Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What is Left Unmarked... almost more important that what is left marked.

Usually in AJTs you can only get data about what is unacceptable, not what is acceptable. In other words, you get "this is not OK, because ...." but even if you ask them to give a thumbs up to sentences that are OK, you're not getting much (or any) feedback. On a traditional AJT, you just get nothing and can assume the sentence is part of the language's grammar.

Even on one of these in-context AJTs, though, you don't get anything on the unmarked parts unless you talk about it in the interview. (Which I don't think I did much of, really, though I will go through and find out.)

But...and here is where I am thinking/hoping that using a corpus might come in handy...I think that if I can create a kind of grammatical "map" of the essays and focus in on the stuff that was NOT commented on, I might get an interesting idea of nonstandardisms that are OK in the eyes of readers. (Or at least marginally OKer than what they commented on.)

For example, off the top of my head, I know that none of the commenters marked the chunk "Gulou campus" as unacceptable. In a sense that is the most Chinese phrase in the whole study, because it is an untranslated word used in an English essay. The fact that no one marked it suggests to me that things like this -- names of places I guess, or maybe this could even be considered a direct borrowing from Chinese into English -- are seen as OK by readers. And that therefore doing this, which seems like a feature of CE discourse, is not marked as wrong, and is acceptable...

Hmm. I'm just kind of riffing here, but can we say anything about CE as a result of this "finding?" Can we say something like this?

No reader objected to this  direct transliteration of a Chinese place names. Therefore, transliterations of Chinese place names are likely to be an accepted feature of Chinese English discourse.

I think maybe we can.

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