Bilingualism in the Spanish-Speaking World

Bilingualism in the Spanish-Speaking World

Post written by Jennifer Austin, María Blume & Liliana Sánchez authors of Bilingualism in the Spanish-Speaking World.

Bilingualism, and how it affects language and cognitive development, is a topic of increasing relevance in an interconnected world. In Bilingualism in the Spanish-Speaking World, we examine how the outcomes of bilingualism are shaped by factors at the individual level, such as age of acquisition and the amount and type of input, as well as societal support for the minority language in the form of dual-language education and similar initiatives. By analyzing previous research on the effects of these variables on bilingual speakers’ linguistic representations, as well as their minds and brains, we have attempted to provide a better understanding of some emerging conceptual . . . → Read More: Bilingualism in the Spanish-Speaking World

Language use affects proficiency in Italian–Spanish bilinguals irrespective of age of second language acquisition

BIL SI Cover 2015

Blog post written by Fabrizio De Carli based on an article in the latest issue of Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Age is considered an important factor for the acquisition of new skills in the domain of language and in other perceptual and cognitive competences. Clear evidence of age of acquisition (AoA) effects has been found in the development of sensory systems, supporting the idea that specific brain functions can develop only during an early critical period, characterized by brain plasticity. The crucial role of infancy for the acquisition of basic language competences is supported by clear findings involving first language (L1) but its extension to second (L2) and further languages is controversial. Can adult people learn new languages and reach native-like skills? . . . → Read More: Language use affects proficiency in Italian–Spanish bilinguals irrespective of age of second language acquisition

A Fuss about the Octopus

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Blog post written by Inge Otto based on an article in English Today 

If I ask you to think of one octopus, then of two, of three even – what word comes to your mind as the plural form of ‘octopus’? If you were to think about your choice longer, is there another word you could use for the same purpose? In theory, you could come up with three options. The plurals octopuses, octopi, and octopodes are all attested in English, and thus could all be used to refer to more than one octopus.

When you look at these plurals from a purely descriptive point of view, they are thus equally useful and acceptable. However, to prescriptivists some of the plurals are better . . . → Read More: A Fuss about the Octopus

L3 Acquisition: A Focus on Cognitive Approaches

BIL SI Cover 2015

Blog post written by Maria Del Pilar Garcia Mayo, introducing a new special issue of Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 

Most available evidence suggests that, when acquiring a new language, our brains make the automatic and unconscious assumption that, at some or all levels, it ‘works’ like one of the languages we already know. Since this is not necessarily the case for all properties, when our mental processor ‘transfers’ the previously acquired language this may have positive or negative (and sometimes downright comical) results with respect to target-like performance. How does the brain determine this source of transfer? Which language should it choose? In second language acquisition this question need not be asked, but what if the learner already speaks more than one language? . . . → Read More: L3 Acquisition: A Focus on Cognitive Approaches

Does the socio-cultural context influence the way Chinese people write business English?

ENG blog - Mar 15

Blog post written by Marisa Carrió and Rut Muñiz based on an article in the latest issue of English Today

As China has emerged as an economic giant and has established business relationships worldwide, the use of English has become essential in every day communication. New digital written genres such as emails are used every day in a globalized business context. We think that this current setting encourages participants to experiment with communication, changing and adapting language to their own comfort, using a more direct style, and prioritizing instant communication over grammatical and style correctness.

We believe that it is necessary to take into account the cultural background of the speaker when interpreting meaning in a business context in order to understand the . . . → Read More: Does the socio-cultural context influence the way Chinese people write business English?

Authenticity as a Continuum

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Blog post written by Richard Pinner based on an article in English Today

Authenticity is a familiar and well used term in language teaching.  It is also a loaded term, with connotations that go deeper than the origin of a particular material, but all the way to philosophical conceptualizations of self. For this reason, the ‘classic’ and inevitably culturalist definition of authenticity, as something from a target language culture whose original purpose was not for learning, can actually work negatively against people who are not intimately associated with the target culture. Simply put, there is still an embedded and implied connection to ‘native speaker’ countries when authenticity is discussed in terms of language teaching. This native speakerist conceptualization of authenticity rears its . . . → Read More: Authenticity as a Continuum

SSLA Announces the Albert Valdman Award Winner

2015 Albert Valdman Award (1)

Cambridge University Press and Studies in Second Language Acquisition announce the Albert Valdman Award.

This new annual award, in honor of Founding Editor Professor Albert Valdman, is for an outstanding paper in the previous year’s volume.

The 2015 award is given to Dr. Sible Andringa, University of Amsterdam, The Use of Native Speaker Norms in Critical Period Hypothesis Research, Volume 36, Issue 3.

Post written by Dr. Sible Andringa, Amsterdam, February 2015

When I heard my paper ‘The use of native speaker norms in critical period hypothesis research’ won the Albert Valdman award for outstanding publication in Studies in Second Language Acquisition, I was truly surprised. I didn’t know the award existed.  It turns out the award is new and that my paper is the . . . → Read More: SSLA Announces the Albert Valdman Award Winner

Language perception in the East Midlands in England

ENG Blog post - Mar 15

Investigating East Midlands adolescents’ perception of language variation in the UK

Post written by Natalie Braber based on an article in English Today

The concept of identity in the East Midlands can be relatively problematic as it is not immediately clear what is included in the region and where it fits in the North-South divide in the UK. It is an interesting area linguistically, because of its shared features with northern varieties, as well as southern varieties of English. It has also been argued that the Midlands form a transition zone between North and South and that a clear North/South divide cannot be made. There has been relatively little survey of the local dialects but despite this lack of empirical evidence, anecdotally it . . . → Read More: Language perception in the East Midlands in England

Cognitive Discourse Analysis: What language use can reveal about mental representations and concepts

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Post written by Thora Tenbrink based on an article in Language and Cognition

 What do we actually ‘see’ when we observe a picture or a scene, or watch an event unfold? How do we solve complex problems, and what are the steps of thought that we go through? How can we learn about such thoughts, as we cannot access people’s minds directly? Questions such as these have a lot to do with our everyday life, and they are quite relevant to many fields in cognitive science as well as applied research, for example design cognition or pedagogy.  Cognitive Discourse Analysis (CODA) is a methodology that helps identifying people’s thoughts in a systematic way. People are asked to speak out lout what they’re thinking; . . . → Read More: Cognitive Discourse Analysis: What language use can reveal about mental representations and concepts

An update from the incoming Editors of the Nordic Journal of Linguistics

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Blog post written by the incoming Editors of the Nordic Journal of Linguistics: Gunnar Ólafur Hansson, Marit Julien & Matti Miestamo

The last few years have been a transition period in the editorship of the Nordic Journal of Linguistics (NJL). Sten Vikner and Catherine Ringen, who have served as editors since 2001, are stepping down and a new editorial team is taking over. A few years ago it was agreed that in order to avoid an abrupt change in the editorship, Gunnar Ólafur Hansson, Matti Miestamo and Marit Westergaard would join the editorial team first as associate editors, and accordingly, in 2012-2014, the team had five members. Now the time has come for the new editors to take over completely, and from . . . → Read More: An update from the incoming Editors of the Nordic Journal of Linguistics

Why does English have words like “pièce de résistance” and “coup de grace”?

ENG Blog post - Mar 15

Blog post written by Drew Nevitt based on an article in the latest issue of English Today 

Why does English have words like “pièce de résistance” and “coup de grace”? They are clearly not of English origin. They are borrowings from French, as many know. It might seem a perfectly reasonable question to ask why we continue to use these foreign terms rather than simply using their English translations. After all, these terms can be confusing and difficult to pronounce to those who are not familiar with them. However, we must then ask the question of what words do count as truly English. “Garage” was borrowed into English from French in the twentieth century, and “zeitgeist” from German not long before that. . . . → Read More: Why does English have words like “pièce de résistance” and “coup de grace”?

Can Audio Storybooks Improve Children’s Second-Language Accent?

JCL Blog Mar 15

Blog post written by Terry Kit-Fong Au based on an article in the latest issue of Journal of Child Language 

With globalization, speaking more than one language is useful.  No wonder many children are learning a second or even a third language.  The younger children are when they start geting input from native speakers, the better their accent will be.  Yet because of resource constraints, interaction with native speakers is not always possible – especially for children learning a foreign language that is not the societal language (e.g., children learning English in much of Asia and Latin America).  Audios are commonly used as an affordable substitute.  But do they work?

Research recently published in the Journal of Child Language has revealed the usefulness of audio . . . → Read More: Can Audio Storybooks Improve Children’s Second-Language Accent?

Research into Practice: Cultural and intercultural awareness

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Blog post written by Will Baker based on an article in the latest issue of Language Teaching

It is commonly claimed that the main goal of learning and teaching a second language is for communication.  While this would seem both appropriate and beneficial, the goal and associated processes for learning are most accurately described as intercultural communication rather than just communication.   One of the consequences of this lack of interest in the intercultural in L2 teaching (or L3, L4 etc…), is that too often teaching and learning has focused on a fixed code or set of linguistic structures with little consideration of the wider intercultural communicative practices they are part of. This has been addressed in recent decades, in part, by the increasing . . . → Read More: Research into Practice: Cultural and intercultural awareness

Durational properties of emphatically lengthened consonants in Japanese

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Blog post written by Shigeto Kawahara based on an article in the latest issue of Journal of the International Phonetic Association

When sounds are “different”, such that swapping one sound for the other changes a word’s meaning  (for example, “pat” vs. “bat”), this difference is usually *binary*.  In other words, the sounds can easily be classified into *two* distinct categories, rather than belonging to a continuum from one sound to the other.

In the case of “pat” and “bat”, the first consonants of each word differ in terms of their “voicing”: whether or not the vocal cords are vibrating.  (Try it: if you put your hand on your throat, you can feel your vocal cords vibrate when you say “zzzzz”, but not when you say . . . → Read More: Durational properties of emphatically lengthened consonants in Japanese

The ubiquity of frequency effects in first language acquisition

JCL 2015 Cover

Blog post written by Ben Ambridge based on an article in the latest issue of Journal of Child Language 

Pretty much every kind of human (and, for that matter, animal) learning shows frequency effects: the more we hear or see something, the better we learn it, remember it, and even like it. But in the domain of children’s language acquisition, both the existence and meaningfulness of frequency effects have proved controversial, particularly because they have implications for the (in)famous nature-nurture debate. In this target article, we argue that frequency effects can be found absolutely everywhere in language acquisition, from the level of abstract strings to the level of abstract syntactic cues. In fact, high frequency items are not only early-acquired and resistant to . . . → Read More: The ubiquity of frequency effects in first language acquisition

He drug the box to the door before he snuck into the room…or he dragged the box to the door before he sneaked into the room?

ENG 2015

Post written by Camilla Søballe Horslund based on an article in English Today 

What is the past tense form of the verb to sneak? Some say snuck and others say sneaked. According to dictionaries, sneaked is the more formal form. Likewise the past tense form of the verb to drag varies between the forms drug and dragged, but while snuck is considered acceptable in informal speech, drug is described as non-standard and is generally not accepted by people with high socio-economic status. Despite the apparent similarity with former forms like holp and clomb, snuck and drug are newer than their regular counterparts sneaked and dragged. In fact, sneak and drag were originally regular verbs with the past tense forms sneaked and dragged but have . . . → Read More: He drug the box to the door before he snuck into the room…or he dragged the box to the door before he sneaked into the room?

Are Idioms Metaphorical?

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Blog Post Written by Daniel Sanford, based on an article in Language and Cognition

Idiom is so interesting to linguists because it exists at the intersection of the study of figurative language and of syntax effects, and has proven a singularly problematic issue in both areas of inquiry. For syntacticians who have challenged the Chomskyan model of language that’s been dominant since the 1960s, idiom has demonstrated the impossibility of drawing a clear distinction between lexical items and rules which operate upon them. Cognitive linguists and student of figurative language, meanwhile, have asked about the relationship between idiom and metaphor: Are idioms processed, on the fly, as metaphors? Or is the role of metaphor purely historical, with idiomatic meaning accessed simply as lexical . . . → Read More: Are Idioms Metaphorical?

The Acquisition of Syntactic Structure: Animacy and Thematic Alignment

The Acquisition of Syntactic Structure

Post written by author Misha Becker discussing her recently published book ‘The Acquisition of Syntactic Struture‘.

Young children are fascinated by animals and captivated when inanimate things are made to come alive. Is there some way their understanding of the difference between “alive” and “not alive” can help them learn language?

In this book I explain a well-known puzzle in linguistic theory by arguing just that. Children expect the sentence subject (often the “do-er” of an action) to be animate, alive. So when they encounter a sentence where the subject is the rock or the house they are led to revise their understanding of the sentence to create a more complex underlying structure. This is what helps them understand the difference between a sentence like . . . → Read More: The Acquisition of Syntactic Structure: Animacy and Thematic Alignment

The Language of Organizational Styling

Post written by author Lionel Wee discussing his recently published book The Language of Organizational Styling

Organizations are interesting because of the promise and problems they represent. They have promise because they allow individuals to pool their resources and scale up their activities, thus making it possible to achieve things at a supra-individual level. In fact, one might say that this is the very reason why organizations exist at all. At the same time, there is great irony in the fact that, having been created, many organizations then go on to acquire an existence and independence beyond the goals and wishes of their founders. Especially when constituted as virtual persons, organizations can make claims and exert rights that sometimes come into conflict with those . . . → Read More: The Language of Organizational Styling

The Rise of Writing: Redefining Mass Literacy

The Rise of Writing, Deborah Brandt

Post written by author Deborah Brandt discussing her recently published book The Rise of Writing 

The belief that writing ability is a subsidiary of reading ability runs deep in society and schooling. You can only write as well as you can read. The best way to learn how to write is to read, read, and read some more. Commonplaces like these are easy to find in the advice of teachers and often well-known authors as well. Reading is considered the fundamental skill, the prior skill, the formative skill, the gateway to writing. At minimum, reading is thought to teach the techniques of textuality, the vocabulary, diction, spelling, punctuation, and syntax that any aspiring writer must master. Even more . . . → Read More: The Rise of Writing: Redefining Mass Literacy

Co-editor Françoise Blin reflects on the changes at ReCALL

REC 2015

Co-editor Françoise Blin reflects on the changes at ReCALL during 2014. As the last issue of 2014 goes to Press, long-serving Editor June Thompson prepares to retire. June has tirelessly managed submissions and reviews, edited and copy-edited issues of the journal. In particular, ReCALL authors have greatly benefited from her careful editing. We wish her well with all her future plans.

With receipt of an average of 100 submissions per year, ReCALL now benefits from the services of two Editors (Blin and Alex Boulton), journal administrator Sylvie Thouësny, and an online submission system. The pool of reviewers is also steadily increasing. Blind peer-reviewing is a time consuming activity that usually remains invisible, yet is a fundamental principle governing scientific publication today. Reviewers . . . → Read More: Co-editor Françoise Blin reflects on the changes at ReCALL

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

2014-06-17 09_15_31-Edit Post ‹ Cambridge Extra at LINGUIST List — WordPress

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

Ping Li - August 2014

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?

Metonymy in a Nutshell

Post written by Jeannette Littlemore, author of Metonymy

Metonymy is a kind of shorthand that people use all the time but don’t always think about that much, which is a shame because, when used well, metonymy can have significant persuasive powers and when used badly, can lead to severe misunderstandings. In a nutshell, metonymy is a process whereby one entity is used to refer to another. For example, in the UK we use the term ‘Number 10’ to refer to the Government, whereas in the USA it’s ‘the White House’; and in South Korea, it’s the ‘Blue House’. All of these examples involve a metonymic relationship in which a place stands for an institution. However, this is not the only kind of . . . → Read More: Metonymy in a Nutshell