W(h)ither the /r/ in Britain?

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Weighing up a new style of pronunciation

Post written by Michael Bulley, based on an article in the latest issue of English Today 

In this article, I express my disapproval of a recent development in pronunciation found in an increasing proportion of native speakers of British English. I thereby run the risk not only of offending those who have the feature I criticize but also of being frowned upon by linguistics professionals who think aesthetic judgements have no place in the discipline.

The sound in question is a pronunciation of the letter ‘r’, in words like ring, bread and around, that is closer to a /w/ than to a ‘traditional’ /r/. The BBC television news contains many presenters and reporters who exhibit this feature. Academic . . . → Read More: W(h)ither the /r/ in Britain?

English in rural Bangladesh

Blog piece by Elizabeth J. Erling based on an article written by Elizabeth J. Erling, Philip Seargeant and Mike Solly in the latest issue of English Today

Having worked in an educational project that sought to enhance English language teaching across Bangladesh brought me to visit schools in rural areas. Once there, I sometimes wondered: what is the value of English learning for these communities? The schools often didn’t have electricity, the villages were difficult to access, or even impossible during certain parts of the year. Literacy rates in the country still hover around 55 per cent, and 30 per cent of the population live below the international poverty line. Surely there were more pressing development needs than English language learning?

With this . . . → Read More: English in rural Bangladesh

The dangling participle – a language myth?

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Article written by Carmen Ebner based on an article in the latest issue of English Today

In our research project Bridging the Unbridgeable: linguists, prescriptivists and the general public at Leiden University we would like to encourage a critical discussion of so-called usage problems between the three involved groups. What constitutes a usage problem, however, is not always an question with an easy and straightforward answer.

In my English Today feature I am discussing the dangling participle, which is often said to cause ambiguity and misunderstandings due to the lack of a suitable subject in the participle clause. I have conducted an online questionnaire which includes an example of the dangling participle. The results of this survey show that the acceptability of using the . . . → Read More: The dangling participle – a language myth?

‘[The Irish] find much difficulty in these auxiliaries […], putting will for shall with the first person’

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Blog post written by Kevin McCafferty based on an article in the latest issue of  English Language and Linguistics

The decline of first-person shall in Ireland, 1760–1890

The Irish just don’t use first-person shall, and they never have. They’ve always said Will I close the window? and We will be there soon. That’s the consensus of grammarians and other commentators from the eighteenth century onwards. And linguists who have studied Irish English in recent decades agree that shall is virtually non-existent in the English of the Irish. So ingrained is this view that the decline of shall in North America – which is now affecting British English, too – is even attributed to the influence of Irish immigrants.

This study uses the Corpus of Irish . . . → Read More: ‘[The Irish] find much difficulty in these auxiliaries […], putting will for shall with the first person’

Bilingual Cognitive Advantage: Where Do We Stand?

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Linguistic experience and its effect on cognition.

The following post by Dr. Aneta Pavlenko appeared on the Psychology Today blog, “Life as a bilingual”

Like all other walks of life, academia is not immune to fashions. In the study of bilingualism, one such trend has been the study of “the bilingual cognitive advantage”, the theory that experience of using two languages – and selecting one, while inhibiting the other – affects brain structure and strengthens ‘executive control’ akin to other experiences, such as musical training, navigation, and even juggling. This strengthening has been linked to a variety of findings: the superiority of bilingual children and adults in performance on tasks requiring cognitive control, resistance of bilingual brains to cognitive decline, and the delayed . . . → Read More: Bilingual Cognitive Advantage: Where Do We Stand?

Repetitions which are not repetitions: The non-redundant nature of tautological compounds

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Blog post written by Réka Benczes, based on an article in the latest issue of English Language and Linguistics 

One of the most intriguing – and least studied – areas of English word-formation are so-called “tautological compounds” that are formed out of synonyms (such as subject matter), or where one of the constituents is already included in the meaning of the other constituent (such as oak tree).Their oddity can be attributed to two main reasons. First, as their name, “tautological compound” implies, at face value such combinations can be considered as prime examples for the redundancy of language. Second, they do not follow normal compound-forming rules in the sense that both constituents can function as the semantic head – as opposed to . . . → Read More: Repetitions which are not repetitions: The non-redundant nature of tautological compounds

Left edge topics in Russian and the processing of anaphoric dependencies

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Post written by based on an article in Eric Potsdam the latest issue of Journal of Linguistics 

In this paper we investigate the the relative cost of processing syntactic versus extra-syntactic dependencies. The results support the hypothesis that syntactic dependencies require less processing effort than discourse-derived dependencies do, as proposed in work by Eric Reuland and Arnout Koornneef. We do this by investigating a novel paradigm in Russian in which a preposed nominal stranding a numeral can show number connectivity (PAUCAL) with a gap following the numeral or can appear in a non-agreeing (PLURAL) form:

(1) a. Sobora-a v gorodke bylo tri sobor-a
cathedral-PAUCAL in town was three.PAUCAL (Connectivity)

b. Sobor-ov v gorodke bylo tri pro
cathedral-PLURAL in town was three.PAUCAL (Non-agreeing form)

Numerous syntactic diagnostics confirm that . . . → Read More: Left edge topics in Russian and the processing of anaphoric dependencies

Bilingual children cope well in noisy classrooms

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Youngsters who speak two languages maintain their focus better than monolinguals

 A new study, published in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, has found that bilingual primary school children learn more effectively than monolinguals within noisy environments such as classrooms.

Anglia Ruskin University’s Dr Roberto Filippi carried out research in Cambridge primary schools, focusing on children aged between seven and 10.

The study discovered that bilingual children were more able to maintain focus on a main task, which in this case was the identification of the subject within a short sentence in the presence of noise.

Pupils who only speak one language did not reach the same level of efficiency, showing that noise negatively affects their ability to sustain attention, especially when comprehending more difficult . . . → Read More: Bilingual children cope well in noisy classrooms

Sounds Interesting: Observations on English and General Phonetics

John C Wells author interview

In this insightful talk John C Wells, Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at University College London, discusses his latest book with Cambridge University Press, ‘Sounds Interesting: Observations on English and General Phonetics’, along with his research interests and, of course, his acclaimed phonetics blog (the content of which has helped to populate this new book).

Please click on the image to watch . . . → Read More: Sounds Interesting: Observations on English and General Phonetics

How can ESL students make the best use of learners’ dictionaries?

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Blog post written by Alice Chan, based on an article in the latest issue of English Today

What will you do if you have problems understanding how a word is used?

Will you just surf the web or will you check a dictionary?

How useful is a learner’s dictionary to you?

A lot of people say that learners’ dictionaries are useful for self-learning, but why are there so many complaints about the usefulness and user-friendliness of a learner’s dictionary? Some of you may wonder: Even after checking a dictionary before using a word, I still cannot use the word correctly. Why? Is there something wrong with me or with the dictionary? Yes. You may have some wrong assumptions about a word or about what a . . . → Read More: How can ESL students make the best use of learners’ dictionaries?

Vowel insertion in Scottish Gaelic

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Post written by Michael Hammond, Natasha Warner, Andréa Davis, Andrew Carnie, Diana Archangeli and Muriel Fisher,University of Arizona

Based on an article recently published in the journal Phonology

Scottish Gaelic has a process whereby a vowel is inserted into a hetero-organic cluster when the preceding vowel is short, the first consonant is a sonorant, and the second consonant is not a voiceless stop, e.g. arm`army’ /arm/ ->[aram], seanmhair`grandmother’ /ƪɛnvɛr/ -> [ɛnɛvɛr], etc.

These have been cited as instances of excrescent vowels (Hall, 2006). One of the defining properties of such vowels is that they are phonologically inert and are not motivated by-nor do they contribute to-the syllable structure of a language. The basic idea is that excrescent vowels are essentially gestural transitions from one . . . → Read More: Vowel insertion in Scottish Gaelic

Apostrophe: the most disputed punctuation mark in English since the eighteenth century onwards

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Blog post written by Morana Lukač based on an article in the latest issue of English Today

In the research project Bridging the Unbridgeable: linguists, prescriptivists and the general public at the Leiden Centre for Linguistics, we are building the Hyper Usage Guide of English or HUGE database currently made up of 76 usage guides. One of our aims within the project is to explore the popularity and to track the history of English usage items by using the database. In this English Today feature I briefly look into the history of the apostrophe, the most disputed punctuation mark in the English language.

Since its introduction in the eighteenth century, the possessive apostrophe became a topic of interest for the authors of usage guides. . . . → Read More: Apostrophe: the most disputed punctuation mark in English since the eighteenth century onwards

In her last Editorial June talks about her work on ReCALL and the community more widely

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Volume 26 of ReCALL marks the retirement of Editor June Thompson. Although I have only been lucky enough to work with her for the last three years her hard work and commitment to the journal is evident and a testimony to her work is the health of the journal.

Blog post written by June Thompson

As this is my last opportunity to write an editorial in ReCALL, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on the journal’s progress over the past seven years and outline its current position. In ReCALL Volume 18 (2) in November 2006 I reported on ReCALL’s early beginnings at the CTI Centre for Modern Languages at the University of Hull in 1990, its relationship with EUROCALL and eventually . . . → Read More: In her last Editorial June talks about her work on ReCALL and the community more widely

2013 Christopher L. Brumfit Award Prize Runner-up Announced

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We are delighted to announce that the runner-up of this year’s prize is Alastair Henry.

We asked Alastair to provide Cambridge Extra with a summary of his winning work.

As a language teacher and language teacher educator it really is a great honour that my thesis ‘L3 Motivation’ was selected as runner-up for the 2013 Christopher Brumfit Award. In addition to my supervisors at the University of Gothenburg, and of course the panel of referees, the editor and members of the editorial board at Language Teaching, I would like to thank Professor Zoltán Dörnyei who generously agreed to review the thesis, providing guidance, advice and insights that were invaluable in enabling me to improve the work and sharpen some of the . . . → Read More: 2013 Christopher L. Brumfit Award Prize Runner-up Announced

2013 Christopher L. Brumfit Award Prize Winner Announced

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We are delighted to announce that the winner of this year’s prize is Ellen Serafini.

We asked Ellen to provide Cambridge Extra with a summary of her prize winning work.

I am humbled to be recognized by Language Teaching and Cambridge University Press as the recipient of the 2013 Christopher Brumfit award and sincerely thank all those involved for this great honor. In the apt words of my mentor, Dr. Cristina Sanz, my thesis research attempts to look at the forest rather than the trees in its comprehensive approach to understanding the complexities of second language (L2) learning in adults.

My principal motivation was to explain variability in L2 development between adult L2 learners of Spanish by considering the role of learner individual differences . . . → Read More: 2013 Christopher L. Brumfit Award Prize Winner Announced

English Language and Linguistics Special Issue on Genitive Variation in English

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Blog post written by John Payne and Eva Berlage

Everything you ever wanted to know about the genitive alternation in English! The choice that speakers have between the s-genitive and the of-genitive (e.g. the production’s new director vs the new director of the production) has been the subject of much detailed research, starting with historical studies in the earlier part of the twentieth century and culminating in recent large-scale synchronic studies using modern statistical techniques. It is, as Anette Rosenbach suggests in the volume, “arguably the best researched of all syntactic alternations in English”.

This special edition, arising from a workshop organised by John Payne (Manchester) and Eva Berlage (Hamburg) at the ISLE conference in Boston in 2011, collects together four new papers. The . . . → Read More: English Language and Linguistics Special Issue on Genitive Variation in English

Plagiarism in second-language writing

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Blog post written by Diane Pecorari based on an article from the latest issue of Language Teaching

Everyone has a view on plagiarism, and it’s often a strong one, as seen by the frank and free commentary on cases which attract public attention. For example, after the revelation that a prominent German politician had plagiarised in his doctoral thesis, the theses of other politicians in Germany and elsewhere have been subjected to scrutiny. This has led, in a number of cases, to further accusations of plagiarism, sharp criticism of the politicians involved and to responses ranging from embarrassed apology to resignations. These high-profile cases have received significant attention in the news, in blogs like Shake, Copy and Paste, and in staff-room discussions.

Plagiarism is . . . → Read More: Plagiarism in second-language writing

Language history questionnaire (LHQ 2.0): A new dynamic web-based research tool

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Post written by Ping Li based on a recent article in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Language history question-naire (LHQ) is an important tool for assessing the linguistic background of language learners (background), the context and habits of language use (usage), proficiency in multiple languages (proficiency), and dominance and cultural identity of the acquired languages (dominance). Outcomes from such assessments have often been used to predict or correlate with learners’ linguistic performance in cognitive and behavioral tests. Previous researchers have often relied on LHQs that their own research groups develop, depending on whether their study is concerned with the background, usage, proficiency, or dominance of the bilingual learner. The lack of a standardized, easy-to-use, and web-based LHQ inspired some researchers to . . . → Read More: Language history questionnaire (LHQ 2.0): A new dynamic web-based research tool

Metaphor: What does figurative mean?

Figurative Language, written by Barbara Dancygier and Eve Sweetser, is a lively, comprehensive and practical book which offers a new, integrated and linguistically sound understanding of what figurative language is. The following extract is taken from the Introduction.

Thinking about figurative language requires first of all that we identify some such entity – that we distinguish figurative language from non-figurative or literal language. And this is a more complex task than one might think. To begin with, there appears to be a circular reasoning loop involved in many speakers’ assessments: on the one hand they feel that figurative language is special or artistic, and on the other hand they feel that the fact of something’s being an everyday usage is in itself evidence that . . . → Read More: Metaphor: What does figurative mean?

Some unsolved questions about the languages of the Jews

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written by Professor Bernard Spolsky

It’s great to be relevant! A few weeks after my sociolinguistic history of the Jewish people was published, a Reuters story highlighted a dispute between the visiting Pope Francis and the Israeli Prime Minister over the language spoken by Jesus (Reuter, 28 May 2014). “Jesus spoke Hebrew”, Netanyahu stated.  “Aramaic”, responded the Pope. He almost certainly knew both Hebrew and Aramaic, and also Greek (and maybe a little Latin), I would have answered, as I did in one of the earliest studies that I published that marked my growing interest in the language of the Jews.

But this disagreement turns out to be only one the many examples of disputes that I found in my research.  There are, I learned, . . . → Read More: Some unsolved questions about the languages of the Jews

Vocabulary size research at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

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Blog post written by Paul Nation based on an article in Language Teaching

How many words in English do you know? How many words do your students know? What words should our learners be focusing on? Do native speakers at primary and secondary school need vocabulary-focused instruction? These questions and others like them have been of concern to researchers in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies (LALS) at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand for well over thirty years. One of the results of this concern has been a range of vocabulary tests which have been made available for general use.

It may seem a straightforward job to make a vocabulary test. However, vocabulary size testing is probably the most . . . → Read More: Vocabulary size research at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

The acquisition of future temporality by L2 French learners

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Blog post written by Dalila Ayoun based on an article in Journal of French Language Studies 

The investigation of the acquisition of temporal systems by second language (L2 ) learners has created an impressive body of work that informs our understanding of their developing competence because they involve all aspects of a language – pragmatic, lexical, syntactic, morphological (e. g., Ayoun & Salaberry2005; Salaberry2008; Salaberry & Comajoan, 2013). However, most empirical studies have focused on past temporal reference, neglecting future temporal reference with a few exceptions (e.g., Benati, 2001) aside from ESL learners (Bardovi-Harlig 2004 a, 2004 b). The future is interesting because it differs from the past and the present in encompassing both temporality and modality. Intentionality is its most common reading, . . . → Read More: The acquisition of future temporality by L2 French learners

She refers therefore she is: Morphosyntax and pragmatics in referential communication

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Post written by Aylin C. Küntay, Koç University, Istanbul & Utrecht University, Utrecht

Based on an upcoming keynote talk to be given at IASCL 2014 this week (14th – 18th July, Amsterdam)

Referential communication is talking about things and people, an essential ability upon which many human communicative interactions build. To be able to communicate effectively, speakers and addressees should concur on what they are talking about. Although this sounds trivial, even adults sometimes have trouble in pinpointing exactly what their interlocutor has in mind, or might fail to express their referential intentions in the clearest way.

The evidence we have about children’s referential abilities is mixed. An 18-month-old can be quite effective in making us pick the right diaper with the desired picture out from . . . → Read More: She refers therefore she is: Morphosyntax and pragmatics in referential communication

Arabic linguistics: overview and history

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Arabic linguistics is a vast field combining study of the Arabic language with the analytical disciplines that constitute the field of linguistics. Linguistic theories, methods, and concepts are used to analyze the structure and processes of Arabic; but at the same time, Arabic with its millennium-long intellectual traditions, its complex morphology, and its current broad diversity of registers, informs linguistic theory. Many linguistic approaches to Arabic language analysis have been applied over the past fifty years both within the Arab world and from the point of view of western scholars. These approaches and their disciplinary procedures are both varied and convergent, covering a wealth of data but also coming to terms with central issues of concern to Arabic linguistics that had . . . → Read More: Arabic linguistics: overview and history

Uptalk: power and prejudice

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Post written by Editor of English Today Clive Upton based on his Editorial in the latest issue 

From time to time the media pick up on instances of English language use which do not carry over entirely happily from one variety to another. One of the most well-known of these must be the feature – variously known by such labels as ‘high rising terminal’ (HRT), ‘Australian question intonation’ (AQI), or ‘uptalk’ – which sees an upward inflection being introduced to utterances that are not actually questions. Long unremarkable in Australia, and increasingly unremarkable elsewhere in the English-speaking world, especially among younger speakers, this feature nevertheless annoys a lot of people who do not use it themselves. A recent online discussion of this . . . → Read More: Uptalk: power and prejudice

What could possibly be the relevance of nativelike hedging strategies in EFL instruction?

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Blog post written by Sergio Torres-Martínez based on an article in English Today

The answer seems to be obvious from the perspective of, say, ELF research. Yet things are less clear-cut in expanding circle regions where nativelikeness is increasingly a hallmark of language proficiency, success and status. This article hinges precisely on the assumption that specific speech functions such as hedging (used to express vagueness or non-assertiveness) are important assets in the construction of language proficiency in ELF classrooms. Thus, a case for hedging strings (HSs)-a set of formulaic sequences with pragmalinguistic relevance to the teaching of spontaneous speech functions in EFL- is presented.

Formulaic sequences such as sort of/kind of, usually disregarded as downtoners, are revisited, further classified into three main categories (utterance . . . → Read More: What could possibly be the relevance of nativelike hedging strategies in EFL instruction?