Englishes in a multilingual South Africa

South Africa is well-known as a country that has undergone enormous political, social, educational and economic change since the days of apartheid.  Independence and democracy can only be said to have arrived as late as 1994, with the negotiated settlement that led to a new non-racial constitution.  The constitution recognises eleven of the country’s languages as official; and multilingualism remains a strong force in South African life.  Yet while indigenous languages like Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho continue to grow as the majority languages of the country, so too has English, as a first language and – to a larger extent – a second language.

A special issue of English Today focuses on the sociolinguistics and linguistic characteristics of the main varieties of English in the country.  The initial article discusses English as a first language offshoot of British English and the role played by the gold-mining city of Johannesburg in the development of a distinct South African English in the late 19th  C.  Subsequent articles focus on the spread of English and its characteristic features in different communities.

Black South African English is the variety that has prospered the most since 1994, being a major variety to be heard in the media, in parliament, at public gatherings and so forth.  The major grammatical characteristics of this variety spoken as a second language are discussed from the vantage point of corpus linguistics in two of the articles.

Social change evident in the deracialising schooling systems has brought about immense changes in young peoples’ speech repertoires. In this regard one article explores the attitudes of young Black students at high school in relation to cultural and linguistic diversity.  Another documents a shift in dominance amongst young Coloured people in the Western Cape from a bilingualism that previously had English as a second language to one that plays down Afrikaans in favour of English.

Two studies focus on Asian migrants in South Africa.  The first discusses lexicographical work pertaining to the country’s Indian community; the second discusses adaptations made by new Chinese migrants in South Africa, showing the importance of Xhosa as well as English in rural Eastern Cape settings.  Other articles examine the nature of literary translation using South African English as a medium.  Three short book notices on varieties of English in South Africa round off the issue.

Follow this link to read the entire special issue of English Today

Blog post written by Rajend Mesthrie.

ReCALL special issue on digital games for language learning

ReCALL special issue Editors Steven L. Thorne, Frederik Cornillie and Piet Desmet explore the use and value of digital games for language learning.

Extending back to the earliest days of computing and the advent of public access to the internet, and over the past decade in particular, there has been an ever steepening trajectory of interest in play environments that take the form of online digital games. Catalyzed by advances in hardware and networking technologies, the maturation of digital games has been accompanied by an exponential growth in the number and diversity of players, has spawned complex and heterogeneous online communities and cultural practices, and increasingly, the use of gaming features and mechanics have been leveraged for educational purposes in what has been termed the serious games movement. In part because some genres of digital games are language intensive, applied linguists and language educators have begun exploring the use of commercial off-the-shelf digital game genres (primarily multiplayer games) for the purpose of learning or teaching a second or foreign language (L2), broadly referred to as digital game-based language learning (DGBLL).

This special issue was designed to advance knowledge in the area of DGBLL, with particular attention to two issues: (1) the recent emergence of digital gaming as a substantive and diverse context for intercultural expression; (2) the pedagogical shift that most current games illustrate, from models of learning based on information presentation and toward theories of human development that emphasize engaged problem solving, collaboration, and social interaction. Each contribution to this special issue focuses on various of these themes, introduces empirical data and analyses, and in some cases proposes innovative theoretical frameworks novel to CALL and SLA, all of which push forward our understanding of game-enabled processes and phenomena that obtain relevance to the project of designed settings for language development.

This special issue features six empirical studies that push forward our understanding of game-enabled processes and communicative phenomena that relate to the project of designed settings for language development. In the first contribution to this ReCALL special issue, Cornillie, Clarebout, and Desmet emphasize the need to consider participants’ perceptions in games designed for language learning purposes, with particular attention to language-focused corrective feedback. The authors present evidence from a mixed-method study which shows that learners have generally favourable perceptions of corrective feedback as a design element in an immersive role playing game. The next article, by Thorne, Fischer, and Lu, provides detailed linguistic complexity analyses of the English language version of the commercial massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) World of Warcraft (WoW) and its attendant online discourse communities and strategy/informational websites. Their research illustrates that the complex semiotic ecology of this popular game constitutes a linguistically and cognitively rich environment for language learners. The following paper, by Sylvén and Sundqvist, presents evidence that recreational gaming by young EFL learners is positively related to their L2 proficiency levels. They note the need for additional research in order to explore whether game playing itself, rather than other factors, might explain this relationship.

The final three contributions explore, and critically analyze, discourse-based and action oriented participation in L2 MMOG settings. Rama, Black, van Es, and Warschauer contrast the experiences of an expert gamer but beginning learner of L2 Spanish with those of an advanced Spanish language learner who is a novice gamer. Through analyses of journal excerpts and chat logs, among other qualitative data, the authors show that players’ engagement in the collaborative space of WoW provides numerous affordances for L2 learning. The contribution by Zheng, Newgarden, and Young opens by introducing a distributed language and values-realizing framework as the theoretical foundation for a multimodal analysis of EFL learners’ game play in WoW.  They document, among other things, communicative activities unlikely to be encountered in L2 classrooms, as well as a co-occurrence of killing actions and caring for other players that constitute quotidian forms of play in this setting. In the article that concludes this special issue, Peterson analyzes the discourse of Japanese learners of EFL in a manga-styled MMOG and documents interactional features that have been associated with the development of sociocultural competence.

This special issue will be of particular relevance to linguists, applied linguists, Internet Studies researchers, educational technologists, language educators aspiring to use games in instructed L2 contexts, and scholars with an interest in game studies.

Access the entire special issue here, without charge until 30th April 2013

Journal of Child Language Special Issue on Atypical Language Development

Based on the introduction to the JCL’s Special Issue on Atypical Language Development

Written by Letitia R. Naigles and Edith L. Bavin

The Journal of Child Language’s recent special issue on atypical language development includes 11 excellent papers on a range of disorders (Down syndrome (DS), Williams syndrome (WS), Fragile X syndrome (FXS), dyslexia, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Specific Language Impairment (SLI), Pre/perinatal brain injury (BI)) manifested by children learning a range of languages (English, British Sign Language (BSL), Dutch, German, Hebrew, Kuwaiti Arabic).

To the extent that child language acquisition relies on the neural substrate of the brain, then children with specific kinds of atypical neural substrates should show atypical processes and/or products of language development. Investigations of atypical language development in children, can help reveal which underlying (nonlinguistic) components are required and what they are required for, which processes are resilient or robust, and the degree to which language representations break down in graded or absolute fashion within a given disorder.

Papers in this issue provide compelling evidence that grammar is impaired in both toddlers and school age children with DS or WS (both of whom display lower general cognitive functioning) compared with children with FXS or typical development (TD). Yet a phonological system is clearly available to children with DS even when their articulation is problematic.  In other papers, the extent to which social abilities contribute to acquisition is investigated with children with ASD, who show marked restrictions in social interaction, and WS, who are highly social. The research reported shows that removing social engagement from the toolkit of children with ASD impacts on their word learning; however, the presence of social engagement in children with WS does not guarantee intact language development, neither within the pragmatics realm nor with respect to the timing of grammatical development.

Some aspects of language development seem to proceed typically in children with disorders: In the lexical domain, the content and organization of vocabularies encompassing the first 50 words were strikingly similar for children with ASD’s and children with TD; and for children acquiring BSL (TD and those with SLI), semantic clustering effects were found.  In the grammatical realm, similarly to children with TD, children with BI produced gesture-speech combinations encompassing simple propositions several months before they produced those propositions entirely in speech; additionally, children with WS and DS learning Hebrew produced many grammatical elements in the same developmental order (i.e., synchronously) as children with TD, suggesting that these elements cohered as a system for these groups.  But not all early language development processes show resilience:  the research reported showed no evidence of learning non-adjacent dependencies in an artificial language for toddlers at familial risk for dyslexia and, hence, no evidence for sensitivity to regularities when processing such utterances. These findings suggest that language development that appears to be typical at specific points in time may be proceeding via different underlying routes/processes.

For a given disorder and/or across disorders systematic graded or partial impairments may be observed within a given area or subarea of language.  Evidence of rule use in German- or Arabic-speaking preschoolers with SLI is reported: Children inflected novel verb or noun stimuli appropriately and produced overgeneralizations at levels comparable to children with TD matched on language-level.  However, performance by children with SLI was consistently poorer. Such findings pose a theoretical challenge:  how can a given area of language appear to be rule-governed to some extent but not in total?

 Explore the entire Atypical Language Development special issue of Journal of Child Language without charge until the 31st March 2013


Free access to all 2012 content on Cambridge Journals Online






We’re giving away free access to our entire 2012 journal content for 6 weeks!

From 22nd January – 5th March, all Cambridge Journals content published in 2012 will be available for free on CJO. All you have to do is register.

There’s a lot you can do in 6 weeks; it’s long enough to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy 88 times, and for Usain Bolt to win 378,789 100m sprints. You could train to be a ski instructor, or take 117 trips to the moon on a NASA probe. Or, you could read the 100,000 articles that were published in Cambridge Journals in 2012…

To gain access to all this free content, you simply need to fill in the online registration form, using the following offer code:


And that’s it! Once you’ve registered, you’re free to use your 6 weeks to browse over 300 journals, peruse over 1000 issues and save innumerable searches and bookmarks. Once you’ve experienced what we have to offer from 2012, we hope you’ll come back and read the additional c.6 million pages of content on CJO. Although that might take a bit longer than 6 weeks …

Access free articles to celebrate 15 years of CJO



Cambridge Journals Online launched in 1997, and one and a half decades later continues to evolve. At Cambridge Journals, we’re extremely proud of what we’ve achieved over the past fifteen years. CJO is arguably as close to a tailor-made resource as you’ll find in academic publishing. Developed, built and maintained by a crack team of software developers based in Manila. Nurtured and specified by in-house editors, marketers and production staff. Informed by consultation with journal editors, societies, academics and librarians. CJO is loaded with fresh new features three times a year, available on all platforms (including mobile), twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

For the next fifteen days (until the 3rd October) we’ve decided to make a birthday gift. Go to any journal homepage, and you’ll find a new, golden tab. There, the fifteen most-downloaded papers from that journal are available to read for free. We’ve done this for every single journal we publish. Make your way there by browsing our full list of Language and Linguistics journals. As well as being able to download papers to your desktop, or read them on your phone or tablet, you’ll be able to send papers to your Kindle to read at your leisure. Just look for the Send to Kindle links in the left hand article menu and in the headers.

We’re sure you’ll find something amongst all that free content to illuminate and inspire. By all means, spread the word. We’ve introduced some handy links on most pages to tweet, like, +1 or otherwise share articles or this post.

So feel free to explore CJO and let us know what you think. We’re extremely keen to make CJO the best resource that we can, and your input is absolutely invaluable. Post a comment below, tweet us at @CambridgeJnls or drop by our Facebook page.

Here’s to the next fifteen years!

English Language and Linguistics Celebrates Variation and Change in English

English Language & Linguistics, from Cambridge University Press

Professor Bas Aarts, University College London, UK
Professor April McMahon, University of Edinburgh, UK
Dr Wim van der Wurff, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

English Language & Linguistics is, according to its editorial policy, ‘an international journal which focuses on the description of the English language within the framework of contemporary linguistics.’ What makes ELL fairly unusual is that it ‘is concerned equally with the synchronic and the diachronic aspects of English language studies’; and it takes an equally liberal approach to ‘the English language’, bringing together work on variation and change. There is a particular (though not exclusive) emphasis on using data from varieties of English, both in the present day and in the past, to propose, test and refine theoretical claims in linguistics. Variation and change are closely interlinked, but so often journals consider them separately, while ELL is special in recognising and celebrating the links between them, and in exploring the application of the most up-to-date linguistic methods to data from different periods and varieties.

It is straightforward to find examples of papers which illustrate these trends from recent issues of the journal. For instance, Julie van Bogaert offers a new perspective on the use of what she calls Complement-Taking Mental Predicates (CMTPs) such as I think, I believe, I guess, and so on, which often perform an interpersonal function by modifying the meaning of another clause. Using authentic data from corpora, she argues that CMTPs have reached different levels of entrenchment and schematicity in English, and that the mostly deeply entrenched exemplars have the highest number of variant forms. Thus, I think, which is the most widely used CMTP in the author’s corpus data, has nine variant forms (I was thinking, I’m thinking, I thought, I should think, etc.), whereas the least widely used I realize has only one other variant form (I do realize). CMTPs are regarded as constructions in their own right, which are part of a constructional network that displays various levels of schematicity.
(Van Bogaert, ELL 14.3 ‘A constructional taxonomy of I think and related expressions: accounting for the variability of complement-taking mental predicates’)

Stefan Gries and Martin Hilpert also take a corpus-based approach, this time applied to the change of the English third-person singular present tense suffix from dental fricative (giveth) to alveolar fricative (gives). Working with over 20,000 examples from 1417-1681, Gries and Hilpert aim to determine the salient temporal stages for this development, and the main factors correlated with the change. Rather than dividing their data into pre-determined time periods, they apply a bottom-up clustering method, Variability-Based Neighbor Clustering, which groups the data into temporal sets characterised by high levels of within-group similarity. The groupings are therefore data-driven rather than externally imposed. Gries and Hilpert then argue that different factors matter during different stages of the change: in the periods when the most rapid and dramatic changes are taking place, relevant factors are phonological, syntactic and sociolinguistic (for example, writers begin to use the new gives form to addressees of the opposite sex). Their aim is not simply to cast light on this particular change, but to extend and test the methods available within diachronic corpus research.
(Gries and Hilpert, ELL 14.3 ‘Modeling diachronic change in the third person singular: a multifactorial, verb- and author-specific exploratory approach’)

Further corpus work shedding light on variation is found in Rhona Alcorn’s article ‘Grammatical person and the variable syntax of Old English personal pronouns’ (ELL 13:3)  – a revised version of an essay that in 2008 was awarded the Richard M. Hogg prize for work by an early-career scholar in English language and linguistics. The article addresses the variability in Old English between P + pronoun and pronoun + P word orders (e.g. to him vs. him to). In earlier work, based on a limited amount of data, it had been proposed that the latter order was frequent in particular with 3rd person pronouns. Using the York-Toronto-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Old English Prose, Alcorn establishes that 3rd person indeed significantly promotes pronoun + P ordering. She goes on to show that this effect cannot be reduced to other factors, such as [± human reference], [± occurrence in direct speech], [± occurrence in translations] or the position of P relative to the verb. Two of these factors do have an independent effect: direct speech and V (…) P order both disfavour use of the pronoun + P variant.

Moving back to data from present-day English, Mark Jones and Carmen Llamas undertake detailed acoustic analysis of fricated examples of the voiceless plosives /p t k/ from speakers of Dublin and Middlesbrough English. While frication of /t/ has been reported regularly in both varieties, Jones and Llamas demonstrate that it is by no means the only plosive to undergo frication. It does, however, behave differently from /p/ and /k/, since /t/ is much more regularly subject to frication; indeed, fricative realisations of /t/ are categorical and nonvariable for at least some of the speakers investigated. While these findings are interesting and relevant in their own right for our understanding of variation and change in progress in modern English, Jones and Llamas also apply their instrumental investigations to older historical questions. In particular, they argue that the realisations of fricated /t/ in Dublin and Middlesbrough are sufficiently distinct to cast doubt on any hypothesis of direct transfer from Irish to English varieties through migration. Instead, Jones and Llamas suggest that the weight of evidence is in favour of parallel processes of lenition operating independently in these varieties.
(Jones and Llamas, ELL 12.3 ‘Fricated realisations of /t/ in Dublin and Middlesbrough English: an acoustic analysis of plosive frication and surface fricative contrasts’)

The variability investigated by Lieselotte Anderwald is located in the past tense of the verbs begin, drink, ring, shrink, sing, sink, spring, stink and swim. Is that past tense began etc. or begun etc.? Anderwald demonstrates that non-standard speakers of present-day English use high proportions of the latter form and argues that this is a case not of innovation but of retention. She shows that in a corpus of 70 nineteenth-century grammars of English, a movement can be observed over the course of the century from the listing of variable <a/u> or exclusive <u> forms for the past tense of the relevant verbs towards the listing of <a> forms only. This is sometimes explicitly motivated by grammarians pointing to the usefulness of having distinct past tense and past participle markers, i.e. <a> vs <u> for these verbs. However, non-standard speakers seem quite unreceptive to such Latin or logic-inspired ideas, instead opting to retain the formal identity of past tense and past participle that is also found in a set of phonologically similar irregular verbs (cling, dig, fling, sling, slink, spin etc., which uniformly have <u> for both) and in fact in the entire set of regular verbs of English. In this case, then, what at first sight may look like lawlessness is shown to be an example of motivated synchronic variation, having traceable roots in earlier periods of the language.
(Anderwald, ELL 15.1 ‘Norm vs variation in British English irregular verbs: the case of past tense sang vs sung’)

The best of Bilingualism: Read the journal editors’ pick of key articles for FREE

Bilingualism: Language and Cognition (BLC) is the international peer-reviewed journal focusing on bilingualism from a cognitive science perspective. Cambridge Journals are delighted to offer you free online access to the editors’ pick of recent influential articles from BLC. To access these articles, click on the titles below…

Innovative constructions in Dutch Turkish: An assessment of ongoing contact-induced change – A. Seza Doğruöz and Ad Backus

Dominant-language replacement: The case of international adoptees – Kenneth Hyltenstam et al.

Bilingual first-language development: Dominant language takeover, threatened minority language take-up – Virginia C. Mueller Gathercole and Enlli Môn Thomas

Past tense grammaticality judgment and production in non-native and stressed native English speakers – Janet L. McDonald and Cristine C. Roussel

Ambiguous words are harder to learn – Tamar Degani and Natasha Tokowicz

To stay up to date with leading research from Bilingualism please sign up for electronic table of contents alerts on our website

Free Access to the English Profile Journal

English Profile JournalThis brand new journal is an online-only initiative that will publish cutting-edge research emerging out of the English Profile
programme. English Profile is a collaborative research programme registered with the Council of Europe that
aims to provide a detailed set of Reference Level Descriptions linked to the Common European Framework of
Reference (CEFR) for English.
English Profile’s core partners are Cambridge University Press and Cambridge ESOL, along with the wider
English Profile Network of academics, government advisers and educationists around the world. English Profile
has been designated a Lifelong Learning Partnership by the European Union, from which it receives some
funding, and is also endorsed by the Council of Europe.. All articles in the English Profile Journal will be freely
available to all, and will join the Press’s collection of prestigious and highly-cited language and linguistics
English Profile Journal is edited by Professor Michael McCarthy and Professor John Hawkins, assisted by an
international editorial board. In the words of the editors, “The journal is a unique venture, bringing together in
one place international scholarship from a range of language-related disciplines, all of which contribute in some
way to the goals of the English Profile programme.”

For further information and free access today just visit:

Special sociolinguistic language shift edition of English Today – free article access

The September 2010 issue of English Today was a special edition, guest edited by Renee Blake. This issue focuses on English amongst recent migrants to the USA and Canada and how immigration from diverse sources continues to be an important defining feature of these societies and their linguistic landscapes.

To access the full Table-Of-Contents see: http://tinyurl.com/ENGTOC

ENG Cover

Two sample articles have been made free until the 31st of December 2010:

Puerto Ricans in the United States and language shift to English by Lourdes Torres

“It’s so cute how they talk”: Stylized Italian English as sociolinguistic maintenance by Lisa M. Del Torto

To read these articles please go to: http://tinyurl.com/EToffer111110 and enter offer code: BDArC8lXK9JCM when prompted.

Special Edition ‘Prescriptivism’ Issue of English Today – extended free access until 1st Dec 2010

Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Editor of English Today, gives a brief insight into the journal’s latest special edition…

Linguistic prescriptivism is everywhere, and we may feel differently affected by it. What to think of the little red lines in Microsoft Word documents that tell us that certain spellings are wrong even though that is what we always wrote? What about spelling instructions in British style manuals that we used to think were typical of American English but that used to show the etymology of the words as being either of Greek or French origin? Who made these decisions to begin with? Who decided that it was alright (all right?) to use a split infinitive for the message “Are you sure you want to permanently delete all the items and subfolders in the ‘Deleted Items’ folder?” that appears upon exiting Microsoft Outlook? Why does scholarly advice on usage problems sometimes lead to death threats? What makes people utter such threats?

English Today journal cover

Questions like these deserve to be taken seriously, and that is the aim of the accompanying articles recently published in a special issue of English Today. They deal with various topics, like the rise of usage guides (like Fowler’s Modern English Usage), the lack of linguistic insight that lies behind many prescriptions in Strunk & White, the presence of a great deal of prescriptivism in supposedly descriptive works like the Oxford English Dictionary, and linguistic taboo and purism that gives rise to reactions to language programmes in the Australian media. Other articles in same issue of English Today deal with the question of how Fowler became “the” Fowler, and with what in Britain today is widely known as “the grocer’s apostrophe”.

Free access until 1st December 2010

Links to articles: