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Review : Linguistic Imperialism Continued

University of Central Lancashire
Publication Date
  • P Philology. Linguistics
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Linguistics
  • Political Science
  • Social Sciences


Journal of Second Language Teaching and Research Volume One Issue One 83 Linguistic Imperialism Continued Author: Robert Phillipson Publisher: Routledge, 2010, 288pp., £32.99 ISBN 978-0-415-87201-0 Linguistic Imperialism (1992) has had a dramatic impact on contemporary English Language Teaching (ELT). It is unique – nothing quite like it had ever been written before and nothing has appeared since that confronts the discipline head on in the same way. It paved the way for research and writing of a more socio-political nature which locates linguistics within the field of social science, one of Phillipson’s original aspirations. Critics often emphasize the language in which the ideas are presented rather than the content itself. As Terry Eagleton advises, ‘always listen to the discourse as at least in part symptomatic of the material conditions within which it goes on, rather than a thing in itself’ (1990, p.35–6). I focus on content in this review, as well as looking at possible reasons for the profound impact the publication continues to have. At the heart of the controversy is that Linguistic Imperialism deconstructed accepted thinking in mainstream ELT and introduced groundbreaking insights into the global dominance of the English language. Historically tied to the post-1800 imperial conquests of the British Empire, and continued via acquisitionist aspirations from the US, English is presented as part and parcel of a desire to conquer. The original work explored how economic and political systems connect to English teaching and learning and how English teachers are implicated in the process of domination through methodological myths and theories in circulation about the language itself. This makes for uncomfortable reading if the reader is detached from the wider structures of ELT and believes that Phillipson intends to make them feel personally responsible. His goal is to hold the field collectively

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