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"Minority" languages

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 23 Mar 2015, 15:14

I have recently heard that several languages are being cut at A Level.  Amongst the languages affected are Polish, Bengali, Modern Hebrew and Panjabi http://www.aqa.org.uk/supporting-education/policy/gcse-and-a-level-changes/structure-of-new-a-levels

This seems strange for all of the languages but the withdrawal of Polish seems particularly surprising:

- as Polish is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the UK after English.According to the ONS (2013), it is the most common "other" language in the UK.

- is a language spoken in an important EU partner

- is similar to many other languages in Eastern Europe

- is a contrasting language to English and students studying Polish can get a greater awareness of language features such as cases.

A petition can be signed at:

https://www.change.org/p/andrew-hall-chief-executive-officer-aqa-aqa-keep-the-a-level-polish-exam-after-2018

Reference

ONS (2013) Language in England and Wales 2011 Available at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census-analysis/language-in-england-and-wales-2011/rpt---language-in-england-and-wales--2011.html [Accessed 23/03/2015]

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Minority languages and dialects

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 12:00

I recently revisted two places and I had contrasting impressions of the ways that minority languages were/were not being maintained.

The first place was Guangzhou, which I had first visited in 1987.  At that time, it seemed very much dominated by Guangzhou dialect rather than Putonghua.  Now, it seems that the Guangzhou dialect is heard less although it is common in some contexts like restaurants.

The second place was Toulouse where I was struck by the use of dual dialect road signs and underground announcements althhough I did not hear much dialect use in the streets.  Perhaps my experience was too limited as I doubt there would be such a promotion if there was not much use of or interest in the language.

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The language of tutor group forums

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 24 Nov 2011, 12:16

There has been some discussion amongst the E852 tutors about the nature of the tutor group forums and, in particular, how formal and academic the language should be.  It is a complex question and it perhaps relates to the relative importance of different aims for the forums.

One of the aims is for the students to interact and this would seem to suggest that the language should be relatively informal.  Encouragement of interaction would perhaps tend to focus on frequent and relatively unreflective posting.

Another aim would be for students to explore ideas on the course.  This might suggest a more academic style as students refer to experience as well as what they have been reading.

Another important aim might be for the students to rehearse the kinds of ideas and the language needed for their later work.  This might tend to suggest that students should post in a relatively academic way.

I would think that it might be appropriate for the students to use a variety of different voices as they post but would be interested in what others think.

 

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Stephen Fry's Planet word

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 3 Oct 2011, 16:20

Of course the topic is fascinating but I am rather disappointed in the programme so far, partly because it seems to be more about Stephen Fry than language.  It seemed bizarre that the accents of the UK were imitated by Stephen Fry rather than authentic examples being given.

However, perhaps the programme will encourage more people to be interested in language and Fry does seem to have the right instincts in terms of preservation of languages.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b015qqkl/Frys_Planet_Word_Identity/

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David Crystal on language and the internet

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Quite an interesting and accessible talk on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2XVdDSJHqY

 

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article on language skills and job seekers

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This is a good article.  I think the point about making use of languages spoken by migrants is very important.  I think this happens to some extent but it would be useful for the government to acknowledge that migrants often bring linguistic skills as well as needs. 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/mortarboard/2011/sep/16/language-skills-job-requirement?CMP=twt_gu

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Languages and international relations

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There was a brief item this morning on the Today programme about the importance of language learning.  It was discussing some of the problems of a lack of knowledge of key languages around the world (eg Arabic) amongst those involved in international relations.  Just occasionally, this issue is mentioned by the media but I do not see much evidence of the government giving this priority.
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language and football

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Sunday, 17 Jul 2011, 15:49
I heard on the radio that Chelsea players have all been told that they should speak English on club premises.  This strikes me as dubious in terms of rights if they are having private conversations with team mates who speak the same language.  I would be interested in what people like Phillipson, who write about linguistic human rights, think about this.
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language links

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 8 Jul 2011, 15:32

An intriguing site about how websites link to websites with different languages on the web.

http://googleresearch.blogspot.com/2011/07/languages-of-world-wide-web.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FgJZg+%28Official+Google+Research+Blog%29&utm_content=Twitter

 

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An article on SATS by Michael Rosen

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 20 May 2011, 17:07

A very interesting article about the SATs taken a few days ago by many schoolchildren including my own son:

http://community.tes.co.uk/forums/p/488574/6732581.aspx#6732581

 Students of E303 and E844 might see links with some of the concerns of their courses.

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Day school in Taunton - session 1

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 27 May 2011, 14:50

I led a couple of sessions here for the e303 course.  I decided it would be useful to apply some of the contents of the course to the study of literary texts and to critical reading.

The handout for the literature session is given below with some teacher notes in italics.

********************

The language of literature

 

Discuss the following questions in groups.

 

Is there anything distinctive about the language of literary texts?

 

If so, what is it?  If not, what helps you to decide whether a text is literary?

 

The main feature is that they are deviant in some way.

 

Look at the following extracts from the beginnings of literary texts to help you decide.  What, if anything, do they have in common?

 

The Christening

I am a sperm whale.  I carry up to 2.5 tonnes of an oil-like balm in my huge coffin- shaped head.  I have a brain the size of a basketball, and on that basis alone am entitled to my opinions.  I am a sperm whale.  When I breathe in, the fluid in my head cools to a dense wax and I nosedive into the depths.  My song, available on compact disc is a comfort to divorcees, astrologists and those who have ‘pitched the quavering  canvas tent of their thoughts on the rim of the dark crater’. ……

 

Armitage, S. (2010) Seeing Stars London : Faber and Faber.

The field here is somewhat deviant.  It might also be said that there is some deviance textually in the repetition of "I am..."  I also thought "brain the size of a basketball" was an adaptation of "brain the size of a planet".

1 Found Objects

It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel.  Sasha was adjusting her yellow eye shadow in the mirror when she noticed the bag on the floor beside the sink that must have belonged to the woman whose peeing she could faintly hear through the vaultlike door of a toilet stall.  Inside the rim of the bag, barely visible, was a wallet made of green leather.

Egan, J. (2010) A visit from the Good Squad London: Corsair.

Again some of the subject matter (peeing) seemed deviant and there was also some textual deviance in the way that it refers to "the usual way" right at the beginning of the story before we know what usual way is.

I consider it my duty to forewarn the reader that the event described in this tale relates to a very distant time.  Moreover, it is a complete invention.  Mirgorod is now quite another place; the puddle in the middle of the town dried up ages ago, and the dignitaries, the judge, the clerk of the court and the mayor are all respected and well intentioned men.

Gogol, N. (1834, translated Aplin H 2002) The Squabble London : Hesperus.

This is a story that seems to be in a spoken mode in some ways and this is typical of Gogol's "skaz" technique.  I also think there is textual deviance in the use of "Moreover" which contrasts with "a very distant time".  So, it is not clear if the events are invented or just belong to a distant time.  Also, the final sentence seems to throw both the distance and the invention into doubt.

 

Linguistic tools that could be useful

 

What are the linguistic concepts that you have learnt about so far on the course and how might they help you to analyse a literary text?

Some examples would include unusual marking of theme and rheme.  A corpus would help a reader to recognise unusual combinations or expressions that typically belong to clashing registers (in the Longman Grammar sense of the word).

Which of the concepts, if any, might have revealed something about the texts above?

Corpus linguistics, the textual function.

Applying grammatical tools

 

What strikes you as you read the extract below?

 

The use of "I heard/I saw"

What I heard about Iraq in 2005

Eliot Weinberger

In 2005 I heard that Coalition forces were camped in the ruins of Babylon . I heard that bulldozers had dug trenches through the site and cleared areas for helicopter landing pads and parking lots, that thousands of sandbags had been filled with dirt and archaeological fragments, that a 2600-year-old brick pavement had been crushed by tanks, and that the moulded bricks of dragons had been gouged out from the Ishtar Gate by soldiers collecting souvenirs. I heard that the ruins of the Sumerian cities of Umma, Umm al-Akareb, Larsa and Tello were completely destroyed and were now landscapes of craters.

I heard that the US was planning an embassy in Baghdad that would cost $1.5 billion, as expensive as the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero, the proposed tallest building in the world.

I saw a headline in the Los Angeles Times that read: ‘After Levelling City, US Tries to Build Trust.’

I heard that military personnel were now carrying ‘talking point’ cards with phrases such as: ‘We are a values-based, people-focused team that strives to uphold the dignity and respect of all.’

I heard that 47 per cent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein helped plan 9/11 and 44 per cent believed that the hijackers were Iraqi; 61 per cent thought that Saddam had been a serious threat to the US and 76 per cent said the Iraqis were now better off.

I heard that Iraq was now ranked with Haiti and Senegal as one of the poorest nations on earth. I heard the United Nations Human Rights Commission report that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children had doubled since the war began. I heard that only 5 per cent of the money Congress had allocated for reconstruction had actually been spent. I heard that in Fallujah people were living in tents pitched on the ruins of their houses.

I heard that this year’s budget included $105 billion for the War on Terror, which would bring the total to $300 billion. I heard that Halliburton was estimating that its bill for providing services to US troops in Iraq would exceed $10 billion. I heard that the family of an American soldier killed in Iraq receives $12,000.

I heard that the White House had deleted the chapter on Iraq from the annual Economic Report of the President, on the grounds that it did not conform with an otherwise cheerful tone.

Within a week in January I heard Condoleezza Rice say there were 120,000 Iraqi troops trained to take over the security of the country; I heard Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat from Delaware, say that the number was closer to 4000; I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘The fact of the matter is that there are 130,200 who have been trained and equipped. That’s a fact. The idea that that number’s wrong is just not correct. The number is right.’

Weinberger E (2006) “What I heard about Iraq in 2005” London Review of Books Volume 28, number 1: 7-1

Compare it to the following version.  What are the differences in terms of effect and which concept(s) from the course do you think could help explain the differences?

I think the concept of theme and rheme is very useful for examining the differences.

 

Iraq in 2005

In 2005 Coalition forces were camped in the ruins of Babylon.  Bulldozers had dug trenches through the site and cleared areas for helicopter landing pads and parking lots, thousands of sandbags had been filled with dirt and archaeological fragments, a 2600-year-old brick pavement had been crushed by tanks, and the moulded bricks of dragons had been gouged out from the Ishtar Gate by soldiers collecting souvenirs. The ruins of the Sumerian cities of Umma, Umm al-Akareb, Larsa and Tello were completely destroyed and were now landscapes of craters.

The US was planning an embassy in Baghdad that would cost $1.5 billion, as expensive as the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero, the proposed tallest building in the world.

A headline in the Los Angeles Times read: ‘After Levelling City, US Tries to Build Trust.’

Military personnel were now carrying ‘talking point’ cards with phrases such as: ‘We are a values-based, people-focused team that strives to uphold the dignity and respect of all.’

47 per cent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein helped plan 9/11 and 44 per cent believed that the hijackers were Iraqi; 61 per cent thought that Saddam had been a serious threat to the US and 76 per cent said the Iraqis were now better off.

Iraq was now ranked with Haiti and Senegal as one of the poorest nations on earth. The United Nations Human Rights Commission reported that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children had doubled since the war began.  Only 5 per cent of the money Congress had allocated for reconstruction had actually been spent. In Fallujah people were living in tents pitched on the ruins of their houses.

This year’s budget included $105 billion for the War on Terror, which would bring the total to $300 billion. Halliburton was estimating that its bill for providing services to US troops in Iraq would exceed $10 billion.  The family of an American soldier killed in Iraq receives $12,000.

The White House had deleted the chapter on Iraq from the annual Economic Report of the President, on the grounds that it did not conform with an otherwise cheerful tone.

Within a week in January Condoleezza Rice said there were 120,000 Iraqi troops trained to take over the security of the country;  Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat from Delaware, said that the number was closer to 4000; Donald Rumsfeld said: ‘The fact of the matter is that there are 130,200 who have been trained and equipped. That’s a fact. The idea that that number’s wrong is just not correct. The number is right.’

Weinberger E (2006) “What I heard about Iraq in 2005” London Review of Books Volume 28, number 1: 7-1

 

 For those who are interested in language analysis of literary texts, Short's (1996) book is very good.

 

Short, M. (1996) Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose Harlow: Longman.

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Guy Deutscher's "Through the Language Glass"

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 12:01

I have just finished reading this book.  It is argued that we can say anything we need to say in any language but that each language forces us to make some distinctions that others might not.  For example, in Russian, there is a need to decide whether something is siniy (dark blue) or goloboy (light blue).  This, he argues makes the distinction more significant in speakers of Russian than it is for those who do not speak Russian although most people can recognise different shades of blue and label them as we do in English by, for example, using light and dark.

There is another key example, which is that of Matses, a language spoken in Peru.  Here, speakers have to state how they know facts they state (Deutscher refers to them being like "the finickiest of lawyers" (page 153)).  There are separate verbal forms for whether you know something from direct viewing, inferred from evidence (eg a footprint), conjecture or from rumour.  This would presumably give listeners a good opportunity to be critical of other people's claims to knowledge.

Overall, a very interesting book although there are some aspects of the style that are slightly irritating such as a tendency to refer to language as weird or outlandish.

Reference

Deutscher G (2010) Through the Language Glass London: Heinemann.

 

 

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Sorry I Haven't a Clue and language

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:19

The comedy programme "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue" could provide useful examples of many aspects of language analysis.  For example, last week there was a reference to 20,000 odd people in Thanet where the comedy derives from the fact that the odd could be attached to 20,000, meaning about 20,000 or to the people, meaning that the people are odd (strange).

It is interesting how often comedy can help us be aware of how language works in context/discourse.  McCarthy's(1991) book starts with an example from Morecombe and Wise. 

McCarthy M (1991) Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers Cambridge: CUP

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Style in Tony Blair's autobiography

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:21

Another good article in the London Review of Books.  This time it is on Tony Blair's style in his autobiography.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n02/john-barnie/our-guy

 

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Lack of languages in embassies

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 12:00

Patricularly interesting part is

" It is worth mentioning that, of these examples, only the Luxembourg business was conducted mainly in English. I was dismayed to learn recently that neither the Middle East director in the Foreign Office nor two of our ambassadors in important Gulf countries can speak Arabic."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jul/22/ambassadors-relations-diplomacy-cameron

This does seem to show a lack of awareness of the importance of languages among the people in power.

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Review of McCRum book

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 12:01

Interesting issues are raised here.  To me, it seems that all languages are complex overall although they tend to be relatively simple or difficult in different aspects - eg Chinese is simple in terms of days of the week (day 1, day 2 etc) but very complex compared to English in terms of words for family relationships.

http://www.tnr.com/blog/john-mcwhorter/75710/english-special-because-its-globish

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New blog post

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 12:02

A very interesting article about the diversity of the world's languages.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627621.000-language-lessons-you-are-what-you-speak.html?full=true

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Language issues in novels

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 19 May 2011, 15:52
It is interesting to read portrayals of language issues in novels, stories etc.  I am now reading Aravind Adiga's Between the Assassinations and there is an interesting portrayal in one part of the link between the knowledge of English and power/privilege.
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Guardian and language issues

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 19 May 2011, 15:52

Several interesting things in the Guardian on languages.

Phrase books - interesting that they think that these phrase books might be useful in learning a language rather than just being for tourists.  However, it is positive that they are focusing on mainly non- European languages.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/series/language-phrasebooks

The death of a language

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/05/bo-language-extinct-linguistics

A blog on language learning policy and attitudes.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/07/anushka-asthana-french-language-education

 

 

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