I’m not sure how many people have read articles pertaining to this, it seems the internet is awash with the news this week. Researchers Elaine Stotko and Margaret Troyer from John Hopkins University have reported a thrid person singular pronoun has spontaneously arisen in the speech of high school children in Baltimore. You can read their original paper about the form here. As I mentioned Grammar Girl and NPR were among those that reported the findings, and there was much twitter activity as well. It is interesting that the form was created spontaneously, after years and years of people trying to find a suitiable gender-nuetral singular pronoun in English. ‘They’ is often used, and an interesting article about ‘they’ as singular pronoun by Tania Strahan is located here.
Here is an interesting article about the influences of Indian languages on English, during the British colonial occupation of India. The article focuses on a book titled Hobson-Jobson, a dictionary of Asian words and their use by the British in India. It is very interesting to learn so many words were loaned from Aisian languages into English, as we usually think of English as the dominant language from wich words are loaned.
The accents of the 5 boroughs of New York
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This would have to be one of my favourite skits by Abbot and Costello (I’m really showing my age here). I enjoy the twist on words that they both display so fluently. It is making a bit of fun of lexical ambiguity. Abbott knows exactly what he is talking about, and Costello’s replies are just a confirmation of what Abbott is saying. Poor Costello reminds me of myself trying to comprehend some of the concepts of this semester!
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Speakers differ their language in response to different situations which consist of various aspects like the subject or to whom they are speaking. B&B states that jargon, in contrast to register, has negative connotations because it might annoy people who do not understand it, but on the other hand it confirms the status of those who are familiar with it. In this documentation the management and branding expert Jonathan Gaban talks about the peculiarities of management talk. It is rather used to intimidate outsiders than to make communication easier among the members. If one person does it, the others will imitate it because you want to look good in front of the “tribe”. I find this very interesting as it shows how language can be manipulated not for the purpose of wanting to be able to communicate with everyone but in order to create your own image and to distance yourself from others.
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Borjars and Burridge state that Standard English and non-Standard English are both dialects of the English language, with standard English being the most widely recognised and used one [Ch 1 p3]. The speaker in this video is suggesting that teachers should approach their teaching of students who speak a non-standard dialect of English in the same way they would a student whose family language is non-English [using French and Spanish as examples]. He points out that by using the prescriptivist view, and telling a student that their dialiect is ‘wrong’ can be viewed as both personally and culturally insulting – it suggests that their dialect is substandard. This is in agreement with the view expressed by Borjars and Burridge on p3 of the text [“Non-standard must never be equated with substandard”]. He discusses approaches to teaching such as asking a student “How would you say that in Standard English?” in the same way one would ask “How would you say that in French?”
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Interestingly, I’ve found that people seem to have better recognition and acceptance of Pirate English than they do for most non-standard varieties of English such as Aboriginal English for example. As mentioned in chapter one of Borjars and Burridge, these non standard varieties tend to be seen by most as ‘bad English’, rather than as varieties in their own right. People don’t tend to label Pirate English as bad English, they tend to accept that ‘that’s the way a pirate speaks’. I’m not suggesting that it would be acceptable to present an essay in Pirate English, or that you wouldn’t receive strange looks at the supermarket, but I did note that the surprisingly large community of Pirate English Enthusiasts all seemed to agree that the reason for them learning Pirate English was because they simply enjoyed the way that speaking it made them feel.
Perhaps this could help people to understand the importance of different varieties of English, to see that each variety is defined by and at the same time defining its speakers and their experience.
I look forward to being able to view my facebook page in Aboriginal or Trinidad English one day soon. Right now I am thoroughly enjoying it in Pirate English (you can too!)
http://www.facebook.com/editaccount.php?language to change your facebook profile to pirate English
Here are some links to online Pirate English translators:
This site has various different teaching materials for teachers of high school and primary school children. Once again I was surprised at their enthusiasm to teach pirate English.
Probably the most detailed book I have found is The Pirate Primer, George Choundas. You can’t read it online, but if you’re serious about learning pirate it would be useful. A lot of the word lists come from old English and it’s interesting to see their origin.
This link takes you to a play list with a mixture of David Crystals thoughts, along with a mixture of others. You can easily skip through the non relevant posts to get to the next ones. A great playlist – you get to see and hear the man behind the many great books.
Listen to it and enjoy – and maybe one day the new term for baggage stress will catch on! Happy viewing!
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Sarah Parker: This blog is about two university students who have written a book which presents literary classics in bite-sized portions of ‘twitter-speak’, or as the authors call it, ‘Twitterature’. It is an interesting example of e-speak because rather than presenting the ‘boundless chaos of a living speech’ (Samuel Johnson as quoted by B and B on p250) in written form, it presents the traditional and famously ‘correct’ written text in a non-standard, instantaneous and extremely condensed form. It is, in a way, a reversal of the usual processes of e-speak. It not only blurs the line between traditional written communication and the instantaneousness and brevity of speech – it dissolves the line completely. The omissions, contradictions and non-standard spelling that B and B list (on p249) as hallmarks of e-speak are all represented in Twitterature and are perhaps especially noticeable as they are featured within the famously ‘correct’ context of great literary classics. The juxtaposition of twitter-speak and literature has elicited strong reactions from some readers. Some of the negative responses, such as “Shakespeare would be rolling in his grave”, seem to suggest that twitter is viewed as a contradiction, almost a violation, of traditional literature. The controversy ignited by this book leads to interesting questions about both language change and notions of literary prestige. The sometimes uneasy juxtaposition of planned and unplanned communication is magnified by ‘Twitterature’. B and B note on p250 that most communication falls somewhere in between the two, but it seems fair to conclude that, until now, literary classics and twitter were securely entrenched in polar opposite extremes.
Cathy Mann: As I was reading Chapter 5 of Borjars and Burridge and thinking of examples of declaratives, interrogatives, imperatives, imprecatives and exclamatives, it dawned on me that urging someone to clean up their bedroom demonstrates all of the above and their subgroups (eg Yes/No interrogatives, alternative questions, tag questions, wh-interrogatives and imperative particles).
For a long time, I have told (threatened) my children that I am going to record myself saying things that I have to say over and over again, so that I can:
1. avoid constantly having to repeat myself, and
2. save some voice, and
3. embarrass them (not to mention myself!)
I have now found the perfect reason to do such a recording and can just play them the YouTube video every weekend!
For the purposes of this recording, a stuffed toy is the face of the show. Please excuse the domestic nature of the content and the amateur recording attempt.
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Ex-president Bush Jr. has long been famous for his “Bushisms”. They are very good examples of discourse and internal grammar – sometimes he says words from a different sentence in the current one.
An example of mixing up the topic with the object: “You’re a mother, you’re working hard to put food on your family.” This happens commonly in the speech of most people – the topic is often spoken instead of the object, as our brains are more concerned with the topic (the bigger picture) than the object (the details).
Many students of English as a second language find the BE verb hard to master. Under pressure, it can pose a challenge to even the president: “Is our children learning today?”
We see what happens when the grammar of an idiom is modified in: “it’s easy to see the tide turn.” This has a completely different meaning from the idiom.
There are many more examples. While it is easy to laugh at Bush, these slips of the tongue are very common, and most native speakers make them on a regular basis. They show how the mind processes information, sometimes in non-grammatical forms.
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As the textbook Burridge and Borjars discussed in topic 11 English Worldwide, there are a number of new types of Englishes. There is a large percentage of L2 English speakers and English as a second language in Singapore is quite high. This video shows a sentences and an accent of a type of new English called Singlish. Singlish has been formed to preserve the national identity and uses a mixture of grammar and vocabulary with the native language. As this is an educational video it seems that it is seen as being much more professional to use the Standard English for L2 English speakers in Singapore. This video shows the difference between Standard English and Singlish by going through different circumstantial sentences to understand the difference of each. Singapore English seems to have shorter sentences compared with Standard English sentences that are quite long.
I chose this video because it displayed several aspects of grammar which have been discussed so far in this unit. Dave Allen does a fantastic job of making a comedic sketch out of everyday speech. Included are variations within the English Language from various countries which show how a word which is meant to be endearing can actually be threatening and vice-versa – for example calling someone ‘pal’ when you are trying to pick a fight with them, or calling them a ‘bastard’ when you are trying to be friendly. There are also rhetorical questions in this piece, also from America -You know what I mean? – and England – You don’t say?. And demonstrations of various types of sentences including the exclamative – No shit!- and the way this word is used in many ways except for what it actually means. Also included are many examples of what B&B have called Non-standard English.
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When it comes to using the relative pronouns ‘who’ and ‘whom’, many English speakers don’t have a clear understanding of the environments in which the pronouns are to be used. Borjars and Burridge (B&B) note on page 198 of our text that the distinction between ‘who’ and ‘whom’ comes down to subject form and object form.
This video defines the individual parts that make up relative clauses and clearly sets out the rules for using ‘who’ and ‘whom’, differing slightly from the description in B&B. The video says that ‘who’ is used when the relative pronoun is the subject of the clause and ‘whom’ is used when the relative pronoun is “anything else” in the clause.
I prefer the description given in B&B that ‘whom’ occurs with object form. As my own example, I have adapted the third example provided in the video:
The student whom there is very little known of.
This subjectless clause is certainly sayable, and it is due to the object that we use ‘whom’ rather than ‘who’. If the preposition is fronted with the relative pronoun (referred to as Pied Piping by B&B) then it becomes:
The student of whom there is very little known.
This sounds and looks much better than the previous example and it is again the object form that is used here.
Standard English is considered the dialect of English with the most influence. Although linguistically speaking, Standard English is not considered better than any other form of English.
Standard English can be considered a language used to communicate between people who don’t share a common language, and has become codified.
This video discusses whether or not there is Standard English evident in England, and is relevant as Standard English originated from the London-Central Midland region of England. It looks at the lexical and syntactic variants around England, and comes to the conclusion that there is to some extent Standard English in England. There are multiple variations of Standard English, and variants have become markers of linguistic identity.
Standard and non-standard English show differences in accent, vocabulary and grammar. It is interesting to discover that even in England, Standard English has variations and differences.
Is there Standard English in England?
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Although I found this video a little offensive in its portrayal of African American culture, it does demonstrate some examples of the African American variation of standard American English, relevant to the language variation of standard and non-standard English which we looked at in topic 1. This ethnolect has been identified as the primary dialect used in many African American speech communities. It is a good example of how a disadvantaged group used language to create solidarity. It varies from standard American English in pronunciation (phonology), grammar and vocabulary.
I found the last part of the video particularly interesting as it demonstrates how words can be interpreted incorrectly, usually as different phrases, due to the variation of pronunciation used between standard American English and African American English (Ebonics), for example ‘fortify’ could be interpreted as ‘forty five’ in African American English, and ‘disappointment’-'this appointment’. These examples demonstrate the ambiguity of sounds in language, especially when pronunciation varies between different dialects.
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And if you’d like to try your hand at Ebonics, here’s a fun website which translates your text into Ebonics.
Here’s a translation of my above post. I wouldn’t say it’s accurate, just a bit of fun!
Although meh found this video a little offensive in its portrayal o’ African American culture, da thang does demonstrate some examples o’ da African American variation o’ standard American English. This ethnolect haz b’in identified as da primary dialect used in many African American speech communities. da thang iz a good example o’ how a disadvantaged group used language ta create solidarity. da thang varies from standard American English in pronunciation (phonology), grammar an’ vocabulary.
I found da last part o’ da video particularly interesting as da thang demonstrates how words can be interpreted incorrectly, usually as different phrases, due ta da variation o’ pronunciation used between standard American English an’ African American English (Ebonics), fo’ example ‘fortify’ could be interpreted as ‘forty five’ in African American English, an’ ‘disappointment’-’this appointment’. These examples demonstrate da ambiguity o’ sounds in language, especially when pronunciation varies between different dialects.
Melissa Partridge: This is only loosely relevant to our unit however it is always a pleasure watching Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. They demonstrate ambiguity nicely and use some great metaphors to describe language, particularly the way they point out that despite the English language having a set amount of words, there is still the possibility that you can construct a sentence that has never been uttered before!