English and globalization : rethinking the role of English in global knowledge system

Siqing LI (Presenter), Lili YANG, Yusuf Ikbal OLDAC, Jacob Oppong NKANSAH

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPresentation


Globalization encompasses various fields such as economy, culture, education and science, and has been widely perceived as being driven by the United States and influenced by British heritage since 1990 (Marginson & Xu, 2021). English, as a primary “accessory” of Anglo-American globalization, exacerbates existing hierarchies and inequalities within the global knowledge system, especially in higher education. However, there is more to it. The role of English in globalization has an intricate nature and involves interests and values stemming from diverse research systems. Correspondingly, varying narratives on the role of English in global scholarly communication are generated.

Global scholarly communication can be seen as a cyclical process of (re) producing and disseminating knowledge among researchers, scholars, and students from different countries. Individuals generate research and others engage in critique, support, or further development of that research, which then leads to the creation of fresh ideas and expanded knowledge.

As a dominant global language in academia, English plays an important bridging role, connecting academics from around the world. It has emerged as a prominent means for individuals to effectively construct and develop specialized knowledge through scholarly communication. Different practices and responses of multiple actors regarding the utilization of English reshape a language ecological landscape, and in reverse, steer globalization in more diverse directions. It is essential to rethink the connection between globalization and English by going beyond the Anglo-American viewpoints, as global knowledges are pluralizing (Oldac & Yang, 2022). Through re-examining the nature of globalization, this study explores how “global” English can be in global knowledge system. The research questions that guide this exploration are as follows:

1. What are the perceptions and practices of multiple actors (i.e., researchers, institutions, and states) from China, Turkey and Ghana regarding the role of English in global scholarly communication?
2. What are linguistic and academic challenges encountered by multiple actors in global scholarly communication when using English, and how do they tackle the challenges?

Methodological approach
We collected data from comprehensive research-intensive universities located in China, Ghana and Turkey to interrogate the perceptions and practices of individual, institutional and national actors regarding the use of English relating to global scholarly communication. Based on Kachru’s three-circle model of English (1992), China and Turkey are from expanding circle, where English does not necessarily have a colonial legacy and is conceived as a foreign language. Ghana is from the outer circle, where English usage has been a consequence of colonial history and is viewed as a second language. Though these systems differ according to Kachru’s model, what makes their comparison interesting is that English is not their mother tongue but plays an increasingly dominant position within the linguistic ecologies of these three research systems.

We employed in-depth interviews with researchers from diverse disciplines, research-related administrators and national policymakers in these three contexts, aiming to explore their perception towards the role of English in global scholarly communication, the linguistic and academic challenges they encountered and the strategies they adopted to counter the hegemony of English. A total number of 51 people were interviewed for this study. A thematic analysis was employed to analyze the interview data using Nvivo 12. Each author did the coding and member cross-checking was carried out to enhance the internal validity.

Emerging findings
The emerging findings suggest that Anglo-American globalization, coupled with the historical legacy of linguistic imperialism, has contributed to English becoming a gatekeeper that excludes non-English language works and endogenous knowledge. Scholars who originate from non-English speaking higher education institutions face certain challenges, including epistemic injustice and linguistic limitations. The dominance of Anglo-American cultural and academic norms and criteria put the internationalization of higher education, especially humanities and social sciences (HSS), into a recurring dilemma. This is because the research paradigm, methodology, and academic writing style in domestic HSS studies can be very different from those in the English-speaking research system. Additionally, there is a perceived need for scholars to publish their research in English in order to be included in Global North/West research ecosystem. Researchers who are not native English speakers require more time to comprehend reports in English compared to their mother-tongue colleagues. Consequently, they will have less time to pursue their original research endeavors.

However, with increasingly intensive international collaboration and unprecedented human connectivity, globalization can be seen as a movement away from a largely monolingual ideology if it is not positioned to be limited to Anglo-American globalization. The tendency to global convergence and integration creates a pluralizing global scholarly discourse. Under this interpretation, English is moving beyond the post-colonial and institutionalized varieties and is recognized as the linguistic diversity realized by all global users. English is gradually ‘de-anglicizing’, evolving to move beyond a particular race, religion or ideology in academic discourses.

The comparison among these three national systems is fruitful. On one hand, multiple actors from Kachru’s (1992) outer and expanding circles show nuanced differences in their attitudes and perspectives and practices regarding the use of the English language for producing and disseminating knowledge in global scholarly discourse — it is highly related to their historical colonial and cultural contexts, geopolitics and national language policies. However, such nuances portray a more vivid landscape of global knowledge system in a new era.

In this evolving research ecosystem, the spread of English and the knowledge it carries is not restricted to being transmitted solely from Anglo-American (English-speaking) research systems to others. Researchers from these three national systems view English as a means of producing and sharing knowledge for achieving multiple academic purposes rather than a mandate from Anglo-American dominance. Multiple actors exhibit agentive potential to cope with linguistic limitations and the epistemic injustice behind the linguistic level. Their perception and application of the English language in global scholarly communication open possibilities for change in globalization — it can further enhance the pluralization of the global knowledge system through embracing linguistic and epistemological diversity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2024
EventThe 68th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society: The Power of Protest - Miami, United States
Duration: 10 Mar 202414 Mar 2024


ConferenceThe 68th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society
Abbreviated titleCIES 2024
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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