Overuse of the progressive in ESL and learner Englishes – fact or fiction?

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New Englishes and learner varieties of English are both reported to overuse the progressive. Furthermore, previous research suggests that speakers of English as a Second Language (ESL) and learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) use the progressive construction differently, at times, from the way it is used by native speakers. Previous research, for the most part, has looked at New Englishes and Learner English separately. This study combines the data on the use of the progressive in academic writing by ESL and EFL speakers. As research on the progressive in varieties such as British and New Zealand English has shown, there are also differences in the ongoing spread of the progressive in English as a native language (ENL), so it is not enough to compare ESL and EFL varieties with just one ENL variety. This paper therefore brings together evidence from corpora of inner, outer and expanding-circle varieties of English to test the hypothesis of ‘overuse’ and ‘deviation’ in ESL and EFL use of the progressive. The results show that we might have to reconsider some of the models of World English that suggest neat divides between ENL, ESL and EFL usage.


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