǔtōnghuà. This percentage is defined as a
passing grade above 3-B (i.e., error rate lower than 40%) of the Evaluation
Exam. 29 Zhang Shiping, vice director of the education ministry’s language
planning department, in early 2006 stated that “more than half of Chi-
na’s 1.3 billion people can now speak Mandarin,” (quoted in DeBernardi
2006)—an accomplishment that he considered “a key success.” Many rea-
sons have been postulated for this, one of which is the vast area that is
China. The proverb “the heaven is high above, and the emperor is far away”
(山高皇帝远) may explain why, while policies may be understood, they may
not be implemented in the way they are intended. Another reason is the
deep cultural preference for the “middle way,” that is, reverence for the
power of the center as well as adaptation to the practice of the localities.
Hence in the second phase, 1980–1990, there was a reconsideration of
the policy of “one-nation, one-language,” as seen in the revival of dialect
use in public domains such as television and movie theatres and a political
environment tolerating some linguistic diversity. Bilingualism was allowed
to exist except for the Northerners whose fi rst language corresponded more
or less with that of Pǔtōnghuà. (Zhou 2004). The government was careful
to recognize the value of the fāngyán in communication with fellow mem-
bers of the same county, village, and clan. In the third phase, Guo (2004)
explains, the relationship between Pǔtōnghuà and dialects was defi ned in
terms of a mainstream and a diversity principle—Pǔtōnghuà for public use
and dialects for complementary private use. Although an ambivalent situa-
tion was created, this is something quite typical and acceptable in China.
However, Pǔtōnghuà should not be thought of as a single entity as it
is always straining against its own division and multiplication in order to
fulfi ll its mission of countering local cultural hegemonies and their con-
tests for status. Like Arabic, Pǔtōnghuà itself is spoken in many different
accents and dialects, some more prestigious than others. What had began
as a limited dialect in the early 20th century has now become a conglomer-
ate of mushrooming regional varieties, united only by the grammar and
core vocabulary of the written script. Here Mandarin is “reminiscent of
creole grammars” due to its accommodation to the multifarious fāngyáns
(Fasold 1990: 188). In the past century it has absorbed many words from
the surrounding languages so as to widen its function and there are, inevi-
tably, progressive embellishments in the way of local vocabulary (Saillard
172 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
2004). Over time, better and better Pǔtōnghuà is likely to be spoken, but in
the meantime, like World Englishes, it has spawned many varieties.
A question here is whether these new vernacular varieties of Pǔtōnghuà
will be transmitted to the younger generation or whether they should be
regarded as more similar to the approximation phase evidenced for individ-
uals learning a foreign language, and therefore likely to disappear with the
current generation of speakers? The answer is that they are more likely to
be passed on to children since they are social norms rather than idiomatic
features that are found in foreign language learner approximations. Creole
studies also substantiate this point. Decreolization typically occurs when
the acrolect is socially valued by, and accessible to, speakers of the creole
(Holm 1988: 52). Therefore local varieties of Pǔtōnghuà may be attracted
by two opposite poles: local identity values leading to the maintenance
of the local vernacular, and national identity values calling for a better
approximation of the standard. Thus, the question of the possible main-
tenance of vernacular varieties of Pǔtōnghuà should fi nd its answer in the
balance between local and national identification needs of speakers.
The nationalistic phase of Chinese history also see reforms not just in
oral speech but also the written script. In 1935, the Nationalist Govern-
ment proposed 324 simplified characters but the proposal was withdrawn
due to widespread opposition from the literati who had spent their whole
life trying to master the traditional characters. Nevertheless, it was the
fi rst time that attention was drawn to the necessity for more simplified
characters. The second notable reform affecting the written script was
that of the Romanization of the Chinese language. Chairman Máo was
often quoted as saying, “our written language must be reformed; it should
take the direction of phonetization common to all languages of the world
(Lehmann 1975: 51).30 At the time, the best known Romanization of the
Chinese script was the Wade-Giles notations.31 However, these Western
efforts were not acceptable to the PRC government, who wanted their own
system of Romanization. Hence, in 1954, the Ministry of Education of the
PRC assigned a committee to reform the written language. This committee
developed Hànyǔ Pīnyīn, today the best known Mandarin Romanization
system in use. 32 Today, hànyǔ pīnyīn has been standardized on radio, tele-
vision, and advertisement. Hànyǔ pīnyīn has also been accepted by many
governments, the Library of Congress, the American Library Associa-
tion, and many other international institutions (Hincha 2004). Lately, this
digraphia has also served China well, since hànyǔ pīnyīn has been found
to be a useful tool for entering Chinese-language text on computers (Straits
Times 2008: 7).
However, while hànyǔ pīnyīn has the effect of increasing the literacy rate,
it also has the effect of relegating dialects to the class of unwritten language
since it is only Pǔtōnghuà (which is the mother tongue of the Chinese liv-
ing in Northern China and the Sichuan province) that is being Romanized,
not the dialects. This means that the Hàn languages other than Pǔtōnghuà
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 173
would gradually lose their literary and cultural functions, become limited
to the group function, and reduced to the domain of orality. So a Roman-
ized transcription, which at its inception and on the surface might appear
as both a brilliant and liberating solution to a literacy problem, that is, the
difficulty of learning the characters due to the great number of ideograms,
becomes in practice an instrument that downgrades traditional regional
fāngyáns and speeds up their eventual demise.

GLOBAL

While China was a late entrant to nationalism, it is unlikely to be a late


entrant to the global order, as seen in its open door policy of the past three
decades. China has moved rapidly from the “back” of the spiral in the early
years of Communism, when it depended heavily on Soviet technology and
shunned the rest of the world, to the “front” of the spiral as a committed
member of globalization (Hu 2005). Hughes (2006) notes its economy as
far more open than those of Japan and Korea. Its approach to new ideas and
innovations is to a degree not seen in a big country since Meiji Japan: China
is committed to competition, to foreign education, foreign institutions, and
new laws, and this great openness to the world at large is transforming the
whole of Chinese civilization. China’s adaptability to globalization lies in
the fact that it is a nation of opportunity seekers, and with 174 cities in
China, the competition is incredible. Never in the world’s history have so
many workers’ material standards of living improved so rapidly as in the
past three decades. Indeed, Naughton (2006) is of the opinion that China’s
current prominence in the world is intimately associated with liberalization
and globalization.
The formation of the People’s Republic of China (1949) coincided with
the onset of the Cold War (mid-1940s to 1990s). Then, Russian as the
lingua franca of the Soviet Union was also a viable contender for world
lingua franca status. Not surprisingly, a pragmatic China, which was also
a socialist state, threw its weight behind the learning of Russian. Hence,
from 1949, the Běijīng Foreign Language Institute was founded with Rus-
sian as the prominent foreign language. Not long after, many universities
and other foreign institutes followed suit: They started their own Russian
departments with the sole mission of preparing students to be expert in
Russian and to meet the needs of a society as it sought to ally itself with
the Soviet Union. This was a time when many teachers, including English
teachers, had to join their Russian colleagues and teach Russian, even if that
meant that they had to be retrained in a very short time (Wen and Hu 2007).
However, when relationships began to sour between the Soviet Union and
the PRC in 1956, Premier Premier Zhōu Ēnlái urged that the teaching of
foreign language be extended to include other possible linguistic contend-
ers such as English, French, and German. China’s pragmatic relationship to
174 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
English may thus be said to begin from 1956 (ibid.). Toward the 1980s, as
it became obvious that the Soviet Union’s collectivized agriculture and inef-
ficiently planned manufacturing system were not capable of bringing it eco-
nomically up to the par with the West, the Chinese Ministry of Education
symposium emphasized foreign language education from primary school to
university with the overwhelming majority of students learning English and
a small number of students learning Russian in 1979.
Like Pǔtōnghuà, English also plays a central role in stratifying educa-
tional access, attainment, and achievement. Most if not all of the world’s
500 largest corporations have invested in China, and these multination-
als want to employ young people who speak English. Children in the kin-
dergarten and fi rst grades in major cities of China are studying English,
which alongside Mathematics and Chinese is one of three core subjects that
anchor the curriculum of 80 million secondary school pupils. Even in the
most isolated rural communities, parents understand that the study of Eng-
lish is crucial to children’s social mobility. Indeed, English teaching capa-
bilities are stretched to the breaking point in colleges and universities where
enrollments are increasing. Even if the state will not bring English to them,
the private school will. Privately funded education, which vanished since
1949, is making a comeback. At the end of 2005, 15 million students were
enrolled in 77,000 nonstate schools, that is, 8% of the 197 million Chi-
nese children aged five to 14 (Straits Times 2007). The Economist (2006)
reported that up to one-fi fth of the population is learning English and that
in view of such statistics, the English-speaking population in China will
outnumber the native speakers in the rest of the world in two decades. The
2008 Běijīng Olympics has no doubt contributed to the “craze” in English
learning. China will also play host to the world congress of the Interna-
tional Association of Applied Linguistics (AILA) in 2012. McKay (2008)
believes that people learn new languages not because they are languages
but because they wish to adopt “identities” that such languages bring. Peo-
ple want to modernize, to be part of the new world order, and the learning
of English is the greatest symbol of such a “modernity.” If this is the case,
then perhaps it is modernization and the English language that is posing
a greater threat to China’s 1000 dialects than the government’s efforts to
popularize Pǔtōnghuà recounted previously.
The use of lingua francas in large areas almost always engenders
varieties. Just as Pǔtōnghuà is hopelessly resisting its multiple identi-
ties, so too is English fighting against the fragmentation of itself. In this
aspect, Chinese English is emerging as another distinct variety of World
Englishes alongside that of Indian, Nigerian, and Philipino English (cf.
Kirkpatrick 2007). Some of the most salient features of the pronuncia-
tion of English from eastern, northeastern, and central China have been
outlined, for example, the use of /x/ for /h/, the use of /n/ in place of /l/.
Many of the features include replacement of many consonant sounds,
avoidance of weak forms for function words, and the stressing of fi nal
A Case Study of the People’s Republic of China 175
pronouns. But work will still have to be done for the suprasegmental
aspect of rhythm and stress placement to fi nd out whether there are
characteristic intonation patterns for the English of speakers from China
(Deterding 2006). Everything being equal, Chinese English will eventu-
ally have more speakers than Britain and America combined, and when
this becomes the case, it will start to have a major impact on the way the
language evolves.

CONCLUSION

As a microcosm of the world at large, China’s vast territories and great


diversities of cultures and languages have meant that lingua francas were
an indispensable tool in its history. In every one of its world orders, there
have always been corresponding lingua francas—from the jiǎgǔwén of
the Shāng, to the Dàzhuàn of the Zhōu, to the xiǎozhuàn of the Qín, to the
wényán of the Míng, to the báiyán of the late Qīng, to the guóyǔ of
the Nationalist government, to the hànyǔ pīnyīn of today. On the oral
plane, we have gone from the Ānyáng huà of the Shāng, the yǎyán of
the Zhōu, the Cháng’ānhuà of the Táng, the Kāifēnghuà of the Sòng,
the Nánjīnghuà of the Míng to the Běijīnghuà (Mandarin—Pǔtōnghuà)
of today.
The spread, demise, or growth of lingua francas at different periods
in China’s history has depended not so much on some internal aspect of
the language but rather on the external environment. It has depended on
factors such as which dynasty (i.e., which clan) and thus which language
was at the seat of power, which capital city held center stage, and whether
peace or war reigned. In times of peace, lingua francas such as that of
Cháng’ānhuà, Kāifēnghuà, Nánjīnghuà, and Běijīnghuà (Pǔtōnghuà)
tended to flower and become “standardized,” and its spread throughout
the realm resulted in many subvarieties, some of which, through the inevi-
table passage of time, became unintelligible. Peace encouraged migration
to the economic wealth of the town and city and the language of towns
and cities became enriched by the tongues of the many villages. In times of
war or natural disasters, lingua francas spread through forced migration
and this resulted in phenomena associated with the formation of pidgins,
creoles, code-mixing, and code-switching. A language shift will almost
automatically occur when the migrating population is larger than the pop-
ulation of the target area.
Whatever else, one enduring feature remains: the ceaseless change in
languages and their varieties, even if the world order remains constant,
as did the city-state empire of China for 2000 years. If the world order
remains constant, linguistic change will often take place gradually and
almost imperceptibly as each generation becomes affected by differing
sociopolitical circumstances. However, when the world order dramatically
176 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
changes, as it did in the 20th century, linguistic changes in China began to
accelerate rapidly at a pace not seen before.
While China evolves through successive world orders, it must not be
thought that this evolution is strictly sequential, for often times, there would
be a backward motion (a retreat) before a forward motion can be discerned.
The empire would fall apart, and China would “fall back” into the spiral of
tribalism and warlordism. For example, at a time when China was a city-
state empire, a relatively retrospective and unknown tribal leader, Nurhaci
(1616–1626), gained control over all the Manchurian tribes, then attacked
Inner Mongolia and Běijīng in 1644, thereafter resuming the city-state
empire order, which was to last for the next 250 years. And while China
is now a part of the order of nation-states, allegiance to family, tribe, and
city ties remain strong, as affi rmed by distinct languages and loyalties, kept
passive under the nationalistic ideal of a “monolithic” people. However,
such regressions into the spiral survive for relatively short periods as tribes
or cities, as the case may be, lack the size and strength to defend themselves
against larger groups, and their momentary retreat will only lead to rein-
force the inherent necessity of larger conceptions of societal organization.
For example, Nurhaci adopted the city-state empire concept in his rule as
well as the Chinese language as a means of governance, and soon the whole
of the Manchurian tribe was assimilated into a more sophisticated “order.”
This then was the history of the city-state empire of China in between peri-
ods of war and peace.
World orders and lingua francas have great uniting influence. One recalls
how the use of yǎyán reduced the number of disparate Shāng clans from
1772 to 130 in the 2nd century BC as a symbol of “empire.” In contrast,
countries that remain predominantly tribal will contain the most diversity.
For example, New Guinea has less than one-tenth of China’s area and only
40,000 years of human history, but possesses over 1000 languages and
dozens of language groups, many of which are uncontactable and mutually
unintelligible. What is intriguing is that within a 100 years of the founding
of the nationalist order in China, China is once again engaging with the
next world order—globalization—and this engagement promises to be of
great interest.
8 A Case Study of Southern
1
Min Language

INTRODUCTION

As narrated in Chapter 7, Chinese languages fall into seven distinct groups, and
of these seven, we will only choose one of them to discuss in depth—the Mǐn,
spoken in Fújiàn province on the southeast coast of the People’s Republic of
China. While every language tradition has its own story, the choice of studying
one in the Fújiàn province may be ideal for our purposes since it shows a dif-
ferent, less known kind of Chinese tradition far from the center. The area pos-
sesses many little-known minority races as well as a long and colorful history
of small kingdoms that were different but no less impressive than those of the
North (CIESIN 2008). For example, one little known fact is that Southern Mǐn,
or Mǐnnánhuà, is totally unintelligible to Standard Mandarin or Pǔtōnghuà
and contains under its wing a larger array of languages and cultures. As previ-
ously recounted (Chapter 7), although the Fujianese speak different languages,
which are more different than the romance languages of Europe, for the idea
of “unity” they are considered as part of the deceptively simple and monolithic
term hànrén, 漢人 (literally, the Han Chinese) of China.2
Fújiàn borders Zhèjiāng to the north, Jiāngxī to the west, Guǎngdōng to
the south, and Táiwān to the east, and has a population of 35 million (China
Statistics Press 2001) (see Figure 8.1). Like North and South China, Fújiàn
can be divided into North and South Fújiàn (see Figure 8.2). These two have
quite different cultures: The Northern Min, with its main city of Fúzhōu, is
marked by early adoption of Buddhism and shows influences of Japanese cul-
ture though contact made with the Ryukyu Islands. This division became pro-
nounced during the Táng Dynasty (618–907) when the city broke into two on
linguistic lines as the languages of the north are unintelligible to this day to
the languages spoken in the south (see Figure 8.2). Northern Mĭn language,
or Mĭnbĕihuà 閩北話, of northern Fújiàn province, sometimes referred to in
Chinese as Fúzhōuhuà 福州話, after Fúzhōu, is a language that is unintelligible
not only to the population in South Fújiàn but also to speakers of Mandarin
and Cantonese. On the other hand, Southern Mĭn language, or Mĭnnánhuà
or Hokkien (English dialect name) or “Fukienese,” “Taiwanese,” and “Amoy”
(from the former spelling of Xiàmén, locally pronounced 廈門 ē-mnĝ), is the
coastal city in the center of Fújiàn (Lin 1997, Ma 2002).
178 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders

Figure 8.1 Provinces of China. Retrieved on 9 September 2008 from http://www.sacu.


org/provmap.html.

Figure 8.2 Map of Fújiàn province.


As shown in Diagram 8.2 Fujian comprises 9 districts, which are strangely called “cities” today
and each “city” consists of several counties or “small cities”. For example, Hui’an, Jinjiang,
Nan’an, Yongcu and Anxi belongs to Quanzhou city; while Tong’an belongs to Xiamen City.
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 179
Broadly, all the multifarious languages of Fújiàn can be put under the
category of Mǐn, one of the many Southern Chinese languages, which
according to an estimate by Xu (1992), is spoken by 55 million people all
over the world. 3 However, as with the other languages of China, there are
subdialects; seven major subcategories can be discerned just for Mǐn:4

• Quánzhōuhuà, in cites such as Jìnjiāng, Nán’ān, Zhāngzhōu, Xià-


mén, and counties/districts such as Tóng’ān, Huì’ān, Yǒngchūn,
Ānxī, Zhào’ān, and Jíměi
• Fúzhōuhuà, spoken by people living in the cities of Fúzhōu and
Fúqìng
• P ǔxiànhuà, spoken by the people in Pǔtián of southeastern Fújiàn and
counties under its administration
• Hakka, spoken by the people in Yǒngdìng in southwest Fújiàn, and in
Liánchéng and Chángtīng in Lóngyán, and in Pínghé, Zhào’ān, and
Nánjìng in Zhāngzhōu City;
• Lóngyánhuà, spoken by people living in Lóngyán
• M ǐnběihuà, spoken by residents living in Wǔyí Shān in the north of
Fújiàn
• M ǐndōnghuà, spoken by those who live in the northeastern part of
the province, whose capital is Níngdé5

Lee (2007) postulates some differences in the cultural characteristics


within each dialect group. It has long been generalized, for example,
that those who live along coastal lines such as Quánzhōu and Jǐnjiāng
are more “adventurous and open-minded” and that those who live
inland are more conservative. Fúzhōu and Henghua (Xīnghuà) and Rén
(from Pǔtián) have traditionally been regarded as the elite in Fújiàn
as there have been good scholars from their areas, and they are more
reserved.
At this point, it must be noted that the boundary lines are drawn
according to geographical features such as mountains and rivers, or
according to political ones, such as history and so forth. So when we
speak of Mǐnnánhuà, we will occasionally have to cross boundaries; for

Figure 8.3 The Min family tree.


180 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
example, Hǎinán is part of Mǐnnán, but it is on a separate island, and
for that reason, so is Táiwān. Wēnzhōu, a part of Mǐnnán, is actually in
neighboring (north) Jiāngxī province, while Cháozhōu is in neighboring
(south) Guǎngzhōu province.
I shall be focusing on Southern Mǐn language (閩南話) (literally: lan-
guage of the southern Mǐn). Using Bell (1976) typology, Mǐnnánhuà can be
considered a fully fledged language. It has vitality as it carries the history
of Fújiàn. There is historicity, as a group of people do fi nd a sense of iden-
tity using this language. It is also autonomous, being distinct from other
languages. As to “purity,” it brings with it its own cultural baggage of past
conquests, assimilation, and migration. It is also not standardized and does
not possess its own indigenous script.6 Mǐnnánhuà can be further divided
into sublanguages of the different regions in Fújián itself, some of which
are not mutually intelligible (see Figure 8.3). For example, Hainanese is the
most variant form of Mǐnnán. The evolution of the initial consonants has
left it no longer understandable to the Mǐnnán speakers. (Mǐnnán diction-
ary 1991.) Due to their considerable dialectal variation, the precise clas-
sification of these sublanguages of Mǐnnán have confounded linguists, so
this preliminary analysis will be necessarily superficial and occasionally
anecdotal (Branner 2000).
Since Chinese writing is not lined from the phonetic point of view to a
particular language, Mǐnnán can be written in the Chinese script. We have
already recounted how the logographic script, independent of verbaliza-
tion, was a key reason for the one-ness of the Chinese people. Hence, while
a person speaking the Beijing dialect cannot communicate with someone
from Fújiàn, they can both read the same newspaper and communicate in
writing. However, as with others such as Cantonese, Korean Hanja, and
Japanese Kanji, this superimposed script may not always work to cover all
the sounds in Mǐnnán. When writing the Southern Min language in Chi-
nese characters, some writers create “new” characters when they consider
it impossible to use directly or borrow existing ones. There are also a num-
ber of special characters that are unique to Southern Mǐn and sometimes
used in informal writing (as is the case with Cantonese). Where standard
Chinese characters are used, they are not always etymological or genetic;
hence the borrowing of similar-sounding or similar-meaning characters is
a common practice (Mǐnnán Dictionary 1991).

WORLD ORDER OF FAMILY—THE RISE OF


PATRIARCHAL LINGUA FRANCAS

Archaeological evidence is much less complete for South China than North
China due to the higher temperature and humidity, which rapidly break
down organic remains. Nevertheless, recent archaeological discoveries of
shells, bones, jades, and ceremonies demonstrate that the coastal regions
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 181
of Fújiàn around Fúzhōu entered the Neolithic age (characterized by the
rise of agriculture and the eradication of other human species except that
of the Homo sapiens) by the middle of the 6th millennium B.C.7 Traces of
advanced farming and bronze-making has been found south of the Yangtze
in South China (Jiao 2007).
The fi rst indigenous families in Fújián were of proto-Austronesian
stock living along the Mǐn River around 5500–500 BC with “large eyes,
fl at nose and tattooed bodies” (Chang and Goodnenough 1996). They
were likely to be speakers of Miao-Yao, Tai, Austroasiatic, and Kudahi
languages as well as other language families (Edmondson n.d.).8 For
example, Forrest (1948) observes that the way plurality is shown in cur-
rent Mǐnnán pronouns may reflect influences from local aboriginal lan-
guages such as Tai and Miao, which like the Mǐn languages, use separate
forms for singular and plural pronouns. Other variants of ancient Chi-
nese non-Han sounds have also been found in Southern Min language.
Because these groups were scattered in the inaccessible mountainous ter-
rain that is Fújiàn, we should assume that from the earliest times, these
indigenous groups were likely to speak totally different fangyáns. Han-
nas’ (1994) research indicates the presence of different pronunciations,
which vary radically from one fangyán to the next in terms of number
and types of segmental phonemes; in the number of phonemic tones,
their contours, and their susceptibility to different types of tone sandhi;
and in suprasegmental features. Equally important, there are also enor-
mous lexical differences, especially in the common use vocabulary, that
amplify the effect of these differences beyond their actual number. Even
where the morphemes are cognate, meaning and nuance can vary enough
to alter one’s understanding of a word completely. Finally, there are also
significant grammatical differences.
These hunter-gatherers moved in small family groups, each with its own
distinct language and culture, and often did not encounter other family
groups; it was rare that they met other groups. If they did, and eventually
they did, it would result in intermarriages and cultural exchanges through
the use of a lingua franca, a pidgin comprising elements of language from
the two groups. Discerned in these lingua francas would be partial linguis-
tic replacements, for example, borrowings of specific words, sounds, or
even perhaps (but more rarely) grammar rules.
Families were grouped under a hierarchical structure in which group
welfare took precedence over individual preference. The idiolect of the
father was the one that was favored, as familial piety was an absolute
responsibility. The preservation of the family lineage took on a semi-reli-
gious aspect, known as “ancestor-worship,” with the oldest surviving son
having to conduct funeral services for parents so as to ensure the well-being
of the departed spirits and their continued help from the hereafter. Like
genes (and later, surnames), languages were transmitted from parents to
offspring—vertically.
182 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
While inland families developed new techniques, including use of bow
and arrow for hunting in the forest, others moved to coastal sites and lived
primarily on fish and shellfish, creating new or improved tools such as
needles for sewing and fishhooks now made of bone. With the discovery
of agriculture, families would settle down in one place and grow a domes-
ticated form of rice irrigated from river water or floods and from shallow
wells, keeping buffalos and poultry—a technology that had its origin in
Southeast Asia and that reinforced the theory that the original peoples of
South China were Austronesian.
The discovery of agriculture encouraged groups of families to congre-
gate together, leading to the formation of the tribe—or the clan, as it is
more commonly called in China. It was found that if 20 to 30 families
grouped around an area (village), there would be a higher productivity, as
their labor could be bartered depending on their talents and preferences for
certain types of jobs, an innovation that led to the advantage of all. Larger
groups were also more viable in times of uncertainty such as warfare, peri-
odic famine, and epidemic disease.
As families came together, the language of the predominant family
would become the idiolectal norm, the lingua franca of the group, and later
the distinguishing feature of the clan relative to others. Such a world order
was largely self-governing and self-regulating, thanks to the family sys-
tem and the kin network.9 The practice of in-group marriage (endogamy)
within clans would tend to reinforce whatever genetic distinctions and lan-
guages were present in each group at the beginning. Such endogamy was
encouraged by the world of early clans, which normally met the local needs
for food, clothing, and shelter, and consequently were self-subsisting. No
written records exist of these early clans but boat-shaped coffi ns suspended
over cliffs, dating from the 2lst to the 16th century BC, belonging to the
Min people, have been found at the Wǔyí Mountains of North Fújiàn.10

CLANS AND THEIR LINGUA FRANCA

Through time, large growing clans usually divide, leading to subgroups


within them emigrating to greener pastures nearby—a walk of perhaps a
day or two away. For example, the similarity of the Austronesian-based
Thai and Zhuang languages (common vocabulary: khaau “rice,” lao “alco-
hol,” khwaii “buffalo,” mu “pig,” etc.) in Fújiàn province meant that they
once lived together (Edmondson n.d.). Hence, a much later history saw clus-
ters of village clans grouped closed together. In all probability, they were
likely to speak mutually intelligible languages, having originated once from
the same progeny, but no doubt acquiring through time different accents,
which would serve the purpose of enabling villagers to know one stranger
from another. These clans were not isolating communities—the cluster of
villages would serve not only as a source of mutually beneficial barter but
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 183
also as a source of suitable marriage partners, since most of one’s fellow
villagers were likely to be relatives of some degree.
However, the naturally hilly and inaccessible landscape of Fújiàn meant
that there was also a tendency to isolationalism and there exists, even today,
villages and towns ten kilometers from each other but speaking unintelli-
gible variations of Mǐn. In such situations, there was, therefore, little incen-
tive for one clan to contact another, and in practice the vast majority of
people rarely traveled more than 10 to 20 miles from where they were born.
In time, then, the individual members of the respective communities actu-
ally might not only speak a totally unintelligible language but also look
different. This contrasts with Mandarin dialects, which are remarkably
constant, with people living hundreds of kilometers away from each other
still able to communicate intelligibly.
Archaeological discoveries have unearthed evidence of Miáo and other
tribes along the Yangtze River during the Zhōu dynasty, scattered and rela-
tively isolated from one another among the Miáolǐng and Wǔlíng mountains
(Forrest 1948; Edmondson n.d.). There were distinct dialects, customs, and
dress between the groups. One of the better documented Miáo tribes, that
is, the Shè, moved to Fújián from the Yangtze River Valley. Other minori-
ties include the Huí, who are scattered in urban areas, and the Dīng and
Guō clans in southern Fújián and Pǔtián, with their hook-shaped noses,
curly hair, and deep-set eyes. One notable tribe was the Yuè (越,粤)钺
people, living in what are called Zhèjiāng, Fújiàn, and Guǎngdōng prov-
inces today. These tribes were not homogenous but were split into many
subgroups. Indeed, the Yuè people were referred to by the northern Chi-
nese through a generic term, the Bǎiyuè (literally “hundred yuè”) (百越),
which also possessed the unfortunate connotation of being “aboriginal”
and “uncivilized.” For the Yuè, life in the village was (and still is) extremely
simple—mud with thatched roofs and usually only a single room for the
family, sometimes shared with animals surrounded by their fields, which
they work in the mornings and evenings.11
The Yuè tribe was conquered and became part of the Chinese Empire
during the reign of Emperor Hǎn Wǔdì (156–87 BC). From then on, the
term Hundred Yuè disappeared from Chinese historical records and we
can only conjecture as to what may have happened to them. They may have
been either fully Sinicized or mixed with the Hàn Chinese (the Northern-
ers) to form the Southern Mǐn people of today, or they may also have simply
disappeared. Others may also have become the ancestors of existing tribes
today in Southern China, such as the Gāo Shān (高山族) in Táiwān, or the
Dǎi (傣族), Zhuàng (壮族), Bù Yī (布依族), Dòng (侗族), and Shuǐ (水族).
These tribes are culturally distinct from one another. For example, the Shuǐ
remain content in their tribal order, a world divorced from developments
in modern China. They have distinct customs such as long and elaborate
funeral ceremonies with animal sacrifice, and a written script that only
their shamans can read (Stanford 2007). Some descendants of the Yuè also
184 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
possess their own nation-states, in particular, the Vietnamese, who broke
free from Chinese rule in the 10th century. Today, the descendants of the
Bǎiyuè tribes speak mutually unintelligible languages, with distinct cul-
tural characteristics, despite having descended from the same ancestor.

CITY-STATE

In time, these hundreds of clannish villages as well as semi-nomadic clans


would be forced-welded together by warrior kings (as evidenced in the
temples erected in Fújiàn to their fi rst kings) in city-states such as Fúzhōu,
Nánpíng, and Quánzhōu (Xu 1992). The biggest village or the village
where the king came from would become the “center” of the kingdom.
Subsequently, these villages developed into cities, possessing tongues that
became essential for trade and administration and that served as the lin-
gua franca of the surrounding area. Such city-states were found to stock
food such as wheat and barley, which were not native to China, hence
suggesting the presence of trade from southwest Asia (India) as early as
4000–1000 BC. Indeed, mariners from the city-states along the coastline
could have been sailing the Indian Ocean at the same time as the Greek,
Roman, Indian, and Persian ships (Higham 1989).
Not much is known about these city-states except that, possessing
divergent ethnic languages, they were often squabbling among themselves
for supremacy. For example, in the period of the Warring States (475–221
BC), the state of Yuè (in Jiāngsū and Zhèjiāng province) was defeated by
the State of Chǔ (roughly Húběi and Húnán province). Frequent wars
between cities would often see forced migration, and in this particular
confl ict, the Yuè people were forced to move southward to inhabit areas
now known as Fújiàn, Guǎngdōng, Guǎngxī, and Vietnam. Those who
settled in Fújiàn were called Mǐn Yuè and the old name of the prov-
ince, Dōng Yuè. The defeated would rebuild their kingdoms from scratch
and in time, once again we see thriving city states, but this time in a
more “southern” area, such as Nányuè, Nánhǎi, and Luòyuè (Guo 2002).
Fújiàn was still in all respects a frontier territory, relatively untouched
during the Zhōu and not considered a part of the Middle Kingdom at all
(Bellwood 1995, 1996).
Fújiàn city-states disappeared with the unification of China by the Qín
Dynasty under the leadership of Shǐ Huángdì (221–207 BC). He was the
fi rst to refer to the Fújiàn area as Mǐn, perhaps an ethnic name and asso-
ciated with the Chinese word for barbarians (蠻/蛮; pinyin: mán;)12 or
the name of the main river in the area. Later, this area became known
as Mǐnyuè (越)—Yuè—after the City State of Yuè during the Spring and
Autumn Period (8th to 3rd century BC) in Zhèjiāng Province to the north.
Despite being a prefecture of the Chinese empire, Mǐnyuè was a great dis-
tance from the center, so Chinese influence was still generally limited. This
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 185
meant that the little kingdoms of Fújiàn remained a Chinese Siberia, rela-
tively left to themselves.
Indeed, because Minyuè was far away from the Chinese center, it would
periodically revert to a status as a “tributary independent kingdom” rather
than as part of the Chinese empire.13 It was a law unto itself, not quite a
part of the center, with its own collection of unique languages and cultures.
Not surprisingly, it was to take some time before the Mǐn tongue became
Sinicized. For example, in the aftermath of the fall of the Qín Dynasty,
when, civil war broke out between two warlords, Xiàng Yǔ and Liú Bāng,
King Wúzhū (无诸) of Minyuè sent his troops to fight side by side with Liú
Bāng, and his gamble paid off handsomely as Liú Bāng was victorious and
went on to found the Hàn Dynasty.14 As a reward, Minyuè was recognized
not as a prefecture of China but as an independent kingdom in 202 BC with
its capital in Fúzhōu. This encouraged Minyuè to expand its territories
further, which it did by launching several expeditions against neighbor-
ing states within the fold of the Empire, such as Guǎngdōng, Jiāngxī, and
Zhèjiāng. Minyuè’s militancy alarmed the Emperor, who decided to attack
and bring the state under its control, which it did in 111 BC. With the
defeat of the kingdom of Minyuè , the language shift from Austronesian-
based to Sino-Tibetan language began in full swing.

THE CITY-STATE AND THE EMPIRE

This Sinicization of Fújiàn may be said to have begun with the reign of
Emperor Hàn Wǔdì (汉武帝)(156–87 BC) who gave more attention to con-
solidating the Chinese empire rather than on further colonial expansion
(Guo 2002) . This Sinicization is due mainly to external factors, such as the
successive waves of Northerners to its fertile plains as a result of events such
as wars, natural disasters, and poor economic conditions (Leong 1997).
Such emigration saw whole villages and townships traveling long distances
to Fújiàn in an organized exodus, such as that of the entire Caì clan during
the later days of the Táng dynasty in the 9th century (Peoples’ Daily Online
2006). At other times, fleeing royalty, followed by their huge retinue of
court officials and subjects, would arrive, such as that which took place
during the Jìn Dynasty in the 5th century. Sudden hordes of unexpected
migrants such as the above would catastrophically displace the native pop-
ulation of Fújiàn both culturally and linguistically. The extent of the popu-
lation outflow from the North to the South can also be gleaned through
a perusal of census figures kept during the Táng dynasty (618–907 CE).
For example, the Táng census of 754 indicated a total of 1859 cites and
1538 counties comprising a population of around 80 million in the empire
(Adshead 2004: 72). However, a dramatic migratory shift of the popula-
tion must have occurred from Northern to Southern China, as the North,
which originally held 75% of the overall population at the inception of the
186 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
dynasty (8th century), was reduced to 50% at its demise in the 10th cen-
tury (Benn 2002: 32). Even when a new dynasty was installed, the South
remained a haven for pretenders to the throne and other political exiles
from the previous dynasty. For example, after the sacking of the Míng and
the establishment of the Qīng Dynasty in 1844, many pretenders to the
Míng throne took shelter and tried to raise support from provinces such as
Guǎngdōng and Fújiàn.15 As culturally different groups come into contact
with one another, the languages of their members acted upon and influ-
enced each other in a wide range of ways (Li 1994). In such situations, there
would begin the process of partial linguistic replacements, for example,
borrowings of specific words, sounds, and sometimes syntactical structures
from the visitors.
As mentioned, one notable wave of migration was during the Jìn Dynasty
(265–420AD). Due to invasion of nomadic tribes form the north as well as
a civil war, the Wú tribe from the vicinity of present-day Shanghai, came to
conquer and settle.16 These immigrants were primarily from eight families in
central China: Lín (林), Huáng (黄), Chén (陈), Zhèng (郑), Zhān (詹), Qiu
(邱), Hé (何), and Hú (胡), and the fi rst four still remain major surnames of
modern Fújiàn. The thousands of political refugees included not just mem-
bers of the royal family but also government officials. As usual, military
conquest led to subsequent linguistic reforms (Beijing da xue 2003).
The northerners entered Fújiàn province as conquerors but ended up
as settlers; not surprisingly, as life in Fújiàn was comfortable—the land
fertile, the weather agreeable and the population density relatively lower
than other parts of China. On such occasions, language change can result
either forcibly (an edict by the invading army) or voluntarily (a desire by
the conquered to enjoy the political, social, and cultural capital of the con-
queror). Some of the conquerors intermarried with the Southerners and
in so doing modified their language to their liking. In the beginning, this
was probably a case of dialect mixing, creating a kind of pidgin in which
both the clans of Mǐn and Wú could communicate. Later, the speeches of
both groups, initially divergent, would gravitate toward a common norm,
with extreme differences being ironed out. However, speech communities,
as with the Celtic languages Cornish and Manx in Britain (Schendl 2001),
often have a tendency to shift from the less prestigious language to the
more prestigious one. Similarly, Minnanhua acquired more and more Sin-
itic features, including borrowings of specific words, sounds, and (more
rarely) grammatical rules (Mountain et al. 1992).17 This meant that Min-
nanhua was no longer calmly evolving vertically from parent to offspring
but also horizontally through contact with external forces. The language
of the army, which accompanied the court and its retinue, was considered
“superior” and “sacred” and its use an indication of loyalty to the new
regime. We may then conclude that in view of the “superior” culture of the
Northerners, the aboriginal tongue of the Fujianese gradually faded into
obscurity (Chen et al. 2001). Their cultures and manners—living near the
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 187
rivers, the practice of shamanism, elaborate familial funereal rites—were
also gradually replaced by the mainstream Confucian mindset and ethics,
and they became more “Hàn” than “Austronesian.”
With frequent contact, lexical borrowing can be accompanied by the
introduction of new sounds as well as morphemes that can significantly
affect the phonology and morphology of the recipient language (Winford
2003). Some linguists, for example, Thomason and Kraufman (1988) even
claim that massive structural borrowing can result in entire grammatical
systems being replaced. Whatever is the case, it was obvious that Mǐn speech
had departed from Austric to become more phonologically Sino-Tibetan
sometime between the 2nd and 7th centuries CE. Here, Lightfoot’s (2006:
112) distinction between “I” (internal) and “E” (external) languages may
enable us understand the process of language change that gradually took
place with each wave of migration. Internal languages (like universal gram-
mars) are systems that emerge in children according to the dictates to which
they are exposed. E-language, on the other hand, is further removed, and
includes what a child might hear in the greater environment. Changes in
E-language cause changes in I-languages and changes in I-languages cause
changes in E-language. New E-languages may result from prior changes
in I-languages or because people come to see their grammar differently or
because there are now social mixes of grammars.
A later wave of migration during the Táng (618–907 CE) reinforced
the process of Sinicization. Táng emigration of Northerners to the South
brought not only the language of the court but also Buddhism, as well as a
literary tradition. For example, Buddhism had flourished during the Táng
Dynasty, and Mǐnnánhuà was the LF used to translate Buddhist scripts
that were written in the Sanskrit language from India.18 There is, for exam-
ple, a great similarity between many words in the Japanese language and
Mǐnnánhuà. For example, the following words are pronounced in almost
the same way: sekkai (world) in Japanese is sehkai in Mǐnnán Fújiànhuà;
shizen (natural) is zijian; jinsei (mankind) is jinshui; denwa (telephone) is
tianhua; and densen (electric wire) is tianxian; and the Mǐnnán Fújiàn
word kaisiow (introduce) is shõkai in Japanese. This similarity is due to the
introduction of Buddhism as well as the subsequent evolvement of Japanese
culture from that of the Táng dynasty through the medium of Mǐnnánhuà
as it was spoken at that time. In addition, the Táng officials also brought
with them the Táng Nánkuǎn music, which developed into the classic Fújiàn
Nánkuǎn music of today, which incidentally also resembles Japanese impe-
rial court music.19
On the other hand, the original inhabitants who had no desire to assimi-
late to the waves of new migrants would in turn voluntarily emigrate fur-
ther southward through to the low mountain range separating Northern
Vietnam and China. As whole clans of Southern Mǐn speakers fled south-
ward, away from the march of Northern invaders, it caused yet another rip-
ple effect in Southeast Asia, felt by countries such as Thailand, Myanmar,
188 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and peninsula Malaysia. As discerned from
their languages, the Thais, Laotian, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and so forth
are relatively recent offshoots of their South Chinese cousins. Chinese-de-
rived crops, Neolithic technology, village living, and pottery similar to that
of South China has also been found in these Southeast Asian countries as
early as the 2nd century BC (Jiao 2007).
Speakers of Southern Mǐn who refused to accommodate linguistically
or culturally to their new neighbors and who did not favor leaving the
empire, would have the choice to move to further outlying areas of Fújiàn
or neighboring provinces. Indeed, Chinese empires had a consistent policy
of encouraging inhabitants of existing territories to voluntarily give way
to new migrants, thus strengthening the role of incipient minority govern-
ments (Wang 1998). In other words, the conquerors usually usurped the
better parts of towns and cities, usually near transportation routes and
food supplies, forcing the indigenous people to move further away to outly-
ing areas, while the army and the huge entourage that followed it occupied
the more lucrative, central, and fertile part of the region. While those who
remained in the cities experienced a language shift to the language of the
conquering migrants within one or two generations, the masses living in
such outlying areas continued to speak a variety of Mǐnnánhuà closer to its
original roots, due to infrequent contacts with the conquerors.
Speakers of Southern Min languages have been found in nearby prov-
inces such as Jiāngxī, Zhèjiāng, Húnán, and Sìchuān. There are cases where
Mǐnnán speakers have been absorbed or assimilated into other local popu-
lations such as in Shàngráo and Cāngshān cities in Jiāngxī. Such encounters
encouraged further differentiation from the original Mǐnnánhuà mostly
on the basis of phonological features, lesser differences in vocabulary, and
some differences in grammar (Lin 2002). Other similar Mǐn enclaves are
found at the Zhōushān Archipelago, a group of islands not far off the coast
near Shànghǎi; the Pénghú Islands in the Táiwān states, the Léizhōu Pen-
insula facing Hǎinán, and the coastal enclaves on the Chinese mainland
at several points to the southwest of Hong Kong or in Cónghuà, 50 kilo-
meters north of Guǎngzhōu (Tang 1999). In their efforts to befriend their
new neighbors, Mǐnnánhuà speakers would willingly assimilate features
of the native tongue to the target population, hence evolving new vari-
eties of Mǐnnánhuà, which would be further modified with each passing
generation.
One group of Southern Mǐn speakers that fled to the neighboring
city of Cháozhōu 20 between the 9 th and 15th centuries founded what is
today known as Cháozhōuhuà. According to Glossika, 21 Cháozhōu has
an overall 50.4% mutual intelligibility with the Xiàmén dialect, 44.3%
with Mandarin, and 43.5% with Cantonese. A construct of a historical
continuum of language change may help us explain these differences.
Such a construct means that speakers easily understand the language of
the generations immediately before and after them, but meet increasing
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 189
difficulties in understanding chronologically remote stages of their lan-
guage. In other words, Cháozhōuhuà through time became less and
less like the more archaic Mǐnnánhuà and more and more like its sur-
rounding new neighbors (Li 1959). For example, while none of Southern
Mǐn languages has a front rounded vowel, Cháozhōuhuà supplants the
unrounded counterpart [i] for [y]. Cháozhōuhuà does not have any of the
retroflex consonants in Mǐnnánhuà either, and one discerns [ts], [tsʰ], [s],
and [z] instead of [tʂ], [tʂʰ], [ʂ] and [ʐ]. It has also added tones, having
eight instead of six in relation to its immediate parent, and four in rela-
tion to Mandarin (Lin 1997).
Like its archaic Mǐnnánhuà parent, Cháozhōuhuà has also generated
its own ripple effects. Population pressures in Cháozhōu city has seen its
speakers migrate to other neighboring cities such as Jiēyáng, Cháoyáng,
Pǔníng, Cháo’ān, Ráopíng, Huìlái, Chénghǎi, Nán’ào, Lùfēng, Hǎifēng,
Shànwěi and Shàntóu as well as outside China—to Siam, Hong Kong,
and parts of Southeast Asia)—creating in turn, their own varieties of
Cháozhōu in these places. Notably in Siam in 1767, when the Burmese
destroyed the Siamese capital at Ayuthia, a Cháozhōu-speaking general
collected the remains of the Thai military forces and restored the for-
tunes of the nation. This general, Phaya Takh Sin, proclaimed himself
the new king of Siam and built his capital in Bangkok. He encouraged
immigration from his clansman in Cháozhōu as well as from other cit-
ies of Fújiàn province. Takh Sin reigned until 1782 when the present
ruling dynasty of Thailand was established. Today Chaozhou speakers
are established in major positions of economic life in Bangkok and have
intermarried with the indigenous Thais (cf. Cai 1991; Quanzhou Speech
Dictionary 1989).
Notwithstanding, whole villages might also not wish to settle in the
outlying area of Fújiàn or surrounding provinces but prefer to go even
further inland—into the Fújiàn mountains and, metaphorically,backward
into our spiral, to poorer uninhabited virgin lands, into remote mountain-
ous regions where they could once again grow hillside crops (corn, sweet
potatoes, etc.). They would remain in small clannish enclaves barely acces-
sible to the outside world. Such migratory hordes would retain much of
their original languages, since the group would remain intact and isolated.
Not surprisingly, there are still Mǐn tribes, such as the Shè, which remain
tribal in organizational structure till this day, linguistically fossilized by
choice, a phenomenon aided by difficult terrain that made contact with the
outside world barely possible. Other groups are the Yue tribes whose more
well-known daughters, the Zhuang Bouyei and Kam, still dwell today in
remote areas.
Simultaneously, as they left their fertile lands, such lands becames
available for shack people or “hillbillies” coming down from the hills,
or for other settlers from nearby provinces who would help fi ll the
gap and who were regarded by the invading army as relatively more
190 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
“desirable” and ideologically more assimilative (Leong 1997). For exam-
ple, the people of Huì’ān County, 30 kilometers away from Quánzhōu
are said to be descended from the Yuè tribe (Zhong and Qiu 1993). They
have lived there for generations and rarely have contacts with people
from other parts of Fújiàn. The women wear different-colored jack-
ets, which are very short and narrow, with big bamboo hats to cover
their heads. The big hats and large kerchiefs on their heads shield their
faces (ibid.).
All these multifarious migrations, both in Fújiàn as well as other
parts of China, have created what has been called a “mosaic zone,” that
is mosaiclike patterns of distinct little cultures and languages (Moser
1985). Typically, however, mosaic zones do not go on to produce nation-
states, being content to exist in the geographical and historical boundar-
ies of their own making.

THE CITY AND THE EMPIRE: A STUDY OF


QUANZHOU AND AMOY (XIÀMÉN)

Large cities must inevitably play a part in our story of lingua francas,
and Quánzhōu (also known as Chinchew or Zaitun, from the Arabic
(‫)ﺕﻱﺯ‬, presently a perfectural city in southeastern Fújiàn, is no excep-
tion. First established in 718 CE during the Táng Dynasty (618–907),
it soon surpassed Guǎngzhōu, China’s greatest seaport. From the 10th
to the 15th century, Quánzhōu was a renowned destination, hosting a
large community of foreign-born inhabitants from across the Eurasian
world. The Travels of Marco Polo named Quánzhōu as the starting
point of the Silk Road via the sea while the North African traveler, Ibn
Battuta, compared it to the Egyptian port of Alexandria. It was a cen-
ter of the Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and Manichean faiths in China.
In 1403 and 1435, the Chinese admiral Zhèng Hé led seven voyages of
Míng imperial fleets to the Indian Ocean. These voyages took his 350
ships with a crew totaling thousands to as far away as India, Arabia,
East Africa and even America (Menzies 2004). In short, it was a time
when the Southern Mǐn was not a pheripheral tongue of the empire but a
central one.
However, just as the languages Yuè, Wú, and Mǐn belong to prosper-
ous coastal areas of Guǎngdōng, Jiāngsū and Fújiàn are perceived as
having more prestige than the languages of Gàn, Kèjiā (Hakka), and
Xiāng, so too was Quánzhōuhuà, spoken in Quánzhōuh the largest port
city from the 7th to 13th century, regarded as a more prestigious language
than Foochowhua or Wēnzhōuhuà in Fújiàn (Brown 2004). Because
Chinese’s logographic writing system does not indicate exact pronuncia-
tion, the pronunciation of Old Chinese is generally not possible (though
tentative reconstructions of the phonology of Old Chinese have been
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 191
attempted). However, there is some evidence to show that the pronuncia-
tion in Quánzhōuhuà is the same as that of offi cial Chinese in the Táng
Dynasty. The following is one example:

松下问童子,言师采药去,只在此山中,云深不知处。

If it is read in Pǔtōnghuà, no rhythm can be found. But if it is read in


Quánzhōu, we can fi nd that 子 rhymes with 去 and 处.
This is not the only example. So many examples like that are available
in (唐诗三百首). 22
This meant that there were large populations of officials including mem-
bers of the imperial family from the then capital, Xi’an, residing or trav-
eling to and from Quánzhōu, and it is likely that Quánzhōuhuà was the
imperial lingua franca.
A huge network of rivers and canals and cheap water transport linked
Quánzhōu to most places along the Yangtze Valley to the south and to
the Guǎngdōng deltas serving a system of large and small cities (Fair-
bank and Goldman 2006). Its many merchants enjoyed a relatively
high status during the Ming (1368–1644) Dynasty, as it was common
for offi cials to solicit money from them to fund public projects such
as the building of bridges and schools. To enable trade far beyond
the inter-village level, to different regions and subregions of China,
it was advantageous for these merchants to speak the lingua franca,
Quánzhōuhuà.
A part of the city housed foreigners such as the Arabs, Jews, and
Nestorian Christians who had arrived in China through Central Asia and
the port cities of southeast China. They had to learn Quánzhōuhuà 23 if
they wanted to communicate successfully with the multilingual Chinese
from various towns, cities, and regions. The Portuguese traders brought
with them food associated with the Americas such as maize, sweet pota-
toes, white potatoes, and peanuts. Arabic was spread by Muslim mis-
sionaries who established beachheads as they traveled by land and sea
across Southeast Asia as early as the 13th century. Their efforts widened
religious and commercial networks that opened pathways for Islam to
spread into Malaya, Indonesia, and other islands of the East Indies in
the 15th and 16th centuries (Brown 2004).
A provincial lingua franca was also needed to enable trade between the
cities of Fújiàn, such as Wǔyíshān, Lóngyán, Zhāngpíng, Sānmíng, and
Níngdé. For example, a trader from interior Mǐnnán, such as Lóngyán
(including Níngyáng and Zhāngpíng) where standard Quánzhōuhuà fi nals
in /–n/ become/–n/ and fi nals in /–k/ become /–t/, leading to a fair measure
of unintelligibility, would also have to learn some Quánzhōuhuà to com-
municate (Moser 1985). Certainly then, as today, there was considerable
code-switching and code mixing. We can say that Quánzhōuhuà was the
prestigious H (high) variety in relation to its other sister languages in
192 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
view of its status as the empire’s chief seaport and main revenue earner.
It was the lingua franca, uniting the different towns and cities of Fújiàn
such as Níngdé, Nánpíng ,and Zhāngzhōu (Chen et al. 2001)
Indeed, Quánzhōuhuà has always claimed a legendary H status. Accord-
ing to Brown (2004), forebears of the Quánzhōu people were aristocrats
who had fled from the civil strife in the North during the Jìn Dynasty.
They had arrived in Quánzhōu in 208 and, due to the isolated nature of the
area, were able to escape henceforth from the ravages of war. When later,
the Mongols (1279–1368) united China and promoted the Northern lan-
guage, Mandarin, as the lingua franca of the empire; it was Quánzhōuhuà
alone that, because of its geographical and economic conditions, was able
to hold out and maintain the ancient Hàn tongue as well as its traditional
music, dances, drama, and folk customs that had already eroded elsewhere
in the empire. Indeed, no longer on the periphery of the Chinese empire,
Southern Mǐn language became the regional LF of important scholars and
statesmen. 24 For example, the renowned Zhūxī school of philosophy of the
Sòng Dynasty (960–1279 CE) was founded in Quánzhōu by Zhūxī, who
was born in nearby Yóuxī, Sānmíng City. 25
It is the tendency of lingua francas to absorb many words from the
surrounding languages as a means of widening its function, and with
time, many varieties of Quánzhōuhuà developed due to contact and
accommodation. This occurred through gradual embellishments in the
way of local vocabularies and expressions although its grammar and core
vocabulary remain relatively stable. This process resulted in the existence
of “standard” Quánzhōuhuà and other L varieties being spoken with
the varying accents of the surrounding areas, such as Lìchéng, Fēngzé,
Luójiāng, Jìnjiāng, Ānxī, Yǒngchūn, and Déhuà. Status was linked with
accents and in this sense, just as a Cháozhōu speaker would look to the
variety spoken in Shàntóu, so too would a speaker of nearby Zhāngzhōu,
Xiàmén, and Tóng’ān regard Quánzhōu as “the standard” (Chen 2001).
A diglossic range prevailed. On formal occasions, the Quánzhōu
speech, then closely aligned with high-status Nánjīng speech (Nánjīng
was then the symbolic center of Chinese culture and language) func-
tioned as offi cial or H languages while the L variant of Quánzhōuhuà
was used for informal and intimate domains. Anyone wanting to
advance in status or to liaise with the governing authorities of the time
would also have to be effectively diglossic, mastering the H variety of
offi cialdom and the L variety of the masses. Classical Chinese or the
written script was a part of the H group of languages, which would dis-
tinguish a high offi cial from a low one. Used for literary and technical
communication, as well as for diplomatic correspondence, it is mark-
edly different from the L variety of Quánzhōu in its vocabulary, gram-
mar, syntax, and stylistic requirement. A written profi ciency was also
advantageous since the written script was a transregional lingua franca
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 193
capable of transcending provincial cultures and loyalties. It was no
small wonder then that the merchants of Quánzhōu strove to acquire the
offi cial badge of literacy—either through purchasing academic degrees
from the government or by preparing their sons for the civil service
examinations.
Quánzhōuhuà also faced a nearby competitor, Fúzhōuhuà, the pro-
vincial lingua franca of the Northern Mǐn, and one with an equally
proud history. Surrounded by rugged terrain and not as economically
prosperous as Quánzhōu, the city state of Fúzhōu did not aspire to be
a prefectural state but rather a “kingdom”: in view of its distinct lan-
guage and culture. Hence, during the period of the Five Dynasties and
Ten Kingdoms (907–960 CE) whern five dynasties quickly succeeded one
another in the North and more than 12 independent states were estab-
lished, mainly in the South, 26 Fúzhōu made its bid for power. It suc-
cessfully established the city states of Mǐn (909–945) with its capital at
Chánglè (present-day Fúzhōu), but its independence was short-lived, and
it was soon reabsorbed into the Táng Empire in 945. Unlike in the North,
where dynasties succeeded one other, the regimes of Southern China, due
to their multifarious traditions and languages, were generally concur-
rent, each content to control a specifi c geographical area.
Lingua francas reign but often for prescribed periods, and Quánzhōuhuà
had been gradually losing its status ever since Mandarin became the pre-
ferred lingua franca of the Yuán Dynasty. The issuance of an imperial
degree in 1728 by Emperor Yōngzhèng requiring all government officials to
learn Mandarin (then the Northern lingua franca), because of communica-
tion problems among government officials from different provinces, sealed
its fate (Li 2006). In addition, in the 1850s, Quánzhōu city was devastated
by the Tàipíng Rebellion, a popular uprising against the imperial Qīng
Dynasty (Spence 1996). By then its harbor had begun to silt up causing
most of its trade to be passed down to its sister port, Amoy (present-day
Xiàmén) lower down river. 27
Amoy was also one of five Chinese treaty ports opened by the Treaty
of Nánjīng in 1842, at the end of the First Opium War between Britain
and China. As a result, Amoy (and Gǔlàngyǔ, a small island off its coast)
rapidly developed, resulting in a large influx of people from the surround-
ing regions who came this time not to Quánzhōu but to Amoy. Then its
trade was mainly in tea and opium. As the entry point of most Protestant
missionaries, intent on teaching the faith to the Chinese through a trans-
lation of the Bible, Amoyhua had a major influence on how Chinese ter-
minology was translated into English and other European languages. 28
For example, the following words originated from Amoy speech rather
than from Běijīnghuà: tea (茶; tê); cumshaw (感謝, kám-siā); ketchup (茄汁,
kiô-chiap); pekoe (白毫 , pe̍ h-hô); kowtow (磕頭; khàu-thâu); and possibly
Japan (Ji̍ t-pún).
194 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders

The diagram below show spoken Amoy preserving many sounds from middle
Chinese. Unlike English or Mandarin, it distinguishes between unaspirated
voiceless and unaspirated voiced initial consonants:

unaspirated aspirated

bilabial stop bo 母 po 保 ph o 抱

velar stop go 俄 ko 果 k ho 科

voiced voiceless

Where accents are concerned, there are two: Quanzhou and Zhangzhou. The
following table uses five words that illustrate some of the more commonly seen
sound shifts.

Chinese
̍
English Accent Pe h-ōe-jī IPA
character

Quanzhou, Taipei lī li
two 二 Xiamen, Zhangzhou,
jī ʑi
Tainan

Quanzhou, Xiamen,
pī n pĩ
sick 病 Taipei
Zhangzhou, Tainan pēn pẽ
Quanzhou, Xiamen,
nn̄ g nŋ
egg 卵 Taiwan
Zhangzhou nūi nui
Quanzhou, Lukang tīr tɨ
chopsticks 箸 Xiamen, Penghu tū tu
Zhangzhou, Taiwan tī ti
Quanzhou phêr-êr pə ə
h

shoes 皮鞋 Xiamen, Taipei phê-ôe phe ue

Zhangzhou, Tainan phôe-ê phue e

Figure 8.4 Sounds of spoken Amoy. Retrieved on 4 April 2008 and adapted from Wiki-
pedia, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amoy_%28linguistics%29
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 195
Today Amoy is known as Xiàmén, which is considered the prestige dia-
lect within Mǐnnánhuà (Jìnjiāng Government Website 2008). For this rea-
son, it is sometimes referred to as “Mǐnnánhuà,” as if Mǐnnánhuà were a
monolithic whole). Amoyhua is a combination of Zhāngzhōu and Quánzhōu
speech, after the name of the two adjacent regions, and as such, they are very
closely aligned phonologically and are mutually intelligible (Chung 1996).
However, there are some subtle differences, especially lexical, between
the two, as a result of physical separation and other historical factors. For
example, the name Amoy was written as 下門 , meaning “lower gate”—
possibly because of its position at the mouth of the Nine Dragon River. The
characters 下門 (lower gate) in the Zhāngzhōu dialects of Mǐnnánhuà are
pronounced Ē-mûi (using the POJ Romanization). This is the source of the
name “Amoy.” The dialect is still spoken in the west and southwest of the
city. In Quánzhōu dialect, however, it is pronounced Ē-mn̂ g.29
As a lingua franca of the province, Amoyhua, like Quánzhōuhuà, is
a dynamic blend of all the cosmopolitan array of the Southern Mǐn lan-
guages (Chen et al. 2001). It contains within itself the evolution of many
ancient Chinese sounds, including words from a non-Hàn period such as
the Tài and Miáo. As was the case when Quánzhōuhuà reigned supreme
in the province of Fújiàn, Amoy speech was completely unintelligible to
anyone living much further than a hundred miles in any direction. Ini-
tially, the inhabitants of Quánzhōu considered Amoy a “new” place lack-
ing the fi nesse and literacy of Quánzhōu’s history and looked down on
Amoy speech as “provincial” and “colloquial” (Quánzhōu dialect differed
slightly from Standard Amoy through their nasal ending). However, as
more migrants moved to Amoy in the 19th century, it was standard Amoy
rather than standard Quánzhōu that became the prestige variety and the
most frequently learned of all Chinese languages/dialects by Westerners
(Branner 2000). This can also be seen in the fact that Catholic missionar-
ies, who fi rst learnt Quánzhōuhuà, began to switch to Amoyhua so as to
compete with the Protestants, who arrived later (Zhou 1991).
Like Quánzhōu, Amoy was a city where many tongues coexisted—
tribal, foreign, and Chinese—and where code-mixing and code-switching
mingled unashamedly and freely.
Teahouses became the common centers for socializing, relaxation, and
gossip and for negotiating business or marriage contracts. Fortune-tellers,
scribes, booksellers, itinerant peddlers, monks, soldiers, actors, and story-
tellers enlivened the market towns and cities and a babble of speech pre-
vailed. Only the lingua franca can disentangle the babble, and hence people
from various villages, towns, regions, and cities in Fújiàn, for example,
the Hakkas from West Fújiàn or Shàntóu, 30 would learn Amoy speech as
a means of trade and commerce. A number of provincial lingua francas
could be used: standard Amoy if one was not sure who one was speaking
to, standard Quánzhōuhuà for speakers from the near north, and stan-
dard Guǎngzhōuhuà or standard Cháozhōuhuà for speakers from the near
196 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
south. Pidgin English was another notable choice, being the lingua franca
of Chinese traders and merchants as well as among foreigners such as Euro-
pean, Arab, and Jewish traders from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century
(Bolton 2003: 151). It was also used amongst the Chinese themselves, since
by the declining late Qīng in the 19th century, missionary education would
have seen increasing numbers of students schooled in English. 31

NATION-STATE—THE RISE OF THE


NATIONAL LINGUA FRANCA

From the 20th century onward, Mǐnnánhuà faced what may be called a
“double shift”—a displacement by both Pǔtōnghuà, representative of Chi-
na’s admission into the world of nation-states; and English, representative
of China’s recognition of the global order. In 1949, the Republic of China
(ROC) retreated to Taiwan, after losing mainland China (including Fújiàn)
to Communist forces. Fújiàn, and especially Xiàmén, was treated as a
war zone and virtually a closed city due to its close physical proximity to
Táiwān. However, in the post-Máo period, Xiàmén was given a new lease
on life; it was reopened to foreign contact, designated a Special Economic
Zone in the 1980s, and is now one of the leading cities in China.
In this new era, Xiàménhuà did not fare so well, having no official sta-
tus. Pǔtōnghuà, based on the Běijīng dialect of the Mandarin language,
was now designated the lingua franca of the Chinese nation, setting in
motion yet another historical wave of language learning in Fújiàn. Never-
theless, the transition from Xiàménhuà to Pǔtōnghuà has been relatively
smooth and swift due to a number of factors. The fi rst is the “pressure”
from the nation-state: In the past five decades, the PRC has launched
numerous campaigns encouraging the use of Pǔtōnghuà as well as a law in
2001 mandating the lingua franca to be used in education, broadcasting,
and other public service sectors. The second is the use of Pǔtōnghuà as the
medium of instruction in kindergarten, elementary to high school, and the
universities.
But there are other more specific reasons peculiar to Fújiàn province
that explain the dramatic shift to Pǔtōnghuà in the last two generations.
The fi rst is that few of the Fújiàn’s people understand one another’ mother
tongues even if they live a short distance from each other; for instance, a
speaker of Xiàmén, Zhāngzhōu or Quánzhōu would not be able to under-
stand a speaker of Fúzhōu, Lóngyán, or Pǔtián. And neither would speak-
ers from the latter cities understand each other, since each would comprise
inhabitants from nearby linguistically diverse towns. This scenario is
apparent not just on the streets or workplaces but also in the classrooms.
The second is the fast pace of growth of Xiàmén, which has attracted many
Fujianese from further inland to its city, necessitating once again the adop-
tion of a lingua franca—this time, not Quánzhōu or Amoy speech but
Pǔtōnghuà. Third, intermarriage between different language speakers of
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 197
Table 8.1 Comparative Variation Between Standard Xiamen, Standard
Chaozhou, and Standard Mandarin
Standard Standard Standard
English Chinese Xiàmén Chaozhou
I Wo Gua Wa
We Wo-men Gun Ung
You (singular) Ni Li Lu
You (plural) Ni-men Lin Ning
He Ta I I
They Ta-men In Ing
Comparative Variation between Standard Xiàmén, Standard Chaozhou and Standard Manda-
rin (Moser 1985: 187)

Fújiàn province is becoming the norm rather than the exception, a practice
necessitating a lingua franca. Children from these inter-region marriages
naturally adopt Pǔtōnghuà as well.
It should be noted that the learning of Pǔtōnghuà may present some dif-
ficulty for speakers of Xiàmén or Cháozhōu, as both languages are mutu-
ally unintelligible, as seen in Table 8.1, where the use of everyday pronouns
are concerned.
Table 8.1 shows how different Standard Xiàménhuà and Cháozhōuhuà
are from Pǔtōnghuà. Forrest (1948) believes that the way plurality is shown
in both Xiàménhuà and Cháozhōuhuà pronouns may reflect influences
from local aboriginal languages or non-Hàn sources. Both Tài and Miáo,
he notes, use separate forms for singular and plural pronouns. While the
above data pertains only to pronouns; in reality, there are other more pro-
nounced lexical and syntactical differences.
In addition, the acquisition of Standard Pǔtōnghuà presents an added
difficulty. Like Quánzhōuhuà, Pǔtōnghuà can be spoken in distinctive vari-
eties, depending on which region the speaker comes from. These variet-
ies are linguistically equal but sociolinguistically unequal, since there is a
human tendency to view varieties that are different as “deficiencies” and
thus to marginalize individuals who do not happen to speak the “correct”
variety. The distinctive Pǔtōnghuà accent in Fújiàn is due in part to the
strong phonological influence of Mǐnnánhuà. For example, Mǐnnánhuà
possesses one of the most diverse phonology of Chinese variants, with more
consonants than standard Mandarin or Cantonese. Where initials are con-
cerned, Mǐnnánhuà has aspirated, unaspirated, as well as voiced conso-
nant initials. Unlike Mandarin, it retains all the fi nal consonants of Middle
Chinese. Moreover, while Mandarin only preserves the /n/ and /ŋ/ fi nals,
Mǐnnánhuà has also preserved the /m/, /p/, /t/ and /k/ fi nals (Chung 1996).
In terms of lexis, Mǐnnánhuà has also preserved a good deal of Southern
Chinese vocabulary, a relic of earlier days; for example, words such as 目
[mak] eye (cf. Pǔtōnghuà: 眼睛 yǎnjīng), 灱 [ta] dry (cf. Pǔtōnghuà: 乾 gān),
and 囥 [kʰɤŋ] hide (cf. Pǔtōnghuà: 藏 cáng).
198 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders

A SURVEY OF LIMINALITY IN FUJIAN

Liminal periods such as the present era present both attraction and resistance
to language shifts as may be discerned from popular media. Fújiàn television
and sit-coms still use Xiàménhuà as a form of humorous contrast to the pow-
erful North and occasionally as a means of maintaining the cultural hegemony
of Fújiàn. There are television programmers using local dialects (e.g., local
opera) catering to the needs of audiences, especially those who have difficulty
understanding Pǔtōnghuà. In this respect, Xiàménhuà is used as the signifier
of the historical past, the intimate and domestic, mundane, uncultured and
philistine behavior, and as a humorous contrast to Mandarin (Gunn 2006).
The rise of one lingua franca over others can only take place at the expense
of other languages, especially those with the lowest status and the fewest
number of speakers. High- prestige lingua francas such as Xiàmén in Fújiàn
and Cantonese in Guǎngzhōu are generally “safe,” due to the relatively
large populations of those cities; whereas other Mǐnnán languages such as
Shàowǔhuà, Huì’ānhuà, and Wǔyíshānhuà are endangered. Of course not
all small languages will die because now, as in the past, there will always
be the human recourse of retreating into the spiral. There still remain well-
defined communities within the larger sublanguage groups further inland,
as the Fújiàn hills have protected the languages spoken there from being too
quickly assimilated because of the succession of imperial and regional lingua
francas. On visiting a remote mountain village of Dàodì in the Tóng’ān dis-
trict, I conversed with a villager of age 50. I said to the villager, “I only took
an hour by car to come here from Tóng’ān—why is life so different here and
why don’t you speak either Xiàménhuà or Pǔtōnghuà?” “Well,” my Dàodì
friend replied, “We have been in contact for about a hundred years but we
are still separate.” “Why is that?” I asked. “Well, each community has its
own individuality and if a person loses that, he has nothing more.”
The rise of Pǔtōnghuà comes at the direct expense of Mǐnnánhuà. The
glitter of the city has already resulted in a steady exodus of young people
from mountain homes. Roads and electricity and bus transit, broadband
and mobile outreach, have made once remote mountains no longer inacces-
sible. In multiplex environments such as the city, speech tends to be ironed
out through a norm-enforcement mechanism, which imposes all kinds of
behavioral norms (mannerism, dress, language) on their members. As more
speakers switch to Pǔtōnghuà, the grammatical and lexical resources of
Minnanhua will begin to atrophy. This in turn will reduce the input neces-
sary for the acquisition process, since children learning a declining language
are exposed to only sparse data to learn from (Schendl 2001). Therefore,
we fi nd a gradual reduction of grammatical structures and the disappear-
ance of inflections, which may ultimately lead to a fi xed word order. The
replacement of native vocabulary by borrowing subsequently becomes com-
mon. Also, children will no longer be exposed to intricate features of the
language that encode social nuances of meaning. In such a scenario, within
one or two generations, children become semi-speakers—in the sense that
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 199
they may retain extensive passive (i.e. receptive) competence in the language
but their productive competence becomes gradually reduced and they con-
sequently have less and less to pass on to their children. Indeed, many dia-
lectal words and phrases are no longer used by the young.32
This fear of potential language loss has prompted efforts to develop a
writing system for Mǐnnánhuà either by using Chinese or Roman characters
(Chen 2001). Some schools in Xiàmén now proudly proclaim the teaching of
Mǐnnánhuà as a second language (besides English). However, it is doubtful
whether such intellectual support for Mǐnnánhuà vs. the supposedly “hege-
monic” “Northern-based” Pǔtōnghuà, can succeed, as there is an obvious
lack of broad-based support from a linguistically heterogeneous population
that has many economic priorities to worry about rather than their linguis-
tic rights. The existence (and endurance) of diverse local H speech varieties,
such as Quánzhōu and Pǔtián, also suggests very strong norms opposing overt
standardization of Mǐnnánhuà. Ironically, those who advocate the elevation of
Mǐnnánhuà are cultural elites who have already (safely) mastered Pǔtōnghuà
and therefore can afford to spend time in saving their cultural heritage. The
masses are overtly in support of Pǔtōnghuà and English for the sake of eco-
nomic advancement.

SOCIOLINGUISTIC SURVEY

Between June and July of 2008, with the help of native speakers of
seven main languages of Mǐnnán (including Xiàménhuà, Pǔtiánhuà, and
Lóngyánhuà), I carried out an ethnographic survey of code choice as
observed in everyday interaction in three main cities of Fújiàn: Xiàmén,
Pǔtián in eastern Fújiàn, and Lóngyán in west Fújiàn. We observed a total
of 297 interactions in three different public domains: a Chinese wet mar-
ket, a government administrative office, and the university cafeteria. In the
markets, interactions occur between vendors and buyers, the former set-
ting up stalls and the latter browsing merchandise. Items sold ranged from
foodstuffs such as vegetables and pork to fruits such as lycees and peaches
to household items such as porcelain bowls, brooms, and clothes. Govern-
ment offices are located in the center of the city, often near the market,
are staffed by counter clerks, and are complete with queues of common
people applying for a variety of documents and certifications. Third, uni-
versity cafeterias or canteens are busy interactional avenues provided for
students by the university administration. These sites are “typical” in terms
of their functions. All are busy, noisy, and interactional. Our purpose was
to eavesdrop, with our inconspicuous digital recorders, at selected intersec-
tions for two to five minutes, noting down the choice of codes used in each
selected interaction. For each city, special attention was paid to its own
unique tongue, which often serves as the lingua franca for the neighboring
towns and villages, which may speak unintelligible languages in relation to
itself. The lingua franca of the cities under investigation (Xiàmén, Pǔtián,
200 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
and Lóngyán) have an acrolectal and basilectal variety that is obvious to
its native speakers. While the acrolect would refer to more “standard” or
refi ned speech, the basilect would refer to a variant of it spoken by the
unschooled in the city’s proud tradition of literacy. Table 8.2 shows a sum-
mary of our survey.

Table 8.2 Southern Min Language in Selected Sites: A Sociolinguistic Survey


Total number of interactions observed: 100
Language used in Language used in Language used in
Xiàmén market: Pǔtián market Lóngyán market
Xiàmén acrolectal 22 Henghua acrolectal 31 Lóngyán acrolectal 26
Xiàmén basilectal 21 Henghua basilectal 10 Lóngyán basilectal 6
Fúzhōuhuà (Fúzhōu) 0 Fúzhōuhuà (Fúzhōu) 7 Fúzhōuhuà (Fúzhōu) 4
Henghua (puxianhua) 0 Xiàménhuà 7 Xiàménhuà 8
Hakka (Yǒng Dìng) 1 Hakka (Yǒng Dìng) 0 Hakka (Yǒng Dìng) 5
Lóngyánhuà 0 Lóngyánhuà 0 Henghua (Pǔtián) 2
Mǐnběihuà (Wǔyíshān) 0 Mǐnběihuà (Wǔyíshān) 0 Mǐnběihuà (Wǔyíshān) 3
Mǐndōnghuà (Níngdé) 0 Mǐndōnghuà(Níngdé) 0 Mǐndōnghuà (Níngdé) 4
Pǔtōnghuà 38 Pǔtōnghuà 33 Pǔtōnghuà 26
Codemix/switch 10 Codemix/switch 8 Codemix/switch 5
Undiscipherable 8 Undiscipherable 4 Undiscipherable 11
Total number of interactions observed: 97
Over-the-counter Language Over-the-counter language Over-the-counter language
used in Xiàmén government used in Pǔtián government used in Lóngyán government
office: office office
Xiàmén acrolectal 16 Henghua acrolectal 23 Lóngyán acrolectal 21
Xiàmén basilectal 4 Henghua basilectal 6 Lóngyán basilectal 2
Fúzhōuhuà (Fúzhōu) 0 Fúzhōuhuà (Fúzhōu) 1 Fúzhōuhuà (Fúzhōu) 0
Henghua (puxianhua) 0 Xiàménhuà 01 Xiàménhuà 12
Hakka (Yǒng Dìng) Hakka (Yǒng Dìng) 0 Hakka (Yǒng Dìng) 2
Lóngyánhuà 0 Lóngyánhuà 0 Henghua (Pǔtián) 0
Mǐnběihuà (Wuyishan) 0 Mǐnběihuà (Wǔyíshān) 0 Mǐnběihuà (Wǔyíshān) 2
Mǐndōnghuà (Níngdé) 0 Mǐndōnghuà (Níngdé) 0 Mǐndōnghuà (Níngdé) 0
Pǔtōnghuà 69 Pǔtōnghuà 57 Pǔtōnghuà 55
Codemix/switch 8 Codemix/switch 9 Codemix/switch 3
Undiscipherable 0 Undiscipherable 0 Undiscipherable 0
Total number of interactions observed: 100
Language used in Xiàmén Language used in Pǔtián Language used in Lóngyán
university cafeteria: university cafeteria university cafeteria
Xiàmén acrolectal 12 Henghua acrolectal 26 Lóngyán acrolectal 21
Xiàmén basilectal Henghua basilectal 2 Lóngyán basilectal 0
Fúzhōuhuà (Fúzhōu) 0 Fúzhōuhuà (Fúzhōu) 2 Fúzhōuhuà (Fúzhōu) 0
Henghua (puxianhua) 0 Xiàménhuà 1 Xiàménhuà 3
Hakka (Yǒng Dìng) 1 Hakka (Yǒng Dìng) 1 Hakka (Yǒng Dìng) 3
Lóngyánhuà 0 Lóngyánhuà 0 Henghua (Pǔtián) 1
Mǐnběihuà (Wǔyíshān) 0 Mǐnběihuà (Wǔyíshān) 0 Mǐnběihuà (Wǔyíshān) 1
Mǐndōnghuà (Níngdé) 0 Mǐndōnghuà (Níngdé) 5 Mǐndōnghuà (Níngdé) 1
Pǔtōnghuà 77 Pǔtōnghuà 50 Pǔtōnghuà 43
Codemix/switch 10 Codemix/switch 13 Codemix/switch 16
Undiscipherable 0 Undiscipherable 0 Undiscipherable 0
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 201
The survey shows the growing ascendency of Pǔtōnghuà. For example,
in the government offices, the use of Pǔtōnghuà was 69%, 57%, and 55%
in Xiàmén, Pǔtián, and Lóngyán, respectively. In the university cafeteria,
the figures were a rather similar: 77%, 50%, and 43%, respectively. This
may be due to the more “official” status of the government office as well
as the cafeteria, since these are in a way, symbolic of the presence of the
nation-state, being funded and built by them. Only in the market place,
where interactions were “freer” and participated in by a more heteroge-
neous group of people did the city lingua franca of Xiàmén, Pǔtián, and
Lóngyán prevail. Here, the use of Pǔtōnghuà dropped to 38%, 33%, and
26%, respectively, in the three cities compared with the use of the cities’
native tongues, which were 43%, 42%, and 32% (acrolectal and basilectal),
respectively.
Each city has its own favorite language, which also functions as its lin-
gua franca for the people from the immediate outlying areas in the county
in which it is situated. However, if the city lingua franca is not function-
ally effective for a particular interaction, then the provincial lingua franca
(Xiàmén or one of its sister languages) will be invoked, failing which the
national lingua (Pǔtōnghuà) is then called to play a part, and so forth.
Another observation is the dominance of Xiàménhuà as a provincial lingua
in Southern Fújiàn (as well as Pǔtián and Lóngyán, despite the fact that it
is not a native tongue there), in the sense that it was invoked in all three
domains in all of the three cities whenever the interlocutor was not able
to speak either Pǔtōnghuà or the particular Mǐnnánhuà of its interactant.
However, in view of the dominant status of Xiàménhuà, it was invoked
more often when the interaction was informal and when it was obvious
that the interactants knew each other. Fúzhōuhuà, a Northern Mǐn lan-
guage from Fúzhōu the capital city of Fújiàn, was not heard in Xiàmén;
nevertheless, it was heard in a few encounters in Pǔtián and Lóngyán. This
could be due to the fact that Pǔtián is relatively closer to Fúzhōu, and as for
Lóngyán, a newly developed city, there are many economic visitors from
Xiàmén.
In Lóngyán, a wider range of codes was encountered in all three domains
than in Xiàmén and Pǔtián. In the marketplace alone, there were thirty-
two encounters with Lóngyánhuà, four with Fúzhōuhuà, eight with Xià-
ménhuà, five with Hakka, two with Pǔtiánhuà, three with Wǔyíshānhuà,
four with Níngdéhuà, and twenty-six with Pǔtōnghuà. The number of
encounters indicated as “undiscipherable” was eleven compared with eight
and four in Xiàmén and Pǔtián, respectively. One reason for the increased
multilinguality of the area could be the fact that Lóngyán, emblemic of
many new cities in China, has attracted many migrants from neighbor-
ing regions.33 By itself, Lóngyán has its own traditional counties such as
Yǒngdìng, Wǔpíng, Liánchéng, Chángtīng and Shàngháng. Its original city
is Xīnluó and people from Xīnluó speak Lóngyánhuà. As a lot of migrants
have flooded into Xīnluó since the 1980s, when the new city started to
202 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
be built; there are now many mutually unintelligible dialects spoken there
such as Mǐnnánhuà, Pǔtiánhuà, Fúzhōuhuà. Practicality, however, reigns
in Lóngyán, as the vast majority of its upwardly mobile inhabitants have all
been progressively switching to Pǔtōnghuà. Indeed, it is common for Xīnluó
people to avoid using Lóngyánhuà in public for fear they will be treated as
farmers: “When I was a child and went downtown, I was warned not to use
Lóngyánhuà lest other people know I am from the countryside.”34
Generally, code choices are determined by many factors such as linguis-
tic domains, respective status, the relationship of the interlocutors, the
place of interaction, the degree of comfort in the use of the language by
interactants, and other issues such as identity. In more formal domains such
as government offices, there is a greater effort by interactants to engage in
Pǔtōnghuà, not least because the counter staff is likely to be from a differ-
ent county, principality, or province and they tend to be officious if one does
not elect the “legitimate” code symbolic of the nation. In the markets, how-
ever, Pǔtōnghuà often takes a less imperial position as the favored choice
due to the informality of the situation. Market-type speech is also pro-
duced in other similar informal domains such as bus interchanges, smaller
restaurants, places of worship such as temples, and most of all, the home.
On the other hand, formal speech, that is, standard Pǔtōnghuà, is found
in domains such as higher educational institutions, the judiciary, and large
government offices, while a more informal Pǔtōnghuà is found in smaller
businesses, childcare centers, department stores, and student gatherings.
In domains such as the university cafeteria, there is a mix of Pǔtōnghuà
and Mǐnnánhuà not least because students originating from the same geo-
graphical area often tend to congregate together. In such scenarios, an
intensive practice of codemixing and code switching between Mǐnnánhuà
and Pǔtōnghuà takes place. Their use depends on the lexical need of the
topic and on factors such as group identity and relationship-building, which
is currently beyond the scope of our survey. It is also reflective of the fre-
quency with which the specific individual uses particular expressions from
his or her mother tongue or the other language in his daily communication,
in which case an expression from one language may more readily come to
mind than the equivalent expression in the other language. Cafeteria groups
tend to be fluid as some interactants may leave after they have fi nished their
meal and others may join the group in midstream. When new interactants
join in and are ostensibly from a different linguistic background, the con-
versation will often revert to Pǔtōnghuà as the favored “neutral” code.
Codemixing was most prevalent in the university cafeteria, and took
place in ten, thirteen, and fi fteen encounters of Xiàmén, Pǔtián, and
Lóngyán, respectively. It was also prevalent in the marketplace and gov-
ernment office with slightly lower scores of ten, eight, five and eight, nine,
three, respectively. It is interesting to note that “undisciperable” codes only
occurred in the domain of the marketplace (eight, four, eight for Xiàmén,
Pǔtián, and Lóngyán, respectively) and this may be because more codes
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 203
than those that are shown in Table 8.2 were used and hence were found to
be “indecipherable” by my research assistants. Interestingly too, there were
no codes that were considered undecipherable in more formal domains such
as the university cafeteria and the government office.
Code choices are also determined significantly by the respective status of
interlocutors. In the marketplace, usually the customer will elect the code and
the seller will attempt to acquiesce. If this is unsuccessful, both interactants
will then have at their disposal a choice of another provincial or national
lingua franca depending on their respective individual speech repertoire and
competencies. If no corresponding match can be found in their repertoire, a
compromise takes place with the use of accommodation strategies such as
code mixing, code switching, and other nonverbal strategies. In the university
cafeteria, if someone of a higher status, for example a member of the teaching
staff, joins the group of student diners, the social dynamics of the group is
immediately changed to one of greater distance, thus affecting the choice of
code (usually Pǔtōnghuà or English). There is however, the occasional “apolo-
getic” phrase in Mǐnnánhuà, especially when an emphatic point is made. In
the government office, however, the citizenry will elect the code at the serving
counter, but may be refer to another serving counter staff if the code is unin-
telligible to the interactant. Speakers of Mǐnnánhuà were often treated with
disdain by the counter clerks and regarded with silent contempt. Nor surpris-
ingly, such speakers often brought with them, a “companion” who was able
to speak the language of officialdom on their behalf and also help them with
the additional (more complex) task of form-filling and payment of monies for
administrative services rendered.
Age is another significant factor in the choice of codes. Older people,
especially women, who had in the past fewer opportunities to be schooled,
predominated in the marketplaces, and hence there were more encounters
observed in the mother tongues of the three cities. On the other hand, when
there were young people in the markets, especially if they were with their
friends, they would elect to speak in Pǔtōnghuà even if they knew how to
speak in Mǐnnánhuà. This could be habitual, since they have a greater com-
petence in the language but it could also be due to the fact that they identify
more closely with Pǔtōnghuà as the language of modern China. Neverthe-
less, when intent on negotiating for a lower price or a better deal of the
commodity at hand, they might code switch or use Mǐnnánhuà entirely,
especially if they were shopping alone.
The existence of acrolectal, mesolectal, and basilectal Xiàménhuà,
Pǔtiánhuà, and Lóngyánhuà in the three cities can be analyzed as polyglos-
sia, that is, the language is split among a high (H) formal language, mid
(M) semi-formal language, and a low (L) informal language. However, as
this is a preliminary survey and for the added ease of classification, we
have only accounted for the occurrences of acrolectal and basilectal speech.
Acrolectal speech refers to what may be known as the “standard”—the
speech used as the medium of instruction in educational institutions in the
204 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
past when Xiàménhuà, Pǔtiánhuà, or Lóngyánhuà, as the case may be,
was its medium of instruction. It is used in public recitations of news and
literature. On the other hand, basilectal speech refers to languages used in
informal settings, usually by the unschooled, with unique phonological,
lexical, and grammatical features that include borrowings from neighbor-
ing languages not found in the H version.
In Lóngyán, the H variety includes not just acrolectal Lóngyán but also
Pǔtōnghuà and acrolectal Xiàménhuà. In Pǔtián, the H form would not only
be acrolectal Pǔtián but also acrolectal Xiàmén and Pǔtōnghuà. So too in
Xiàmén, acrolectal Xiàménhuà and Pǔtōnghuà are regarded as H. Interest-
ingly, in Northern cities such as Běijīng and Xī’ān, only Pǔtōnghuà and Eng-
lish (including Chinglish) would be regarded as H and all other languages as
L. Chinglish is a kind of “local English” spoken by Chinese learners who have
not quite mastered its standard form, and it is considered H in a large number
of domains in view of the fact that most people are still struggling to learn it.
H and L forms are used in various situations as indexes of social solidarity.
I noticed that in Fújiàn province as a whole (and this may be true in
other Southern provinces as well), that speaking proficiency in Pǔtōnghuà is
often much lower than comprehension skill, which means that in most cases
speakers may have only a passive mastery of the national LF. Nevertheless,
the gradual ascendancy of Pǔtōnghuà over Mǐnnánhuà can be discerned,
and its standard has improved visibly over the years. For example, today in
Xiàmén, it is possible to shop, buy a train ticket, or ask street directions by
using only Pǔtōnghuà, a far cry from the 1970s, when Xiàménhuà was the
de facto lingua franca and where many other Mǐnnán tongues intermingled
with it freely along the streets and workplaces.
In an interview with a class of forty-eight sophomores at Jíměi University
as to which languages they would have their future only child speak at home,
81% chose Pǔtōnghuà and English, while only 19% chose the combination
of Pǔtōnghuà and Mǐnnánhuà. The more typical reasons given are:

My mother speaks Pǔtiánhuà, my father speaks Fú’ānhuà, and we speak


a mix of these two languages at home. As a child, I spoke Xiānyóuhuà
to classmates, as Xiānyóu is the county which I’m schooled in. How-
ever, I don’t speak the city tongue of Xiānyóu, which is Níngdéhuà,
although I can guess meanings. In school, I learnt Pǔtōnghuà, and now
I am learning English. For practicality, I want my child to learn only
Pǔtōnghuà and English.

With such tough competition, my child should only speak Pǔtōnghuà


and English so he can have a better chance in life.

It depends on whom I marry—I probably marry someone speaking


another dialect, in which case my child will speak Pǔtōnghuà and
English.
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 205
I would like my little daughter to speak Jìxīhuà and Pǔtōnghuà, other-
wise she will not be able to communicate with her grandparents.

Although there is a strong preference for Pǔtōnghuà among the young,


it should be noted that the speaking of Pǔtōnghuà in most of their situa-
tions of daily life is at present interlaced seamlessly with bits and pieces of
Mǐnnánhuà. Code switching is triggered situationally and discursively all
the time; it is a very common phenomenon for Mǐnnán speakers to either
consciously or unconsciously juggle competing values as to which language
or which varieties to use in varying situations. Two prevalent motives of
code switching are when speakers desire privacy, that is, to prevent eves-
dropping from other potential hearers, and to evoke solidarity as of belong-
ing to the same hometown.
We may conclude that in these three cities, the average person below 30
years of age does not only possess a minimum of three or four languages
but also a diglossic ability to move along its cline, so as to cope with the
communicative challenges of daily life. The three languages are, typically,
the national lingual franca (i.e., Pǔtōnghuà), a city lingua franca (i.e., Xià-
ménhuà, Quánzhōuhuà, Pǔtiánhuà, or whatever the case may be), and
fi nally the speech of the family (i.e., Dàtián, Guāngzé, Jiānglè, Shàowǔ (or
that of whichever town or village he comes from). A well-possessed young
citizen, usually with at least a high school education, would also add Eng-
lish (symbolizing the global order) to his repertoire. Of course, it would be
advantageous for the Mǐnnán speaker if his family speech correlates with
the lingua franca of the city, in which case he would be saved from hav-
ing to learn an additional language. However, in view of the many remote
towns and villages tucked beside dynamic mountains and crisscrossing
rivers, this is often not the norm. James Campbell (2008) has listed the
existence of sixty-nine distinct languages in Fújiàn province alone. Indeed,
where the average older Mǐnnán speaker is concerned, an average of four to
six Mǐnnán languages would be needed, not including the diglossic variet-
ies of each of these tongues, for him just to get by.
This brief survey of sociolinguistic choice in three Fújiàn cities displays
an “intermediate” period of language shift, prevalent in liminal periods.
As seen in our prior study of Singapore, language shift often begins with
an intervening period, such as a movement away from multilingualism
to bilingualism in the “shifting” community. In the initial phases of the
relationship, the language choice may show specific distribution patterns
over specific domains. Gradually, more public and formal domains may, by
force of circumstances, be allotted to the dominant societal language, with
more informal and personal domains like the home allotted to the minor-
ity language. The last bastions of survival for the dominated language are
usually folk songs and local tales. To study the longitudinal progress of
such a shift, it would be useful if such a survey were duplicated in the next
decade. A more extensive survey targeting different age groups, relative
206 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
competencies, social status, geographical location, and occupational sec-
tors, to name a few, would also, doubtless, provide further insights on the
dynamics of language change and world orders.

THE GLOBAL WORLD ORDER—THE GLOBAL LANGUAGE

Having experienced a relatively recent shift to Pǔtōnghuà, Southern Mǐnnán


speakers are now unexpectedly faced with the emergence of yet another
lingua franca, this time from the global order. Today, there is a great impa-
tience on the part of the population of Fújiàn to master what is considered
the “the next lingua franca,” as evidenced in the mushrooming of private
schools offering to teach English in one way or other (Bloomberg 2007).
Kirkpatrick (2008) predicts that Chinese English, together with European
English, will develop at a greater pace than all the other outer or inner
circle counterparts. In Xiàmén, as with other coastal cities of China, pri-
vate school enrollment is way above the national average, as these cities are
fuelled by the presence of foreigners and faster economic growth. English
is seen as the coveted passport to the new world order. While governments
have to subsidize the cost of the learning of Pǔtōnghuà, the cost of learn-
ing English seems to be willingly borne by the population. While walking
along downtown Xiàmén in a five-minute period, I noticed four people
wearing clothing with Chinese characters and fourteen people wearing
clothing emblazoned with English slogans. Billboards everywhere adver-
tise their wares bilingually. English has become a marker of middle-class
identity as well as a means for the young to gain internationally competitive
educations (Bolton 2008). A respondent comments: “We are beginning to
be embarrassed of our traditional tongue and we devalue them. For some
reason I feel that a young person with a poor command of English com-
mands more respect than an old scholar who speaks Quánzhōuhuà.”
This potential shift to English is quite discernible in Xiàmén as Fújiàn
province holds the record for being the historic homeland of the majority
of overseas Chinese, and also enjoys the dubious reputation today of being
the major source of undocumented Chinese American aliens residing in
the United States today.35 Suryadinata (2004: 75) estimates that there are
20 million Chinese emigrants to Southeast Asia alone. For the Fujianese,
language shift is a tool or resource of advancement rather than a marker
of race or identity (cf. Chew 2007). It may be noted here that it was only
with European nationalism and the growth of nation-states that the idea
of “language superiority” came about. However, this idea of superiority
did not exist in the ancient world since it was always taken for granted that
if a culture was great, their language was great. Our consciousness of a
“mother tongue” did not even appear until the Europeans arrived.
History has also shown that the Fujianese are even content not to be
considered Chinese if it means a loss of economic well-being (Kwang 2007).
A Case Study of Southern Min Language 207
For example, it is problematic to identify them, for example, in Myanmar,
Vietnam, and Thailand, where there is more than one generation. In Thai-
land, Chinese of Thai citizenship are considered Thai and will not show
in the population as Chinese. Most of them no longer have Chinese sur-
names and do not speak and write Chinese, such as those in Philippines
and Indonesia.
Today, as the economy booms, many rural Chinese migrate to cities
seeking good jobs, but instead fi nd tough conditions and crowds competing
for jobs with low wages. Research (Zhao 1996; Wang 1996) shows that
in China about 70 million people left their townships in 1995 alone for
temporary or long-term jobs in country towns or bigger urban areas. As a
result, many migrants start saving again to migrate abroad in search of bet-
ter opportunities. One notes, however that this time round, the potential
migration of its population is even larger than before because now migrants
do not just come from rural China but also urban China. Elite mobility
(businessman, professionals, tertiary students) is high and growing, gener-
ating massive ethnic diversification all over the world and also social strati-
fication of new kinds, complex identification, and hybrid languages (Lo
Bianco 2007).

CONCLUSION

Just as we need studies that occasionally refocus our attention from the
United States or the United Kingdom, so too studies are needed that refocus
our attention away from Xī’ān or Běijīng. By decentering, we draw atten-
tion to previously neglected areas that may afford us another chance to
discover new dimensions. Every one of the provinces in China is bursting
with similar stories to tell of language birth, death, and renewal(s) and this
brief encounter in Fújiàn is only a pioneering attempt to narrate a fasinat-
ing tale through the helicoidal model of world orders. The linguistic com-
plexity of Fújiàn in the modern world may be considered a microcosm of
the macrocosm of China; just as a multifaceted China can be considered a
microcosm of the world at large. The Fújiàn topography affords a rich and
layered sociolinguistic study of languages (and lingua francas) against a
backdrop of successive periods of language attrition, preservation, mainte-
nance, and spread.
As a province, it continually remodels and reinterprets itself linguisti-
cally. Some of the languages of Fújiàn for example, Quánzhōuhuà, 36 have
played great political and culture roles, while others are anonymous and
uncharted, due to the sociopolitical vagaries of that time. Some have faced
a drastic homogenization in a large melting pot since at least the Bronze
Age (4th millennium BC) while others have disappeared or retreated as far
as the last mountains will take them. In the past and present (and in the
future?), it seems that Mǐnnánhuà is in perpetual flux, either growing or
208 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
diminishing in status, incrementing its vitality or waning and obsolesc-
ing. The important thing to note in this constant flux is that everything is
related to everything else, and all things influence every other thing. The
rise and fall of languages are interdependent on each other. Hence E fac-
tors will cause changes in I factors and these together in turn create ripple
effects on neighboring languages, which in turn create their own ripples.
One dominant thread that runs throughout this chapter is that language
change is a result mainly of E factors, possessing a kind of rhythmic qual-
ity. Migration, either forced or voluntary, is a regular player on the his-
torical landscape. It was involved in the replacement of Mǐnnánhuà from
one which was Austronesian-based to one which was predominantly Sino-
Tibetan. Then, hunter-gatherers abounded, some of whose descendants
have contributed to the greater genetic diversity of Mǐnnán speakers today.
Others have tarried and remained in a time capsule of their own making.
Socioeconomic, political, and environmental factors have contributed to
the push-and-pull factors responsible for the movement from the villages to
the towns and cities, especially during the Míng and Qīng Dynasties.
Another thread is that language change takes place everywhere but espe-
cially at crossroads where interactions are varied and complex. Crossroads
are not only geographical but also metaphorical representations of liminal
or sub-liminal periods experienced in each changing world order. At such
intervals, there can be discerned confl ict between centrifugal forces pulling
the population inwards toward local needs and centripetal forces pushing
the population outward toward international intelligibility and acceptabil-
ity. Here is where the birth and death of languages take place: its dramatic
memories, such as its marriages and divorces; its newborns;its departing
adult children and estranged siblings. The current liminality in which Fújiàn
fi nds itself—with technological advances, demographics change, wars and
political instability, among other variables—has meant even more intensive
change not seen in other eras of its history.
In such environments, questions such as that posed by Seidhofer (2006)—
“How can one promote a common language of the community while sup-
porting equal rights for all community languages at the same time?” should
more aptly be replaced by “How can one learn the lingua franca of the age
quickly so as to ensure everyone has an equal chance of living well?”—for
such is the general pragmatic attitude in Xiàmén today.
9 The Place of English in
the World Today

SUMMARY

The preceding chapters have defined lingua franca, its varied roles in histori-
cal contexts, its linguistic malleability, and its connection to the evolving
world order. We have discussed lingua francas such as Ki-Swahili in East
Africa, Pǔtōnghuà in China, and Arabic and English in various parts of the
globe. LFs are irretrievably bound up with emergent world orders and are
often in the forefront of change. They are in the frontline of exposure to
speakers who bring with them a repertoire of both linguistic and nonlinguis-
tic experiences from other languages and cultures. Hence, great phonetic,
morphosyntactic, lexical, and discursive diversity characterizes speakers of
LF. We began with the hypothesis that in the world orders of families and
tribes, humankind spoke thousands of languages. But with the invention of
agriculture, language became tied to the land and took on an increasingly
regional flavor. As population increased and trade and cities emerged, lin-
gua francas became an indispensable tool connecting diverse peoples and
cultures. Some lingua francas grew out of pidgins and creoles as a result of
trade and/or colonialization, while others assumed an LF status almost auto-
matically, as they were the languages of huge cities or imperial empires.
All reality, including language, is in a perpetual state of flux and change
and everything is related to something else. The spiral/helicoidal model
has illustrated the process of linguistic expansion, resistance, negotiation,
retreat, and extinction as it relates to the social dynamic of each world
order. In each world order are to be discerned forming, norming, and inte-
grating phases. The case studies of Arabia, Singapore, China, and Fujian
have also focused on the creative processes that involve the interaction of
individual and/or communities in historically determined circumstances.
Languages reach an “equilibrium,” and then at liminal periods or “punc-
tuation points,” change accelerates. Where world orders are concerned, a
view is presented that the current era witnesses a dramatic and difficult
transition from the national to the global.
One of the cherished ideas from the past is that it is contact between
societies that has led to increased knowledge, understanding, and
210 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
“progress”—and the durability of this notion is awesome considering the
thousands of years of documented evidence showing warfare and disen-
chantment as a result of contact. The penchant for trade, indispensable
without a lingua franca, attests to this truism to this day. Despite the fact
that linguistic evolution is often a “zero sum game,” that is, that over time
certain languages will take over the function of other languages and send
other linguistic companions to atrophy and eventual death; language shift
and language death also have many other less controversial benefits.
The helicoidal dimension has hopefully presented applied linguists some
intellectual excitement as well as an opportunity to rethink the issue of
ELF (English as a lingua franca) in a broader and more integrative per-
spective. Certainly, the place of ELF cannot be considered without histori-
cal consciousness and it is now time for us to examine the place of ELF
in the world today a little more closely. There are basically three areas
of concern regarding the rise of English as a lingua franca in relation to
the global order, and we will group these concerns under the broad areas
of (a) language loss, (b) language identity, and (c) language standards and
pedagogical implications. The discussion of these three areas concludes
with a summative reflection on the politics and place of English as a world
language.

LANGUAGE LOSS AND WORLD ORDER

English as a lingua franca is likely to continue to spread as it has done since


the dawn of the liminal era and the reasons for this has been recounted
in Chapters 3 and 5. Such a spread is usually at the expense of contrac-
tion somewhere else (cf. Egbokhare 2006). Gradoll (1997) estimates that
perhaps 80% of the world’s 6000 or so living languages will die by the 21
century and warns that should this happen, it will be both an intellectual
and social tragedy because when a language dies, so too does the identity of
its users, including elements of their culture such as folktales, songs, rituals,
proverbs, and so forth. As seen in our model, language loss begins to accel-
erate during the forming period, reaching its peak at the norming period.
Of the surviving languages today, many are themselves in various stage of
obsolescence, struggling to hold their own not only as first languages but
also as second languages. There is a growing body of literature on topics
such as language death, minority languages, and language maintenance,
and these are supported not just by environmentalists but by nation-states
with a vested interest in the status quo. When language shift and language
loss are linked to linguistic diversity and individual freedoms, the discourse
often assumes the rather righteous tenor of language-as-rights (cf. Bradley
and Bradley 2002; Dalby 2002; Skutnabb-Kangas 2000).
However, it should be noted that language loss currently affects only
a minority of the world’s population because 96% of the world’s people
The Place of English in the World Today 211
speak one of the twenty most spoken languages in the world (Chinese,
English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish,
German, French, Punjabi, Japanese, German, Javanese, Bilari, Italian,
Korean, Telugu, and Tamil Marathi). In the forming, norming, as well as
the greater part of the integrative period, the spread of the global lingua
franca does not affect “large” languages like Mandarin in China, Spanish
in Latin American, and Arabic in North Africa and West Asia; middle-
level languages such as French, German, Hausa, Japanese, Swahili, or
Tamil; or lower middle languages like Cantonese, Hungarian, Punjabi,
and Swedish; but only the small languages. What we see today is therefore
the death of languages that often do not have a critical mass or institu-
tional support. Nettle and Romaine (2000: ix) point out that the greatest
linguistic diversity is found in ecosystems inhibited by indigenous people
“who represent around 4% of the world’s population, but speak at least
60% of its 6000 or more languages.” Like the endangered giant panda,
these languages (especially those with 20,000 members or less) can be
“preserved” if we take measures to preserve them through isolating the
pockets on the retreating curve of the spiral in which they live (see Chap-
ter 3), and by cutting them of from vestiges of modernity such as the tele-
vision or telephone. However, experience from the Welsh, Breton, Maori,
and Hawaiian language preservation movements is that the languages are
unlikely to be passed on to children again in enough households to be
significant; the survival of these languages is entirely dependent on gov-
ernment money and legislature. It should also be remembered that the
cost of providing education in such native tongues can be prohibitive. For
example, the many movements today to revive dying languages such as
Welsh, Irish, Gaelic, and Maori has shown success to be elusive not least
because linguists are often more interested in preserving a community’s
language than are its members. Spolsky (2008) has also noted that many
revival movements are in fact ethnic mobilizations around the language
policy, as in Ireland; once independence is achieved, the urgency of revival
also seems to be lost.
If change is the rule rather than the exception in all forms of human
expression, it will not be fanciful to think that Gaelic or Maori may have
limited life, once millennial timeframes are used. In addition, horror and
incredulity are often the result when we realize that German or Hindi may
also share the same fate. Like the emergence and decline of flora and fauna,
such deaths herald a self-organizing process of flux and change and thou-
sands of such similar languages have disappeared without leaving any trace
of ever having existed. Language death results when a language becomes
extinct. However, extinction is not an unusual event, as species regularly
appear through speciation and disappear through extinction. Indeed, vir-
tually all animal and plant species that have lived on earth are now extinct
(Raup 1994). Such extinctions happen continuously throughout the history
of life, although the rate increases exponentially in liminal periods.
212 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
Languages, whether or not they function as lingua francas, have disap-
peared for a variety of reasons including economic, cultural, political, and
religious ones. They are more often lost through migration, as people move
from small rural communities to urban centers, or when environments are
destroyed in the search for oil or timber. Natural disasters can also devas-
tate populations, and along with them, their language—like the speakers of
the Paulohi language in Maluku, Indonesia, of whom all but 50 were killed
by an earthquake and tidal wave in 2001.
While scholars are naturally concerned about the “linguistic imperial-
ism” of lingua francas (Phillipson 1992), it must not be forgotten that this
was also the case during the time of the Greeks, Romans, and Arabs. It also
troubled the Putaan and Liyans on Minoan Crete in 1600 BC, the Greeks
in Egypt in 200 BC, and the Romans and Germans in Britain in 200 CE.
All cultures and their languages inevitably influence one another causing
dissension, even in early prehistoric agriculture in China in 6000 BC (Zhou
2006). One recalls that in 1859, when Charles Darwin published The Ori-
gin of the Species, there was a great deal of interest in the origin and evo-
lution of language. However, this topic created so much controversy that
the Societe de Linguistique de Paris, the primary authority for the study of
language at that time, put a stop to further discussion in 1866. This ban
excluded all theorizing about language evolution from the scientific com-
munity for more than a century. In 1975, however, the scientific interest in
language evolution was rekindled with the conference on “Origin and Evo-
lution of Language and Speech” sponsored by the New York Academy of
Sciences. However, it was only in the 1990s that interest in language evolu-
tion resurged in full and emerged as a legitimate area of scientific inquiry
While it is easy to point the finger at “killer English,” and “the monstrous
weed” (Graddol et al. 2007), we should not forget that there are many other
similar “rogues” doing the job further down the pecking order. National,
regional lingua francas such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish are
also strengthening at the expense of smaller languages (Goodman et al.
2007). Chapter 7 has recounted how the expansion of Pǔtōnghuà has been
at the expense of the so-called Chinese dialects. For example, in Hong Kong,
Cantonese is more threatened by Pǔtōnghuà than it is by English, to the point
that the former is likely to move to function as just one of the local dialects
in a typical coastal city of China in the near future (T’sou 2002). Brutt-
Griffler and Davis (2006: 290) narrate how in South Africa, it is Isicamtho,
rather than English, that is replacing ethnic languages as the mother tongues
or languages of primary socialization. She cites the South African poet, Ike
Mboneni Muila, who described Isicamtho as “a language which draws from
and brings together all South African languages that kept people apart” as
well as “a new profound language . . . language of identity . . . unity in diver-
sity.” Another example is the Philippines where more dominant languages
such as Ilocano, Cebuano, and Tagalog continue to spread at the expense of
minority languages such as Bikol and Magarao.
The Place of English in the World Today 213
Also, as old languages disappear, new languages appear, especially evi-
dent in liminal periods where global connections and changing identities
are constantly reinforcing each other. For example, the global ranging
McDonald’s burger has become tied to the identities of its consumers every-
where so that it is no longer seen as a foreign product. In the same way, on
a more abstract level, there are many varieties of the English language—the
New Englishes—and like McDonald’s, it is not seen as a foreign product
by many people as it has become “indigenized” (Manning 2005). This is
something that perhaps environmentalists and language rights advocates
do not highlight often enough; that is, that while species and languages
are dying at an alarming rate, new native varieties are replacing them (cf.
Lightfoot 2006). A released creativity often accompanies an invading lan-
guage. For example, Filipino English now lives through English, and its
wide acceptance and vibrancy show that it is enjoying itself as a part of
life there. The attractiveness of such creativity is also manifested in recent
management theories that position themselves at the edge of chaos, a region
of bounded instability, for the purpose of forcing creative futures of the
organization to emerge—futures arising out of the controlled ferment of
ideas (Pascale et al. 2000).
It is possible that anyone can reason their way to convince someone of
the truthfulness of their perspective, and what is “truth” is something that
has been debated through time immemorial. However, I think that truth is
what produces results of unity before the tribunal of life and history, and
not Karl Popper’s (2002) method of falsification. I believe that the motiva-
tional values behind the evolutionary impulse in nature, as I have portrayed
in the spiral model in Chapter 2, is to produce a kind of “unity,” one which
will link the microcosm to the macrocosm and the parts to one whole. Per-
haps, we should think of philosophy not just as a “science of words,” what
A. J. Ayer (1998) calls “talk about talk,” but also as a “science of action.”
Such a “science of action” includes the fostering of a practical justice for
all peoples. In this respect, justice is the practical expression of awareness
that in the achievement of human progress and equality, the interests of
the individual and those of society must be inextricably linked. More spe-
cifically, an exposition of linguistic rights must include the understanding
that the world’s materialistic conception of life has led to the widening gap
between the poor and rich nations and that unless this is bridged by the
realization that we all live in a global world, whose accessibility is linked
with the accessibility that a lingua franca affords, we cannot solve this
problem (Bolton 2008). While societies such as Singapore and Hong Kong
have recognized this and hence seen an expansion in their middle classes
for over three decades, India and China are now following their formula
with a fair measure of success. The burgeoning middle class of India in the
last decade has come from the English-knowing bilinguals. The “access
paradox” (Joseph and Ramani 2007: 189) must be borne in mind; that is,
by providing access to the dominant language, we entrench its dominance,
214 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
and by denying access to the language of power, we entrench marginaliza-
tion. McKay (2008) proposes learning English while devoting time and
attention to the learner’s own culture as a means not of subjugation but of
empowerment.

IDENTITY AND WORLD ORDER

Our native tongue is always precious to us since it often surrounds us from


cradle to death and its loss may be likened to a loss of life. This loss may
become unbearable in liminal periods when massive language shift occurs
and many aspiring lingua francas compete for world dominance. When
one is positioned to master an LF in school or everyday life, an LF that in
all probability will become more dominant than one’s mother tongue, it
may then become pertinent to ask questions such as: What is the source
of one’s identity? Is it one’s birthplace, citizenship, or language? Is it one’s
religion, age, gender, economic status, work, or styles of cultural expres-
sion? In what way then does the use of one language contribute to one’s
identity?
If we continue to use traditional parameters of race, language, national-
ity, gender, age, class, occupation, and even sexual orientation to inform
contemporary issues such as identity, this may result in an imbalanced
and inaccurate analysis. Such orthodoxies have been around so long that
we tend to forget that they are merely theoretical constructs. The idea of
national identity is, for example, largely a construct of 19-century nation-
alism, which assumes an unchanging national “essence” residing in shared
histories, a fi xed territory, and a common language (Risager 2006). Indeed,
identities are no longer aligned to “fi xed” categories such as those cited
above. For example, Ominiyi’s and White’s (2006) study on the sociolin-
guistics of identity found that:

1. Identity is constructed within established contexts and may vary.


2. More than one identity may be articulated in a given context in which
case there will be a dynamic of identities management.
3. Identity is not fi xed but unstable, fluid and fragmental (post struc-
tural approach to identity).

In liminal eras, identity is especially malleable and in a state of flux


varying with each context. It is also dynamically unstable. As Hall (2002)
points out, cultures are not monolithic value systems as they represent a
fluid and interactive dynamic that is responding and adapting to other sets
of values and ideas. For example, we can wear our national costumes if we
wish to tell people from which part of the globe we come from and we can
also refuse to wear them if we wish to remain anonymous. We can also
adjust our voice quality or our choice of syntax, lexis, and phonology at
The Place of English in the World Today 215
will depending on which identity we wish to forefront at the moment. Iden-
tity will increasingly become mobile because of “circular migration” made
possible by transportation and communication technologies (immigrants
can maintain strong home country ties because they can go back home eas-
ily), not easily available before in past migratory cycles in previous world
orders.
Global connections have made identities fragmented and varied in the
sense that they have led to more cultural choices for individuals. Flipping
through a magazine or listening to a range of radio stations will give an
observer an indication of the various subgroups available in each region.
The very ability to switch stations or to buy a different magazine helps us
clarify the degree to which cultural identity has become a matter of choice.
Saxena’s (2007b) study of youths in Bruneian portrays identities as fluid,
permeable, and changeable. Bruneian youths have multiple identities, each
of which are shaped by the particular contexts they are in. For example,
they may choose Malay in one context, English in another, and mix the
two languages with or without slang or code-mixing in another context as
a means of projecting diverse parameters such as race, culture, gender, and
language in varying proportions. In brief, it has always been the case for
people to be able to reorient and rethink their identities by acquiring the
special words, intonation, and rhythm patterns from those around them
and from early childhood and adult life.
When confronted with death, whether of life or language, one can always
look on it as either an end or a beginning, as exemplified by the proverb:
“When one door closes, another one opens.” For instance, those settling
in a new place can identify themselves as pioneers in a territory or as exiles
from their old homes. It is a matter of perspective akin to, “Is the cup half
full or half empty?” Language shift, which may lead to identity shift, is
more often a result of voluntary or reflex action rather than one associ-
ated with force. For example, almost all of Latin America is now Spanish
speaking—trading its Polynesian ancestry for economic gains. In the same
way, pre-Indo-European Aquitaria yielded to the Celts’ Gaulish. Later,
Gaulish yielded to the Latin of the Romans. Similarly, most Celts of Britain
accepted the Latin languages of their minority Roman occupiers as supe-
rior. Later, with the change of political scenario, they adopted the German
of the later minority occupiers (Curtin 1984). There is a self-interest (attrib-
uted to classical economist Adam Smith)in operation here; that is, consum-
ers and producers come to the marketplace to exchange relationships not
because they love each other or wish to serve each other, but because they
have something mutually to gain from each other. This can be seen in our
case studies, for example, China (Chapters 7 and 8) where language shift is
not only condoned but encouraged for material gain. Language shift is also
influenced by governmental policy, such as favoring one language above
others in school, or by official discourse proclaiming a “common good”
above that of individual interest.
216 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
While certain languages fade away, other more powerful languages,
such as LFs, will multiply. The tendency for language to multiply and
diversify reflects the fact that new identities have been formed. A case in
point is the divergence in the spelling and pronunciation of British and
American English, which begun as soon as the fi rst settlers arrived in
America. By the time Noah Webster wrote his dictionaries, there were
hundreds of words known in the United States but not in Britain. Today,
there are thousands of differences between British and American English
as summarized by dialectologist Frederic G. Cassidy’s research on Eng-
lish in the United States (1982). It is part of the human instinct and also
part of nature’s genetic code to lean toward diversity. The love for the
acquisition of different identities by humankind is portrayed not just in
the profusion of languages, but also in the food, music, and architecture
that we fi nd around us. Each generation wears its hair or clothes differ-
ently or speaks differently from the one before it, ostensibly wishing to
identify itself as different. Accents will continue to remain a delight, not
a means of dismay. Hence, fears of the “costs” that come with linguistic
heterogeneity in a world lingua franca are unfounded (Anderman 2005
and Jacques 2003). According to UNESCO (2007: 27) “globalization
and homogenization are not synonymous nor is the latter inevitable or
even likely.”
In addition, it should not be assumed that identity problems are novel or
unique to this day and age. Issues of identity have been rife in every world
order. There always was an identity for the individual to relate to, such as
individual identity (family), collective identity (tribal), institutional identity
(city and nation), and global identity (with the species). The movement of
people around the world since millenniums past has always fostered the
development of important new identities. The Charter of Medina gave the
Arabs an identity that enabled them to leave their mark on a vast expense of
the earth (Chapter 4). So too, the Filipinos had to develop a new identity as
“Hispanic-Filipinos (1521–1898) when their Muslim kings were defeated
by the Spaniards in the 15 century; and later, during the North American
colonial period of the 20 century, to forget that this particular identity ever
existed (Bankoff 2000).
In the norming era of liminal periods when the dust of change has not
yet lifted and when the issue of identity cannot yet be settled amicably and
without animosity, many people will adopt the global identity but focus on
reaffi rming their own local identity. In this way they will “have their cake
and eat it.” The Internet helps to make this possible. For example, it fosters
multiple one-issue identities never before made possible—such as vegetar-
ians, single parents, hockey fans, goldfish breeders, I-phone users, believers
in the flatness of the earth—where members identify, belong to, and com-
municate with like-minded people all over the world. According to Chua
(forthcoming), bilingualism in Singapore will eventually comprise not two
languages but rather two varieties of the LF , “net” LF and the “standard”
The Place of English in the World Today 217
LF. Needless to say, in the 2lst century, the number of Internet users has
grown exponentially.

STANDARDS AND WORLD ORDER

In liminal periods such as the one we are living in, where paradoxes pre-
vail and where many lingua francas have competed or are competing for
dominance, we will fi nd much debate among linguists and educationists
(cf. Acar 2006, Rickford 2006, Fraser-Gupta 2007, Saillard 2004) regard-
ing not just which lingua francas to teach, but also which of their relevant
varieties. This is because as lingua francas spread, prodigious varieties will
be spawned, some of which are more “correct” or “acceptable” than oth-
ers, depending on their respective linguistic capital (Bourdieu 1991). This
will inevitably lead to the discussion of a “standard,” which is often defi ned
by codification and standardization and tied up with the development of a
supralevel of identity.
The language teaching profession is naturally in love with the propaga-
tion of “standards,” since they are held directly responsible for the quantity
and quality of linguistic capital possessed by their students. Historically,
the standard has often been a minority language—used by the king, the
courts, the civil service, and the surrounding geographical areas. To edu-
cationists, standard languages open the door, regardless of the user’s social
status, to multifunctional uses such as work, education, literature, techno-
logical facility etcetera, while nonstandard language is functionally limited
by comparison (Leith 1983). Its grammar is codified, enabling adjudication
should disputes arise, and there is more vocabulary, making possible a wider
range of abstract meanings. Also, while standards are regarded as inclusive
and open, the nonstandards are regarded as exclusive and “closed,” such as
that of the in group or the language of narrow particularism. Last but not
least, a standard enables undesired tendencies such as racism and sexism to
be regulated, something not otherwise possible.
Only certain varieties of lingua franca are fortunate enough to occupy
the position of “standard.” This was true of ancient languages such as San-
skrit, medieval languages such as Persian, and of modern languages such
as English, Hindi, and Ki-Swahili, which by themselves have given birth to
many dialects and varieties. This is also true of the emergent LF of the new
world order, English, which has spawned many regional varieties. In India,
for example, English is no longer considered a foreign language and indeed,
it has been indigenized to serve local needs. For example, Pamela Philipose,
a senior editor with the Indian Express newspaper, writes in her charac-
teristic Indian English: “We are an independent-minded and are speaking
English like we are speaking Hindi-Vindi, Tamil-Shamil, and all… we are
molding Angrezi (English) and scolding it, we are mangling and strangling
it, under-mining and over-mining it.” (Sengupta 2007: 17).
218 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
Not just Indian English but other outer circle varieties such as the Eng-
lish of a number of African countries and parts of the Caribbean have
distinct varieties used intranationally and have features that resonate with
local settings. These “New Englishes” have been studied in World Eng-
lishes, a journal whose main objective is to recognize and encourage their
growth and status. Its acronym “WE,” was to emphasize that “WE-ness”
was more important to the editors than the dichotomy between native
and nonnative speakers (Smith and Sridhar 2001). WE showed that the
learning of major varieties such as American or British English marginal-
ized speakers of local varieties and that the insistence on the superiority
of established educational models was not in keeping with a democratic
ideology of linguistic diversity. Hence, World Englishes encouraged cod-
ification procedures to be carried out: the establishment of dictionaries,
grammars, and educational materials as a means of legitimating the use of
New Englishes. Kachru (2005) criticized the mono-model approach as one
that was impractical, sociolinguistically irrelevant, and ethnocentric, and
in so doing, enfranchised millions of speakers of the New Englishes. Nev-
ertheless, Kachru’s (1983) three-circles model may be limited in relation to
the helicoidal model, since it is situated in a point-moment of time, making
it relatively flat, static, and narrow in base. As discussed in Chapter 2, the
unprecedented functional range and social penetration globally acquired by
English demands a more dynamic perspective. In my opinion, World Eng-
lishes is best studied under the wider umbrella of evolving lingua francas.
The macroscope, not just the microscope, becomes crucial here for it allows
the inclusion of not just the synchronic but also the diachronic perspective
and allows the distant and near past to inform the future.
The growing varieties of English lead us to the question of a “stan-
dard.” With more than a billion people speaking or learning English
across the globe, the number of potentially unacceptable forms of English
is increasing exponentially (Beare 2008). Such an accelerated process of
change, possible only in the liminal period, compared with past centuries
of gradual modification, offers considerable possibilities for disquiet and
disorientation. There are fears that as English spreads, it indigenizes and
takes on local colorations that through time will make them unintelligi-
ble, a phenomenon that has already affl icted the many offspring of Latin,
Arabic, and Chinese. However, the broad historical trend indicated by
the helicoil has been centripetal, not centrifugal. Hence, the lingua franca
today will retain features of its parent for a much longer time than its pre-
decessors ever did.
This does not mean that language has stopped expanding but that the
historical splitting of languages into more and more varieties has slowed
because of technological advance (the Internet, international press and
media, tourism and air travel, and so forth). In other words, geographi-
cal dispersal as a factor of diversification is increasingly neutralized by the
multiplication of communication devices today. The dominance of radio,
The Place of English in the World Today 219
television, and satellite means that American English and British English
will never become different languages nor will the French of France and
Quebec. Six centuries ago, however, with geographic separation in a pre-
technological landscape, this may well have turned out differently. Another
factor is the phenomenal rise of mass literacy in the 19 and 20 centuries.
While it is true that nobody speaks like a book in a literate society, people
are still affected to a considerable degree from the page. Unlike its oral
counterpart, the written lingua francas do not change as fast because the
permanency of writing has an “official” look, which the guardians of the
language would like to keep.
In view of the many varieties of English documented by the journal of
World Englishes, what then is the “standard”? For English, standards often
refer to standard British or standard American English with the assump-
tion that native speakers of English are the best models. There is little doubt
that certain varieties of English are considered superior in a range of inter-
national contexts and this is made obvious by the fact that academic publi-
cations in both the U.S. and U.K. retain articles written in Anglo varieties
that follow Anglo rhetorical styles. This accounts for the success of tradi-
tional educational settings that offer students an opportunity to embrace
Eurocentric notions of “high status” accents and language usage. However,
it is obvious that “standards” is often a question of power politics rather
than linguistic structure. For example, what we know as Standard Eng-
lish had actually relatively modest beginnings in the East Midlands in the
medieval period in England, but because it was associated with commerce
and therefore money and power, it gradually took over major social institu-
tions, pushing out Latin and French (Fairclough 2006).
These are early days for English, and the jury is still out on a standard.
Therefore, more linguists are needed in the 21st century that are prepared
to work in a nuanced, context-sensitive way with minoritized communities
so as to make clear the choices before them (which native-speaker variety or
which indigenized variety?) and the consequences of such choices. Despite
Crystal’s (2003) argument of “the neutrality of English,” we have not trav-
eled far enough through the shuttle of liminality to reach an appropriate
point where we are able to discuss the issue of standards objectively. In both
forming and norming eras, any regional variety comes with a baggage of
sociopolitical appendages; hence it is more prudent to wait for the integrat-
ing era when the world LF becomes more truly neutral or when questions
as to its neutrality become insignificant. The liminal period will ensure
many catastrophic rounds of elimination before equilibrium is reached. As
long as national boundaries stay dominant, we are basically in the disor-
derly “forming phase.” The norming and integrating phases will take cen-
ter stage only when the paradigm of globalization is evident not just in form
but in practice. In the interim, a number of “standards” (American, British,
Australian) and new Englishes (Indian, Nigerian, Chinese) will compete
for ascendancy. In this sense, Kachru’s (1983) three-circles model placed
220 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
against its backdrop of nationalistic orders is still relevant, although it is
fast becoming outworn, not least because of the meteoric rise of ELF and
globalist forces.
Presently, humankind fi nds itself somewhere between the “forming” and
“norming” periods of liminality, a time when people will fi nd it necessary
to be tri-dialectal or tri-lingual to a greater or lesser extent. They will use
one dialect at home when they are with their family or familiar company,
and this informal variety will be arrayed with casual pronunciation, collo-
quial grammar, and local turns of phrase. They will use another dialect for
work interactions, and these will be replete with both formal and informal
features. Then they will use yet another dialect when they are traveling
to other parts of the world or on the public stage, and this variety will be
formal, complete with more careful pronunciation, conventional grammar,
and standard vocabulary. These three dialects could be varieties of a lingua
franca (if that LF is a dominant one or an official language of a country,
for example, Nigeria or Malaysia, where there exists a sociolectal cline;
or three different mutually unintelligible languages altogether, for exam-
ple in Fújiàn, where its native speakers converse in Putianhua (city), Xia-
menhua (provincial), and Pǔtōnghuà (nation). Smith (1992) advocates that
awareness and familiarity with several, if not all, varieties is more useful in
intercultural communication than adhering to any particular standard as
studies have shown that such sociolinguistic awareness includes apprecia-
tion of all linguistic levels—including that of discourse.

WORLD ORDERS AND PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS

English as a LF will continue to grow and change with the same force
that has, since time immemorial, driven the patchworking of language: the
natural desire to exchange goods and ideas. The norming phase (Chap-
ter 5) is centered more on pedagogical efforts to meet the linguistic chal-
lenges generated by a new world order. It is centered more on the idea of
“appropriation” (Spichtinger 2000) that is, English for “a purpose” and as
“a tool.” Hence, we see not so much resistance, as in the previous form-
ing phase, but the beginning of more constructive activities such as the
identification and codification of varieties such as Euro-English and East
Asian English as well as their subvarieties such as German English, Korean
English, and Chinese Englishes, which will eventually result in grammars,
dictionaries, and other reference works. Edgar W. Schneider (1997) now
has quite a full series of “Varieties of English Around the World” volumes
that serve as handbooks for the various corpora in the International Cor-
pus of English (ICE) project. There are also titles such as World English:
From Aloha to Zed (Henrickson 2001), which compiles English words and
phrases across the globe. However, the teaching of the world lingua franca
cannot be similar to the teaching and learning of any second or foreign
The Place of English in the World Today 221
language; instead, an entirely different set of assumptions needs to accom-
pany it. These assumptions should include (a) a careful use of terminology;
(b) the recognition of a world core curriculum; (c) the promotion of multi-
culturality and intercultural competence; and (d) the acceptance of diverse
pronunciation and methodology in language learning and teaching.
Although language may not determine how one specifically views and
organize reality, it certainly is a strong influence. Hence, we need to use
terms that can be more resounding with the global world order and that
will imply the inherent equality of all citizenry regardless of orthodox-
ies such as race, religion, and nationality. For example, if we continue to
use antiquated terminology such as EFL and ESL, this would mean that
the majority of learners will be considered as “the other,” that is, either
“foreign” or “second” as the acronym implies. It would also mean that the
varieties of English they used are not organic, communicative entities with
ethnolinguistic vitality and codification potential, but rather erroneous, fos-
silized interlanguage. We need to replace terms such as “native” and “non-
native speakers” or “inner circle” and “outer circle” that divide or privilege
certain groups through their connotations. By discarding the imperialistic
“them–us” binary division, English will no longer reflect the dominant ide-
ology. Coined during the forming period, these common terms have now
outlived their usefulness, and should be reworded to become more worthy
of the norming period.
A world LF must also align itself more closely with a world core cur-
riculum, centering on values such as globalism and multiculturalism so as
to inculcate global citizenship. Here, language professionals will need to
work with other professionals from the disciplines of bilingual education,
interpersonal and intercultural communication, and global education. In
line with our helicoidal model, which sees the microcosm as part of the
microcosm and everything as interlinked, such a curriculum should fi rst
introduce the physical universe from the infi nitely large to the infi nitely
small as the foundation of true global citizenship based on a responsibility
toward care of our planet. Second, the curriculum could present the quanti-
tative and qualitative characteristics of humanity, emphasizing the “beauty
of diversities” and “the pervading thread of sameness that unites them.”
Third, the world core curriculum should consider humanity’s development
through the orders of family–tribe–city–nation–global so as to promote
an understanding of how present-day national and international events
are shaping the future. Last but not least, it should explore the physical,
emotional, mental, and spiritual makeup of human beings so that they can
more meaningfully understand the nature of their being. In short, a peda-
gogical model that contributes to an integrated perspective to inculcate
an awareness of the human family as a whole rather than a multitude of
“thems” is needed.
As the emergent global order is a multicultural one, one must remem-
ber that the teacher is facing an increasingly multicultural setting, that
222 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
she sees in the childrens’ faces their physiological, economic, and political
pressures behind the migration of parents, the subtle and sharp diversi-
ties of customs and values. How then can a teacher use the varied back-
grounds of the students to stimulate learning about themselves, about
communication techniques, about the cultures they represent, and about
other cultures around the world? Doubtless, ELF has to be transformed
to enable many voices to be heard and different cultural ways of thinking
and behaving. It will have materials and activities rooted in local as well
as international contexts that are familiar to learners. Course books need
to respond to the local in terms of curriculum and syllabus, such as by
including local place names and references (Gray 2002). This is already
in motion; for example, Kramsch and Sullivan (1996) describe how West-
ern methodology and textbooks have been appropriated to suit local
Vietnamese culture and recall how the Punjabi textbook Primary Stage
English includes lessons such as “Pakistan My Country,” “Our Flag,”
or “Our Great Leader.” Bobda (1997: 225) has shown how Cameroon
has moved away from a monocultural, Anglo-centered way of teaching
English and has gradually appropriated teaching material to a Cameroo-
nian context such as the rule of Emirs, traditional medicine, or polygamy.
Chew (2007) and Zhang (2007) have adapted English language materi-
als specifically for the Abu Dhabi context. Elsewhere, the British council
is helping teachers create materials that are contextualized and suitable
for their own cultures and the interactions between cultures and regions
(Whitehead 2008, Hayes 2008).
A global order requires intercultural competence, which means an abil-
ity to understand, communicate, and interact effectively with people of dif-
ferent cultures. This entails an awareness of one’s own cultural worldview,
attitude towards cultural differences, and last but not least, knowledge of
different cultures (cf. Utley 2004). It should not be assumed that a person
who can speak nativelike grammar has no cross-cultural problems or that
all patterns of fluent English speakers are similar. From pragmatics, one dis-
covers that information and argument are structured differently, that sug-
gestions and refusals not the same, and that levels of politeness, irony, and
understatement are frequently misinterpreted. Hence, a greater proficiency
in the international lingua franca does not mean fewer errors but rather the
greater ability to communicate across cultures through an understanding
of, for example, the cultural structuring of information (Smith 1987).
Roger Nunn (2007) identifies five kinds of competences that oper-
ate simultaneously whenever a lingua franca (in this case English) is used
internationally:

• Multiglossic: interlocutors need to be sensitive to different identities


and be skilled in communicating their own identity intelligibly.
• Strategic: strategies, such as avoidance strategies, are not secondary
but essential components.
The Place of English in the World Today 223
• Linguistic: linguistic competence in at least one variety of English is
needed.
• Pragmatic discourse: the ability to adjust language to context and to
resolve differences of background knowledge is essential and requires
training.
• Intercultural competence: the ability to adjust to unpredictable mul-
ticultural situations.

In addition to the above, certain general characteristics of international


communicative competence can be identified:

• Global: holistic, interlocking, inclusive.


• Partial: no individual or local communities can possess holistic com-
petence totally.
• Compensatory: strengths compensate for inevitable gaps and
weaknesses.
• Adaptive: competence depends on adaptive ability. Strategic skills of
adaptation are not optional. A locally owned variety must always be
adapted for international use.
• Creative: second-language users have the right and need to use Eng-
lish creatively.

The diversity of races using English in the norming period implies that
the syllabus of the 2lst century must also include the learning and identi-
fication of different pronunciation (word/utterance recognition) patterns.
Intelligibility–not race, status, or native-like competence (whatever that
may mean)–should determine what is acceptable. Since gram matically
acceptable Standard English can be spoken with any accent, all learners
would have to learn tolerance for different pronunciation patterns. This is
a practical consideration in view of the fact that the millions of people who
are learning English currently are not able to have either real-life or techno-
logical contact with inner-circle native-speaker models (Coetzee-Van Rooy
2009). Indeed, L2–L2 rather than L2–L1 interaction comprises the major-
ity of English communication today and this is where the priority should
be. More often than not, whether a variety is intelligible or not depends
on the speakers’ familiarity with it rather than on the linguistic feature of
the variety itself (Kirkpatrick 2007b: 34–35). In other words, problems of
intelligibility associated with the recognition of polymodels are generally a
matter of exposure and familiarity. The listener who has spent many hours
of experience listening to a nonnative speaker is apt to fi nd a nonnative
speaker more intelligible than the listener who has never heard nonnative
English before and vice versa.
Where pronunciations and accents are concerned, we should allow a
freedom of choice for students to choose what variety they wish to acquire,
be it native or nonnative. According to Canagarajah (1999), teachers and
224 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
pupils should negotiate a new identity for themselves, through their LF,
“stamping their own identity on it,” according to their needs and priori-
ties. This is a nice contrast to the current default pronunciation in EFL,
that is, Received Pronunciation and Standard British Grammar or the Gen-
eral American accents and Standard American grammar that is used in
the majority of course books, dictionaries, grammar references, etcetera.
Textbooks will need to portray more examples of second-language speak-
ers of English in dialogue with one another, for if they do not do so, they
will miss an opportunity to provide model of second-language speakers
communicating effectively with one another (McKay 2008). More impor-
tantly, in accepting and licensing different pronunciation and accents, we
are also licensing the validity of nonnative teachers of English who can now
be elevated to equal placing with their native-teacher counterpart.
The acceptance of cultural diversity, a corollary of global culture, also
implies the legitimacy of nonnative teaching methodologies, and not merely
those originating from the West such as the language arts approach or the
communicative approach (Chew 2006). Educational programs must provide
for differences in style and pace of learning, heterogeneous backgrounds,
and varied educational histories (Li 2007). Even Li Yang’s “Crazy English”
model of teaching English through such techniques as “speaking loudly”
and “gesturing,” needs to be looked at seriously rather than cynically—
since at least 30 million Chinese have already attended at least one ‘Crazy
English” lecture (Woodward 2008). Furthermore, individual learners con-
stantly vary the strategies whereby they learn, in accordance with a variety
of factors present at the moment (Kumaravadivelu 2006). Although most
learners are unaware of when and which strategy is being used, nonethe-
less they know when they are learning or when they are confused, which is
one clue as to what works and what does not. Each learner has a distinct
personality, style, and competence, as does each teacher. Because of this,
we will want an approach that enables the teacher—in conjunction with the
student—freedom to consider all of this in selecting techniques appropriate
to a given situation. Because all techniques have some potential value, espe-
cially when used within an appropriate context, we should be careful not
to exclude any. In the absence of objective guidelines regarding methodol-
ogy, the teacher returns to center stage as a more informed and empowered
individual (Snowden 2007).
Last but not least, teachers of the lingua franca should be careful not
to be seen as “imperialist”—they should preferably dilute extremities and
instead seek to understand each group’s contribution, their legitimate
concerns, values, denominators, and objectives (Edge 2006). Because all
dominant powers, whether political, commercial, or cultural, are wholly
hegemonic in their effects, teachers need to experience no guilt as to “the
hegemony of English” or of any other language for that matter. After all, if
it is not “English,” then it will be some other language. The best teachers
are those who wish to help students aim for integrity in what they do and
The Place of English in the World Today 225
who which to empower students to be themselves when using the LF of the
age. In this respect, any model, such as “the ELF model” (Seidlholfer 2004;
Jenkins 2007), that is motivated by the consideration of the impact of glo-
balization of which English is the primary medium, as well as the impact of
the continued spread of the language on current language teaching realities
worldwide, can be said to be positioned in the right direction.

WORLD ORDERS AND A CORE ENGLISH

If the lingua franca is to originate from an existing language rather than


an artificially created one, then that language will have to undergo signifi-
cant transformations. Historically, lingua francas tend to stabilize into a
“standard” form to the extent required to meet communicative effective-
ness. Similarly, in child language acquisition and the history of language
change, we fi nd a tendency to systematically impose order on whatever is
irregular. This law is a simple one; languages have a systematic tendency
toward regularization and simplification, as seen in the replacement of
case-making and declension by reposition and the syntactic use of a fi xed
word order in both Old English and Old French. So in the future, we will
not be surprised if English tenses becomes more regularized with words
like “wed” changing into “wedded” and “ring” changing into “ringed.” As
Widdowson (1994) points out, when a language such as English becomes
too widespread, one of the inevitable prices it will have to pay is that it will
become less regarded as a European language, and its development less and
less determined by the usage of its native speaker. English’s dominant world
status is eminent in view of its rapid changes in phonology, morphology,
lexis, syntax, and semantics.
In the area of semantics alone, borrowings have enriched human society
since the emergence of articulate speech. In essence, any lingueme can be
borrowed without destroying the communicative power of a language, and
given enough time, virtually anything can be borrowed (Croft 2000). Lin-
gua francas have always been open to the collective resources of the world.
For example, around 4500 years ago, the earliest Greeks encountered the
pre-Greek inhabitants of the Aegean and learned from them plinthos for
brick and thalassa for sea, which they had never seen before (Green 2003).
English is not an exception to the massive lexical expansion required of
lingua francas. Just as 30% of Vietnamese words are from Chinese, a large
proportion of the vocabulary of English has been borrowed from Arabic,
Greek, French, Latin, and other languages (Lin 1998). Amok, typhoon,
kungfu, sari, bungalow are all borrowed words in English. Words from
Arabic include: tariff, sugar, hazard, jar, almanac, shrub, alcove, alfalfa,
syrup, and spinach. Words from Black American music, film, and televi-
sion, for example, dig, jive, jazz, hep cat, and boogie-woogie, have affected
youthful speech in Europe and America. “Cool” is the most often borrowed
226 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
adjective in the world today, and according to Pennycook (2003), it derives
from West African kul which means “admirable.” In short, like other lin-
gua francas, English has not only borrowed words extravagantly but also
recycled and recombined them to make new meanings.
If English is to retain its vitality and capability for continual adjust-
ments, it cannot be confi ned to an immobile syntax either. The presently
dominant structuralist model of grammar is much too rigid. The model of
grammatical knowledge needed in the emergent world order should ideally
be one that is in synchrony with a “homogeneous, self-contained, and fi nely
balanced” (Croft 2000: 231) view of language change. Meaning changes;
for example, “war,” once a word of honor in the heyday of nation-states,
now elicits dismay and repugnance. “Nigger” if it is to mean “negro,” is
now totally unacceptable. “Divorcee” and “spinster” are no longer relevant
terms due to the changing role of women. “Partner” now no longer means
“pal” but also “husband,” “wife,” “spouse,” and “fiancé,” Similarly, gender
markers, for example, “forefathers,” “fatherhood,” “postman,” “fi reman,”
“air-hostess,” “chairman” seem poised to disappear from active vocabu-
lary. Adjectives, for example, from “Californian wine” to “a California
wine,” are assuming an ever larger nominalized role in English syntax.
There are increasing derivations from proper nouns, for example, iPod,
Blackberry, Pagebook to mean names of different things. The shortening of
words in various ways has become commonplace, such as “bike” for “bicy-
cle, “fridge” for “refrigerator,” and “air-con” for “air-conditioner.” Often,
instead of borrowing or coining new words, speakers frequently use exist-
ing words whose meanings are metaphorically or metonymically extended,
for example torch extended to mean “small portable electric lamp” and
“house” is extended to mean “parliament or the government.” The Internet
and mobile technology have altered many languages with the use of instant
messaging and texting, and English as the main medium of technology
is the most affected of all languages. Indeed, the drastic changes that are
taking place to English at online interactions attest to the fact that it may
indeed be the lingua franca of the age, since LFs are particularly prone to
hybridization (Cook 2004).
The ELF model (Seidlholfer 2004; Jenkins 2007) has several advantages.
For one, unlike that of the expanding circles model, it does not assume
that all native speakers are proficient. It also avoids a simplistic view of
what constitutes an error in English language use, a view which has led
to deficiencies in the testing of English internationally (especially in oral
speech), simply because nonnative users of English are being measured
against a nonrelevant and unrealistic standard. The model takes into con-
sideration nonnative speakers’ feelings of inadequacy as seen in notions
such as “nativeness,” which connotes more “prestigious” forms of Eng-
lish. It attempts to make “English” more open in line with what a global
lingua franca should be since it helps detract from an English that is high
status, closed, difficult, and time-consuming to learn. As the model that
The Place of English in the World Today 227
resonates most closely with the dawn of the global order, empirical research
into ELF communication has been steadily gathering momentum to the
point that it is now entering the consciousness of a growing number of ELT
practitioners.
Jenkins’ (2000: 123) efforts to simplify the lingua franca led her to fi nd a
“pedagogical core of phonological intelligibility.” Her research has shown
which sounds and aspects of pronunciation in international English hinder
mutual intelligibility and which do not. For example, there is a suggestion
that dental fricatives might be omitted because they are hard for learners to
master and some native speakers do not use them (ibid: 137). Similarly, in
collecting the Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English as a Lingua
Franca (VOICE), Seidlhofer (2004: 220) collected “typical” errors of ELF
that did not hinder communication, for example, the third-person present
tense “s” and the relative pronouns “who” and “which,” all of which are
“deviant” compared to native speaker models, but which she suggests are
often unproblematic in cross-cultural communication.
ELF is therefore an intelligibility-driven model. It focuses on comprehen-
sion and on meaning rather than on accuracy and form. A focus on com-
prehension, after all, allows linguistic signals (traditional SLA concerns)
such as concord, defi nite/indefi nite articles, plural/singular distinction to
be omitted without a serious distortion to the message. References to liter-
acy, register, style, or other aesthetic concerns are put aside for the moment
as long as intelligibility is maintained. If this project is successful, it means
that such ungrammatical and unproblematic features may one day become
standardized. In other words, the price that English has to pay to be the
world lingua franca is to undergo changes that will make it quite a different
variety altogether from what we know of it today.
This is a scenario that some will fi nd objectionable (cf. Kuo 2006;
Nunan 2003), and indeed Jenkins (2007) has referred to a growing “anti-
ELF-fraction.” The objection to simplification is primarily because of the
fact that “language is power” (cf. Honey 1997: title page) and “standard
English,” with its complicated syntax, is closely associated with power
(political, economic, social) and everything else that a typical parent or
teacher would desire for his or her child or students, respectively. Another
reason against a reformed and simplified phonology and grammar is that
it is not in harmony with what is believed to be a sophisticated and supe-
rior heritage of English. However, impressive civilizations have very little
to do with grammar because if the grammar of European languages is
necessary for logical thinking or advancement in science, then Chinese or
Arabic civilization would not have been ahead of European civilization for
so long. Finally, there is a fear that the varieties of English would reach
a stage of mutual incomprehensibility, although the varieties of English
used for international communication in science, fi nance, commerce, and
so forth are already mutually unintelligible. This is because different occu-
pations generally speak in different dialects, each with its own abstruse
228 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
terminology. As Widdowson (1993) has noted, the irony is that nobody
thinks that the specialized terms used by biologists or forex dealers are
nonstandard. Our helicoidal model has seen that resistance is an inevi-
table arm of the liminal period, more so in the forming and norming eras.
However, it will be interesting to watch how, in the integrating period,
attitudes will begin to shift as new, unforeseen parameters come into place,
easing the movement from complexity to simplicity. Once the tipping point
(Gladwell 2000) is reached, ELF is likely to have important implications
for language assessment as well as many areas of teacher education, such
as models and methods.
In a way, the attempt to reduce English to a pedagogical core can
be likened to the promotion of Mandarin as a lingua franca by the
Peoples’ Republic of China. Today, the simplifi ed character set (简体,
jiǎntǐ) appears in all print media in China, but this has only come about
through the sacrifice of the previous character set (繁體, fántǐ) (Chen
2001; Li 1994). The average number of strokes is now 6.5, reduced from
an average of some 18–21 strokes before. Like the ELF model, simplifi -
cation has many advantages for the learner, such as greater accessibility
and fluency. However, it also has disadvantages, and this may allow us
to understand the resistance to change. For one, it immediately displaces
all those who have already mastered the “standard” form, in particular,
language teachers, publishers, and native speakers. More importantly,
the younger generation who are exposed to the simpler core form will not
be able to read or speak the old form as effectively. In the written sphere,
this will contribute to an inability to read “the classics” in its original
form. Neither can every book in the old language be fortunate enough
to be translated into the new form, hence leading to a loss (or what may
be called “deliberate censorship”) of some cultural heritage. Indeed, the
simplification of Chinese characters has come at the expense of a large
number of Chinese who are not able to access the classics, in short, their
cultural heritage.
Nevertheless, China weighed the advantages of staying in the old order
or advancing to the new, and it unequivocally chose the latter. Indeed, if
China wishes to compete with English as the global lingua franca, a further
simplification of written Chinese is conceivable (although it is unlikely that
it will affect as many characters as before). Should this be the case, then
it will become necessary to drastically reform, and not just simplify, Chi-
nese characters. This means following in the draconian footsteps of Qin
ShôHuángdì (Qin Dynasty, 221–206 BC) who destroyed hundreds of Chi-
nese languages and scripts in his effort to standardize the writing and also
the syllables for each dialect (see Chapter 7). Perhaps an equivalent 2lst-
century measure would be to require all Chinese to use Pǔtōnghuà, after
which it would be easy to alphabetize/Romanize the language, making it
then accessible to the diverse cultures in the world. But can any political
dynasty dare do what Qin Shǐ Huángdì did more than 2200 years ago?
The Place of English in the World Today 229
This may not be a relevant question because it appears presently that
China is more focused on holding its young nationhood together rather
than vying for world supremacy via a dominant lingua franca status.
Even Li Yang’s phenomenal success as an English teacher is based on
the premise that he wishes to help China move to positions of global
power by improving spoken English, not spoken Chinese. His decade-
long success as China’s foremost language teacher is in part due to his
racist, anti-American, anti-European stance, which he does not associ-
ate, ironically, with its language. His students include government offi -
cials, schools, and individuals and of course the huge mass classes that he
is allowed to hold in areas such as the palace grounds of the Forbidden
City. He wishes his students to learn English as a means to “defeat their
enemies” and “to make China strong.” Viewed through current Chinese
eyes, it is not Chinese that will bring China to world status but English
(Woodward 2008).
One last comment on Core Englishes pertains to the fact that the oral
language is dissimilar to the writing system. And while it is very true that
aspects of real (i.e., spoken) languages change over time, and that they
are geographically, occupationally. and socially suited to their speakers,
this adaptability does not correspond well to writing systems. Although
the ELF model may have pedagogical applications for oral English, it
is not as applicable to written English, especially where native speaking
norms still exist. These written norms are not likely to adapt to lingua
franca communication, which is basically oral. Also oral communication
is far too heterogeneous and unstable to serve as a model of written com-
munication. We have previously recounted the writing systems of both
Chinese and Arabic (Chapters 7 and 4) as being relatively much more
stable, kept to technological standards by its guardians, and not subject
to biological evolution. If spoken English is left to change in the way that
its nonnative speakers want it to, and if written English is “preserved”
in its current standard form by its guardians, then though the passage of
time, written English will become like Latin or Arabic. Latin is a great
example, existing as a written language long after it stopped being spoken
the way it was written. So too is modern standard Arabic (MSA), which is
in reality an artificial, superimposed variety of Middle Eastern language
for use in the Arab world in formal contexts without any native speak-
ers. Its phonology, for example, is interrelated with that of the sparker’s
well-defi ned spoken vernacular. An Arab’s intuition of MSA is, therefore,
directly dependent on his/her colloquial dialect, and a nonnative speaker
is unlikely to have any influence on the contemporary structure of MSA’s
current development (Kaye 1999). With time, just as one may be able to
read Shakespeare without being able to speak like Shakespeare, it may
also be possible to be literate in English without being able to speak it. In
the same way, many people can read what is known as Standard Chinese
without being able to speak it.
230 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders

CONCLUSION: GLOBLISM, ENGLISH, LINGUISTICS

Elsewhere (Chew 2007), I have argued that an unfortunate aspect of the


world debate on language loss and identity is the emphasis that some peo-
ple place on its preservation, almost with the same attitude that one has
toward the preservation of museum pieces. In view of the inevitability of
change and given that all kinds of loss deserve our empathy, sometimes
sacrifices are necessary for the collective good, especially in the face of
changing parameters. The view that English is incorrigibly permeated with
imperialism and reaction is a feature from the liminal age since it denies
the dynamic and complex social potential of language change. Indeed, in
liminal ages, all the circumstances of language maintenance are just as
politicized as language spread and just as likely to serve nefarious political
and economic interests (Brutt-Griffler 2006).
In this respect, truth is necessarily nebulous and best deduced in rela-
tion to its utilitarian potential. Historically, the adoption of lingua francas
by various peoples has often not been viewed as a threat to the existing
languages but as a key to a share of the world’s symbolic power. A lan-
guage must be at the service of the people who use it. Hence, the growth
in the use of English should be seen as a corollary of the global order, a
device of appropriation rather than cultural imperialism. Each new world
order requires new ways of perception. A manifestation of this new order,
the technological revolution in communication, also precludes the turning
back to a more secluded and nationalistic lifestyle, although it is not impos-
sible to retreat into the spiral at will.
The only way that English can retain its preeminent position is to rec-
ognize that it belongs to all and that native speakers no longer have pride
of place (Meyles 2006). Oppression, discrimination, coerced assimilation,
which have often accompanied political and linguistic hegemony, will only
tend to intensify rather than decrease the resistance to sociopolitical change.
Native speaker models are inappropriate for learners for a range of linguis-
tic, cultural, and political reasons—especially cultural inappropriacy (Lee
2008). As Kirkpatrick (2007) points out, it is time for applied linguists to
provide a description of lingua franca English—so they can liberate the
millions of people currently teaching and learning English from inappropri-
ate linguistic and cultural models.
Identities determine language and not the other way around, and iden-
tities are completely malleable. In like manner, the boundaries between
language and dialects, just as the boundaries between two countries based
on geographical and racial and linguistic criteria, are without clear foun-
dation, and if we persist in seeing divisions, then we are only captives of
our own illusion and presupposition. Just as world orders in their infi nite
range—family to tribe to city to global and beyond—are continuums in
their own right, dialects and languages like race are actually interrelated
in criss-crossing continuum networks. Our free will allows us to decide
The Place of English in the World Today 231
where we wish to situate ourselves to fi nd meaning. Perhaps then in our
analysis we should devolve from studying capsules and categories, for these
are just superimposed on an evolving reality. Perhaps too in our study of
the nature of language in society, we should evolve from a perspective of
self-centeredness, such as “our” language and “our” culture, to a more
decentered view of reality.
Linguists could look into the task of shaping exciting contenders for
world lingua franca status so that they may become better, fi ner, hardier
tools for human use, and to try and evolve a form of communication that
may eventually lead to world understanding, at fi rst in the purely mate-
rial sense of the word, later perhaps in that more spiritual, much abused,
much misunderstood sense, which may ultimately spell out a diminution
of conflict, prejudice, hatred, intolerance, and war (cf. Pei 1962). Figueroa
(1994: 32) quotes Hymes in saying that the role of the academic should
not be separate from the role of the individual in the moral social order
and that sociolinguistics is “most appropriate to a vision of the future of
mankind as one in a world of peace…” In my opinion, this vision has not
been sufficiently related within sociolinguistics despite the fact that we live
in confl ictual, uncertain times.
Our study shows that the lingua francas of past ages have all been natural
languages. Hence, it is unlikely that artificial languages, such as Esperanto,
will take center stage, since its raison d’etre, to avoid national identification
in an era of emerging nations and competing colonization, is now gone, as
most of the metropolitan languages today no longer identify with a single
nation (cf. Forster 1982). Instead, it is more natural historically for a lingua
franca to evolve from a natural language, as the case of Indonesia may
show. After the declaration of independence in 1945, the new government
chose Malay, up till then just one of the 500 Indonesian languages then in
existence, to be the language of government, the courts, media, and edu-
cation. A language and literature council was established to create a new
terminology. The core vocabulary of Indonesian is Austronesian, but the
language has also borrowed innumerable commonly used words from San-
skrit, Arabic, Dutch, English, and local languages, especially from Javanese
and Jakartan Malay. This meant a wholly “pure” Bahasa Indonesia (liter-
ally, “language of Indonesia”) planned, sanctioned, and implemented by
central government. All instruction has since been held in this new artificial
language, bringing about a unity never seen before among its people but
also a necessary loss of its native languages, some of them never having
been recorded in any systematic or durable way (Sneddon 2004).
Unfortunately, due to the inherent conservatism of the human mind and
the inertia that often accompanies change, politicians of nation-states are
still much in denial mode where the far-reaching implications of globaliza-
tion are concerned. This is also not uncommon in linguistics. For example,
sociolinguistics has maintained, to a large extent, a focus on intranational
variation, despite the increasing disappearance of traditional categories of
232 Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders
analysis such as regional and class variation (Brutt-Griffler 2006). We have
narrated how some business organizations have put chaos theory to prac-
tice—by deliberately steering away from equilibrium, intentionally escalat-
ing small changes, and amplifying rather than damping down the effects
of chance events. Perhaps we may attempt to adopt this strategy and hold
our detachment as English multiplies into as many exotic varieties as it
wishes. This may then lead to a more “creative worldview,” an integrated
and creative paradigm that is likely to promote a major shift in the way we
order and fulfi ll our lives. In Yoshida’s (2008) view, the “fish bowl model”
of foreign language learning is no longer relevant. Instead, he advocates
that even in the neatly carved out EFL environment of Japan, students must
swim in the “Open Sea.” To survive in the vast expense of “the ocean,” the
eventual mastery of the expert discourse of the emergent world order, with
all its attendant problems, must of necessity take center stage in the socio-
political and educational arena. Institutions with sufficient scope, power,
and authority to regulate and direct this process from the old to new world
order must of necessity gravitate to the fore.
Notes

NOTES TO CHAPTER 1

1. Kirkpatrick (2007a ) believes that pidgins and creoles are no different from
other varieties of English.
2. See “Butler English,” The Hindu, 18 Feb. 2003. Retrieved on 19
Feb. 2007 from http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/edu/2003/02/18/
stories/2003021800010200.htm.
3. This contrasts with vernacular languages that are used as a native language
in a single-speaker community.
4. Not surprisingly, there are often fiery debates on the “nature” of pidgins,
such as that between Derek Bickerton (2004) and M. DeGraff (2004) in the
journal Language.
5. When people say that some creoles “are more creole than others,” they often
mean that some creoles are “further away” from the colonizers’ language.
For example, Mauritian Creole is more African than French because in the
history of Mauritius there were many plantations and few French masters
(about 1 master to 100 slaves) so defi nitely any learning of French would
have been difficult, leading to the resulting creole is going to be more Afri-
can-based than French–based (Holm 2004: 136). One notes that the demo-
graphic ratio can also play a major part in determining the degree of language
restructuring.
6. This was only relatively recently, as Swahili been learned by speakers as a
fi rst language. It was the lingua franca of East African routs and in the 19th
century was used as far inland as the Congo River. Swahili still represents
one of the world’s major LFs, possessing its own rich traditions.
7. The Sumerian language ceased to be spoken some 3000 years ago. All that
they wrote was translated later into Akkadian and Babylonian. Some scholars
believe that their mysterious language was also the original Semitic tongue.
8. For example, German was widely used in the Hanseatic Baltic ports.
9. For accounts of families in cities, see St. Clair (2003).
10. Although writing is a marker of civilizations, there were many impressive
city-states and empires that did not employ writing, such as the Andean cul-
tures (Moche, Chimu, Inca etc.).
11. Joseph Greenberg has done much work to assemble a picture of the main
groups of human languages. He wrote extensively on the methodology
of language classification, which began with the work of William Jones.
Over a long career, he classified the languages of Africa, the Americas, and
Eurasia.
12. There are many other families that share the historical narrative of Latin.
For example, the Bantu languages are one subfamily within a grand family
234 Notes
called Niger-Congo. Technically, it is a sub-subfamily, of which the most
famous member is Swahili, taught often in the country as a second or third
language and used as a lingua franca across Africa (except in certain coun-
tries in East Africa). Zulu and Xhosa are also Bantu languages. There are
about 500 of them and their evolution is similar to that of the Romance or
Slavic languages.
13. Later research suggests that it is small population, not simply isolation, that
is the primary engine for speciation. In contrast, a large population tends to
be evolutionarily inert (cf. Croft 2000).
14. Until recently, no English-language journal has focused on making academic
discussions on Christian theology and the role of language. The Interna-
tional Journal of Systematic Theology now takes into account the place of
English and publishes the best new work in the discipline.
15. Generally, there are three forms of historical theory: 1) progressivist, an
approach which proposes a model of social progress through the teleology
of reason, technology, production, and so on. It sees history as a recounting
of the upward march toward a better world; 2) critical, a Marxist view of
progress and emancipation through revealing structures of oppression. 3)
post-modern, the unwillingness to accept taken-for-granted components of
our realty and the “official” accounts of why things are the way they are,
e.g., Foucault’s view of history.

NOTES TO CHAPTER 2

1. In 1838, Charles Darwin formulated his idea of natural selection (Colp


1980), and this concept has captured the popular imagination ever since.
Ehrlich (2000) states that evolution is the explanatory principle that con-
nects all biological phenomena, including cultures, into a seamless whole.
2. Systems thinking is a part of systems philosophy. It examines the linkage
and interactions between the elements that compose the entity of the system
and can be used to study natural, scientific, human, or conceptual systems.
It acknowledges that small catalytic events can cause large changes in com-
plex system—in other words, an improvement in one area will always affect
another area of the system.
3. The microcosm, meaning “a little world,” was fi rst used by Aristotle in his
Physics.
4. These analogies enjoyed a long life, fi rst in the Mediterranean region during
antiquity and later throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. The ideas
were commonplace during the Renaissance and early modern times but lost
their plausibility when a mechanistic model of the universe became dominant
in the 17th and 18th centuries.
5. Chaos theory is one of the most exciting and challenging areas of science to
develop in the last two decades, bringing together abstract mathematics and
one of the most important research tools today, the computer. Its implica-
tions are being felt across all disciplines. Life is caught in the tension between
order and chaos.
6. Such a pattern of trajectories is called a strange attractor (called strange to dif-
ferentiate it from a stable attractor, a state to which the system reliably returns if
disturbed). A strange attractor has the property of being fractal or self-similar,
that is, its pattern repeats itself at whatever scale it is examined. Indeed, fractals
and chaos go together—with chaos emphasizing the dynamics of irregularity
and fractals picking out its geometry.
Notes 235
7. Kauffman (1993) believes that by failing to take this into account in the
social sciences such as economics, traditional social scientists are unable to
explain something that seems obvious but isn’t.
8. The idea that the dynamics of a system can tend by themselves to increase the
inherent order of a system has a long history. What Descartes introduced was
the idea that the ordinary laws of nature tend to produce organization. The
modern understanding is that there are indeed universal laws (arising from
fundamental physics and chemistry) that govern growth and form in biologi-
cal systems.
9. I am indebted to Dr. Lubna Alsagoff for introducing me to the “spiral,” the
analogy of the “telescope,” and the concept of “liminalities.”
10. “Language is mankind’s greatest invention—except, of course, that it was
never invented.” This is the beginning of Guy Deutscher’s (2005) investiga-
tion into the origins and evolution of language.
11. The human history of Africa is so profound, showing evolving species of
Homo sapiens for nearly half a million years, that one can expect nearly
all the ancient language families of Africa to have come and gone without
the faintest trace. Only a very small percentage of history’s total of African
tongues remain, and these are the descendents of the most recent creations
(Fischer 1999).
12. The term “revolution” is more appropriately applied to agriculture. Agri-
culture made possible for the fi rst time large permanent settlements, a great
increase in population, the accumulation of surpluses, the consequent need
for writing (to keep records), and the growth of the fi rst true cities, from
which the world civilization comes, via its Latin Greek and Sanskrit roots.
13. Tribes of families are likely to have settled near the coasts and to have devel-
oped rafts and boats. Logs might also serve as rafts, but more practically the
gathering and bundling of reeds—available at the water edge throughout the
tropics—provided suitable and plentiful materials for light and maneuver-
able vessels.
14. According to Stover and Stover (1976), the earliest cities in the world origi-
nated in West Asia in 3000 BC and influenced urban development every-
where from Egypt to India.
15. The German method, required by political circumstances, was to defi ne
“nation” in ethnic terms. Ethnicity in practice came down to speaking Ger-
man and (perhaps) having a German name. Interestingly, for the largely Ger-
man-speaking Slavic middle classes of Prague and others, who took up the
nationalist ideal, the ethnic aspect became even more important than it had
been for the Germans.
16. High-profi le ceremonies of conversion are presided over by official elites and
reported regularly in the media. Malay language and history are taught in
the Malay medium as compulsory subjects in school, and membership of
the” Malay race” is a prerequisite for employment in the Ministry of Defense
and ministerial positions.

NOTES TO CHAPTER 3

1. The United States Declaration of Independence was adopted on 4th July 1776.
Written by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration was a document explaining
why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Britain,
more than a year after the outbreak of the American civil war. It stressed
Lockean themes of individual rights and the right of revolution.
236 Notes
2. This is taken from the Chinese, and interestingly, it is often used as a curse:
“May you live in interesting times.”
3. Information retrieved on 20 June 2008 from http://www.un.org/special-rep/
ohrlls/ldc/list.htm.
4. Religious language is important. For example, Latin and Arabic offer privi-
leged access to the truth because it is believed that their scripts are an insepa-
rable part of truth. Interestingly, English has no sacred script, but there is an
emergent global religion, the Bahai faith, whose sacred texts are in English
and which expounds a global world order.
5. According to Fishman (1989: 229), in circumstances where spoken vernacu-
lars and religious classical are used, it is the latter that tends to survive best,
to the disadvantage of the community’s spoken vernacular.
6. Classical Sanskrit is the standard register as laid out in the grammar of Panini
around the 4th century BCE. The literature of Sanskrit encompasses a rich
tradition of poetry and drama as well as technical scientific, philosophical,
and Hindu religious texts.
7. Diversity is often clumsy or impractical. For example, the European Union’s
translation-interpretation bill is expensive—about USD1.3 billion in 2006
(Castle 2006).
8. Because English’s advance is an embarrassing truism, attempts are made to
hide this fact. Hence, when French Defense Minister Alain Richard approved
English as the common language of a joint French-German army battalion,
Le Figaro dubbed him “the gravedigger” of the French language. In Brussels,
the European Commission is bending over backward to avoid the impression
that it favors English, even as English establishes itself as the de facto lan-
guage of the European Union. (Baker et al. 2001).
9. The Bologna Process (based on the Bologna Declaration of 1999), aims to
put into practice reforms to make European higher education more compat-
ible, comparable, and attractive, not just for European students but for stu-
dents all over the world. The aim is to create a European Higher Education
Area by 2010, in which students can choose and benefit from a wide and
transparent and generally uniform range of high-quality courses.

NOTES TO CHAPTER 4

1. United Nations Arabic Language Programme. United Nations. Retrieved on


2008-01–25.
2. This is the Hegira, which now marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
3. The claim made by Professor M. Hamidullah that it was the fi rst written
constitution in the world is not without basis. Other legal writings on the
conduct of ancient societies have been found, but none can be described as
a constitution. For example, Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens, written on
papyrus, discovered by an American missionary in Egypt in 1890 and pub-
lished in 1891, was not a constitution. It was an account of the constitution
of the city-state of Athens.
4. The Peace of Westphalia resulted from the fi rst modern diplomatic congress
and initiated a new order in central Europe based on the concept of national
sovereignty. Until 1806, the regulations became part of the constitutional
laws of the Holy Roman Empire.
5. For Gellner and Hobsbawn (1992) the nation was a modern institution that
emerged only in the 18th century. It was regarded as a highly organized terri-
torial political unit with a centralized authority administering in a methodi-
cal and systematic manner the affairs of a common people through a large
Notes 237
government bureaucracy. For Greenfeld (1992), the nation comprised simply
of a sovereign people bound together by a common political “sentiment.”
6. Byzantine was the heir of Imperial Rome and its people called themselves
Romans, although in Greek. The Muslims called them Rūm—(i.e., the East
Roman Empire, which they had conquered and superseded). Some scholars
call it “Hellenic,” but to the Muslims it was Roman and Imperial.
7. This book summed up the state-of-the-art medical knowledge of the time
and was translated into Latin in 1279 AD. Further editions were printed
and circulated for centuries and exerted considerable influence in Christian
Europe.
8. During the early 13th century, universities sprang up in Europe, for example,
Bologna, Padua, Paris, and Oxford. Here, Europeans studied subjects such
as astronomy, philosophy, and medicine for the fi rst time, having at their
disposal texts created by the Greeks of classic and Hellenic days, as well as
texts translated by Gerard of Cremona, who worked in Muslim Toledo from
1175 to 1187 and was responsible for bringing Arab science to the attention
of scholars all al over the world (O’Leary 1939).
9. Around 200 BC, the Greeks had conjectured that the earth was round, but it
remained for the Arabs to give scientific exactness to the concept.
10. It seems that an Arab herdsman called Khalid, who lived in the 9 th century,
noticed that his goats had a new lease of life after they grazed on a particular
wild coffee berry, which grew in his native Ethiopia. Probably feeling a little
tired from tending to his wandering goats, Khalid decided to try the berries
for himself by boiling them. The resulting liquid is coffee, and this discovery
had a great impact on trade.
11. Later, these schools were expanded to provide elementary education in cal-
ligraphy, poetry, grammar, arithmetic, penmanship, horsemanship, and
swimming (Alatas 2006).
12. Even English, then just an ordinary European language, has borrowed words
from Arabic, for example, tariff, sugar, hazard, jar, almanac, shrub, alcove,
alfalfa, syrup, and spinach.
13. In the 20th century, with the advent of English, the Arabic script was aban-
doned for the Roman alphabet, as in the case of Malay, Urdu, Persian, and
Swahili.
14. The Turks have many different written languages, the most important of
which were Ottoman, Azeri (used in Azerbaijan), Tatar, and the literary
Turkish of central Asia (known as Turki and Chaghatay). All these were
written with the Arabic script. Under Soviet rule however, the Arabic script
was abolished and replaced fi rst by Latin and then by a modified form of the
Roman alphabet.
15. Muslims and Jews write in Arabic, but the script is different: Christians write
Arabic in the Syriac script while Jews write it in the Hebrew script.
16. This is a controversial hypothesis (cf. Holes 2004) and some studies, such as
Fischer (1999), through an analysis of Old and new Arabic, attempt to show
that a pidginization process did not take place.
17. Kerswill (2002) identifies two types of koinés: regional and immigrant. A
regional koiné is formed when a strong regional dialect comes into contact
with dialects of speakers who move into the region. The koiné will usually
spread beyond the region where it was formed.
18. Even when the Spaniards attempted after their re-conquest of their native
land to cleanse Arabic words from their language, there are still perhaps
8,000 Arabic words remaining and some 2,300 place-names of Arab origin
(Menocal 2003)
19. The Pahlavi script was preserved only for the Zoroastrians.
238 Notes
20. With the dawn of the European Renaissance, there was exciting talk of uni-
versitas in intellectual circles: the acknowledgement of a common purpose
as well as the recognition of the competing dispositions of human associa-
tion as a society where moral rules and conventions of conduct must prevail
(Oakeshott 1993).
21. Information retrieved on 25 Jan. 2008 from United Nations Arabic Pro-
gramme. United Nations.
22. The changing image of the Prophet Mohammad is a touchstone of chang-
ing Western attitudes toward Islam. For a thousand years, he was “the false
prophet” and “the imposter.” Dante contrived a terrible fate for him in the
Inferno. Edward Gibbon in The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire ques-
tioned the purity of his motives as a calculating politician. Retrieved on 20
June 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_influence_on_Spanish.

NOTES TO CHAPTER 5

1. I am aware that most Western scholars would like to date the Renaissance
as the beginning of the liminal period—the great liberating revolution of
the mind that occurred after most of the earlier advancement of the Middle
Ages. Starting in Northern Italy, the Renaissance spread its liberating spirit
through the Europe of the 14th through 16th centuries, introducing printing
and starting great universities including Oxford, Heidelberg, and Vienna.
2. See also Democratic Republic of the Congo, https://www.cia.gov/library/
publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cg.html and Angola, CIA—The World
Factbook.
3. This refers to a famous photograph of the Earth taken in 1972 by the crew of
Apollo 17.
4. In the fi nancial crisis of September 2008 and the onset of recession there-
after, some perceive that the current slump is not a normal economic cycle
but a sign of systemic change in the world economy, from one that has been
steadily expanding since World War II to one that is becoming stagnant or
even contracting. If such a scenario were to result, then obviously govern-
ments will have to reexamine basic assumptions and prepare for a different
world.
5. See the National Security Language Initiative brochure at http://www.ed.gov/
about/inits/ed/competitiveness/nsli/nslibrochure.pdf.
6. One notes the late entrants to the nation-state order immediately after World
War II in 1945, such as Panama, Peru, and the Philippines to even later ones
such as Antigua (1981), Armenia (1992), Azerbaijan (1992), and the Czech
Republic (1993), have contributed significantly to the burgeoning member-
ship (currently 192 members) of the United Nations. Information extracted
on 19 May from: http://www.un.org/members/list.shtml.
7. They are critical theorists of education for the Ecopedagogy movement.
Drawing upon influences such as Herbet Marcuse, Ivan Illich, and Paulo
Freire, as well as contemporary movements for radical politics and critical
pedagogy, they are well-known for theorizing the need for education to criti-
cally engage with sociopolitical movements.
8. The strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis postulates that language
influences the habitual thought of its speakers and that different language pat-
terns yield different patterns of thought. However, following the Chomskyan
tradition, Steven Pinker (2000) argues that a universal grammar underlies
all language and that thought is independent of language. He believes that
human beings do not think in any “natural” language that we communicate
Notes 239
in. Rather we think in meta-language, called “mentalese.” This dispute has
not been resolved and the common view today is that the truth lies some-
where between the two.
9. “English protest in Malaysia,” retrieved on 2 February 2009 from http://d.
hatena.ne.jp/itunalily2/20090202. See also “20 activists gather to protest,”
retrieved on 2 February 2009 from Malaysiakini.com from http://www.
malaysiakini.com.
10. Similarly, West Bengalis are anxious to get their children to learn the lan-
guage as early as aged 6 where once they had viewed it as a language of
colonialism (Kapur and Chakraborty 2008)).
11. Finding the proposed implementation of English as MOI objectionable, half-
way measures prevail such as the building of an “education city” in Jeju
Island. This is a city with a planned area of 3.8 square km established near
Seogwipo City on the southwest corner of the island. It is aimed at enticing
students intent on an English as a MOI system, while the rest of the country
remains steadfastly EFL in nature (Lee 2008) .
12. In 2006, 29,511 children from elementary through high school level left
South Korea, nearly double the number in 2004 and almost seven times the
figure in 2000, according to the Korean Educational Development Institute,
a research group that tracks the figures for the Ministry of Education. The
figures, the latest available, did not include children accompanying parents
who left South Korea to work or emigrate, and who could also be partly
motivated by educational goals.
13. The Asian and Pacific Migration Journal and Asian Migration News reg-
ularly highlight increasing population movements and transnational labor
mobility.
14. Kazakhstan is one of the largest recipients of labor migrants, many from
Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan as well as from China and Turkey.
15. The Booker Prize is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original
novel written in the English language by a citizen of the Commonwealth of
Nations or Ireland. It has been won by nonnative speakers such as Kazuo
Ishiguro, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul and J. M. Coetzee.
Aravind Adiga, the 2008 winner, is from India.
16. The third Asia TEFL conference in Beijing in 2005 used the slogan “Unity in
Diversity” as an emblem of its ideals. The phrase also forms part of its ongo-
ing motto.

NOTES TO CHAPTER 6

1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Singapore for more historical, politi-


cal, and geographical information on Singapore.
2. Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1509 and Afonso de Albuquerque in 1511.
3. For awhile too, there was Nippon-go (Japanese language) instituted as a lin-
gua franca during the Japanese occupation of Singapore (1942–1945). It was
an era when many English schools and teacher-training colleges were recon-
stituted as Japanese schools or teachers’ training institutes for Nippon-go,
but the occupation was too brief for the LF to take effect among the local
population.
4. The Babas are also known as the Straits Chinese or the Peranakans or the
Chinese creoles. These are children of Chinese immigrants who have adopted
a “Malayan way of life” as typified by their dress, food, and language. Baba
Malay is basically Malay with Hokien (Chinese) words.
5. See http://www.nps.gov.sg.
240 Notes
6. Similarly, the Hong Kong government has declared its intention to reform
the colonial education system to a more progressive one, better suited to its
new mission of establishing itself as a fi nancial hub and “digital city.” The
Chinese proverb, “A wise man should be vigilant in peacetime” (junzi ju an
si wei) captures this anxious , never-be-complacent mentality (Cheung and
Sidhu 2003).
7. “Minister Mentor” is something like a “senior statesmen,” but in Singapore,
this is a political position and the Minister Mentor has great influence over
the Cabinet and the Prime Minister.
8. 8. There are a few views as to when compulsory bilingualism actually began.
The official view notes that a second language was already compulsory in
1957 (Doraisamy 1969: 53–54) that is, before self-government. A second
view is that of Gopinathan (1980: 181) who speaks of compulsory bilingual-
ism beginning in 1960 at the primary level, whereby a pupil had to study two
of four school languages (English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil). Others
prefer to see compulsory bilingualism as beginning only after independence
in 1965. Chiew (1980: 238) said that bilingualism was made compulsory
“in 1966.” Goh (1978, 2.2.) follows this account with the line: “From 1966,
Secondary 1 pupils were required to learn a second language.”
9. The Goh Report (1978) recommended a “streaming system” that effectively
placed children in different classes based on their perceived ability to learn.
In the original proposal, compiled scores in English, mother tongue, and
Mathematics were to be used to determine a child’s “stream” from Primary 3
onward. This determination would influence the level of the courses the child
would take and possibly the number of years required to complete primary
and secondary schools. From 1991, streaming was conducted at the end of
Primary 4 rather than the end of Primary 3 as in the original proposal.
10. As far as I know, no research has been done to test the ideas of Bernstein here
on how streaming provides the connecting link between language perfor-
mance and institutionalized inequality through differential education.
11. Cheah’s (2003) research shows the dramatic increase of both English and
Mandarin as home languages, in the case of English from 9.3% in 1980 to
44.9% in 2001 and in the case of Mandarin from 25.9% in 1980 to 52.7%
in 2001. Correspondingly, the speaking of Chinese dialects declined from
64.4 % in 1980 to 1.8% in 2001.
12. Vaish (2007a), in a sociolinguistic survey of 1000 students from Grade 5 of
Singapore schools carried out in 2005–2006, shows that there is some main-
tenance in Tamil but only in domains such as religion, family and friends.
13. Singapore has been rated “most globalized country” for several years run-
ning. See http://www.atkearney.com/main.taf?p=5,3,1,143,3.
14. See “New Citizens Make up Half of our Olympic Team.”Straits Times, 18
August, 2008A 7.
15. National Population Secretariat (NPS) at www.nps.gov.sg.
16. Singapore’s population hit 4.84 million in June 2008, a 5.5% increase from
the 4.59 million in 2007, despite a resident total fertility rate of only 1.29
in 2007. The increase is attributed to more Permanent Residents taking up
Singaporean citizenship. (Dept. of Statistics 2008).
17. It is estimated that in 20 years’ time, Singapore’s population will increase
to 6.5 million (Straits Times (2007). “6.5 Million Population—Not If but
When”) 7 March.).
18. Professor Kubler heads Asian Studies at Williams College, Massachusetts.
Kubler is bilingual in English and German and speaks 12 languages and
dialects, including French and Hokkien. He is quoted as saying: “Being bilin-
gual means that you know the language so well that when you go to other
countries, others think that you are native.”
Notes 241
NOTES TO CHAPTER 7

1. Bolton (2008) mentioned that prior to the 1980s when Russian was the major
foreign language in schools, there were fewer than 1,000 secondary school
teachers of English, but that by 2003, there was likely more than one million
teachers.
2. See: http://www.china.org.cn/english/shuzi-en/en-shuzi/gq/htm/rkmz.htm.
3. Not all linguists accept the validity of the Altaic family. Those who accept
it tend to refer to it as a “theory of Altaic,” while those who reject is refer
to it as “the Altaic hypothesis.” For an alternate hypothesis, see Greenburg
(2002). However, it is not our purpose to dwell on this at the moment.
4. Chen (1996) believes that this particular LF was based on the Zhōngzhōu
language, Hénán, from Central China.
5. Bodily remains of Homo erectus dated 500,000 BC were made in Java in
1981 and near Běijīng in 1921and were labeled, respectively, “Java man” and
“Běijīng man.”
6. This was a peasant rebellion against the Emperor Língdì of the Hàn Dynasty.
It was named after the color of the scarves that the peasants wore around
their head. The rebellion forms the opening of the Chinese literary classic
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
7. The 16 states were a collection of numerous short-lived sovereign nations
from 304–439 CE after the retreat of the Jìn Dynasty (265–420 CE) to South
China and before the establishment of the Northern dynasties.
8. According to their own genealogy, the Tanguts roamed the area of modern
Qīnghǎi Province as nomadic pasture farmers. In the 6th and 7th centuries,
heads of Tangut tribes were rewarded by the Chinese emperors for their sub-
missive gesture with titles like general-in-chief (dà jiāngjūn 大將軍), regional
inspector (cìshǐ 刺史) of subordinated prefectures (jīmízhōu 羈縻州), or
commander-in-chief (dūdu 都督). The chieftain Tuòbá Chìdí 拓跋赤敵 was
bestowed the surname Lǐ 李 and thus made a relative of the Táng emperors.
9. It is estimated that there are now fewer than 70 native speakers of Manchu
out of nearly 10 million ethnic Manchus, with most of them living in Sānjiāzi
(三家子), a small village 40 km north of Qíqíhā’ěr (齐齐哈尔) in Hēilóngjiāng
province. (Retrieved on the 19 June 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Standard_Mandarin.)
10. Xiān-Jiāng is a river, about 1,150 km (715 miles) long, flowing generally
northward from southeast China.
11. Indeed, Cháng’ān exuded such a cultural aura of science, art, and learning
that they impressed the Cantonese populace so much that thereafter they
called themselves ‘táng-rén” rather than as previously “hàn-rén” (Twedell
and Kimball 1988).
12. Kāifēng is located along the southern bank of the Yellow River. It borders
the provincial capital of Zhèngzhōu to the west, Xīnxiāng to the northwest,
Shāngqiū to the east, Zhōukǒu to the southeast, Xǔchāng to the southwest,
and the province of Shāndōng to the northeast.
13. The core of the transportation system then was the Huáng Hé River in the
north and the Cháng Jiāng (Yangtze) river in central china, joined by the
Grand Canal, now made more effective by water transport, feeder roads and
canals. By the 12th century, Government taxes from foreign trade amounted
to 20% of the total (Curtin 1984:110).
14. Zhū was from an impoverished peasant village who spoke a tongue that has
not been recorded in history.
15. The term Mandarin is not a Chinese word but originally a Sanskrit word,
mantrin, “counselor” blended with mandar, a Portuguese word, which means
“to command,” so that a Mandarin came to mean “leader’ or “boss.”
242 Notes
16. Another well-known phrase describing Itangzhou is: Above is Heaven, below
are Sūzhōu and Hángzhōu.” (上有天堂,下有苏杭) This phrase is semanti-
cally similar to the English phrase “paradise on Earth.”
17. During the Northern Sòng (960–1127) Dynasty, its capital was at Biànjīng
(now Kāifēng) and the dynasty controlled most of inner China. The Southern
Sòng (1127–1279) refers to the period after the Sòng lost control of Northern
China to the Jīn Dynasty. During this time, the Sòng court retreated south of
the Yangtze River and established their capital at Lín’ān (today’s Hángzhōu).
Although the Sòng had lost control of the traditional birthplace of Chinese
civilization along the Yellow River, the Sòng economy was not in ruins, as
the Southern Sòng contained 60% of China’s population and a majority of
the most productive agricultural land.
18. Zhèjiāng is mountainous and has therefore fostered the development of many
individual localized cultures. Linguistically speaking, Zhèjiāng is extremely
diverse. The inhabitants of Zhèjiāng speak Wú, one of the seven subdivisions
of spoken Chinese. Non-Wu dialects are spoken as well, mostly along the
borders such as Mandarin and Huī on the border with Ān huī; and Mǐn on
the border with Fújiàn.
19. This contrasts with movable type in Europe 400 years later when Gutenberg
printed his Latin Bible in 1456.
20. In a survey of Islam and the West, published in The Economist, 13 Septem-
ber 2003, puts the figure at 133.1 million vs. China’s own estimate of 18
million. I think the truth lies somewhere in between.
21. These were names adopted by the Muslims who had the surnames Muham-
mad, Mustafa, and Masoud.
22. The prince was later given an honorary title. He is reputed of being the
“father” of the Muslim community in China. Nevertheless, this hypothesis,
as well as the area of the interchange of scientific information between China
and other Asian civilizations, such as that of India and Arabia, will require
more intensive research (Needlam 1970: 28–29).
23. Chi is frequently translated as “energy flow,” while tao may be translated as “a
way” or “path,” or more loosely as “prinicple.”
24. The “the eight-legged essay,” which clearly and probably intentionally inhib-
ited individual thought or innovation, encouraged a past-centered orthodoxy.
25. The Chinese script was adopted by the Japanese, Koreans, and the Annamese
between the 3rd and 10th centuries. This borrowing had a profound influ-
ence on the vocabulary, phraseology, and even the monosyllabic pronounce-
ment of words in these different languages. Scholars and diplomats in the
whole of East Asia could understand each other in written wényán (classical
Chinese).
26. The May 4th Movement began in China around 1916 and continued through
the 1920s. It may be considered more important than the 1911 revolution,
which overthrew the Manchus. It was a movement that articulated the con-
tempt for traditional Chinese culture—the belief was that China’s cultural
values prevented it from matching the economic, military, and political
development evident in Japan and the West.
27. Professor Qián Nǎiróng is a famous professor specializing in the Shanghai-
nese dialect. He has written many books including Wúyǔ shēngdiào xìtǒng
de lèixíng jíqí biànqiān (The Pattern and Derivation of Tonal System in Wu
Chinese), Renmin, Shanghai.
28. Since Shanghainese is the most widely spoken topolect other than Manda-
rin, apart from Cantonese, which is somewhat more able to hold its own,
the remaining topolects and some of the smaller minority languages appear
doomed to extinction. (Straits Times, 19 August 2004, 46).
Notes 243
29. Another survey in 2003 by the China National Language and Character Work-
ing Committee (国家语言文字工作委员会) showed that if mastery of Standard
Mandarin is defined as Grade 1-A (an error rate lower than 3%), the percent-
ages are as follows: Běijīng 90%, Shànghǎi 3%, Tiānjīn 25%, Guǎngzhōu
0.5%, Dàlián 10%, Xī’ān 12%, Chéngdū 1%, and Nánjīng 2%.
30. This idea of Romanizing Chinese writing is not new, as the missionary, Mateo
Ricci, had already used Roman letters to transcribe the Chinese language.
31. This is a romanization system for the Chinese language developed by Thomas
Wade and Herbert Giles. It was the main system of transcription and the
English speaking world for most of the twnetieth century. It has mostly been
replaced by the pinyin system although parts of it remain in use in Taiwan.
32. Hànyǔ means the Chinese language while pīnyīn means the spelling of the
sound. The fi rst edition of Hànyǔ Pīnyīn was approved and adopted at the
Fifth Session of the fi rst People’s Congress on 11 February 1958. It was then
introduced to primary schools as a way to teach standard Mandarin pronun-
ciation and used to improve the literacy rate among adults. In 2001, the Chi-
nese Government issued the National Common Language Law, providing a
legal basis for applying pīnyīn.

NOTES TO CHAPTER 8

1. I would like to acknowledge my informants in Fújiàn province, especially


Zhu Saijie, Xie Zhan, Lei Lianghui, Cao Yan, Yan Yan, Huang Ying, and Xu
Danjun.
2. The term hànrén is useful to anyone interested in the ethnic and subethnic
groups within China today since it is the primary way of distinguishing the
Chinese proper from the Tibetans, Mongols, Uygurs, Zhuang, and other
minority nationalities that have Chinese citizenship.
3. For a phonological and lexical comparison of major Sino-Tibetan lan-
guages (including prominent varieties of Southern Mǐn Language), please
see the Sino-Tibetan Swadesh lists in pronouns, cardinal numbers, com-
mon adjectives, and nouns in the southern Mǐn language as compared
with Mandarin and other languages in http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/
Appendix:Sino-Tibetan_Swadesh_lists/26–50.
4. In China, however, it is not “politically correct” to classify it in the way
that Lee (2007) has done. I prefer Lee’s classification, however, because it
highlights “speech” rather than the “nationalistic” preoccupation between
“language” and “dialects.”
5. An alternative classification by Hu (2008) and Lin (1998) are as follows:
Mǐndōng dialect (with Fúzhōuhuà as representative); Pǔtián dialect in Pǔtián
city; Mǐnnán dialect (with xiàménhuà as representative); Mǐnběi dialect
(with Jiàn’ōuhuà as representative); Minga dialect (with Shàowǔhuà as the
representative); Mǐnzhōng dialect (with Yǒng’ānhuà as the representative);
Mike dialect (Hakka) (with Chángtīnghuà as the representative).
6. It may have possessed its own indigenous script, but due to the burning of
the books (circa 221 BC) by Emperor Shǐ Huángdì, the fi rst emperor of the
Chinese Empire, there are now no traces of this possible early script.
7. The Keqiuto neolithic site in Píngtán Island, near Fúzhōu, unearthed numer-
ous tools made of stones, shells, bones, jades, and ceramics.
8. The Austronesian language family to which all Filipino and Polynesian lan-
guages belong may have been one of those other families that vanished from
the Chinese mainland, and this we now know only because it spread to the
Pacific islands and survived there.
244 Notes
9. These families formed the essential foundation for the building of empires.
Some of them were recruited as manpower by the army. Some occasionally
joined the ranks of the elite through education.
10. The Wǔyí Mountain Scenic Area is located in Wǔyíshān City and stretches
along Fújiàn’s northernmost border with Jiangxi Province.
11. Unlike the nomadic peoples of Central Asia, such as the Xiōngnú or the
Xiānbēi, however, the Yuè peoples never posed any serious threat to Chinese
expansion or control. Sometimes they staged small-scale raids or attacks on
Chinese settlements, termed rebellions by traditional historians. The Chinese
for their part regarded them as being highly uncivilized and prone to fight
one another.
12. Mán (蠻) in Chinese generally means barbarian, while the term yí (夷)
describes a similar term meaning “uncivilized outside border people.” These
were terms used by the center when referring to “uncivilized” people living
outside the border of central China. Nán Yí (Southern Yí) refers to the 100
Yuè People (many uncivilized tribes) living in what’s now Southern China
(today’s Fújiàn, Guǎngdōng region) 2000 years ago.
13. The Mǐnyuè Kingdom city is 35 kilometers north of the Wǔyí Mountains in
Fújiàn Province, and has a history going back more than 2,300 years.
14. Liú Bāng (Wade-Giles transcription) is the personal name of Emperor Gāo
(256–195 BC).
15. So too in the 1930s, did noted leaders of the Chinese Communist Party,
including Máo Zédōng, Zhōu Ēnlái, Liú Shàoqí, Zhū Dé, Chén Yì, Yè
Jiànyīng, and Dèng Xiǎopíng all carry out revolutionary activities in Fújiàn
(Lóngyán).
16. Today it is known as the Shànghǎi dialect. Wú is the ancient name for the
Yangtze Delta country of Kiangsu where the dialect has long flourished.
17. The shift to Chinese is unusual since it is more common that the language
most likely to be displaced is that of the prestige language, not the language
of the masses. The obvious reason is that under these sociological circum-
stances, the pressure would have been on the conquerors to adopt the lan-
guage of the masses in order to facilitate governing the other, for example, as
had happened in the conquest of China by the Manchus or the conquest of
England by the Normans. In both these cases, the conquerers’ language was
assimilated by the masses.
18. 18. Interestingly, Fújiàn Chinese call themselves “people of the Táng.”
According to traditionally educated scholars, Southern Mǐn was older and
more beautiful than Mandarin: It was the language of ancient China, and
had more legitimate claim to be the national language of China than Man-
darin. They felt that the promotion was a means of promoting the political
dominance of Northern China, and speculated that politicians feared the
strength of Mǐn people (who had been economically successful everywhere
they had lived and worked). However, the opposition phase lasted a short
time due not least to the Cultural Revolution, which displaced the intellectu-
als (DeBernardi 1991)
19. Retrieved on 19 June 2008 from http://www.hantang.com.tw/English/music.
htm.
20. Cháozhōu is one of four main varieties of Southern Mǐn that are known by the
geographical locations to which they correspond: Quánzhōu (Chinchew) (泉
州); Xiàmén (Amoy) (廈門); Zhāngzhōu (Changchew) (漳州); and Cháozhōu
(Teochew) (潮州), and a short recount of its history may be representative of
its other sister accents (Li 1994).
21. http://www.glossika.com/en/dict/research/mutint/minnan.php Glossika is a
Website on the languages and dialects of the world.
Notes 245
22. I would like to acknowledge the help of Hú Zhènghuī, Dean of Foreign Lan-
guages, Zhāngzhōu Teachers’ University, for this particular example.
23. Then, Quánzhōuhuà was also known as the Lunki dialect.
24. These include literati such as Huáng Qiáoshān (871–953), Vice-Minister of
Works, Táng Dynasty; Zhèng Qiáo (1108–1166), historian; Zhū Xī (1130–
1200), Confucian philosopher; Hóng Chéngchóu (1593–1665), Míng dynasty
official; Lín Zéxú (1785–1850), scholar and official; Lín Shū (1852–1924),
translator; Yán Fù (1854–1921), scholar and translator; and Zhèng Zhènduó
(1898–1958), literary historian.
25. Zhū Xī was born in Yóuxī, Sānmíng, Fújiàn after his father moved from
Jiāngxī. He is likely to have spoken Jiāngxīhuà, Quánzhōuhuà, and/or
Mǐnnánhuà.
26. However, only ten are traditionally listed, hence the era’s name, Ten King-
doms. Some historians, such as Bó Yáng, counted eleven, including Yān
and Qí, but not Northern Hàn, viewing it as simply a continuation of
Later Hàn.
27. Once a part of Quánzhōu, it was renamed by the Manchus in 1680 as
Xiàmén.
28. One notes that Mǐnnán, especially the variety of Taiwanese, can also be
written with the Latin alphabet using a Romanized orthography Peh-ōe-jī
(白話字), or “vernacular writing.” POJ was fi rst developed by missionaries
in China and Taiwan, and the use of this orthography has been actively pro-
moted since the 19th century. Other Latin-based orthographies also exist,
for example, the “Doctrina Christiana en letra y lengua China,” in 1587 by
Spanish Dominicans in the Philippines.
29. Retrieved on 19 June 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiamen.
30. People from Shàntóu spoke Cháozhōu but would learn Standard Xiàmén in
order to take part in the Amoy economy, just as they would learn Zhènán
Mǐnyu in order to prosper in nearby Zhèjiāng.
31. Bolton’s (2003: 151) research reveals the existence of “pidgin English vocab-
ulary” as well as a “China coast English (ibid.: 179) evident in one of the
pidgin phrase books existing at that time.
32. Peoples’ Daily Online 19 March 2007. Retrieved on 19 March from http://
english.people.com.cn/200703/19/eng20070319_358947.html.
33. Lóngyán is situated in the upper reaches of the Jiǔlóng River, bordering
Sānmíng City in the North, Quánzhōu city to the east, and Zhāngzhōu city
to the southeast; it serves as a strategic center for the distribution of goods to
Xiàmén, Quánzhōu, and Zhāngzhōu.
34. Interview with Wu Keyan of Zhāngzhōu Normal University
35. See: http://usinfo.state.gov/eap/east_asia_pacific/chinese_human_smuggling/
originate.html.
36. None of the Southern Mǐn languages, including Quánzhōuhuà, enjoys
any offi cial status today. However, we may remember here Max Wein-
reich’s asphoristic defi nition: “A language is a dialect with an army and
navy.”

NOTES TO CHAPTER 9

1. This great interest in the preservation of aboriginal languages is ironical in


view of the fact that it has not been the colonizer’s habit to preserve any of
the primitive languages with which it came into contact, probably because
colonizers themselves are not too recently removed from barbarism to appre-
ciate their worth. When Columbus reached the island of Hispaniola in the
246 Notes
Caribbean, for example, the tiny Arwaks met him and his men on the shore,
as pleased and as trusting as little children. Before long the fanatical Span-
iards had enslaved them, employing them as beasts of burden in the belief
that they were only talking animals. Before long, most perished from over-
work, or committed suicide or fled to their beloved mountains, taking with
them their language.
2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnologue_list_of_most_spoken_languages.
3. Brenzinger (1992), however, is of the opinion that for East Africa, at least,
language shift and language death are not necessarily more frequent today
than before and if language loss appears endemic now, it is more likely due
to the fact that they now die in full view of the media, and in the caring arms
of linguists and anthropologists, television being a great magnifier and a
distorting influence.
4. There are over 170 languages in the Philippines. Of these, only two are con-
sidered official in the country, at least ten are considered major, and eight are
considered co-official.
5. The appearance and disappearance of languages have an interesting cor-
relation with the stars in the cosmos. For example, as the stars imploded,
they caved in upon themselves. The resisting nuclei of hydrogen, helium, and
lithium atoms were shoved violently together, mashed in masses with a force
that overrode the powers with which these nuclei normally maintained their
identity. The results were four new elements: iron, carbon, nitrogen, and
oxygen (Beer 2005).
6. This simple illustration of self-interest (attributed to Adam Smith) is con-
ceived as the essential foundation of human relationships.
7. The UNESCO study also reported that there had never been such a prolifera-
tion of local cultural movements. Young people and artists found inspiration
from each other and there was far more creativity of every kind of going on
that many people realized.
8. It will be worth monitoring the global ELT market for signs of shifting popu-
larity between textbooks published in different standards. Because the non-
standard dialects lose material over time, it can appear that the standard
must really be “better” since it retains these things and is “larger” than the
nonstandard.
9. Initiated in the early 1990s by Sidney Greenbaum, the ICE is a large col-
laborative research project aimed at providing comparable machine-readable
corpora of speakers and written English from countries that count as “Eng-
lish speaking” in some sense but that in fact are as culturally and linguisti-
cally diverse as Fuji, Britain, and Nigeria.
10. Holliday (1994: 193) says guides for expatriate teachers are important so
they can learn about local cultures and adapt their teaching styles.
11. Coetzee-Van Rooy (2009) reports that more and more learners of English
from the expanding circle are traveling to outer circle contexts to learn Eng-
lish, for example, the case of Korean families who moved to Potchefstroom,
South Africa for this purpose.
12. However, Deterding (2005) shows that replacing dental fricatives might
cause misunderstanding and that speakers who replace them with another
sound might cause misunderstanding.
13. Similarly, many Japanese Kanji 汉字 (Chinese characters) are so diffi -
cult that the ingenious Japanese have devised the hiragana alphabet to
simplify matters, and the katakana for foreign loan words, for example,
sutorito for “street.” This enhanced the spread of knowledge much faster
because the people (especially the less educated) have an alternative, sim-
pler form.
Notes 247
14. This is a very common phenomenon due in part to the traditional way of
teaching Chinese, where the emphasis is on reading and writing rather than
on conversation.
15 Lee (2008) suggests the pursuit of an Asian standard of English proficiency
just like the other prestigious widely used standards existing in the world
such as the ACTFL guidelines and the European Common framework of
reference (CEFR) of “can do” and “cannot do” statements. There are good
reasons for an Asian standard in view of the fact that Asian users of English
account for the lion’s share of all English language users in the world.
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