Thompson, Alan
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

Alan Thompson
Ph. D. candidate
Modern Language Centre
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
University of Toronto
252 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1V6

Strand: discourse English

Title: Intercultural English in the Asia-Pacific: A Systemic View

This study is concerned with the varieties of English which develop at the interface between two cultures when neither of these cultures is one where English is the main language. Drawing from Bakhtin's conception of genre as typical ways of using the language to fit the various spheres of activity and communication in a culture, I propose that non-native speakers' deviations might be understood as new genres which they have developed for their repertoire, or cultural competence, in English.

The study involved recording English-language interactions between Japanese and other multilingual ('non-native') users of English at an intercultural worksheet, and concurrently conducting interviews with the participants regarding the perceived advantages and difficulties in using English effectively in this setting. The responses were examined using the systemic-functional metafunctional categories, resulting in a rough characterisation of the culturally distinct register and meaning potential which English serves and allows in such intercultural contexts. The results suggest that, especially in the realm of interpersonal meaning, whereas British/American genres assume a culture of individuals exchanging information and services in a 'free' market, the emerging and perhaps more appropriate genre assumes a hierarchy of command, group membership, and a market controlled towards the 'common good'. Some correlations are then proposed between this register and the forms (or genres) of English observed at the worksheet.

Finally, there is a discussion of how teaching might respond to these adapted genres of English, and whether indeed even an adapted English can adequately serve in the intercultures of the Asia-Pacific region.