27.5256, Review: Ling Theories; Socioling; Corpus Ling: Edwards (2016)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-27-5256. Thu Dec 29 2016. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 27.5256, Review: Ling Theories; Socioling; Corpus Ling: Edwards (2016)

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Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2016 18:53:20
From: Sven Leuckert [sven.leuckert at gmx.de]
Subject: English in the Netherlands

Discuss this message:

Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-1923.html

AUTHOR: Alison  Edwards
TITLE: English in the Netherlands
SUBTITLE: Functions, forms and attitudes
SERIES TITLE: Varieties of English Around the World G56
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Sven Leuckert, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


In the introduction to her book, “English in the Netherlands. Functions, forms
and attitudes,” Alison Edwards first describes different World Englishes
models that have been developed to account for the differences between
varieties such as British English (traditionally referred to as ‘English as a
Native Language’ or ENL), second-language varieties such as Indian English
(‘English as a Second Language’ or ESL) and learner varieties (‘English as a
Foreign Language’ or EFL). She finds that neither of the two most widely
received models, i.e. Kachru’s Three Circles (1985) and Schneider’s Dynamic
Model (2003, 2007), are suitable for the analysis of varieties without
colonial background if no modifications are applied. However, she acknowledges
Schneider’s (2012, 2014) attempts at reconsidering certain aspects of his
model to make it applicable to non-colonial contexts. After a brief summary of
publications on English in continental Europe and the (scarce) literature on
English in the Netherlands, the author provides her two research questions:
(1) whether English used in the Netherlands should be considered as a
second-language variety or as learner English and (2) whether Schneider’s
Dynamic Model can be extended to account for the situation in the Netherlands.
The remainder of the chapter introduces the methodological framework which
Edwards bases on Mollin (2006) and Buschfeld (2011, 2013).

Chapter 2, “The functions of English in the Netherlands”, looks at the role of
English in Dutch media, education, commerce, science and research as well as
public administration and governance. To this end, the author discusses survey
results and findings from various sources (often the media), presents the
results of small-scale studies she conducted (e.g. the evaluation of the
English used in one week of Dutch radio programming) and provides pictures as
evidence (for instance of the English word ‘POLICE’ on a Dutch policeman’s
jacket, p. 45). She concludes, first of all, that there is widespread
bilingualism across all of the areas mentioned above, and, secondly, that
English in the Netherlands has moved past being a language used solely for
international communication: in the present day, it also functions
intranationally as a language of identification used, for instance, in
bilingual puns in advertising.

‘Attitudes towards English in the Netherlands’ is the title of Edwards’ third
chapter, in which the author presents and evaluates the results of a survey
she conducted on Dutch people’s language attitudes. After sorting out
unsuitable responses, for instance because the respondent had stayed abroad
for too long, a total of 1939 completed questionnaires were included in the
analysis. Based on the respondents’ answers, Edwards differentiates between a
central, major group of people who see English as a useful instrument and two
peripheral groups, namely an anti-English group with a negative attitude and
an anglophile group with a very positive attitude towards the English
language. The instrumental group is described as the least extreme in its
perspective, but – given that it acknowledges the usefulness and importance of
English – generally has a rather positive attitude towards English. A second
important finding is that, contrary to popular belief, the Dutch language is
still highly valued by the Dutch. Having at least a functional command of
English is seen as necessary even by the anti-English group, but 9 in 10
respondents consider Dutch more important than English.

The compilation of the Corpus of Dutch English and a study on the progressive
aspect in English in the Netherlands based on the corpus are the concern of
the book’s fourth chapter, entitled “The forms of English in the Netherlands:
A corpus study”. The Corpus of Dutch English is modelled in analogy to the
written sections of the International Corpus of English (ICE) and consists of
200 texts from domains such as student writing and academic writing. Edwards
compares the findings from her corpus to the ICE corpora for Great Britain,
the USA, India, and Singapore and concludes that, at least with regard to the
progressive aspect, English in the Netherlands exhibits characteristics of
both EFL and ESL. The same can be said for the results of the second part of
her empirical analysis, an acceptability study where respondents generally
showed an exonormative orientation, i.e. an orientation towards British and
American varieties, but also tended to apply changes to some of the sentences
with a distinct Dutch ‘flavour’.

In Chapter 5, “The Dynamic Model and the Netherlands”, Edwards applies
Schneider’s Dynamic Model (2003, 2007) to the case of English in the
Netherlands. Developed with postcolonial varieties of English in mind, the
Dynamic Model is only partially applicable to varieties without colonial
background. This is substantiated in this chapter, with Edwards identifying
both similarities and differences between a typical scenario in the Dynamic
Model and the development of English in the Netherlands. The author concludes
that English right now is in the third stage of nativisation in the
Netherlands and might move directly to the fifth stage of differentation, i.e.
the emergence of social and regional varieties.

The final chapter concludes Edwards’ findings by pointing out that English in
the Netherlands is neither truly a second-language variety nor exclusively
learner English. The conclusion also discusses some options for further
research, e.g. longitudinal studies or studies focussing on the English used
by certain speech communities such as academics or gamers. Finally, the author
poses some questions on where English in the Netherlands might be heading.


Edwards’ work is of highest relevance for World Englishes research as it
contributes to a fairly new research paradigm which considers the
traditionally strict separation into ENL, ESL and EFL as obsolete and instead
asks for a dynamic, continuum-based view of variety status. By testing whether
Schneider’s Dynamic Model of Postcolonial Englishes (which – as the name
implies – was conceptualised with English in the former colonies of the UK and
the USA in mind) holds for English in the Netherlands, Edwards follows in the
footsteps of recent studies (e.g. Mollin 2006 on Euro-English and Buschfeld
2011 and 2013 on Cyprus English) which attempt to close what has been
considered a research gap.

One of the greatest strengths of the present monograph is its accessibility.
Due to the inclusion of various interesting sources, the second chapter in
particular provides a reading experience that is both insightful and
entertaining. At the same time, however, findings in this chapter sometimes
feel impressionistic. Using interviews, newspaper articles or web pages as
evidence is an understandable choice in the context of analysing the spread of
bilingualism, but the problem of subjectivity inevitably becomes more visible
than usual in data selection when potentially idiosyncratic material is
presented. This is hardly a bigger problem (especially in the light of the
amount of work put into this monograph), but can be seen as an incentive for
conducting further, more systematic research in this field.

Regarding the high accessibility of the book, Chapter 3 on the attitudes of
English also stands out very positively. Edwards’ gradually builds up the
figure with the anti-English, instrumental and anglophile groups by adding new
information step by step. Furthermore, she regularly refers back to her two
research questions and, in doing so, establishes cohesion. The same is
achieved by providing brief summaries at the end of each chapter.

Flaws in this book are minor. There are some typos (e.g. ‘gover0nment’, p.
47), missing words (e.g. ‘Knowledge of both languages needed to appreciate
this’, p. 178) and mistakes in the bibliography (e.g. ‘Bolt: & Bolton, K.’
instead of ‘Bolt, P. & Bolton, K.’, p. 200), but problems of this kind are few
and far between. Content-wise, including descriptions of Kachru’s and
Schneider’s models in the introduction to the book seems an unusual choice at
first, but makes sense in the bigger picture, as having knowledge of these
models is indeed a key requirement to making sense of the remainder of the

Compiling and (partially) evaluating a corpus, conducting an attitudinal
study, collecting material on the spread of bilingualism and evaluating all of
this in a convincing and accessible manner are clear signs of the author’s
great ambition and the passion she put into this project. Apart from the fact
that the book is pleasant to read, it also needs to be seen as a highly
valuable contribution to the field of World Englishes. Perceptions of and
attitudes towards English are rapidly changing in a globalising and
increasingly globalised Europe, and the Netherlands, together with the
Scandinavian countries and, to a slightly lesser extent, Germany, has been
considered as a frontrunner in embracing English for quite a while. Thus, it
only makes sense that Edwards’ contribution challenges traditional assumptions
that English in the Netherlands is a learner variety in the same sense as in,
for instance, China, the Ukraine or Saudi-Arabia. 

Overall, the book represents a crucial entry in World Englishes research, but
is also potentially interesting for a wider audience with a general interest
in the role of English in Europe. ‘English in the Netherlands’ presents the
convincing results of a very ambitious, multi-faceted project in an accessible
manner. In addition, the book – as Edwards herself suggests – opens the door
to numerous follow-up studies not only on English in the Netherlands, but also
on the complex issue of variety status.


Buschfeld, Sarah. 2011. The English language in Cyprus: An empirical
investigation of variety status. PhD dissertation. University of Cologne.

Buschfeld, Sarah. 2013. English in Cyprus or Cyprus English? An investigation
of variety status (Varieties of English Around the World G46).
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Kachru, Braj B. 1985. Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The
English language in the outer circle. In Randolph Quirk & Henry Widdowson
(eds.), English in the World: Teaching and Learning the Language and
Literatures, 11-30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mollin, Sandra. 2006. Euro-English. Assessing variety status (Language in
Performance 33). Tübingen: Gunter Narr.

Schneider, Edgar W. 2003. The dynamics of New Englishes: From identity
construction to dialect birth. Language 79(2). 233-281.

Schneider, Edgar W. 2007. Postcolonial English. Varieties around the World.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schneider, Edgar W. 2012. “Transnational attraction”: New reflections on the
evolutionary dynamics of World Englishes. Paper presented at the 18th Annual
Conference of the International Association for World Englishes. Hong Kong &
Guangzhou, December 6-9.

Schneider, Edgar W. 2014. New reflections on the evolutionary dynamics of
world Englishes. World Englishes 33(1). 9-32.


Sven Leuckert received his M.A. in European Linguistics from TU Dresden in
Germany. He is currently employed as a research assistant in English
Linguistics at the University of Regensburg and enrolled as a PhD student at
TU Dresden. His PhD project is a study on topicalization strategies employed
in four Asian varieties of English. His research interests include Asian
Englishes, non-canonical syntax, English as a Lingua Franca, and historical


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