Review ~ Exploring ELF

Exploring ELF looks at English as a Lingua Franca and its place in academia both in research and also academic contexts for researchers and practitioners.
Reviewed for Teflnet by Lara Promnitz-Hayashi
Exploring ELF

Exploring ELF

Exploring ELF has nothing to do with Santa’s little helpers but is in fact a new book in the Cambridge Applied Linguistics series, authored by Anna Mauranen and edited by Carol A. Chappelle and Susan Hunston. ELF stands for English as a Lingua Franca, a term which is becoming more widely recognized around the world, especially in the realms of academia among not only language researchers but also teachers. Exploring ELF covers a vast range of topics related to ELF and all are extremely relevant in the field of linguistics.

The book deals with different perspectives on ELF, academic speech as data, vocabulary in oral ELF, word grammar, discourse explicitness, and repetition and rephrasing, after the very interesting Introduction. I was a little apprehensive because it seemed quite long at fourteen pages. However, as I started to read it I was relieved to find that it is very interesting and informative. Mauranen introduces the world of ELF and its spread in a relatively easy manner and includes a number of references and studies relevant to ELF. She also outlines the chapters, making the book easier to navigate. The introduction ends with a detailed reference list which is extremely useful for anyone interested in ELF. I highly recommend looking at the introduction before diving into the book.

Chapter Two investigates the background of ELF and looks at it from a more theoretical view. It is quite a long chapter at forty-two pages but it covers three theoretical perspectives (macrosocial, cognitive and microsocial), ending with a summary and a nine-page list of references. The chapter includes quite a lot of information and while it is explained well for the most part, there is still quite a lot of difficult terminology which can be a little off-putting at times.

Chapter Three investigates and discusses ELF and its place in academia. It also introduces the ELFA (English as a Lingua Franca in Academic Settings) corpus. The chapter includes a lot of empirical data and quite specific terminology related to corpus linguistics.

Chapter Four is also related to corpus linguistics and focuses on vocabulary and lexical processes, placing emphasis on academic ELF. It discusses word frequencies and common words and supports this with empirical data in relation to the most common words in the ELFA. Chapter Five goes on to look at lexis and structure in ELF and it looks at ELF in comparison to ENL (English as a Natural Language) and gives examples. It also discusses morphology and goes on to chunks of language. Chapter Six explores discourse explicitness and how interlocutors adapt their language in different situations. It also discusses metadiscourse in monologue and dialogue, local organization and negotiating topics, with a number of examples given throughout the chapter. Chapter Seven focuses on repetition and rephrasing in ELF.

Finally, Chapter Eight is a review of the results from the previous chapters in the book and discusses the implications of the findings. For example, many institutions and even the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) scales are aimed at success with native speakers which can lead to miscommunication and ethical problems among differing ELF speakers as not all cultures place emphasis on learning the traditional Standard English. As more and more businesses are expanding internationally, it is important that more emphasis is placed on intercultural communication rather than the aim of non-native speakers speaking with native speakers in the target language. Mauranen argues that it is important to take ELF into account in the fields of language teaching, translating and interpreting, language editors and drafters of international law, to name but a few. This chapter also summarizes the key points on ELF and summarizes them in relation to the preceding chapters, which is actually quite useful. She also outlines the potential of future research on ELF and its importance.

Linguistics has a lot of difficult terminology but I like how Mauranen offers explanations of a lot of it throughout the book. This makes some of it easier to understand for people who have no or minimal previous studies of linguistics. I had difficulty with the terminology involved with the empirical data and corpus linguistics throughout the book, but I imagine people with an understanding or interest in quantitative research and linguistics would have no problem. I do, however, like how Mauranen uses and lists detailed arguments and references throughout each chapter and how the beginning of each chapter begins with a description of what to expect. There are appendices and an index at the back of the book but I was disappointed that there is no glossary of terms at all in the book. I think a glossary would be extremely beneficial, if not a necessity in a book of this type. I wouldn’t recommend reading the book from front to back as it is extremely heavy going but would suggest reading the introduction and also chapter eight and then go to the chapters that are relevant and of interest to you.

Overall this book is very interesting and relevant for anyone interested in ELF and corpus linguistics, though I would not recommend it for someone new to this field as there is a lot of difficult terminology. I found the discussions on phonology and accent among ELF speakers to be very interesting as in my job as an English teacher at university there is an increasing number of international students who have differing accents and lexis, and ELF is very evident among them. I was also interested to learn more about potential miscommunication between ELF speakers due to differing accents and culture. I feel that ELF is an extremely important field that does require more research, as English is not only spoken between native speakers or a non-native speaker with a native speaker but is more widely used between non-native speakers themselves.

Reviewed by Lara Promnitz-Hayashi for May 2013

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