Global English: From “Tyrannosaurus Rex” to “Red Herring”

Hultgren, Anna Kristina (2020). Global English: From “Tyrannosaurus Rex” to “Red Herring”. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 19(3) pp. 10–34.



The rise of English as the world’s main international language has prompted a social justice agenda underpinned by an assumption that English causes or exacerbates inequality and injustice in the world. In this position statement, I set out to problematise and complexify this assumption, suggesting that English is neither a “Tyrannosaurus Rex”, a “Cuckoo” nor a “Lingua Frankensteinia”, but a “Red Herring”, distracting attention away from the underlying causes of inequality. Within the theoretical framework of “verbal hygiene” (Cameron 1995, 2012a), and drawing on my own empirical work and that of others, I argue for widening the scope of global English and more broadly applied linguistics. I suggest that as socially committed applied linguists, we stand a better chance of solving “real-world problems” (Brumfit 1995: 27) if greater attention is accorded to systems of inequality that are not obviously language-based. I will suggest that a too narrow focus on linguistic injustice risks losing sight of the underlying non linguistic conditions that produce this injustice. I conclude by suggesting some ways forward that centre on co-thinking language with political, social, economic, cultural and material conditions.

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