Countries in which English is the first or the dominant language: Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United States. According to linguist David Crystal, the total number of English speakers in the Inner Circle is between 320 and 380 million (English as a Global Language, 2003).
The Inner Circle is one of the three concentric circles of World English described by linguist Braj Kachru in "Standards, Codification and Sociolinguistic Realism: The English Language in the Outer Circle" (1985). The labels Inner, Outer, and Expanding Circles represent the type of spread, the patterns of acquisition, and the functional allocation of English in diverse cultural contexts.
- Australian English, Canadian English, Irish English, New Zealand English, Standard American English, Standard British English
- English as a Native Language (ENL)
- Expanding Circle
- Global English
- Mother Tongue
- Outer Circle
- Standard English
Examples and Observations:
- "In the so-called 'inner circle' English is multifunctional, transmitted through the family and maintained by governmental or quasi-governmental agencies (e.g. media, school, etc.), and is the language of the dominant culture. The 'outer' circle contains countries (usually multilingual) colonized by English-speaking powers. English is typically not the language of the home, but transmitted through the school, and has become part of the country's chief institutions. Norms come officially from the inner circle, but local norms also play a powerful role in dictating everyday usage."
(Suzanne Romaine, "Global English: From Island Tongue to World Language." The Handbook of the History of English, ed. by Ans van Kemenade and Bettelou Los. Blackwell, 2006)
- "[W]hat is often lamented today in the context of teaching English as a second or foreign language [is] the insistence on the use of 'authentic,' naturally occurring language for instructional purposes, and the preferential treatment in terms of employment opportunities of native speaker teachers with an Inner Circle standard accent."
(Stephanie Hackert, "A Discourse-Historical Approach to the English Native Speaker." World Englishes--Problems, Properties and Prospects, ed. by Thomas Hoffmann and Lucia Siebers. John Benjamins, 2009)
- "[W]hile inner circle nations are now well in the minority among users of English, they still exert strong proprietary rights over the language in terms of norms. This applies far more to discourse patterns than to grammatical rules or pronunciation norms (the latter varying considerably between the inner circle countries in any case). By discourse patterns, I mean the way spoken and written discourse is organised. In many fields of scholarship, the major international journals are now published entirely in English. . . .
"At present, English speakers from inner circle countries still hold a great deal of control in terms of assessing contributions and reviewing books in English."
(Hugh Stretton, Australia Fair. UNSW Press, 2005)