A useful site for helping learners with developing English for academic purposes.
Very important points are made in these letters, especially the first.
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.
Quite an interesting and accessible talk on youtube
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.
Another article from the London Review of Books
Two points that I think are important are:
1 that academics frequently collaborate and therefore the attempt to introduce competition is not very appropriate
2 learning is frequently hard and that student pleasure is not necessarily synonymous with learning.
I have only had time for a quick browse so far but this site looks very useful for finding out about the effect different languages are likely to have on accents.
Michael Rosen makes some useful points about the use of language in the article below but there is much more analysis that can be done - I assume that in the fullness of time it will be.
An intriguing site about how websites link to websites with different languages on the web.
I made a first go at analysing some recordings of the Second Life sessions we did in April. I was influenced by conversation analysis as described in Hutchby and Woofitt (2008) but did not do a full painstaking conversation analysis.
It is noticeable how often there is a spoken conversation going on at the same time as people were using text chat about often quite different issues. It was also quite interesting to notice that students would sometimes write comments that undermined what was being said. For example, one student was saying that speaking was quite simple in second life and a message popped up on the text chat saying "Not for me it wasn't.
Hutchby, I. and Woofitt, R (2008) Conversation Analysis Second Edition Cambridge: Polity.
An interesting article about bilingualism in The Observer today, showing the advantages of being bilingual.
The question about trilingualism raises important issues about the practicalities of linking this research to the configuration of the brain rather than social factors. Presumably many people who learn a third language have done so as a choice (although there are many parts of the world where three languages are used).
Increasingly universities are using Turnitin to check on whether assignments are being plagiarised and I was looking at the results for some student work yesterday.
It struck me that although it is useful, the findings have to be treated with caution. One student had quite a high score but many of the hits related to her bibliography, which included the standard items. Another student had 0% matches which seemed to indicate it was not related to any previous academic work so perhaps a very low score is also problematic. Despite this, I think it does have a useful consciousness raising function for students making them aware of how they use sources.
This is the second handout from the Taunton day school with brief notes in italics.
Using grammatical analysis to be critical
1 To examine how texts with a strong stance can be analysed in terms of the course concepts you have covered.
2 To have an awareness of how these texts can be changed and the effects these would have.
A text with a clear position expressed
As you read through the text, fill in the following table:
Field of the text
Read through the text and underline what you think are significant indicators of the stance of the writers of this text. How are they trying to manipulate/persuade the readers?
Some things to notice:
Stance - our
Governments would be selected ..... (cf "We would select.... )
placement of Australia (trying to hide a big country?)
Our current tried and tested voting system gives everyone one vote and delivers clear outcomes. The Alternative Vote is a complicated, expensive and unfair system that gives some people more votes than others. It might sound like a small change but the danger is in the detail – it's a politicians' fix.
Governments would be selected (espistemic) through backroom deals and people would have no control over where their vote goes. It should be (deontic) voters that decide who the best candidate is, not the voting system. Defend one person, one vote. Vote NO to AV on 5 May.
Why Vote No
AV is costly
AV is complex and unfair
AV is a politician's fix
Vote NO to AV on 5 May 2011
NOtoAV is a campaign that has support from right across the country. Members of the public, trade unionists and members of several political parties are part of a campaign that has a common goal. Whilst we have many different views on what system of elections is best for Britain, we all believe that the Alternative Vote (AV) system will only damage Britain 's democracy
http://www.no2av.org/why-vote-no/ (accessed 4th May 2011)
Try making changes that will make the stance the opposite to the one given in the text. For example “Our current tried and tested voting system gives everyone one vote and delivers clear outcomes” could be changed to “Their old fashioned discredited system gives some people power and delivers unfair outcomes”.
How would you classify the kinds of changes you make?
Analysing an example of a text with the opposing position
How would you go about analyzing the position exemplified in the text below?
How is it similar to or different from the first text?
What are alternative verbs that could be used for the underlined ones and what difference would they make?
Things to note
- change of "must" in headline to "should".
- high density of the word "conservative" in the last two paragraphs.
Britainmust change its electoral system – or slump back to Ukania
The AV system isn't/ might not be ideal, but it's the best choice we have. Voters should seize this opportunity: it will not come again
Today, Britain holds what is only its second national referendum, and the first to be unconditionally binding. It's a big day. Any British voter who wants this country to move towards a more open and responsive political system should turn out to say yes to the introduction of the alternative vote in general elections. That's a small first step, but others would follow.
If, as most opinion polls now suggest, the Noes have it, this will be a victory not just for the Conservatives, as a party, but for a small-c conservative, English view of how Britainshould be. It will be the political counterpart of last week's royal wedding. Those of us who want constitutional reform that keeps the baby of British traditions, but throws out the dirty bathwater, will be dunked right back in that bathwater. The conservative, English-dominated, ramshackle kingdom of Ukania (to borrow the Scottish writer Tom Nairn's ironic coinage) will endure, until eventually one of its constituent parts – probably Scotland – decides that enough is enough.n
It is amazing how the anger at the dysfunctional, corrupt old politics of Westminster , which exploded in 2009 over the issue of MPs' expenses, seems to have evaporated. "Our political system is broken," said the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition programme for government, published less than a year ago, and signed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Our system is broken – so don't fix it, says Cameron now, campaigning vigorously against electoral reform, stuffing an unreformed House of Lords with party placelings, and insisting only on a redrawing of constituency boundaries that benefits his party. Joining him to defend the first-past-the-post electoral system, many Labour veterans show themselves to be conservatives under the skin.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/05/av-electoral-reform-for-best (Accessed 5th May 2011)
Another LRB article on universities that questions some assumptions about Ivy League universities and the way that the government seems to be uncritical.
The following is a key quote:
"Might markets have the beneficial side effect of driving up academic standards? Much depends on the measure you use; but the academic standard that markets are most likely to drive up is the one that matters most to high-fee-paying students: marks. Way back when, the average mark in the US was supposed to be a C. Nowadays, the more expensive the university, the higher the average mark, with the average in private universities now an A-minus. Why is grade inflation so closely correlated with fee inflation? The reason can easily be guessed. If you’ve attended one of America’s hundred costliest colleges or universities and paid upwards of $200,000 for a four-year degree, then it had better be a good one."
A very interesting article about the SATs taken a few days ago by many schoolchildren including my own son:
Students of E303 and E844 might see links with some of the concerns of their courses.
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?
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
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.
This session involved students in designing in response to design briefs set by other students.
There was a lot of exploratory talk (Mercer 2000) with students giving reasons for something (eg "Papier mache would be good because you can shape it) or for not choosing a particular course of action (If we used glue, it would make it unrecyclable").
There were three other phenomena that struck me. Firstly, although there was a lot of talk, there were also silent episodes as students concentrated on the task. Secondly, the boundaries between study and social life seemed to blur (Snyder 2000) as students chatted about their experiences after they had finished the task. Thirdly, some of the students began to react against the use of pseudonyms.
Mercer N (2000) Words and Minds London: Routledge
Snyder I (2003) "A new communication order: researching literacy practices in the network society" in Goodman S., Lillis T, Maybin J and Mercer N (eds) (2003) Language, Literacy and Education: a Reader Stoke on Trent: Trentham
Another interesting but rather different session. We started in Second Life and then split into groups in Flash meetings for group discussions making use of a whiteboard before returning to Second Life for a plenary. The group task involved clarifying the concept of fragility before setting a design brief for the other groups.
The move to Flash meetings was interesting psychologically as people moved from being avatars to being their real selves. Many of the techniques for building meaning that Mercer refers to were apparent during this stage. For example, there were reformulations “We can use the whiteboard” followed by “You can use the whiteboard” with the interesting change of pronoun perhaps helping the students to feel more responsibility. There were also repetitions like “Breakable, yes”. There were elicitations “If you think about a design brief, what would you have”. There were also exhortations like “Great teamwork!”
The return to Second Life allowed for reflection on the task and to pass on information about the design briefs to be worked on.
The switches between Second Life and Flash Meetings seemed to work reasonably smoothly although there were some lags going between them.
Mercer N (2000) Words and Minds London : Routledge
There was a second session last night, which was again interesting. A lot of what I observed links with much of my other OU courses.
First of all it was noticeable how much the students learnt by talking to each other. This was evident even before we really started when one student helped another in completing some questions about the concept of fragility.
The next part of the session involved the students in constructing objects so there were many language phenomena which were interesting. These would seem to be language in action (Carter and McCarthy 1996). One interesting feature was the use of informal language while on task - eg "It is tricky/it is a bit fiddly". This reminds me somewhat of the hybridity referred to Gutierrez et al (2003).
There was a brief exchange in French between two French speaking students that was perhaps useful in enabling them to do the task. Perhaps, this use of languages other than English could be encouraged, especially if it makes the task more efficient and then the students would need to report in English so they still have scope for practising the English they need.
Carter R and McCarthy M (1996) Exploring Spoken English Cambridge: CUP
Guttierez K., Baquedano-Lopez P, and Tejeda C (2003) "Rethinking diversity: hybridity and hybrid language practices in the third space" in Goodman S., Lillis T, Maybin J and Mercer N (eds) (2003) Language, Literacy and Education: a Reader Stoke on Trent: Trentham
I am doing some language support for some sessions on Second Life for some students studying design.
We had the first session and it seemed to go well. Some general reflections are listed below:
- it is hard to control movements and it feels surprisingly embarassing when my avatar does strange actions like getting too close to others.
- the language used in the first discussion did not seem very technical but had features of general academic discourse - suggestions were made ("perhaps...." "might.....") and critiqued.
- text and voice is used, sometimes simultaneously which puts quite a demand on concentration.
- I gave brief feedback on language issues and the main items some students struggled with were my jargon (e.g "hedging"). This is understandable as they are not studying language but this makes it clear how much we get used to our own specialised terms.
It has been interesting that online group work for L185 seems to have been particularly successful this time - it is working how it should.
It is noticeable that there is a lot of supportive chat going on as well as the task focused discussion. There are many women in the groups and this does tend to confirm that women post more of what Rovai (2001: 41) calls “socio-emotional messages”.
Rovai, A.P. (2001) “Building classroom community at a distance: a case study” Education Technology Research and Development, Vol. 49, No. 4, 2001, pp. 33–48
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