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Our research task

Research task 4.2: ‘Emergent varieties’


“Investigate the linguistic and communicative changes that affect English as a lingua franca under increasing interaction with other languages in multilingual practices.”


The definition of English as a lingua franca (ELF) as we perceive it:

ELF is essentially a ‘contact language’ for people of different first languages for whom English is the chosen means of communication, including native speakers of English when they engage in intercultural communication. However, ELF is emphatically not the English as a property of its native speakers, but is democratized and universalized in the ‘exolingual’ process of being appropriated for international use.

Our research team focuses specifically on ELF, the most prominent manifestation of lingua franca use at this point in European history. The approach is as follows:

a)     starting out from a theoretical level (i.e. description of aspects of multilingual communication)

b)     continuing with empirical work on particular cases (i.e. analyses of spoken ELF interactions)

c)      potentially leading to insights into lingua franca communication repertoires in general


ELF and multilingualism

Multilingual speaking settings can be considered sites of language contact in which language choice is not fixed, but often negotiated on-line by the plurilingual participants and determined by particular situational contexts. Naturally, ELF represents only one of several components of the repertoire of speakers. It often combines with other languages as appropriate to the intercultural communicative situation and relates to other languages in the sense that it is evolving within a multilingual context. Thus, influences of other languages are a natural and crucial characteristic of ELF at all linguistic levels (phonological, lexicogrammatical and pragmatic). From the perspective of multicompetence (cf. Cook 2002: 10-13) different languages form a continuum rather than separate entities in plurilinguals’ minds. Aspects such as innovative linguistic forms, L1 influence or code-switching are no longer regarded negatively as errors or deficiencies but positively as differences which emerge as motivated by communicative requirement.

For detailed information on the concepts underlying ELF, including references, see FAQs

For a brief report on the work of RT 4.2 (in German), see the Vienna University Research Newsletter, Issue May 2009

For a brief presentation of RT 4.2 (in German), see our poster

Department of English
Universität Wien

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