Monday, July 25, 2011

Oh snap, what about Pragmatic Acceptability?

Blum-Kulka, 1982

from here

Blum-Kulka (1982) suggested that interlanguage speech act realization might fail
to conform to target language usage on three levels of acceptability: social, linguistic and
pragmatic acceptability. Among these levels, she stresses, pragmatic acceptability as the
most important. The reason is that it can result in misunderstanding in cross-cultural
communications when one violates unintentionally pragmatic acceptability norms in the
target language

BlumKulka and Olshtain (1984) tested NNSs of Hebrew acceptability judgment on requests
and apologies and found that the answers of NNSs who had lived longer in Israel were
more similar to the native speaker norm.

Takahashi (1993) examined the transferability from Japanese to English of five
conventionally indirect request strategies. Transferability was operationally defined as
the transferability rate, obtained by subtracting the acceptability rate of an English
request strategy from the acceptability rate of its Japanese equivalent.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Defn of acceptability

A term from Chomsky (1965) for the acceptability of expressions in natural languages reflecting the view of the participant in communication, not the grammarian (grammaticality). The question of acceptability concerns performance whereas grammaticality is an issue of competence ( competence vs performance)
Acceptability is a relative term, i.e. an expression is deemed more or less acceptable according to the context. 

There are various criteria for determining non-acceptability: (
a) ungrammaticality; 
(b) complex sentence structure involving repeated encapsulating or self-embedding constructions; 
(c) semantic contradiction
(d) untruth in an expression as it relates to a situation; 
(e) an expression that cannot be interpreted because of missing reference or a differing knowledge of the world;
f) stylistic incompatibility.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CE: What you can mean and do with language (You, 2008)

This is perhaps the single most insightful perspective on the significance of "China English" I have read:

This growing meaning potential warrants a fresh, unmechanical conceptualization of China English. The language should not be understood mechanically as bearing a number of Chinese syntactic and pragmatic norms or as having “normative English as its core” plus “Chinese characteristics in lexicon, syntax, and discourse.” This characterization assumes that Chinese and English elements are easily separable, as the inference model seems to imply. Since English is used by numerous Chinese in new contexts and domains, it will undoubtedly develop a rather sophisticated, self-sustaining linguistic system. Rather than viewing the new variety of English against a native-speaker norm, it may better to view it as a new system based on “elements, structures, and rules drawn from both English and from one or more languages used in the environment” (Kandiah, 1998: 99). These elements, structures, and rules will be fused so seamlessly that it might at times be difficult to pinpoint what the Chinese characteristics are in this new variety of English. In my analysis of the bulletin board threads, I have identified patterned rhetorical strategies. Which ones can we be certain are truly influenced by Chinese discourse, and thus can safely call rhetorical strategies with Chinese characteristics? Therefore, identifying Chinese characteristics becomes less important than observing and describing the meaning potential of China English – what Chinese people can mean and can do with English in new contexts and domains.

This is what I've been thinking for a while. Searching for Chineseness (cf. Margie Berns' AILA paper) will only get you so far -- in fact, it won't get you far at all, except in essentializing, or if you want to stay on the "Chinglish = L1 interference that must be eradicated" bandwagon.

I highlight You's last point because what one "CAN" mean or two has two different possibilities: first, there's what you "can" do in the sense of literally what you are able to do. Like, if you want to say "I love you" in English instead of Chinese, because of whatever reason, you are actually able to do that. However, there is also what you're allowed to do, or what is (broadly) accepted by (educational/linguistic/etc) gatekeepers. There's an analogy here to acceptability and the "error vs innovation" distinction. You CAN write or say whatever you want in English. How other people will take it up is not up to you, yet you can use your knowledge of acceptability to your own advantage when choosing how to express yourself.

Thus, knowledge of 'acceptability' latches on to Canagarajah's pedagogy of "shuttling between communities" ... knowing how people are going to view your use can help you make decisions. See also the Matsudas' recent piece on L2 writing pedagogy and WEs.

Of course, I'm still assuming a certain stability, if not in usage, then at least in acceptability. And I think the ideology of acceptability is probably a lot more stable than usage, because what is usage anyway? You can always say whatever you want. It's always changing.

I might be making acceptability into too much of a binary --- acceptable vs unacceptable -- because obviously people react to things in idiosyncratic ways. This actually goes all the way back to J.R. Ross whose 1979 article "Where's English?" attempted to quantify acceptability and came up with some pretty weird attempts to answer that question.

Anyway. Enough rambling.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WECCL Argumentation Tasks

If anything suggests that there is a Chinese English, or at least that "performance" writing for the CET is a genre unto itself, it is this set of prompts:

01.   "Education is expensive, but the consequences of a failure to educate, especially in an increasingly globalized world, are even more expensive." Write an essay of approximately 300 words on this issue to state your own opinion.

02.   Some people think that education is a life-long process, while others don’t agree. Write an essay to state your own opinion.

03.   Nowadays, people have paid more and more attention to degree certificates.  For example, in many institutions, one’s promotion is primarily decided by whether one has obtained a graduate degree or not.  A growing number of critics say that if this tendency goes to the extreme, young people may be misled.  A degree certificate can reflect only one’s academic achievements but not all abilities essential for successful career. Write an essay of approximately 300 words on this issue to state your own opinion.

04.   An African proverb says "If you educate a boy, you educate an individual; if you educate a girl, you educate a family and a nation." Do you agree with this proverb? Write an essay of approximately 300 words on this issue to state your own opinion.

05.   Computer games are very popular among children. However, some people think that computer games have produced more negative effects than positive ones on children's physical, intellectual as well as psychological development. Therefore, they suggest that effective measures should be taken to prevent children from playing them. Write an essay to state your own opinion.

06.   Does modern technology make life more convenient, or was life better when technology was simpler? Write an essay to state your own opinion.

07.   Some people think that the animals should be treated as pets, while others think that animals are resources of food and clothing. What is your opinion?

08.   In the western world, if a family member has got a cancer, his/her family members must tell him/her about it frankly.  If not, it would be regarded as being illegal. But in the Chinese culture, a common practice is not to tell the patient the truth. Some people think that this traditional practice must be changed along with the development of modernization.  Write an essay of approximately 300 words on this issue to state your own opinion.

09.   It is right that college graduates earn higher salaries than the less well-educated in the community. But they should also pay the full cost of their study. Do you agree or disagree?

10.   Some people think that famous people are treated unfairly by the media, and they should they be given more privacy, while some others think that this is the price of their fame. Write an essay to state your own opinion.

11.   Many people say that we have developed into a “throw-away society”, because we are filling up our environment with so many plastic bags and rubbish that we cannot fully dispose of. To want extent do you agree with this opinion and what measures can you recommend to reduce this problem.

12.   Many people think that work nowadays is more stressful and less leisurely than in the past. What is your opinion?

13.   Nowadays men are becoming more and more greedy and selfish. We should return to older, traditional values and show respect for family and local community. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

14.   Nowadays, we are advised by environmentalists to use electronic cards instead of paper cards for holiday greetings. However, some people think that electronic cards do not have the same flavor of paper cards and do not display the same function, either. Write an essay to state your own opinion.

15.   Some people say the government shouldn't put money on building theaters and sports stadiums; they should spend more money on medical care and education. Do you agree or disagree? State the reasons for your view.

16.   Nowadays senior high school students are totally tired of various kinds of examinations given by their teachers in preparing for the future college entrance examinations.  It is generally agreed that this kind of examination system has destroyed students’ creative thinking abilities and hindered their all-round development.  However, the views on how to remedy the situation are various. Some people suggest that this type of examination system should be abolished completely while others think the abolishment of the examination system will bring about more problems than solutions.  For example, without a national entrance examination, we will have problems of privileges and discrimination. Write an essay of approximately 300 words on this issue to state your own opinion.

17.   Some people think the university education is to prepare students for employment. Others think it has other functions. Discuss and say what other functions you think it should have.

18.   Some sport events such as the World Cup may help reduce the tension and bias between different countries and keep the peace of the world. What is your opinion?

19.   The brain drain is a serious problem in developing countries. Some people think the reason for losing the most precious resources is the governments’ poor policy.   If the governments in the developing countries face up to the new reality, this problem can be alleviated.  However, some people think that the brain drain is a universal phenomenon.  No matter whatever measures the government takes, the problem of the brain drain cannot be solved. Write an essay of approximately 300 words on this issue to state your own opinion.

20.   Traffic and housing problems in major cities would be solved by moving big companies, factories and their employees to the countryside. Do you agree or disagree?

21.   Which skill of English is more important for Chinese learners? Some people think that we should give priority to reading in English, while others think speaking is more important. Write an essay to state your own opinion.

22.   Nowadays, electronic dictionaries (E-dictionaries) have been increasingly popular among students. However, teachers think that the overuse of E-dictionaries might have more disadvantages than advantages for English learning. For example, like the use of calculator affecting the skill of calculating, reliance on E-dictionaries may lead to the deteriorating of our spelling ability. Write an essay of approximately 300 words on this issue to state your own opinion.

23.   Some people think children should learn to compete, but others think that children should be taught to cooperate. Express some reasons of both views and give your own opinion.

24.   Will modern technology, such as the internet ever replace the book or the written word as the main source of information? Write an essay to state your own opinion.

25.   Young people are important resources to their country. But governments may ignore some problems faced by young people in running the country. By your experience, what do the government need to do for supporting or helping young people? Show these problems and give your ideas or suggestions to solve this issue.

WHERE IS #26!!!??!?!?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What is a Construct exactly?

Ted & Takk handbook - construct validity: "what an instrument truly measures." (does it measure what it claims to measure - aka construct validity)

I guess theoretical Lx AJTs do in a sense lack construct validity.

"The degree to which the constructs under investigation are captured/measured; the degree to which inferences may be made about specific theoretical constructs on the basis of the measured outcomes" (p 298)


Kaplan - 3 things that scientists measure:

1 direct observables -- the color of an apple, somebody's answer on a questionnaire
1 indirect observables -- I thought sb was a man but she checked 'female' on the questionnaire?

3 - "constructs are theoretical creations based on observations but which cannot be observed directly or indirectly" (p 119)

BUT what is a concept vs a constuct??/

lesley andres never satisfactorily explained this either.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Acceptability is everywhere! Firth and Wagner's SLA smackdown

Gass and
Varonis (1985a) present the following two extracts
involving two NNSs:
(extract 1)
1 NNS1: My father now is retire
2 NNS2: retire?
3 NNS1: yes
4 NNS2: oh yeah
(extract 2)
1 NNS1: This is your two term?
2 NNS2: Pardon me?
3 NNS1: Two term, this is this term is t term your
two term? (p. 151)

Gass and Varonis (1985a) view these extracts as
exemplifications of "exchanges in which there is
some overt indication that understanding between
participants has not been complete." According
to the authors, lines 1 from each extract
contain "unaccepted input" that act as "triggers."
These serve to "stimulate or invoke incomplete
understanding on the part of the hearer" (p. 151).
However, in the case of extract 1, it is at least debatable
whether the interlocutor (NNS2) demonstrates
any kind of "incomplete understanding,"
or that the preceding turn is somehow "unaccepted."
A more convincing case can surely be
made for the interpretation that NNS2's reuse of
the word "retire" (line 2) is seen-by NNS1-as a
request for confirmation, rather than as indicating
"misunderstanding" or "unacceptance." NNS1
provides confirmation in the subsequent turn
(line 3). Further along, NNS2 displays the acceptability
of this interpretation in line 4 ("oh
yeah"). Similar to the Faerch and Kasper (1983)
extract above, Gass and Varonis appear to be basing
their judgement of acceptability and understandability
of line 1 on an implicit assumption
that marked usage (i.e., the marked word order
of "my father now is retire") is problematic*. This
view distorts the analyst's interpretations of what
is going on in the talk, such that NNS2's repetition
of the word-here, "retire" (line 2)-is
taken to indicate a problem in understanding.

* Cf. English as a Lingua Franca & Jenkins' arguments etc. "Acceptability" is actually implicated in classic issues of Native/Nonnative Speaker, Standards, Correctness, ELF, WEs, intercultural communication, communicative competence, grammar, pragmatics, etc etc etc!

Acceptability as a construct

error acceptability - janapolous 1992, rueffet? 1994
acceptability of variations
acceptability of varieties
acceptability of certain textual features
acceptability of certain citation practices
acceptability of certain textual borrowing practices

...these are social/cultural norms, not only lx!

ACCEPTABILITY IS ALWAYS INVESTIGATED IN TERMS OF NS COMPETENCY...WEs demands an extension of the concept to NNS!!!! all grammatical judgments are suspect (within reason) until they are accepted.

A quote from "Making a bigger deal of the smaller words: Function words and other key items in research writing by Chinese learners"

Second, we cannot comment on whether the usages discussed in this paper are still communicatively effective despite being marked, as that is an empirical question that can only be answered in complex ways through further investigations. [aka my study!] What we contend is that written academic genres such as dissertations require a high level of accuracy in expression and stylistic appropriacy, and most academic writers in China aim for international intelligibility and maximal acceptability in their writing. Even if the specific usages of small words do not in themselves cause critical problems in comprehension, learners would do well to avoid them if they want to come across as language professionals, particularly since “small issues” can have undesirable cumulative and additive effects. The EXJA journal articles that we use as a yardstick are, as we mentioned at the beginning of our paper, representative simply of “good English” rather than native-speaker English, as we did not make nativeness a selection criterion in our corpus compilation. Finally, what we can say is that the choice between “local flavor” or “expert-like writing” is not a clear-cut, either/or option. 

As mentioned in the discussion of besides, the corpus-based approach allows us to formulate the following specific pedagogical strategies: (a) unlearn the clearly unacceptable and more spoken-like features; (b) maintain the use of specific constructions that are used correctly; (c) practice the use of novel or underused constructions in order to expand the active vocabulary. Perhaps what we can do is to offer our apprentice writers various alternatives—add to their rhetorical repertoire rather than subtract. Overextended uses of perfectly good academic phrases (e.g., according to) could be handled with sensitivity, to avoid discouraging learners from “trying their hand” at scholarly writing: Expert corpora such as EXJA are an affordance, a resource for teachers to show learners alternative ways of expressing what they want to say, providing authentic samples of structures that apprentices can learn from. Through structured exposure to genre-relevant samples of language use, apprentices can hone their intuitions of how certain phrases are used by expert writers, and learn the alternatives by example. This is different from a word list/phrase list approach, where learners are given a catalogue of putative academic formulae; such an approach tends to lead to misuse, abuse, or overuse, as learners presented with such lists frequently make the mistaken assumption that “more is better.” The more nuanced approach suggested in this paper is for instructors to give credit for good (“correct”) usages, and then offer alternatives so that apprentices can learn a greater variety of ways of saying the same thing, as well as learn when not to use a particular word or phrase, through increased exposure to expert texts and practices.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shi 2001 - NS / NNS teachers

Kobayashi (1992), however, observed that NNS instructors
would accept grammatically correct but awkward sentences compared
to NESs. These findings were all based on pre-determined categorical
evaluations which might have restricted or mandated
teachers/raters judgments. Some, for example, used decontextualized
or edited student writing to direct the raters’ attention (Santos, 1988;
Hinkel, 1994; Kobayashi and Rinnert, 1996). Research is therefore
needed, using authentic writing samples and no predetermined evaluation
criteria, to verify accurately whether NES and NNS teachers
score L2 essays for different reasons.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I think my entire study just changed

Well, at least in terms of methods and participants.

It's actually a lot more interesting and streamlined now.

Only teachers, no students.

I think I'd need to make sure I get good numbers from each context though, like at least 20 from each school.
Might need to offer rewards.

The methodology still feels to new to be valid,

and the theoretical framework a bit wonky.

Here is one of the things that is really hard to judge in this study -- the fact that all of these judgments could be made about the same text. How do you 'choose' which? That, I think is the question for Phase 3.

- This text shows features of ELF. [I'm not sold on ELF.]
- This text shows features common to L2 writers. [Seems likely.]
- This text shows features of Chinese English. [A hard sell, but can be compared to previous studies.]
- This text shows common errors Chinese learners make in English. [extremely likely to be cited, but, I think, problematic in terms of reifying, etc]

What Matters to Readers of Academic Writing

"Other studies, such as those of Santos (1984), Horowitz (1986), and  Johns (1981) also endeavored to investigate the characteristics of L2 discourse and text that were perceived to be essential in the evaluation  assessment of NNS writing among the faculty in various departments, including English. Their results indicate clearly that the expectations of faculty remain consistently focused on lexicogrammatical features of text, such as sentence structure, vocabulary, the syntactic word order, morphology/inflections, verb tenses and voice, and  pronoun use, as well as spelling and punctuation." - Hinkel (2002)

So, when Ss come to English-medium universities already having learned English in an ESL/EFL country, and their usage includes variations (which may or may not be systematized 'at home') -- then what? Is this a place where WEs and L2 writing can overlap?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Is there a "China English" Corpus?

Tian (2010) makes a compelling point:  "...more corpus study needs to be done in showing the features and the practice of the pragmatic norm of Chinese English. There has been corpus studies on error analysis of the “learners’ English” of Chinese with prescriptive method. More corpus description could present features  objectively and make the demonstration more convincing."

He's got a good point -- there are many studies of "Chinese learner English" which are intended to find out what errors Chinese learners of English make. But where does one draw the line between a 'learner' and a 'user' of English? Is a 21-year-old university student who has studied English since age 7 still a "learner?"

The Chinese corpus linguistics website includes a post by a user which identifies the following corpora (in addition to SWECCL, which I've been looking at lately).

Corpus for English Learners in China (Gui Shichun, Yang Huizhong),
College Learner’s English Spoken Corpus (Yang Huizhong),
Chinese English Major Learner’s Spoken Corpus (Wen Qiufang),
CEC Chinese English Corpus (Li Wenzhong)
Middle School English Spoken Corpus (He Anping),

I don't know anything about Li's corpus (his definition of CE is frequently cited by Chinese scholars), but it is the only one that doesn't purport to be a 'learner' corpus. This list comes from a 2002 article by Feng Zhiwei on the history of corpus linguistics in China (read it here). He makes a point about EFL in China (though it could be applied to any 'expanding circle' country really) here:

The third feature of English corpus linguistics in China is its application-oriented tendency and intensive self-awareness. For years, most of Chinese research in foreign language learning had been devoted to the introduction and interpretation of western linguistic theories while there has been not enough independent research fuelled by the linguistic traditions of China. This situation had made it difficult for Chinese foreign language teachers and researchers to develop their own theoretical frameworks, and thus it had limited the contribution they could make to the international research community.

The applied research of corpus has now opened a new platform for English teachers and researchers from China on the international arena, to display their achievements, and to share and exchange their ideas by presenting the cornucopia of their achievements. Therefore, the intimate combination of corpus-driven applied research and the reality of English teaching and learning is a deliberate choice of scholars in the field of English language teaching in China that will propel corpus research in China and give Chinese linguistics an important voice in the international research community. 

This is all well and good. The irony, though, is that many people who are advocating a more "China English" based approach to English teaching in China (that is, the one you'd think would be more homegrown) are working in "western-style" English-medium universities (mostly in Hong Kong), and world Englishes is a "western theory" in the sense that it originally came from linguists working in American and British universities.

Anyway, my real point here is that the purposes of research on traditional corpus(es) of Chinese learner English are, in a sense, "features-based," and WEs studies can also be "features-based." The difference is that the former is starting with a codified, authoritative US/UK English as a norm against which to judge the errors of Chinese learners, while the latter looks for possible innovations which are frequent and seem to be acceptable (by some). This is also Tian's point, I think. What if we took all the error analysis research, all the stuff about "features of L2 writers' texts," etc, flipped it, and started looking for innovations against a WEs framework? Isn't this what has been done for the Outer Circle? Why are we so reluctant to do the same for the Expanding?

Pang (2005) proposes a China English corpus that should "include texts that are published in Chinese official publications (journals, magazines, newspapers, books,CD-ROMs or broadcast through radios or TV channels).English texts written by English learners at various levels at different schools, universities or training institutions do not fit the criterion."

This is interesting to me because, while it supports a CE corpus rather than a "learner" corpus, it doesn't entertain the possibility that Chinese university students can be competent users of English. Granted, I have worked with some of the most elite students in the country (I'm not trying to toot my horn, I just happened to be blindly thrust into teaching them one year), but I assure you that many of them are. What we seem to be coming away with here is the idea that there are two kinds of English in China: the "learner" English which is what every student does, and the "professional" English which is used by academics and the media. This has some merit to it, but it leaves out huge domains -- blogs, microblogs, message boards, business, creative writing, English corners (cf. Kubota on English as a hobby in Japan), etc. And of course the lines are probably not so well-drawn.

China English Ironies*

Reading through an article about China English norms. Many good points, but I think above all the way it is written suggests that CE is in the eye of the beholder. I can't tell you how many times I read an example comparing "Chinese English" to "Standard English" by a Chinese scholar in which I read the so-called Standard English sample as Chinglish.

Here's just one of many examples. This scholar gives the following example (cited from another paper) as an example of Chinese Englsh:

It was raining, the match was postponed.

This is given as an example of parataxis, which it is. But here is the author's "correct English" rewrite:

Because it was raining the match was postponed.

This is interesting to me for two reasons: first, because of the frequent mention of "forward-linking because" being a feature of Chinese (and CE), which suggests that any "Because...therefore..." construction is "Chinese," and second, the lack of a comma for this kind of construction, which looks weird to me. Wouldn't it be more "English" to say this?

The match was postponed because it was raining.

Here are some other examples that make very little sense to me. A is supposedly Chinglish, while B is supposedly "English."

A: You go first!
B: After you!

At most, there's a difference of register here.

A: He is very able!
B: He is an able man.

Both sound odd, but B sounds more Chinglishy to me.

A: I am going out for some minutes.
B: I will be back in some minutes.

A is slightly less than usual, but B expresses a different meaning.

A: He only said a few sentences. He made us very disappointed.
B: We were quite disappointed that he said only a few words.

Not sure why "quite" and "words" are more English than "very" and "sentences."

A: I think he shouldn’t go.
B: I don’t think he should go.

I assume a real grammarian could split hairs on this one, but I'd say that these sentences are barely different at all, and at most they are just ways of emphasizing different things.

A: Last night I worked for my dissertation and slept very late.
B: Last night I worked for my dissertation and went to bed very late.

I agree, the last part of the sentence matters here. But of course careful readers are noticing the preposition oddity in both sentences.

A: Do you want something to drink?
B: Would you like something to drink?

No meaningful difference whatsoever here, if you ask me.

A: Your English is very good. Thank you.
B: Your English is very good. No, no. It’s very poor.

I get where they're going with this. I think it's a mistake in that they have switched B & A. (B is the 'typical' Chinese response to a compliment, whereas A is the 'typical' "English person" response.) But isn't this more of an intercultural communication issue? Can we call this a linguistic or even a sociolinguistic issue? Maybe, but I wouldn't call it a 'feature' of CE unless otherwise persuaded.

This has been pedantic punditry about English with Joel. Thanks for tuning in.

* (The greatest irony, of course, as Xu Zhichang pointed out in a conversation I had with him, that the term "China English" itself smacks of Chinglish.)

POSTSCRIPT: Another interesting "irony" (maybe not ironic, really) is that theories produced in English-speaking countries which no longer hold much quarter there (at least among those who keep up with the trends) are often deployed by Chinese scholars as arguments in favor of CE. For example, Kaplan (1966) is used to show that CE must be as it is because of the "Chinese way of thinking." There is a lot of essentializing done by Chinese scholars on CE. One example: that a certain culturally biased British usage is "something that Chinese cannot bear."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hu Xiaoqiong on foreign teachers in China

" few of them are well trained and come, not for professional reasons, but to travel, to fill in time while looking for a job in their own country, or even simply to find a girlfriend...Many are not deeply interested in Chinese culture...some have personal problems and difficulties of adjustment, and, above all...the great majority are simply not teachers." (Hu 2005, p. 35).

I'd like to disagree, but I can't really.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

L2 writing and ideology

When I was doing my MA at Humboldt, we read my professor Terry Santos' article "Ideology in Composition: L1 and ESL." I didn't realize at the time that it was written in 1992, and that the "ideological turn" in TESOL was actually just about to occur; in fact, don't quote me on this, but you could partly date the turn to people who did their PhDs at OISE in the 90s, several of whom are my profs at UBC now.

While Santos' 1992 paper certainly no longer describes the field as it once was, I still have a great fondness for her 2001 followup, "the Place of Politics in Second Language Writing." What I like so much about the paper is that it is not afraid to say those things which are often caricatured by those on the 'critical' side as "tacit" or "hidden" mainstream ideologies. Note this:

" one who supports the mainstream in applied linguistics and L2 writing, it has been interesting to me to reflect on why the positions of critical applied linguistics, critical pedagogy, and critical EAP and L2 writing remain wholly unrepresentative of my intellectual perspectives, professional experiences, observations of student needs and preferences, and general worldview. Also, as an adherent of centrism and pragmatism...critical approaches seem to me extreme -- extreme in terms of the mainstream -- as well as out of touch with the reality I see of people in schools and universities actually living their lives, at least in the United States and other countries I have lived, worked, and traveled in....I find myself not only in disagreement with both the theoretical positions and pedagogical recommendations they espouse, but in closer embrace of pragmatism, vulgar or otherwise, as a far more satisfying approach to TESOL, EAP, and L2 writing, and, for that matter, everyday life."


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

How Do You Choose What Language to Speak?

You are a functionally bilingual person living in a city which is dominated by one language (which is not your L1) but includes a large number of speakers of many others (including and especially your L1). You are in a restaurant conversing with a friend in your L1, which you share. The staff of the restaurant are communicating in your L1 (which is also their L1) to each other, but they are communicating with their customers in the dominant local language.

What language do you speak to the waitress and why?

Does CR care about WEs?


Y. Kachru (1995, 1999) critiqued traditional contrastive rhetoric as reducing English rhetoric to normative patterns based mainly on style manuals and textbooks. Furthermore, from the point of view of World Englishes, Y. Kachru critiqued contrastive rhetoric’s sole focus on the Inner Circle varieties of English as a point of reference and its failure to validate Outer Circle rhetorical varieties of English (i.e., English used in former British colonies). Furthermore, the tendency to define the expectations of ‘‘native speaker or reader’’ as the rhetorical ‘‘norm’’ reflects a prescriptive orientation that overlooks plurality within language groups and the blurred boundaries between them, which ironically contradicts Whorf’s anti-essentialist plea for  broadening perspectives of humankind through developing a deeper understanding of diverse cultures and languages.

The critique of traditional contrastive rhetoric from a perspective of World Englishes (Kachru, 1995, 1999) exemplifies the postmodern significance of diaspora and multiplicity. For example, Chinese diaspora poses a problem for assuming the existence of a single cultural rhetorical system or thought pattern in Chinese (Kowal, 1998).

As English continues to be seen as an ‘‘international’’ language par excellence (McKay, 2002) on the one hand, the localization of World Englishes (B.B. Kachru, 1986, 1997) has generated a variety of rhetorical practices on the other. Thus, it becomes increasingly vital for students to critique the positioning of English through problematizing: Whose language is English?, What English am I using?, When and why do I use it?, Is it a  language I perceive a need for within my present or future life?, etc

CONNOR 2005 (response)

Another criticism cited by Kubota and Lehner, related to the assumed norms of English, is misdirected. They  cite Yamuna Kachru, 1995 and Kachru, 1999 with regards to the point of view of World Englishes, who “critiqued contrastive rhetoric's sole focus on the Inner Circle rhetorical varieties of English as a point of reference and its failure to validate Outer Circle rhetorical varieties of English (i.e., English used in former British colonies)” (as cited in Kubota & Lehner, 2004, p. 10). Again, contrary to what Kubota and Lehner would like us to believe, contrastive rhetoric has been very aware of the point of view of World and International Englishes (see Connor, 1996, pp. 16–17). In fact, the last section of Connor's (1996) book, dealing with research directions, includes the study of international Englishes as one of the five major research directions guiding contrastive rhetoric work. Not only has the field dealt with the Outer Circle varieties of English but also with the expanding circle of EFL varieties, such as EuroEnglish, as providing emerging norms.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Looking for a Collaborator

I have worried in the past that somehow I lack "credibility" as a Chinese English researcher. While I'm not terribly concerned about that right now, I do have some ideas about English & China that I'd like to pursue, but I feel like the best way to do that would be to work with a Chinese researcher who is interested in the same stuff. At the very least, it would be nice to have someone else to talk to about this stuff, and it would help me feel like I'm not just speculating.

The only problem is, most of the Chinese colleagues I have a relationship with are pursuing more practical aspects of ELT or linguistic research. (I remember a discussion with one of my colleagues in Shaoxing; when I told her I was interested in culture and EIL, she said, very politely, "but really, in the end there's no point in studying that.")

So I'm looking for a collaborator who, like me, is a youngish teacher/researcher interested in sociolinguistics and sociocultural aspects of English in the PRC. I will be probably working on these issues for the next 2-3 years.

Let me know if you know anybody.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Non-inverted Wh-questions

Was just talking to Sarah about this -- it's commonly done by NNESs, but we agreed that we both do it sometimes. Logged into the internet ten minutes later at Blenz Coffee and this came up on their homepage:

Chiang - questionnaire on coherence and cohesion in L2 writing

Could work as part of my attempt to approach this from a "WEs" framework -- use Bamgbose's 'acceptability" and 'authority'  constructs to see how Ts in Canada and China view features of Chinese student writing. Eh?

Notes from IAWE 2010 Chinese English session

Last summer when I was at the IAWE conference I attended a great session on Chinese English. Here are my notes typed out - my attempt to decipher the scribbles I scribbled down that day, plus additional thoughts I'm adding now.

Xu Zhichang (I have since met and corresponded with him -- really nice guy) - Linguistic Features of CE

Def'n of CE: "English in a Chinese context used by Chinese." (Simple -- too simple? Interesting though)
All attempts to come up with a good terminology for CE have been against Chinglish. There is a strong desire to find a place for CE that is not simply learner error, etc.

CE is used for bother intra- and international communication. (Though not interethnic communication among citizens of China, obviously) Compares CE to a picture of a teddy bear dressed in Chinese garb: "It is not a Chinese thing, but it came from America, and it became Chinese."

China Daily has a handbook of some kind related to English words? Published (internally?) in 2002? Is it like a stylebook? How can I get my hands on it?

Xu agrees with Hu -- there is a continuum from Chinglish to China English.

At this point I seem to have a note about some things said by Kingsley Bolton. He asked the majority of the questions at the session, including: "Who is exposed to English in China? Who uses English in China?" He mentioned later, and also I think in a private conversation we had, that foreign researchers tend to be more interested in looking more deeply into the many uses of E in China than Chinese scholars do. Interesting.

Xing Fang - (from Shantou University) - China English

English hegemony -- "80% of world's information is in English" (ok, but how do you measure that -- what is "information"?). E is a "global currency" and there is a belief that "English is superior." There are arguments that Chinese literacy is declining and that E is promoted over Chinese in Chinese business contexts. Uighurs struggle to learn English in addition to Mandarin. McKay -- English related to a "global culture" based on "western mental structures." (This is probable, but again, how to measure it?)

Language ecology, lx equality and human rights, EU's multilingual policy. (Basically getting into newer perspectives on how language should be in the world, how English interacts with other lgs. Both ecology and human rights are interesting frameworks but both have their probs, mostly with insisting on static conceptions of peoples and languages.)

He lays out what seem to be some features of CE: standard BE/AE phonology but syllable-timed; loan translations & calques; lexcial hybridization (taikonaut); grammar: innovations or unsuccessful interlanguage? He says that lecixcal innovations usually work, grammatical ones do not. Lx transfer "should not bend the rules" of SAE/BE, but should be "grafted" onto it with "Chinese thinking patterns." (On grammar, I agree with most of this, but I usually don't make the journey to 'thinking patterns' or 'mental structures.' Not that they don't or can't exist, but I think they are very often invoked without any real clear definition of what we're talking about. The classic case that I rail against is one I heard many times in China: Chinese and English idioms about dogs show that the Chinese look down on dogs, while English-speaking people revere them. I just don't see where that gets us. Anyway, I'm off-topic here.)

Examples of grammatical innovations? "Because" forward-linking: "Because I am hungry, [so] I will eat."(Actually he didn't mention so...but it's the 因为/所以 structure from Mandarin.) Also mentioned the more frequent use of "maybe," though I'm not sure that's a grammatical innovation.

Rhetoric -- didn't catch a lot of this -- something about culture and intercultural communication.

Pragmatics -- again, cultural things. "Have you eaten?" and not using "please" with people you know well.

CE used for ICC within China, closely bound up with AE/BE.

In the end, he argues that actual innovations for CE come variations in vocabulary, rhetoric, and pragmatics. He rejects variations in pronunciation and grammar.

Some questions about intelligibility and standardization came up. CE is not standardized.

Bolton asks: "Who is speaking to whom?" More than Chinese and foreigners communicating, he argues. (I suspect he's right -- but where do we see this? English corners, English classrooms, business? Other?)

Fan Fang -- Attitudes to CE "not yet established." In his study he asked for opinions about CE. Didn't take many notes bc I already knew something of his work. Calls for future -- "non-Chinese opinions, clearer definitions  samples, and triangulation through interviews."

Here comes Bolton again: is the intra-national use of English confined to certain domains? (Again, suspecting that English has a further reach than is being explored.) What about the "language worlds" that young people in China live in? Chinese students "live in a world where there is English." Where in China is English right now? If it's only Ss "learning EFL" in classooms, then all that is happening in China is traditional EFL. BUt -- in some contexts there is a visible use of English in society -- where is this happening?

(Srdihar (was the moderator?): mentions "the enormity of the numbers -- six million teachers" (where?))

Bolton continues: Where is English? It's an empirical question. Contact. Coastal -- taxi drivers in Shanghai. Inland - students learning English. E is mainly used in education - more and more schools use it. Therefore, the most visible form of English in China is in fact Chinese using English with other Chinese. Traditionally, it's thought of as an EFL country, but there are enormous numbers of learners/users now, and English is playing a role in modernity and young people's lives. ("Dangerous to label?" I wrote. Don't know what is meant.)

He continues: Really, there is no such thing as British English, either. All varieties can be deconstructed. Standard language is an idealized form. Local English can be useful for creating a new _____ (I can't read my writing!!).

Bolton's punchline: "What China English is, in fact, is a discourse. It's a phenomenon."

This is key. What we are witnessing is a conscious push to appropriate English in a non-English speaking, EFL, expanding circle country, where English has not been colonially imposed. Oddly, there are some resonances with how American English was named and claimed. This has not really happened before. China + English + Globalization are inextricably connected. The last decade (2001-) has been pivotal if not in actual linguistic innovation, than in how people (scholars, teachers, students, regular people, politicians, journalists, whatever) understand what is going on with China and English.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Possible lexicogrammatical equations

Variation - Intelligibility = Error
Variation + Intelligibility = Creativity
Creativity + Authority = Innovation
Innovation + Codification = Acceptance

Eh? To be revised, maybe.

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a (N)NS

Given that the ever-expanding internet has emerged as a de facto repository or huge English language database, the popular practice of checking for grammatical correctness on the web is thus gradually altering if not revolutionizing our perceptions of what constitutes correct and normative English usage. One crucial point here is that often it is difficult to tell whether the authors of internet texts are English-L2 or English-L1 users.

- David CS Li, "When does an unconventional form become an innovation?"