Three Circle Model Of World Englishes

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The three-circle model of World Englishes was developed by Kachru in 1985 and it remains one of the most influential models for grouping the varieties of English in the world (Mollin, 2006). This model categorizes varieties according to the functions English speakers perform in the speech community (Thesis, 2009).The three circles in Kachru's model are the Inner Circle, Outer Circle and Expanding Circle (Kachru, 1985).


Joanne Rajadurai, 2005:The Concentric Circles Model promoted by Kachru in 1985 has had a tremendous impact on the teaching and research enterprise, as its underlying tenets have demanded a reappraisal of dominant concepts, models and practices in sociolinguistics, SLA and TESOL.Gradu Thesis, 2009These different kinds of English can be placed in a three-circle model. This model categorizes the varieties according to the functions they perform in the speech community. This three-circle model of English world-wide was developed by Kachru in 1985 and it remains one of the most influential models for grouping the varieties of English in the world (Mollin 2006: 41).

The three circles in Kachru's model are the Inner Circle, Outer Circle and Expanding Circle (1985: 12).


Joanne Rajadurai, 2005:Kachru (1985) described the spread of English in terms of three concentric circles: the Inner Circle, the Outer Circle and the Expanding Circle. These circles represent "the types of spread, the patterns of acquisition and the functional domains in which English is used across cultures and languages" (Kachru, 1985, p.12).The Inner Circle comprises the traditional bases of English, dominated by the mother-tongue varieties, that is, where English is the primary language of a substantial, often monolingual, majority. Countries in the Inner Circle include the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Outer Circle is primarily made up of countries where English has a colonial history, and where the language has developed institutionalized functions.Most of the countries placed in the Outer Circle are former colonies of the UK or the USA, such as Malaysia, Singapore, India, Ghana, Kenya and others.

Finally, the Expanding Circle includes the rest of the world, where performance varieties of the language are usually used, essentially in restricted contexts. In general, English plays a role here as a foreign language for international communication and for specific purposes as in the reading of scientific and technical materials. Countries in the Expanding Circle include China, Egypt, Indonesia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and others.Kachru (1985) also distinguished speech fellowships with reference to the circles and described them as norm-providing, norm-developing and norm-dependent.

The Inner Circle was seen as norm-providing, but within these Inner Circle Englishes, the British variety, and more recently, the American model seem to form an elite, preferred group. In the norm-developing speech fellowships of the Outer Circle, a tension may be observed between linguistic norm and linguistic behaviour, resulting in divided attitudes towards endocentric norms. Finally, norm-dependent varieties were said to be used in the Expanding Circle countries, and these norms are essentially external (usually American or British).

Ron White, 2007:

1. The inner circle refers to the traditional bases of English, where it is the primary language. Included in this circle are the USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The varieties of English used here are, in Kachru's scheme,  'norm providing'.2.

The outer or extended circle  involves the earlier phases of the spread of English in non-native settings, where the language has become part of a country's chief institutions, and plays an important 'second language' role in a multilingual setting. Singapore, India, Malawi and over fifty other territories are included in this circle. The varieties used here are what Kachru calls 'norm-developing': in regions using these varieties there has been a conflict between lingusitic norm and linguistic behaviour.

Such varieties are both endo- and exonormative.3. The expanding circle includes those nations which acknowledge the importance of English as an International Language. Historically, they do not belong to that group of countries which were colonised by members of the inner circle, and English doesn't have any special intranational status or function. They constitute the context in which English is taught as  a 'foreign' language as the most useful vehicle of international communication. These are 'norm-dependent' varieties, and are essentially exonormative in Kachru's terms. communities in which English is learned as a foreign language mostly to enable communication with the English-speaking world in Inner and Outer Circles.

According to Kachru's model for example Finland as well as many other European countries belong to the Expanding Circle. Kachru's idea of dividing non-native use of English into Outer and Expanding Circles resembles the traditional division between English as a second language versus English as a foreign language, which is often referred to in language teaching contexts.Gradu Thesis, 2009:The Inner Circle includes native speaker varieties, such as British English or American English. The Outer Circle, on the other hand, includes communities in which English is not spoken as a native language but where it has an important role and often official status in intranational communication. Varieties in the Outer Circle are for example Indian English or South African English.

The Expanding Circle finally includesChanning Burt, 2005Kachru (1992) offers a model consisting of three concentric circles as representative of "the types of spread, the patterns of acquisition, and the functional allocation of English in diverse cultural contexts" (p. 356). The center or origin is the Inner Circle (i.e., the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), the traditional cultural and linguistic bases of English. The Outer Circle, the next largest circle, contains countries using institutionalized, non-L1 varieties of English (e.g., Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Zambia), many of these former colonies of Inner Circle countries.

The Expanding Circle (e.g., China, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, the former USSR and Zimbabwe) includes countries where performance varieties with no official status and of restricted use are spoken in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) contexts.

Braj Kachru's Concentric Circles

The inner circle refers to thetraditional bases of English, whereit is the primary language: it includesthe USA, UK, Ireland, Canada,Australia and New Zealand.The outer circle involves the earlierphases of the spread of English innon-native settings, where the languagehas become a part of a country'schief institutions, and plays an important'second language' role in a multilingualsetting: it includes Singapore, India,Malawi and over 50 other territories.The expanding circle involves thosenations which recognize the importanceof English as an international language,thought they do not have a history ofcolonization by members of the innercircle, nor have they given English anyspecial administrative status. It includesChina, Japan, Greece, Poland and (asthe name of this circle suggests) asteadily increasing number of otherstates. In these areas, Englishis taught as a foreign language.


Judy Yoneoka,2002Although Kachru's three circles of English continue to serve as a useful initial stepping stone for division of Englishes, shortcomings and variations have been indicated by several authors, including Kachru himself.Pro+ Dynamic nature (at least inthe original version)+ "Native speaker" visuallynot privileged (not the top ofany hierarchy)+ Neither too multi-faceted,nor too general+ Highly influential, severalmodified versions, partly inreponse to the negativecriticism (see right column)


Con- ...but still not sufficiently dynamic- Still favouring the "native speaker" (Inner Circle)- Distinction between Outer and Expanding Circles fuzzy and misleading- Close to older three-part models- Special cases like Jamaica and South Africa not accounted for- Not differentiating enough between situations in a particular country


Joanne Rajadurai, 2005:According to Kachru (1985), using the concept of speakers of English from the Inner, Outer and Expanding Circles is preferable to the traditional native, ESL, EFL labels because the latter maintains the native-nonnative dichotomy between us and them, whereas the former emphasizes WE-ness. Moreover, the idea that English is someone's second language, implies that it is someone else's first language, and this, it is argued, creates problems. It gives the impression that English belongs to the native speaker who owns it as his first language; as for the rest, "it is almost unavoidable that anyone would take 'second' as less worthy" (Kachru and Nelson, 1996, p.79). In contrast, the Three Circle model helps promote varieties of English by drawing attention to their systematicity, robustness, creativity, communicative potential and relative prestige.

In this way the model has provided the impetus for processes of codification and legitimization, resulting in, for instance, the recognition of literary works and pedagogical models and materials beyond the traditional norm-providing varieties. In short, the strength and impact of the model reside in its ethos that emphasizes pluralism, linguistic diversity and inclusivity.



Z.N. Patil, 2006(2) it assumes that the three circles represent linguistic reality perfectly;Joanne Rajadurai, 2005:It has to be said, however, that Kachru (1985) himself noted that the concentric circles may be an oversimplification and that fuzzy areas exist, the difficulty with the status and placement of countries like South Africa and Jamaica within the circles being a case in point. The fact is that the categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive, as Kachru himself has acknowledged, and grey areas exist between the circles.

NO boundary within a circle

Judy Yoneoka,2002Tripathi (1998) points out that there are no mechanisms to differentiate varieties within a circle.Z.N. Patil, 2006(1) it fails to differentiate varieties within each circle;Crystal's (1997) multi-dialectical model may acknowledge the development of innovative variations of English and suggest that the boundaries of Kachru's (1992) concentric circles not be defined in such absolute terms.Gradu Thesis, 2009


Despite the clarity this three-circle model brings into categorizing English world-wide, it still fails to account for a growing use of English, namely the use of English as a contact language - lingua franca - between speakers who do not share a first language (Mollin 2006: 41-42). The use of English has become overwhelmingly widespread in international settings. English is the language of choice in, for example, international organizations and companies, and the like (Katzner 2002: 39), as well as in the academic world. It is also the dominant language of the Internet, international mass media as well as entertainment (Phillipson 1992). In addition to this, the increased mobility of people has made personal relationships across language borders very common.Crystal (1997, p.22) points out that "the speed with which a global languagescenario has arisen is truly remarkable".

The socalled "expanding circle" of foreignlanguage speakers was said to include more than 750 million EFL speakers in 1997,compared to 375 million firstlanguage speakers and 375 million second languagespeakers. A critical point of no return has been reached in that the number of Englishusers is developing at a faster rate as a language of international communicationthan as a language of intranational communication.Crystal (1997) estimates that there are 570 million Inner and Outer Circle English users and anywhere from 100 million to one billion Expanding Circle English users, this figure varying due to differing definitions of competent English use.Moreover, he has pointed out that languages have life cycles, particularly in multilingual communities, and the status of a language may shift overall, or even within a given locality.

Bolton (2005, p.75), for instance, expresses the view that "the Kachruvian model of the three circles was never intended to be monolithic and unchanging, but was formulated in the 1980s as a potent rewrite of centrist orthodoxies of that time". There is thus an implicit acknowledgement that because the situation is dynamic, changes are only to be expected. These caveats and sentiments taken together bolster the plausibility of the construct.

Not learnt by expanding circles only - enable communication

Z.N. Patil, 2006

Because of all this, knowing English has become a necessity in today's world. Unlike Kachru claims in his model presented above, English is not learned in the Expanding Circle only, or even mostly, to enable communication with the Inner and Outer Circles. English is learned because it enables communication with the whole world - even with other non-native speakers in the Expanding Circle. Therefore learning English can no longer be seen as learning a foreign language in the traditional sense.

As Graddol (2006) argues, knowing English has become a basic skill in the global world.Nunan (in Robertson et. al. 2005, p. 8) suggests that in an Asiancontext too, it makes more sense to refer simply to "learning English" than to EFL orESL.Channing Burt, 2005

Expanding circle marginalized-functions restricted

Kachru's (1992) model is one of the diffusion of English from the traditional center to diverse intranational and international varieties or Englishes with "cross-cultural functional range" (p. 355). While Kachru criticizes the lack of recognition of the pluralistic reality of English use and acknowledges the change and growth of English as it spreads, Expanding Circle Englishes are nevertheless seen as far removed from the Inner Circle core and marginalized in this model: "The performance varieties of English have a highly restricted functional range in specific contexts; for example, those of tourism, commerce, and other international transactions" (p.

55). Kachru's concentric circles seem to acknowledge diversity but little commonality across Englishes, describing these varieties as separate and with the Inner Circle clearly established at the top of the hierarchy.Roger Nunn, 2005Most significant for this discussion is the third group of the socalled"expanding circle" of countries, in which English is a foreign language, but with a difference.Crystal (1997, p. 56)Northern European countries, such as the Netherlands and Scandinaviancountries are classified as expanding circle countries. "There is much more use ofEnglish nowadays in some countries of the expanding circle, where it is 'only' aforeign language …, than in some of the countries where it has traditionally held aspecial place".Judy Yoneoka,2002On the other hand, Schaub sees a merging of the ESL and EFL circles; he describes Egyptian English, for example, as being in the "expanding circle, but "there are a number of Egyptian contexts, such as medicine, higher education, the sciences, or in tourism, which extend limbs into the Outer circle as well."Z.N.

Patil, 2006(3) it implies that the outer circle cannot merge into the inner circle;In addition to this, defining an L1 versus an L2 can be problematic: "there are several countries where population movement, language loss, divergent language attitudes, and massive shifts in language use have made it difficult to answer the question 'What is your first language?'" (Crystal, 1995, p. 363). There may also be cases where a child's L1 is English as a Second or Foreign Language (Crystal, 1999).

bases the classification on national identity; + Suggestions

Z.N. Patil, 2006(4) it bases the classification on national identity;The sixth article presented by Joanne Rajadurai critically reexaminesKachru'sfamous Three Concentric Circles model, and "discusses some of its intrinsic and perhapsunforeseen shortcomings, typified in its centre peripheryframework and its geohistoricbases". Thus Rajadurai presents a different Three Circle model: "While acknowledgingthe fuzzy distinctions between circles, in principle, the inner circle could comprise allusers who are proficient in English and able to instinctively codeswitchbetweeninternational and national or regional varieties to communicate in the most appropriateway.

The second circle could consist of speakers who are proficient only in regionalvarieties, i.e. native and nonnativespeakers with restricted intranational proficiency,while the outer circle could be made up of learners of the language."Judy Yoneoka,2002Other researchers suggest that the whole paradigm is in doubt, e.g. "National identity should not be a basis of classification of speakers of an international language. The more English becomes an international language, the more the division of its speakers into 'native' and 'nonnative' becomes inconsistent." (Brutt-Griffler and Samimy 2001:104)

(2) hierarchy

Z.N. Patil, 2006(5) it assumes that the inner circle varieties are somehow superior to other varieties.Channing Burt, 2005Kachru's concentric circles seem to acknowledge diversity but little commonality across Englishes, describing these varieties as separate and with the Inner Circle clearly established at the top of the hierarchy.the idea that English is someone's second language, implies that it is someone else's first language, and this, it is argued, creates problems. It gives the impression that English belongs to the native speaker who owns it as his first language; as for the rest, "it is almost unavoidable that anyone would take 'second' as less worthy" (Kachru and Nelson, 1996, p.79).Judy Yoneoka,2002Yano (2001:122-123) suggests that the ENL and ESL circles are merging into a single ENL circle with two sets of varieties: genetic and functional ENL.


Crystal (1995) claims that Kachru's (1992) model does not fully describe the reality of international English use. He suggests that the concentric model can be interpreted as the Inner Circle being norm-producing, the Outer Circle being norm-developing and the Expanding Circle being norm-dependent, claiming, however, that the model is insufficient because reality is often not so clear-cut. Crystal wonders if the Outer Circle looks to Inner Circle norms or if perhaps it creates its own norms, and asks if norms might not be developed in Expanding Circle nations as well.

Article name: Three Circle Model Of World Englishes essay, research paper, dissertation