Date of Award

12-9-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

David I. Hanauer, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sharon Deckert, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Abstract

The proliferation of global English has resulted in the birth of a variety of Englishes that reflect localized and unique characteristics of language users. This qualitative study examined the understudied notion of Thai English from the perspectives of Thai professional writers. Grounded in the World Englishes framework, the central goal of this research agenda was to define Thai English. Data was drawn from face-to-face interviews conducted in Bangkok, Thailand from November, 2007 to January, 2008. The focal participants were 20 Thai professional writers recruited from four groups: fiction writers, textbook writers, The Bangkok Post journalists and The Nation journalists. A grounded theory approach and rhetorical move analysis were employed to examine the underlying assumptions of the participants’ English positioning in relation to Thai English. Analysis of interview data revealed 5 different participant views of their English: King’s English or Standard English, instrumental English, cosmopolitan English, glocal English and Thai English. The majority of the writers conformed to Standard English, rejecting the existence of the concept of Thai English. Thai English had a very dim existence for them and ultimately it was excluded from World Englishes discourses. Thai English was described as an oral, secondary, lower-standard, and destabilized discourse. Only one writer validated Thai English discourse. For him, Thai English represented an act of resistance to dominant discourse and ideology. This empirical study not only demonstrated the ideological and political position of the Thai English discourse but also addressed macro aspects of English usage related to political, ideological and social issues. The participants’ reflections on Thai English illustrated that English use in Thailand was situated in a hierarchy of language and was deeply embedded in a colonial construct within the political and economic hegemony of Western Anglophone powers. This query on Thai English yielded vital and nuanced understandings and theoretical insights about language use, power, identity and other aspects of sociolinguistic attitudes and practices related to English in Thailand. These research findings signal a sense of urgency for concerned parties to address political aspects of English for schooling and institutional practices in Thailand.

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