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date: 21 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the nature of English as a lingua franca (ELF) as uniquely complex ‘second order language contact’, which arises from contact between ‘similects’ of speakers from given first language backgrounds. The data is drawn from speech in academic communities. ELF is best understood as operating on three levels: the macro-social, the micro-social, and the cognitive. English as a lingua franca is largely similar to English as a native language in comparable social circumstances, but it also manifests lexico-grammatical features that are clearly different: nonstandard grammatical and lexical forms are relatively common, together with lexical simplification in a statistical sense. As speakers make competent use of discourse phenomena for communicative success, it seems that lexico-grammatical accuracy may be less crucial to communication. The findings lend support to modelling language processes as discourse-driven, fuzzy and approximate, with a high level of tolerance for variability in form.

Keywords: English, lingua franca, second order language contact, similects, simplification, second language use, Zipf’s law, academic English

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