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Reflections on Thomas Paikeday's 'The Native Speaker Is Dead!' (1985)



The year 2015 marked the 30th anniversary of the publication of a slim volume titled "The Native Speaker is Dead!" by the lexicographer Thomas Paikeday, perhaps the first work to investigate the role of the so-called 'native speaker' in the field of applied linguistics, and certainly the first to explicate some of the arguments that have become central to the 'native'/'non-native' debate in ELT. This event provides an opportunity to reflect on the theoretical and practical changes that have occurred in the 30 years since the publication of Paikeday's monograph. In this paper I will describe the central arguments made in Paikeday's book, and examine some of the changes that have since taken place in the theory of applied linguistics. Thomas Paikeday の本『The Native Speaker is Dead! (1985)』は、2015 年で 刊行から 30 年の記念の年を迎えた。この本は、応用言語学の分野では、ネ イティヴスピーカー像について初めて取り上げた本だった。 この論文では、 Paikeday の本の主題について、近年の研究と比較することを目的とする。
Reflections on Thomas Paikeday's The Native Speaker
Is Dead! (1985)
Robert LOWE
Thomas Paikeday の本『The Native Speaker is Dead! (1985)』は、2015 年で
刊行から 30 年の記念の年を迎えた。この本は、応用言語学の分野では、
Paikeday の本の主題について、近年の研究と比較することを目的とする。
Keywords: native speaker, native-speakerism, Thomas Paikeday (ネイティヴス
1. Introduction
The year 2015 marked the 30th anniversary of the publication of a slim volume
titled "The Native Speaker is Dead!" by the lexicographer Thomas Paikeday,
perhaps the first work to investigate the role of the so-called 'native speaker' in the
field of applied linguistics, and certainly the first to explicate some of the arguments
that have become central to the 'native'/'non-native' debate in ELT. This event
provides an opportunity to reflect on the theoretical and practical changes that have
occurred in the 30 years since the publication of Paikeday's monograph. In this
paper I will describe the central arguments made in Paikeday's book, and examine
some of the changes that have since taken place in the theory of applied linguistics.
2. Background to The Native Speaker is Dead!
Thomas Paikeday published The Native Speaker is Dead! in 1985. The issue of the
'native speaker' is one which had at that point already received substantial attention
in theoretical branches of linguistics, especially after the work of Chomsky (1965)
on generative grammar, in which the native speaker is used in the sense of an "ideal
speaker-listener" (p.3) - a scientific construct on which innatist theories of language
acquisition can be tested. This was not without its critics - indeed, by 1981 a
volume edited by Florian Coulmas had appeared, titled A Festschrift for Native
Speaker, problematising some aspects of the 'native speaker' in linguistics.
However, it was not until the publication of Paikeday's 1985 book that the topic of
the 'native speaker' became an issue of concern in applied linguistics and ELT.
Paikeday is explicit in his applied linguistic concerns, as can be seen from the
following (abridged) quotation from the back cover of the book:
'The "separate but equal" treatment given by educators to nonnative speakers of
English is something that has bothered native-speaking Thomas Paikeday since
1963...Linguists such as Chomsky swear by the insights and intuitions of the
"native speaker," a term that has not been defined even in the unabridged
Webster...Native speakership, however, is a must for specialized jobs involving
English. But the term could cut both ways when applied with bias, as was
demonstrated in Houston in 1980 when discrimination against American-born
instructors of foreign languages was debated at the annual meeting of the
modern language association...It is well known that qualified foreigners are
sometimes denied jobs because they lack "North American job experience".'
We can see here the concern Paikeday had for the use of the terminology of the
'native' and the 'non-native' speaker in the social world, in the field of applied
linguistics. In modern discussions of the 'native'/'non-native' speaker issue,
Paikeday's book often gets little more than a brief mention, before being passed
over for more recent scholarship. However, I believe that the book deserves more
careful scrutiny. Not only is it the first work in applied linguistics and ELT to focus
exclusively on the 'native'/'non-native' issue, it is remarkably prescient in terms of
the points it raises when compared to current developments in the field.
3. Structure of the book
The Native Speaker is Dead! is an unusually-structured book, which perhaps belies
its origins as a rather informal inquiry. In order to explore questions surrounding the
issue of the 'native speaker', Paikeday composed and sent a 10-point memo (which
can be found on p.95-96 of his book) to more than 40 linguists and lexicographers,
including Noam Chomsky, David Crystal, Michael Halliday, William Labov, and
Randolph Quirk. The central concern of the memo was over the fact that the term
"native speaker" is part of the common vocabulary of linguists, and yet is a term
which is poorly defined and unclear in use. This prompted Paikeday to ask the
following questions of his correspondents: How do we define 'native speaker'? Is a
'native speaker' made rather than born? Is the 'native speaker' simply a convenient
linguistic fiction? Can the use of the term 'native speaker' become discriminatory?
How can we distinguish a highly proficient speaker from a 'native speaker'?
Paikeday maintained his correspondence with each of the abovementioned
scholars, until he had amassed a store of responses to his questions. He then took
these responses, and constructed from them a Socratic dialogue on the topic,
casting himself in the role of 'INQUIRER', a chairperson of sorts, adding comments,
and criticisms, with the goal of tying the responses together as one dialogue.
It must be said that the relative lack of scholarly discussion of Paikeday's book
could well be a result of its presentation and structure. The dialogue can at times be
wordy and confusing, and subjects are often dropped and then picked up again at
later points. While the book is a brief 109 pages (of which the dialogue comprises
only 91), it hosts a succession of over 40 contributors, each of whom makes
additions to the discussion of varying size and import. While certain names reoccur
throughout (Chomsky being the most prominent, earning him a special mention at
the end of the book), it can be difficult to follow who is saying what, or the exact
point of view taken by each of the scholars involved. Despite this, the substance of
the book is certainly of worth, and the arguments of great interest. Paikeday makes
several key arguments in his book, which can be placed into four categories: (1)
The difficulty of defining the 'native speaker', (2) the socially constructed nature of
the 'native speaker', (3) "separate but equal" treatment of 'native' and 'non-native'
speakers, and (4) discrimination against people on the basis of their speakerhood.
4. Examining Paikeday's arguments in the present
In the following sections I shall discuss each of these categories and the arguments
made by Paikeday within them. I will then discuss each in the light of modern
scholarship, with the aim of showing that Paikeday's arguments are largely valid,
and have been confirmed by more contemporary research.
4.1 The difficulty of defining the 'native speaker'
The first substantial argument made by Paikeday concerns the difficulty of
accurately defining the 'native speaker'. This is a theme that is central to the
discussion presented in the book, and recurrent over its pages. At the start of the
discussion, a very obvious definition is offered of the 'native speaker' by professor
Edward Gates, who proposes it be defined as "One who speaks a language as
his/her mother tongue" (p.1), to which Paikeday counters that the way in which the
term is used refers to someone "gifted with special and often infallible grammatical
insights" (p.1). As such, Paikeday argues that a simplistic definition in the vein of
the one proposed does not do justice to the term.
Paikeday and his cohorts note that common-sense definitions fail to capture the
complexity of the subject - as in the case of children born in one language culture
and then moving to another, or adults who learn English to a level indistinguishable
from those who speak it from childhood, such as Joseph Conrad or Vladimir
Nabokov. These individuals defy the simplistic 'native'/'non-native' distinction
(pp.19-25). Chomsky counters by arguing that the term 'native speaker' is
something akin to a tool - it can be used in the real world for most purposes of
linguistic description, even though it may be difficult to pin down exactly the
criteria which would distinguish a 'native' from a 'non-native' speaker. Chomsky
offers the example of the term 'water', which we can use for all practical purposes,
despite different samples of water having different levels of purity (p.51).
This brings us to an idea expressed earlier in the dialogue; that the 'native speaker'
is a scientific concept, rather than a flesh and blood creature (p.2). That is to say that
Chomsky's (1965) "ideal speaker-listener" (p.3) is not a reference to a real or
potentially real person, but rather to an idealised figure upon which linguistic
theories can be tested. This is a reasonable proposition, as scientific concepts are by
necessity reductive. However, as Paikeday notes, we should then be troubled by the
fact that the term is used in daily life as if it were a label that could be applied to
individuals. He dismisses Chomsky's arguments as nothing more than 'convenient
linguistic fictions', which do not account for the messiness of the real world in
which they are applied, voicing concern that the use of such theoretical models to
describe real-life, socially situated speakers could lead to discrimination.
Research conducted soon after the publication of Paikeday's book certainly
seemed to support the notion that the 'non-native speaker' was nothing more than a
deficient 'native speaker'. Coppetiers' (1987) study on the intuitions of 'native' and
'non-native' speakers of French found marked differences, and a similar study
conducted by Quirk (1990) concluded by saying that “the implications for foreign
language education are clear: the need for native teacher support and the need for
non-native teachers to be in constant touch with the native language” (p.14).
However, more recent work, particularly in sociolinguistics, has started to call this
into question. As Canagarajah (1999) notes, Quirk's research assumes a standard
form of a language against which other uses of the language are to be measured.
This does not fit within current discussion of World Englishes, in which divergent
global forms of the language are seen as equally valid. Additionally, work done on
the linguistic capabilities of 'native' and 'non-native' speakers in more recent years
(see Bialystok, 1997; Birdsong, 1992) has led Davies (2003) to suggest that there is
no valid way to separate people into these categories, due to the fact that, as Moussa
and Llurda (2008) note, adult learners of a language can “master the intuition,
grammar, spontaneity, creativity, pragmatic control, and interpreting quality of
‘born’ native speakers” (p.315-316). This relates back to Paikeday's question of
whether a 'native speaker' is "born" or "made"; research seems to suggest both.
In sum, the attempts that have been made to describe the 'native speaker' in
applied linguistics are inadequate, and based on unjustified assumptions drawn
from flawed 'common sense' conceptions of speakerhood, or the misapplication of
a reductive linguistic concept. Whatever the 'native speaker' might be, we have yet
to reach a satisfactory scientific description that can be applied not only to concepts,
but also to real people, with all their attendant inconsistencies and imperfections.
The question Paikeday and his correspondents struggled to answer still stands,
leading us to suspect that the 'native speaker' is not a scientific classification at all.
4.2 The socially constructed nature of the 'native speaker'
Paikeday brings up the idea of a 'native dishwasher' - someone who not only
washes dishes, but is able to do so supremely well, due to some kind of innate
biological disposition to dishwashing based on birthplace (p.31). While this is
absurd, it does bring up an important point - the fact that when we use the term
'native speaker' we imply far more than simply 'language of birth'. In other words,
we imply that the 'native speaker' is a social construct (Berger & Luckmann, 1966).
Research has shown that the label 'native speaker' is applied on the basis of
numerous factors unrelated to linguistic proficiency. People can have their
speakerhood questioned on the basis of race, with only white, Western-looking
people considered to be 'native speakers' of Emglish (Amin, 1997; Kubota & Lin,
2009). Brutt-Griffler and Samimy (2001) demonstrated that other factors such as
accent, nationality, and, crucially, a desire to self-identify as a member of a
particular community can all play a part in whether people are considered to be
'native speakers' of a language or not. In fact, there is even evidence that simply
having a non-Western sounding name can influence people's judgments over the
'native speaker' status of individuals (Ali, 2009).
This is all the more obvious in the field of ELT, where 'native speaker' is regularly
linked to nonlinguistic features of an individual, with advertising often prominently
proclaiming the "native speaker" status of the teachers in a school or university,
proximal to images of Caucasian people - usually, it should be noted, young, white,
male, Caucasian people (Bailey, 2006; Seargeant, 2009). In fact, research has
shown that English teachers are often idealised on the basis of their race,
particularly in contexts like Japan (Goto-Butler, 2007; Rivers and Ross, 2013).
While Paikeday's treatment of this topic was not particularly deeply explored, it is
interesting to see how far his suspicions have been borne out by the work of later
scholarship. The socially constructed nature of the 'native speaker' in applied
linguistics and ELT is clear, and has led scholars such as Holliday (2005) to suggest
the term be written, if it is used at all, in inverted commas (as I have been doing
throughout this paper) to indicate that it is a highly contested concept.
4.3 "Separate but equal" treatment and discrimination
Finally, Paikeday argues that one possible consequence of the continued use of the
dichotomous 'native'/'non-native' labels may be "separate but equal" treatment, or
even discrimination against those considered to be 'non-native speakers'. As
evidence, Paikeday cites a debate at the annual meeting of the Modern Language
Society of America in 1980, in which questions were raised over the practice of
preferentially hiring 'native speaker' teachers in schools and university foreign
language departments over American-born instructors. Many instructors felt that
such hiring was discriminatory, while others felt that it was natural to wish to
employ 'native speakers' of a language to teach that language. Paikeday asks the
other participants in the dialogue whether "the distinction between native and
nonnative speaker, especially since it happens to favour one group of speakers of
each language against all others, [can] become discriminatory in some of its
applications such as hiring for dictionary-editing or language-teaching positions?"
(p.30). This is a point that does not receive a great amount of attention in the book -
the dialogue soon returning, as it often does, to the question of definition - but it is
certainly one area which recent scholarship has found to be of significant concern.
Early research on the differences between 'native' and 'non-native' speaker
teachers tended to use stereotypical categorisations. Medgyes (1992) argued that
'native speakers' are "more intuitive", "more casual", "less committed", and "don't
teach grammar" among other things, while 'non-native speakers' have the opposite
characteristics. This, like all stereotypes, contains a grain of truth. However, the fact
that this has been used to justify discriminatory hiring practices which divide
teachers along 'native'/'non-native' lines, including government-sponsored programs
such as Japan's JET program (McConnell, 2000), is disturbing.
Research since the publication of Paikeday's book has shown that discrimination
against 'non-native speaker' teachers in ELT is rife (Braine, 1999; 2010), with
studies showing that courses and schools are often unwilling to hire 'non-native
speakers' (Clark & Paran, 2007; Mahboob, Uhrig, Newman, & Hartford, 2004),
and may even advertise specifically for 'native speakers'. Song and Zhang (2010)
found that 71.6% of advertisements in Korea asked for 'native speakers', while in
China the figure was 79.3% (p.1). Additionally, Selvi (2010) reports that 60.5% of
job advertisements in EFL settings require 'NS' status (see also Mahboob & Golden,
2013, and Ruecker & Ives, 2015). The levels of discrimination have in fact led to
the creation of the 'NNEST' movement (Kamhi-Stein, 2016), which aims to
promote the equal and nondiscriminatory treatment of 'non-native speaker' teachers.
The creation and need for such groups demonstrates how embedded this is in the
In fact, discrimination against 'non-native speakers' has been seen as one aspect of
the industry-wide ideology of 'native-speakerism' (Holliday, 2005; 2006), in which
the voices and institutions of the English-speaking West, and it's 'native speaker'
representatives, are privileged over those in other settings. Under this ideology, not
only are 'native speakers' favoured for jobs, 'non-native speakers' are actually seen
as culturally deficient and unable to contribute anything worthwhile to the
profession (Holliday, 2005). This is reflected in the descriptions of students and
teachers from non-Western backgrounds in the ELT literature as "‘dependent’,
‘hierarchical’, ‘collectivist’, ‘reticent’, ‘indirect’, ‘passive’, ‘docile’, ‘lacking in self
esteem’, ‘reluctant to challenge authority’, ‘easily dominated’, ‘undemocratic’, or
‘traditional’" (Holliday, 2006: p.885), in contrast to Western teachers, students, and
teaching approaches, which are categorised as "learner-centered", "active", and
"collaborative". This labelling resurfaces in the self-perceptions of 'non-native'
speaker teachers, who consider themselves inferior to their 'native speaker'
colleagues, even when their levels of proficiency are indistinguishable.
This discrimination has even been shown to be something of a double-edged
sword, with Houghton and Rivers (2013) collecting numerous cases of 'native
speaker' teachers being discriminated against in Japan on the basis of their
speakerhood. While 'native speakers' have traditionally received favourable
treatment on the basis of their cultural group membership, it appears that in many
cases they may come to be valued only for their membership of that group, and not
for their professional abilities as educators. They are seen as entertainers (Shimizu,
2000; Amundrud; 2008), and short term workers. Rather than professional teachers,
these people are seen as "professional foreigners" (Heimlich, 2013).
While this argument is one of the more under-explored points made in Paikeday's
book, it is an area which more recent research has shown to be of key importance.
The use of the 'native'/'non-native' dichotomy is one way in which the industry
legitimises discriminatory behaviour, and justifies chauvinistic approaches to
cultural and educational interaction.
5. Conclusions: Paikeday's and my own
Paikeday's conclusion is simply stated in the title of his book. For Paikeday, the
'native speaker' is dead; he even uses an exclamation mark to add an air of
celebration. However, the scholarship outlined above demonstrates that in applied
linguistics the 'native speaker' is, in fact, very much alive. The 'native speaker'
survives in linguistic theory as a conceptual ideal, in SLA theory as a target of
ultimate attainment, and in the practice of language teaching as a social construct.
While the scientific utility of the 'native speaker' as a construct in linguistics, and
possibly playing a similar role in SLA, is largely uncontroversial, there is a growing
call for this term to be cut from the lexicon of language teaching. Not only does it
help to justify discriminatory practices, it also leads to situations of 'self-Othering'
and, if taken as part of the ideology of native-speakerism, contributes to the
continued Western domination of the English language teaching enterprise. As
Reucker and Ives (2015) note, “racism, as well as native-speakerism, only survive
if they are constantly reinforced through daily discourses that make them seem
natural” (p.407). In sum, while the 'native speaker' is not yet dead, as Paikeday
claimed, it is a concept that is rightly facing increasing challenges in the world of
applied linguistics and ELT. Paikeday's book was the first step along that road.
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Full-text available
RESUMEN En este trabajo expando la noción de ‘nativohablantismo’ (o ideología del hablante nativo) y discuto su presencia e implicancias en algunas investigaciones acerca de la situación sociolingüística de la lengua mapuche en Chile. En los trabajos que discuto, se asume la ventaja del hablante nativo (HN) de lengua indígena como investigador de fenómenos sociolingüísticos complejos, como el desplazamiento lingüístico, que afectan a grupos humanos también complejos. Argumento que este tipo de nativohablantismo, más que ser una alternativa teórico-metodológica para conceptualizar y estudiar la realidad sociolingüística, o ilustrar la emergencia de una epistemología propia y subalterna, solo contribuye a la creación de jerarquías intra e intergrupales, a la definición de relaciones de poder y a la disputa por la legitimidad en la generación de conocimiento. Así, este tipo de nativohablantismo, más que abrir posibilidades para pensar ciertas realidades sociolingüísticas de manera alternativa, desafiando la forma en que las hemos estudiado, limita nuestras maneras de conceptualizar estos problemas y perpetúa una visión esencialista, ahistórica y apolítica tanto de los procesos por los que atraviesan las lenguas y grupos minorizados como del aparato conceptual y metodológico con que se han estudiado. Los casos que discutiré, aunque reducidos, refieren a dos aristas no consideradas en el debate en torno al nativohablantismo (HN investigador / HN de lenguas indígenas) al mismo tiempo que revelan las paradojas presentes en torno a la politización de ciertas categorías en la lingüística: mientras que, por un lado, el concepto HN se desnaturaliza y deconstruye, por otro, se idealiza y fetichiza (MUNI TOKE, 2014c). Finalizo discutiendo las implicancias de este nativohablantismo en el contexto de las lenguas indígenas minorizadas en Chile y de la comprensión de su situación sociolingüística.
Full-text available
Millainen on minun arkeni kielimaisema? Miten kieleni tukevat toisiaan? Entä miten niiden käyttöä tuetaan? Onko oppilaan/hoitolapsen/työkaverin maisema samanlainen vai erilainen kuin omani? Tässä artikkelissa käsittelemme koulun kielikirjoa kielten näkyväksi tekemisen ja vertailun näkökulmasta. Keskitymme siihen, miten kielten havainnointi, maistelu ja analysointi herättelevät huomaamaan ympärillä puhuttuja kieliä, lisäävät kielitietoisuutta ja rohkaisevat käyttämään vähäistäkin kielitaitoa.
This book explores ways to prepare teachers to teach English as an International Language (EIL) and provides theoretically-grounded models for EIL-informed teacher education. The volume includes two chapters that present a theoretical approach and principles in EIL teacher education, followed by a collection of descriptions of field-tested teacher education programs, courses, units in a course, and activities from diverse geographical and institutional contexts, which together demonstrate a variety of possible approaches to preparing teachers to teach EIL. The book helps create a space for the exploration of EIL teacher education that cuts across English as a Lingua Franca, World Englishes and other relevant scholarly communities. © 2017 Aya Matsuda and the authors of individual chapters. All rights reserved.
It has been almost 20 years since what is known as the non-native English-speaking (NNES) professionals’ movement—designed to increase the status of NNES professionals—started within the US-based TESOL International Association. However, still missing from the literature is an understanding of what a movement is, and why non-native English speaker teachers (NNESTs) in TESOL constitute a movement. This article draws on the field of sociology to explain the notion of a ‘movement’ and explains the emergence of the NNEST movement as a sociological phenomenon. The article further discusses the NNEST movement’s achievements in creating opportunities for leadership development, and research and publications; its partial achievements in providing NNES professionals networking opportunities; and its failure in promoting a more inclusive environment for NNES professionals. The article ends with a call for action.
The rapid global spread of the English language has serious linguistic, ideological, socio-cultural, political, and pedagogical implications as it creates both positive interactions and negative tensions between global and local forces. Accordingly, debate about issues such as the native/non-native divide, the politics of an international language, communication in a Lingua Franca, the choice of a model for ELT, and the link between English and identity(ies) has stimulated scholarly inquiry in an unprecedented way. The chapters in this volume revisit, challenge, and expand upon established arguments and positions regarding the politics, policies, pedagogies, and practices of English as an international language, as well as its sociolinguistic and socio-psychological complexities. © 2009 Farzad Sharifian and the authors of individual chapters. All rights reserved
According to current estimates, about eighty percent of English teachers worldwide are nonnative speakers of the language. The nonnative speaker movement began a decade ago to counter the discrimination faced by these teachers and to champion their causes. As the first single-authored volume on the topic since the birth of the movement, this book fills the need for a coherent account that: traces the origins and growth of the movement. summarizes the research that has been conducted. highlights the challenges faced by nonnative speaker teachers. promotes NNS teachers' professional growth. No discussion of world Englishes or the spread of English internationally is now complete without reference to the NNS movement. This book celebrates its first decade and charts a direction for its growth and development.