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Features of English as a lingua franca

Millions of people across the world use English as a lingua franca to communicate with each other, when they do not share the same native language. While ELF communication is highly variable, there are features which have been identified as regularly (although not always) occurring. Over the last twenty years of so, researchers have worked to identify these common features or characteristics of English as a lingua franca (ELF) communication. Two of the most commonly described features of ELF communication are words and grammar (lexicogrammar) and pronunciation. Key research into the common features of ELF has taken place through analysis of, for example, the VOICE corpus (Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English)(Seidlhofer, 2004) and the 'lingua franca core' (Jenkins, 2000). In these activities you will familiarise yourself with some of the features of the lexicogrammar of ELF.

Activity 1: Features of ELF lexicogrammar

In this activity you are going to think about what you know, or guess, about the use of English as a lingua franca. Can common features be identified in ELF communication? You are going to examine some of the lexicogrammatical features of ELF taken from Seidlhofer, 2004



What do you think? What features have been identified as part of communication between users of English as a lingua franca? Select the checkboxes next to any lexicogrammatical features which you think are found in descriptions of ELF communication. Then read the feedback.

Activity 2: Feature of ELF or error?

In this activity you are going to look at some examples of spoken English and think about their acceptability as examples of ELF communication based on characteristic lexicogrammar and pronunciation features.



Study the examples and decide which you consider to be errors and which acceptable variants of English. Mark with a cross if you think the example shows an error. Mark with a tick if you think the example shows an acceptable variant of English.

 1. My luggages got lost during the flight.
 2. Her decision to leave him involve several factors.
 3. Excuse me a moment - my handy's ringing.
 4. Could we discuss about my essay?
 5. There's about five minutes left.

Would you like to review the main points?


Jenkins, J. (2000). The phonology of English as an international language: new models, new norms, new goals. Oxford: OUP.

Seidlhofer, B. (2004). Research Perspectives on Teaching English as a Lingua Franca. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 24. pp.209-239.

Adapted from material used on the University of Southampton / British Council Online MA in English Language Teaching.

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