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Varieties of English and Their Uses

Mahavir P. Jain

By Iqbal A. Ansari
New Statesman Publishing Company, New Delhi, 1978, pp.174, Rs. 45.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 3 November/December 1978

Iqbal A. Ansari's book Uses of English, for the conservative, carries an explanatory sub-title 'Varieties of English and Their Uses'. Conscious of some eyebrows being raised on the plural 'Uses' and afraid that the sub-title may not register, the author begins his preface with the following explication: ‘This book is as its subtitle suggests, about some varieties of English and their uses. I was rather diffident in giving it the title Uses of English in view of the fact that Professor Randolph Quirk's book (London: Long mans, 1961) is entitled The Use of English. But there are uses and uses; and moreover uses is not the same as the use’. The first chapter entitled 'Englishes' (the plural again) is an obvious corollary to this position. Pointing out that varie­ties of English, and for that matter of a living language, can stem from various factors, for example, from regional varia­tions, the author chooses to highlight the varieties due to the domain of usage. The domain of usage has a large variety: science and technology, law, adminis­tration, commerce and so on. The English used in a particular domain is, then, given a name after it: technical English, legal English, administrative English, commercial English, and so on. The linguist has tentatively designated these domains of language use as registers and the varieties in a language because of them are called 'register varieties'. The chapter then raises the question: ‘How language is adjusted to circumstances i.e. what are the parameters of a register?’ In this context, the author points out that along with the field of discourse, there are ‘other significant parameters of a register, viz. the 'mode', 'style' and 'role' of discourse’. This discussion is then related to the question of how the idea of register can be used in teaching of English (sic) especially as a, foreign language'. The author claims that through register-oriented· teaching, the teaching of a foreign language can be ‘relevant, real and oriented to discovery and creation’. The second chapter ‘Standardization of English’ attempts to bring to the awareness of the reader the interplay bet­ween the forces of change and the com­pulsions for standardization. Language on the one hand is ‘subject to perpetual change under the triple: forces of the individual, the society and, its own in­ternal dynamics’ and on the other it has to conform to certain shared conventions of sounds ...

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