ELF 5 Part 4 – Plenary by Cem Alptekin

Cem Alptekin starts his talk  ‘A Usage-Based Approach to ELF identity’, showing two different pictures of elves, showing how even within elves, there are different types and varieties.

In an article published by Guardian by Julianne House, she describes ELF as ‘a stateless language that Europe must embrace, stating that ELF was Europe’s lingua franca’, not an imperialist tool, but a language that recognize the different nationality and different cultures, and allowing individuals to creating their own discourse norms with their own free will with a view to promoting international understanding.

If European Lingua Franca or Euro-English is indeed a variety, then it should be possibility to describe and codify it, and use it for instruction.

Reminding us that Jenkins called ELF is a context variety, ELF is legitimate English, like outer circle speakers, the criteria that applied to outer circle applies also to expanding circle speakers.

Early ELF studies were focused the linguistic features of ELF communication, e.g. Seidlhofer’s early article about lexico-grammatical features that might appear in ELF use, paving the way for the view that ELF is all about language code.

However, recent articles by Seidlhofer and other ELF proponents are more focused on the negotiation of meaning and accommodation among those in the speech community.

It is time to debunk this myth.

ELF is not a language variety.

 

We can relate it to a speech community or geographic region.

The construct of linguistic variety may change when speech community undergo changes.

This would lead to our reconceptualization of ELF that is  more usage- and context-based, one that may still show form and function patterns in its own right. Instead of a fixed structure that restricts and de-limit the forms and use, the code itself evolves, and repeated instances of language use brought about by different functional needs redefines the variety constantly.

Let’s not reduce ELF to a reductionist perspective.

Some mistaken beliefs:

  • Deficient form of English (non-monolithic/code-focused) – no linguistic variety is mono-lithic.  There is no ELF community in a conventional sense.
  • English that functions as a lingua franca (circular/function-focused) – There are millions of Elf users with different communities and using English for different purposes. But what is clear is that the form is not based on NS-norms. The emphasis is on function.
  • Contact (pidgin? Without a NS in sight?)
  • English that serves functions in the expanding circle (geographic and ethnic bounds)
  • Insufficient and illegitimate English (pedagogic validity?) – Even ELT teachers believe that ELF is form-reductionist. But no code can exist in a function-vacuum, and no function can exist in a form-vacuum.

Idioms create a sense as they are stored as a chunk in your long term memory.

ELF reflects more metaphoric use than idiomaticity.

Interactions between contextual demands of a globalized world and ELF users’ cognitive systems leads to new schematic and linguistic configurations.

As an example of how ELF can be misunderstood, Friedrich & Matsuda (2010) is discussed. They argue that ELF is an ‘umbrella term’ referring to a ‘function’ because as a code it is non-monolithic (back to basics!)

Functionalising English involves the successful use of communicative strategies across cultures (=strategic competence).

  • They misconstrue Seidlhofer’s position that ELF is a variety;
  • They misconstrue Jenkin’s position by comparing ENL, ESL and ELF when they are completely different constructs – ENL and ESl are acquisitional constructs, whereas ELF describes the form and function mappings used when people with different L1s come together.
  • Narrowing down ‘ESL’, they go against the tide in SLA, distinguishing acquisition and use, the L2 learner and L2 user.
  • Parochialising ‘language variety’ –  However, their calling ELF a variety is neither philosophically accurate nor useful. They subsequently define ELF as a function. There cannot be a function in language variety and no reason why ELF should be presented as such.
  • Ignoring cultural cognition.

An important talk that debunks some of the myths of what ELF is, and encourages us to see ELF as user-based, context-specific, and a fluid dynamism of functions mapped upon evolving forms.

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Author: chiasuanchong

I am a freelance communications trainer and a teacher trainer based in York, UK. With 13 years of experience training students from all over the world to communicate better in English (and in particular, Business English), I am also a professional blogger, materials writer and intercultural trainer.

2 thoughts on “ELF 5 Part 4 – Plenary by Cem Alptekin”

  1. In chatting with Michael Swan at the recent TEA confernce in Salzburg, he also said that ELF is not a variety of English as it is not standardised. That seems to be the point of ELF to me as well or it would become its own spin-off language which is unlikely considering how it is used as a communicative tool among other languages and cultures and adapts to those particular uses and other language influences.

    1. Thanks Marjorie for your comments.
      I think the initial focus on the lingua franca core to describe ELF use in the early days of ELF research led many practitioners and skeptics to believe that ELF is a variety to be codified and taught to students.
      Indeed, this is a myth that really needs to be debunked.
      ELF looks at the way English is used when people from different 1st language and cultural backgrounds come together to interact.
      And as you said, due to differing contexts and the variability of many different contributing factors, the English used would have to be flexible and adaptive.
      So let it be known! ELF is not a spin-off language, and not a variety!
      C

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