Describing Lexico-Grammatical Features of English as a Lingua Franca in Kurdistan and the Issue of Intelligibility 

Zainab Nizar Karam

Tishk International University

[email protected]


Due to the widespread of the English language, and as English now is the language of business, technology, and education, the number of non-native speakers has increased rapidly and lately exceeded the number of its native speakers. Now the vast majority of communications are taking place among non-native speakers in international settings, often without the presence of native speakers. Consequently, this dominance of the English language has led to the emergence of a new conceptualization of using the language, which is that as a result of being used in international settings, new varieties of the language have emerged which might not necessarily conform to native-speaker standards. This is known as English as a lingua franca (ELF). ELF is a new field in applied linguistics, but large body of research has been conducted investigating various related areas. The current study fills a gap in the literature by identifying systematically repeated lexical and grammatical features of proficient users of English in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The research compares against other ELF features previously identified in various contexts. The corpus of this study included data collected from both written and spoken interactions. A corpus of 42,094 words of authentic English use by 10 master’s students in one of the English-medium universities in the Kurdistan Region. The written corpus was from 10 final papers and 10 response essays written by the participants as part of their MA coursework, and the spoken corpus included recording six hours of the participants’ discussions during one of their modules in their studies. The analysis resulted in identifying a number of deviations which were both similar and different from those found in previous studies. The results indicated deviations in the use of articles, prepositions, the third person singular –s, redundant marking and non-marking plural nouns, and verbs with high semantic generality. The findings of this research suggest that although a number of lexico-grammatical deviations occur systematically in the ELF in this context, their occurrences did not seem to impede intelligibility or the flow of communication amongst the participants. Importantly, there were no cases of breakdowns in communication as the English users did not make use of requests for clarifications, reformulations, or repetitions. More empirical research is warranted to identify more and other grammatical, lexical, pragmatic and pronunciation features of the local ELF which characterize ELF in Kurdistan, as this study was guided by previous studies and focused merely on identifying features which were available in previous studies. This thesis concludes with a discussion of theoretical and practical implications of the findings. As this study focused merely on identifying features which were available in previous studies, more empirical research is warranted to identify more and other features of the local ELF such as grammatical, lexical, pragmatic and pronunciation features which characterize ELF in Kurdistan. The results will of this study add to the body of knowledge in the field and can be beneficial for English teachers and practitioners in both language pedagogy and assessment areas. 

Key words: English as a lingua franca (ELF), lexical and grammatical features, standard English, non-native speaker deviations, non-native users of English 

Doi: 10.23918/vesal2022a45