Department of Languages
University of Helsinki (Finland)
Title of Talk:
ELF as language: issues of complexity and standards
This presentation addresses ELF as language use, mainly from the perspective of complexity. It contrasts the two main conceptualizations of complexity and language that prevail in linguistic studies and takes up some issues like the separateness of languages, similarities and differences in L1 and L2 use, and briefly comments on the question of standard languages.
The two main lines of tackling complexity, the traditional approach, developed in the 19th century and the more recent, complexity theory inspired approach, discuss issues that relate to separate languages and to different ‘levels’ of language in linguistic description. While the traditional view concentrates its efforts on scrutinizing and evaluating above all structural, that is, morpho-syntactic complexity, it has many 20th century and contemporary reincarnations in diverse fields of linguistic inquiry, including typology, sociolinguistics, NLP, and applied linguistics. The perspective of complexity theory found its way gradually into linguistics from the 1990s onwards and has established itself as an influential perspective on contemporary linguistic thought, particularly in applied linguistics. Different interpretations of complexity theory have developed in language studies, just like in the traditional complexity approach, but in contrast to the prolific empirical research fields associated with traditional notions, complexity theory has remained a source of theoretical inspiration more than given rise to a large body of empirical studies.
Both notions of complexity are relevant to lingua francas, thus ELF, but their premises lead to starkly contrasting views, which envision lingua francas very differently. Despite the evident attractiveness of complexity theory in applied linguistics, a considerable part of the field would seem to be in the firm grip of traditional views, which affect the perception of ELF.
ANNA MAURANEN is Professor and Research Director at the University of Helsinki. Her current research focuses on speech processing and ELF. She is former co-editor of Applied Linguistics and founding co-editor of JELF. She has led several research projects, currently on chunking and processing speech, and many related to spoken and written ELF, like the ELFA and WrELFA projects and corpora. Recent books: Reflexively Speaking – metadiscourse in ELF (forthc. 2022); Linguistic Diversity on the EMI Campus (2019; Co-ed with Jenkins), Language Change: The Impact of English as a Lingua Franca (2021, co-ed with Vetchinnikova); Exploring ELF: Academic English shaped by non-native speakers (2012).