HENKF2302U English - Free topic B: The norms of English – from intelligibility to ideology and back

Volume 2022/2023

Norms are ubiquitous in language and social life. Without some degree of shared communicative norms we wouldn’t be able to communicate, and without social norms it would be difficult to form coherent social groups. Norms are enabling – they allow us to do things, as individuals and as groups. But norms can also be constraining. Not knowing the appropriate norms may place an individual on the periphery of a social group, and norms may also be used – implicitly or explicitly – to maintain power imbalances. This applies to social norms in general, and it certainly also goes for norms related to language, social norms par excellence. 


This course is concerned with the notion of norms specifically in relation to the English language. We take a particular interest in norms relating to pronunciation and linguistic variation in English more generally. Are all norms of pronunciation, all ways of speaking English, equally intelligible? Are all varieties considered equally ‘valuable’ for all purposes and all contexts? What are the norms of teaching English in non-Anglophone contexts, and how has this changed over time? Is the use of English as a lingua franca used among non-L1 speakers an inferior form of English, or does this form of English simply just represent a different norm?


The course has two overall strands as described below. Both strands deal with norms as a theoretical concept from a range of different perspectives, drawing on recent research within phonetics, applied linguistics, World Englishes and the study of English used as a lingua franca. Empirically, we focus on aspects of language-as-system as well as language-in-use, giving you a range of ideas for how ‘norms’ can be studied in English studies, using a variety of methods and theoretical frameworks.


A · Norms and English as a lingua franca (Janus Mortensen and Lídia Gallego Balsà)


Despite much controversy (related to norms), English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) has in recent years been established as an object of study in its own right, alongside the more established field of World Englishes. This strand of the course will treat some of the central questions addressed within ELF research: Is ELF a new variety of English with its own norms? Does interaction in ELF encounters follow different norms from what we find in situations where English is used as a shared first language? Does ELF represent a challenge to norms associated with standard language ideology? And what are the implications of ELF research for language teaching, and the norms for teaching pronunciation in English?


B · Pronunciation Norms and Intelligibility of Englishes (Christian Jensen)


Norms for teaching pronunciation in English as a second or foreign language have been undergoing a shift from what Levis (2005) called the Nativeness principle (goal is to “sound like a native speaker”) to the Intelligibility principle (goal is to be intelligible). In this strand of the course we examine changing pronunciation norms and the concept of intelligibility – not just for language teaching but also for understanding language variation in various contexts, including World Englishes and ELF.

Seminars with discussions and exercise activities; peer feedback; short lectures to introduce topics.
This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • Total
  • 409,5
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline June 2nd 2023
Type of assessment details
• Weekly response papers. 12 pages in total, counts 30% towards final grade.
• One assignment in section A to be handed in in course week 8, 7-8 pages; one assignment in section B to be handed in with the final portfolio, 5 pages. The two final assignments count 70% towards the final grade.
Exam registration requirements

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Criteria for exam assesment