Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English and Writing Studies



First Reader/Committee Chair

Hyon, Sunny


In 2008, David Crystal estimated that there were approximately two billion English speakers in the world (p. 5). For Crystal, an English speaker was anyone with “any systemic awareness, whether in speaking, listening, reading or writing [of English]” (p. 4). The conspicuous absence in Crystal’s definition of any reference to English native speaker competency points to the independence of the global spread of English from an Anglophone center. In our contemporary society, Crystal’s two billion English speakers are not using English to communicate with native English speakers. Instead, as the literature illustrates, the foremost trajectory of the global spread of English is to facilitate communication between interlocutors who simultaneously do not share the same first language yet do share some level of “systemic awareness of English.” In other words, English increasingly functions as a lingua franca allowing speakers from different parts of the world to communicate with each other.

In this thesis, I endeavor to bring a new perspective to ELF research by illustrating how ELF transcends the limited, utilitarian function of language that has historically defined lingua francas. I begin by tracing the major themes found in the current literature including the incongruence between ELF definitions and its theorization, the inappropriateness of native speaker norms for ELF speakers and how the level of practice becomes especially meaningful to understanding the emergent nature of the ELF context. I then propose that the dynamic nature of ELF makes it a productive site from which to discuss an equally dynamic understanding of subjectivity. Using Bonnie Norton’s (2013) poststructuralist theory of subjectivity and spoken discourse data from the Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (VOICE), I analyze a variety of VOICE corpus extracts to highlight multiple instances in which ELF speakers display the affective and identificatory processes that characterize the more advanced, integrative capacity of language.

The affective potential or dimension of ELF has been less investigated by the existing literature. When second language acquisition (SLA) theorists do address the affective, integrative function of language, they often situate the non-native speaker within the native speaker context. The questions then focus on how the non-native speaker adapts or orients to the native-speaker environment. My work on subjectivity in ELF addresses a lacuna in the existing SLA research. Rather than continuing to privilege the native speaker, I foreground how non-native speakers transform themselves into second language users by orienting themselves to the exigencies of their own specific ELF context. Within ELF, the non-native speaker no longer is positioned as an outsider. ELF allows interlocutors to assume the subject position of an ELF insider. This insider status allows for the subjectivity discussions to remain less hampered by adherence to native speaker conventions and forms. This freedom then encourages ELF’s affective potential to be more readily accessed by its speakers.