IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


The political economy of English in a capitalist world-system

28 October 2021, 4:00 pm–5:00 pm

The Mercator World Map (Planisphere made by Rumold Mercator, 1587)

This webinar explores the historical emergence and continued hegemonic dominance of a particular standard grammar of English. Hear an overview of arguments that challenge this hegemony and join a discussion of their implications for those who support academic writing in higher education.

This event is free.

Event Information

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IOE Writing Centre

Watch the event recording

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English is the world’s dominant language with an estimated 1.5 billion users worldwide, of which those who think of themselves as ‘native speakers’ account for approximately 350 million. But it is not simply English that is a dominant language in the world, but a particular standard grammar, or form.

The hegemony of the standard exists despite the enormous linguistic variation in English which occurs in the world, and also in spite of the challenges to English which are presented by major global languages such as Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. Many suggest that this situation dates from 1945 and the rise to global dominance of the United States. Others look to the nineteenth century and the empire of the British.

Presenting this webinar, Professor John O'Regan prefers to go back further in order to locate the origins of the ascent of English in the sixteenth century and the rise of a capitalist world-economy. It is from the sixteenth century that the die is set for English to become the dominant language in the world. It is found in international institutions, in multinational corporations, in international centres of finance, in international business, in the hospitality and services industries and in all kinds of academic research and writing. It is also taught as a foreign language to millions of learners in classrooms across the world.

In applied linguistics and sociolinguistics an enormous volume of research has been produced challenging the dominance of this form. Drawing upon observations contained in Professor O'Regan's book Global English and Political Economy (O’Regan, 2021), he will give an overview of some of these arguments and invites discussion on the implications for students and academic writing professionals in the context of writing support in contemporary HE.

This event will be particularly useful for those interested in English and academic writing support.

Academic Writing Seminar Series

The Academic Writing Centre (AWC) and the Academic Communication Centre (ACC) at the Centre for Languages and International Education (CLIE) are delighted to host the new IOE Academic Writing Seminar Series. The series invites experts in the field from UCL and other higher education institutions to debate the practices and challenges faced by students and academics as writers, and the models and mechanisms of support for writing found within Higher Education in the UK and globally.

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About the Speaker

Professor John O'Regan

Professor of Critical Applied Linguistics at UCL Institute of Education

More about Professor John O'Regan