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English and Globalisation : a slave to the market?
by Marnie Holborow
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2. English and Globalisation - language from above and below

English and globalisation, or Englishisation in Globalisation as one writer refers to it, raises the question of ideology in language. Language use is part of broader social activities, processes and conflicts. Recognising this highlights the value of students being engaged actively in what has been termed critical language awareness. This process involves students in exploring the ways in which language can both conceal and reveal the social and the ideological nature of all texts.

The global market, capitalist globalisation and the language of neoliberalism has penetrated deep into English. Examples of this in the educational arena are many.

  • Policy reports on education
    The paper examined examples of "neoliberal speak" in a recent Irish report (The Skilbeck Report) which calls for greater "student-driven funding" in the educational sector.
  • University publications
    In University publications, such as the student handbook and minutes of academic meetings, the language of the market appears in domains normally reserved for business. The most striking of these cluster of words is the increasingly accepted designation of student as "customer".

But global English has not only been determined by what Lakoff calls "ideological frames", handed down from governments and corporations. It is also reinvented from below.

  • Unpicking the dominant discourse
    "McWorld" dominant discourse has been widely questioned, as a result of global and very sizeable anti-globalisation and anti-war movements. The Language of War columns in the Guardian, which ran for the duration of the war, were used as examples of ongoing ideological questioning of new words such as sensitive site exploitation, uprise, regime target, liberation bounce.
  • Contesting ideology
    The spontaneous appearance, during the war, of various critiques of the military's use of language, showed that dominant ideology in language, despite its weight in the media, does not go uncontested. There were many examples of challenging of this "manufactured consent" to use Chomsky's phrase - on websites on leaflets, in student newspapers etc. One particularly striking medium of this was slogans on placards on anti-war demonstrations across the world - examples of which reveal both the sophistication of awareness about ideology in language and also the sheer internationalism of English use.
Bush Empty warhead
Los Angeles, USA

War is terrorism on a bigger budget
Belfast, Northern Ireland

No war Play rugby
Italy's rugby team banner, Rome, Italy

Excess of peace not excess of evil
Muscat, Oman first all-women demonstration

We shall overcome
Sang in Brussels, Belgium

No blood for Oil
Tokyo, Japan

Bush killer Stop Bush
Managua, Nicaragua

Bush will yeh ever cop on to yerself?
Protester's placard in Dublin Ireland

We fight bombs with pompoms
Radical Cheerleaders New York, USA

No more blood for oil

( under picture of Blair with Bush's eyes) London, England

Make tea not war
London England

English is being remade to express the vantage points of its many new speakers, who simply refuse to be the passive ventriloquists of Empire, US style. These point to be another world English in the making.


Marnie Holborow lecturers in English and Irish studies in the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies< in Dublin City University. Besides teaching on Exchanges programmes, she also teaches on MA programmes on Irish immigration policy and World English.
Author of the Politics of English (Sage Publications) her present research interests are English and Neoliberalism and English in the Irish context.

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