Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mollin's Euro-English

Just ILL'ed a copy of Sandra Mollin's book Euro-English: Assessing Variety Status. A quick skim reveals that it includes 3 studies - she determines that these 3 things need to be sorted out in order to assess whether a lg merits "variety" status:

1. FUNCTION - synthesis of previous statistical research on uses of English throughout EU states.
2. FORM - Mollin created her own corpus and mapped it to the ICE-GB. Don't know how features were singled out for analysis/explanation -- need to look into that.
3. ATTITUDE - Large survey of European professors, including a section on evaluating samples of Euro-English (oddly, not taken from the corpus, but based on "stereotypical" features from previous research - this seems a problem, but I think I understand why she did it), as well as questions about attitudes toward English in general.

To what extent could/should one try to replicate these in other contexts? Could they be single countries, or would it be better to look at analogous associations -- "the Sinosphere," ASEAN, Africa, etc?

Monday, January 17, 2011

How do you get at the question "What is a language?"

Other than a dialect with an army and a navy, I mean.

"What is English?"

Well, um, it's a language, a system with its own rules of morphology, phonology, orthography, syntax, etc., which can all be described by very specific references to...well, to itself, I suppose. That is interesting. One begins to understand the distinction between the "traditional" study of language-as-system and the "less traditional" study of language-in-use. Where does the system come from? Who makes it? While we all seem to have the innate capacity to understand and do language, we don't really map out the system ourselves. Nobody has the blueprints (despite what L'Academie might wish), yet we are constantly building. Bakhtin tells us that no one short of God has made an original utterance (and that I assume he means metaphorically).

The thing is, then, that language is made and re-made and grows and changes constantly. Maybe the changes take a while -- half a century to get the current connotations of, say, gay in English or tongzhi in Mandarin --but language is what it is because we keep on making it what it is. (Why? I have no idea what causes us to keep changing it. Maybe it has something to do with boredom.)

What I'm getting at is, I used to think that the most important thing for getting at a definition of a language -- or specifically, a variety of English -- was a hardcore analysis of the stuff of language itself -- linguistic or rhetorical or discourse analysis. What I think I think now (not a typo), though, is that those kinds of analysis are very good for some things, but they're not necessarily ideal for answering the question "what is this language?" (Well, there's also corpus analysis, which I used to think was overly sciencey and academic, but which I am more and more interested in since it is based on real samples of language-in-use.)

People -- everyday schlubs like you and me -- are the ones who make language, and the ones who decide what it is. So one of the best ways to figure out what a language is -- and this is going to sound so simple and naive as to be almost absurd -- is to ask people what it is.

Is this English?
Is this good writing?
Is this standard English?
Is this a well-written sentence?
Is this grammar OK?
What does this mean? Would you write it that way if it was your essay?
Why not?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Notes about advancing to candidacy in LLED


Option C: The Doctoral supervisory committee, in consultation with the student, determines the topics for three papers before any writing begins. The student may propose the three topics and/or draft three possible questions or outlines to present to the committee. The student may also provide initial reading lists (prior to Sept. 2010 all students were required to complete 3 comprehensive papers, as described here).

The papers typically cover the following three general areas:

1. The student’s area of specialization within Language and Literacy Education

does this mean TESL, or more specifically, L2 writing? How specific am I supposed to get here? ESL/EFL gap, NESTs and L2 writing, English writing in China -- some specific question about those?

2. One additional area or group of areas of special interest

Presumably world Englishes? Relationship of WEs to "China English?" Just English in China, broadly?

3. Appropriate research methodology

Review of survey/interview studies in WEs? In EFL writing? In Chinese ELT? In TESL, broadly?

Or....Dr Shi has suggested the papers should be:

1. Theoretical framework (Is WEs a theoretical framework? Should I delve into Bourdieu & Bakhtin as I did in an earlier paper that I totally fudged?)

2. Research Methods (I've heard it said this can be hard because it tends to be vague and not tied to anything real...Obvs need to do this at some point, but how shall I approach it?)

3. Empirical review of previous studies (To be folded into diss. Question is: Which studies? English in China? Probably, right? But if I'm influenced by other "is this a WEs variety" studies -- e.g. Europe, Singapore, India, Africa -- shouldn't those be just as necessary?)

Actually Dr Shi's way makes more sense to me...and it's basically half the dissertation. Yeah.


(from the new procedures; comps above are based on old procedures. I have a choice. Not sure which one to go for with proposal -- new way is more work but more feedback.)

After the coursework and comprehensive examinations, the research design for the dissertation is brought together in the form of a proposal. The proposal for the dissertation includes the research problem, theoretical framework, methodology, a thorough review of the research literature and the context for the work within relevant literature, the significance and limitations of the study. Including a time line and summary of the scope of each chapter of the thesis is also recommended. The proposal should be about 40 pages in length.

The research supervisor, in consultation with the student, will determine when the proposal is ready for examination. The student will then submit the proposal to the supervisory committee and circulate it to members of the department. The proposal presentation date should be scheduled at least three weeks after the proposal has been circulated. The defence will comprise two parts: a public presentation with questions from the supervisory committee and others (maximum of one hour) and a closed session with the student and the supervisory committee. Although the dissertation proposal will be the focus of questioning, the student should also be prepared to answer questions on areas relevant to the study.

I like the sound of that a lot, actually.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Is there such a thing as Christian sociolinguistics?

Berry, W., (2005). Standing by Words : Essays. City: Shoemaker & Hoard.

Coates, R., (1998). Christianity in Bakhtin. Cambridge: Cambridge Unversity Press.

Freire, P., & Macedo, D. (1987). Literacy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Kristjansson, C. (2007). “The Word in the World: So to Speak (A Freirean Legacy)” in Smith, David I. & Terry A. Osborn (eds.),Spirituality, Social Justice and Language Learning. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Steiner, G., (1991). Real Presences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Percy, W., (2000). Lost in the Cosmos. New York: Picador USA.

Poythress, V., (2009). In the Beginning Was the Word. Wheaton: Crossway Books.

Also the pope's Verbum Domini seems important maybe.