Diachronic Change in New Englishes: Prospects and Challenges

Full-day workshop at ISLE 4 in Poznań, Poland, 18-21 September 2016

Convenors: Robert Fuchs (University of Münster), Thorsten Brato (University of Regensburg) and Ariane M. Borlongan (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)


The last two decades have seen a dramatic upsurge in corpus-based research on New Englishes, largely thanks to the International Corpus of English project (ICE, Greenbaum 1991). The two primary aims of this research program were, arguably, to (1) uncover patterns of unity and diversity among these varieties, i.e. how they differ from each other, and (2) explain differences between varieties by identifying continuities with and departures from the structure of their ancestor varieties (usually British English), frequently referring to influence from first languages (L1 influence) and general language learning mechanisms (e.g. Sharma 2005).

However, when trying to explain differences between varieties, researchers often (necessarily) had to rely on drastic generalisations; Notable among these is that present-day varieties are compared to uncover historical developments. For example, the historical input to contemporary Indian English was not contemporary British English, as tacitly assumed by Fuchs (2012) and much other research, but 18th century (standard and non-standard) British English. Such generalisations were necessary because empirical evidence on postcolonial varieties in general, and esp. so-called Outer Circle varieties of English (Kachru 1985), was largely lacking.

With diverse innovative sources of evidence now emerging, we are increasingly in a position to question the assumptions that earlier research had to make, and to refine our understanding of the pathways of linguistic continuity and change that have shaped present-day postcolonial varieties of English. One source of evidence comes from extensions of the Brown and ICE families of corpora to earlier time-points in the development of postcolonial varieties of English, such as Singapore, Hong Kong (Biewer et al. 2014), Philippine (Borlongan 2015, Collins et al. 2014,b) and Ghanaian English (Brato 2014, 2015) as well as work by Rossouw and van Rooy (2012) on South African English (see also the contributions in Collins 2015). Another source of evidence comes from applications of the apparent-time method to present-day corpus data, permitting researchers to take a glimpse at ongoing language change (Fuchs and Gut 2015, Hansen 2015). While most of these approaches are still relatively shallow in their time depth, they are already opening up exciting new perspectives on diachronic change in postcolonial varieties of English.

Call for papers

This workshop aims to bring together researchers working in this area. Contributions are welcome on all aspects of diachronic variation and change in one more varieties of New Englishes. We particularly encourage contributions that

–        Attempt to disentangle the complex relationship between influence from the substrate/L1, the heterogeneous superstrate (consisting of standard and non-standard varieties), and general language learning mechanisms in the historical development of New Englishes

–        Test developmental models of postcolonial varieties of English (e.g. Schneider 2007, Trudgill 2004)

–        Test the assumptions of such models, such as the founder effect, i.e. the assumed disproportionate influence of the earliest sizeable speaker communities

Papers in the workshop will be allotted 20 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for discussion, in keeping with the format of the conference. Please submit your abstract (300 – 500 words, excluding the title, linguistic examples and references) though the EasyChair system on the conference website (http://wa.amu.edu.pl/isle4/). The deadline for submissions is 15 March 2016. Notifications of acceptance of papers will be sent out by 25 April 2016.

After successful completion of the workshop, we are planning to publish selected papers in an edited volume or journal special issue.

NB The workshop will take place on a single day (yet to be determined) during the ISLE 4 conference (18-21 September 2016).


  • Biewer, Carolin, Tobias Bernaisch, Mike Berger & Benedikt Heller. 2014. Compiling the Diachronic Corpus of Hong Kong English (DC-HKE): motivation, progress and challenges. Poster presentation at ICAME 35, Nottingham.
  • Borlongan, A. M., & Dita, S. N. 2015. Taking a look at expanded predicates in Philippine English across time. Asian Englishes 17(3), 1-8.
  • Brato, Thorsten. 2014. Compiling a historical written corpus of Ghanaian English: Methodological and theoretical considerations. Paper presented at the 20th Conference of the International Association for World Englishes, New Delhi.
  • Brato, Thorsten. 2015. Lexical innovation in the early nativization phase in Ghanaian English: a corpus-based analysis. Paper presented at the 21st Conference of the International Association for World Englishes, Istanbul.
  • Collins, Peter (ed.) 2015. Grammatical Change in English World-Wide. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Collins, P., Borlongan, A. M., Lim, J., & Yao, X. 2014a. The subjunctive mood in Philippine English: A diachronic analysis. In S. E. Pfenninger, A.-C. Olga Timofeeva, A. H. Gardner, M. Hundt, & D. Schreier (Eds.), Contact, variation, and change in the history of English (pp. 259–280). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Collins, P., Borlongan, A. M., & Yao, X. 2014b. Modality in Philippine English: A diachronic study. Journal of English Linguistics 42, 68–88.
  • Fuchs, Robert. 2012. Focus marking and semantic transfer in Indian English: the case of ‘also. English World-Wide 33(1), 27-53.
  • Fuchs, Robert and Ulrike Gut. 2015. An apparent time study of the progressive in Nigerian English. In Collins, Peter (ed.), Grammatical Change in English World-Wide, 373-387. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Greenbaum, Sidney. 1991. ICE: The international corpus of English. English Today 7(4), 3-7.
  • Hansen, Beke. 2015. Using the ICE metadata for studying changes in the New Englishes – Is must decreasing in Hong Kong English? Presentation at the ICAME 36 pre-conference workshop The Future of the International Corpus of English (ICE) project – New challenges, new developments, Trier, Germany.
  • Kachru, Braj B. 1985. Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and literatures, ed. Randolph Quirk and Henry Widdowson, 11–30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Schneider, Edgar W. 2007. Postcolonial English: varieties around the world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rossouw, Ronel & Bertus van Rooy. 2012. Diachronic changes in modality in South African English. English World-Wide 33, 1–26.
  • Sharma, Devyani. 2005. Language transfer and discourse universals in Indian English article use. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 27(4), 535-566.
  • Trudgill, Peter. 2004. New-dialect formation: The inevitability of colonial Englishes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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