Interview with Sali A. Tagliamonte

SALI A. TAGLIAMONTE is Canada Research Chair in Language Variation and Change and a Full Professor and Chair of the Linguistics Department at the University of Toronto, Canada. She is a member of the Royal Society of Canada and a Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America. She is the author of six books, including: Making Waves, Variationist Sociolinguistics (Wiley-Blackwell 2012, 2015) and Analysing Sociolinguistic Variation, Roots of English and Teen Talk (CUP 2006, 2013, 2016). She has published on African American varieties, British, Irish and Canadian dialects, teen language and television across the major journals of the field. Her research has been funded by agencies in Canada, the US and UK. Her most recent research program is the Ontario Dialects Project, which focuses on cross-community and apparent time comparisons in corpora of spoken vernacular dialects to explore linguistic change. She is editor of the new book series, Studies in Language Variation and Change, published by Cambridge University Press. Cambridge Xtra asked her about the inspiration behind the series. Interview by Andrew Winnard.

 AW: What motivated you to establish the book series?

ST: I started noticing that there was no serious, advanced venue for publication of a cohesive research program in Language Variation and Change. CUP’s journal Language Variation and Change publishes journal length articles on one linguistic variable or another or a specific topic, but at the time I started thinking about this there was no venue for work that had reached a point of synthesis. At the same time, the field was evolving in all kind of new directions and importantly, there was a whole generation of scholars reaching a point in their careers when they had made a significant contribution. I wanted to harness that intellectual energy and creativity and bring it into the field in a more comprehensive way. I wanted to convince scholars who were putting things together to write a book bringing their ideas into a coherent whole. I also think I had a mission in mind to make books that would set the new foundations of the field. So, I have started watching and listening and noticing when someone working in the field is ready to do that. Then, I ask them out for a coffee.

AW: What, broadly, is the concept behind the series?

ST:The concept in a nutshell is synthesis of a research program, by that I mean a book that is not simply about a linguistic feature or a language phenomenon of interest but a work that encompasses a research enterprise that has started to extrapolate beyond a single thing to make more general observations about language variation and change. When a scholar’s research reaches this stage, it has become something that Labov has always striven for — research that reaches beyond a series of analyses or a superficial reality to something that unifies and explains and makes sense in the world. A novel and I believe decisive component of the series is the requirement that all the books follow several general principles: 1) replicability of research findings; 2) consistent reporting; and critically, 3) a cogent discussion of the implications of the research for Sociolinguistic Theory. These three operating guidelines ensure that the series has a unifying component and builds informatively on existing foundations. The requirement of cutting-edge research of the field and this consistent ‘signature’ will give the series reliable value.

AW: What is the first book to appear in the series?

ST: Sociolinguistic Varation in Children’s Language, co-authored by Jennifer Smith and Mercedes Durham, synthesizing their decade long work on child language acquisition. The examples are absolutely hilarious! Several more books are in the pipeline, including an edited volume on studies in sociosyntax, syntactic variation in World English, game theory pragmatics and a book unifying linguistic variation with an historical linguistics perspective. There are many more possibilities. When I go to conferences, I strategically go to presentations that I think are about research that is on the cusp of having the key ingredients I am looking for —research ideas that are making connections to the bigger questions of language.

 

Upcoming titles in this series:

  • Explanations in Sociosyntax
    • Tanya Karoli Christensen, Torben Juel Jensen
  • Synchrony Meets Diachrony: Linguistic Variation and Linguistic Change
    • Alexandra D’Arcy
  • Syntactic Variation in World Englishes: Comparative Variation analysis
    • Benedikt Szmrecsanyi and Jason Grafmiller
  • Meaning, Identity, and Interaction:  Sociolinguistic Variation and Change in Game Theoretic Pragmatics
    • Heather S. Burnett

The English major crisis in China

Blog post written by Ningyang Chen, author of the article ‘The English major crisis in China: Why did the once-popular major fall out of favor among Chinese students? recently published in English Today.

There was a time in China when becoming a foreign language major was the dream of many aspiring young minds. The English major, in particular, enjoyed the greatest popularity and was associated with many advantages: a better social reputation, better-paid jobs, and above all, the chance to go out and see the world. Over the years, however, the English major has been losing its appeal to Chinese students. Some critics have questioned its validity or even proposed closing the major. This concern was brought to the fore by a recent Chinese newspaper article in which the opinionist described the major as suffering from “a guilty conscience”.

How to explain this drastic change? There are some obvious reasons such as the expansion of choices. But other factors may have also played a part. According to an analysis of WeChat (China’s most popular social media channel) comments on the “guilty conscience” article, three types of attitudes portray the social media response to the English major crisis. In the first place is practical attitudes, followed by the pessimistic and the optimistic. The majority of the student and teacher commenters find elements of truths in the motto of “Being practical is everything”. The English major in the modern era falls behind other majors in securing a financial future. Success models like Jack Ma serve only as reminders to choose a major that is more “worth” the “investment”. This prevailing attitude of being practical echoes a critical paper on ‘the practical turn’ in English studies, in that the successful turn seems to have exerted a lasting influence. The pessimistic views of the English major in China find fault with the teachers and the courses. Courses taught by less qualified teachers can be a waste of time, and irresponsible teachers increase students’ dismay even further. The small number of optimists are mainly proud English majors who share an interest in literature and the language. Yet their voices seem hushed by the overwhelming negativity and criticism.

The bulging purse of the Chinese is an economic reality we find difficult to ignore. With this comes wider options and opportunities. What used to be an accessible and promising way to pursue a “modern” education is now among the least efficient ways to achieve that goal. Let’s face it: Why sitting through a boring class taught in Chinese-accented English when one can get a more “authentic” English experience by watching a Hollywood blockbuster? What’s the point of spending four years in a program to learn skills that can be readily acquired by studying in an English-speaking country at a reasonable price? Even those with a less superficial understanding of the major may doubt, quite rightfully, if a Chinese professor can interpret Shakespeare as adequately as Lu Xun.

Although the decline of the liberal arts subjects seems a shared concern across institutions and cultures, the English major in China has its specificities. After all, it is pathetic to find what started out as part of the “solution” to the country’s modernization has become a “problem” of its own. As globalization deepens, a similar pity is likely to be felt in other contexts around the world where the program once played a big part in training personnel who pioneered international communication and engagement. Yet opportunities are born out of crises. The raised concerns could inspire creative changes to the system. And while we are a long way away from figuring out what the future holds for the English major in China, getting a sense of the distressing reality can be the first step.

An interview with Jürgen M. Meisel

Jürgen M. Meisel is Professor emeritus and former Chair of the Research Center on Bilingualism at the Universität Hamburg, as well as Adjunct Professor and Distinguished Fellow, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary. He has been engaged in parent counselling for more than thirty-five years. He is a founding editor of the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, and the author of seven books and numerous articles. Cambridge Extra asked him about his new book, Bilingual Children: a guide for parents, published by Cambridge University Press.

Interviewed by Andrew Winnard, Executive Publisher, Cambridge University Press

What motivated you to write ‘Bilingual Children’?

Soon after I had begun to study language acquisition by children growing up with two languages simultaneously, more than 30 years ago, I was asked by parents who considered raising their children bilingually whether this might not have negative effects for children’s linguistic, intellectual, or even social development. I thus got involved in various kinds of counselling activities from early on and am still involved in this today. I soon realized that the questions asked most frequently, for example whether children would not get linguistically or cognitively confused when exposed to more than one language at an early age, concerned issues that were also in the focus of research during the late 1980’s and the 1990’s. In fact, already at this time, some of these questions could be answered with much confidence, given that the findings on which the answers are based are widely agreed upon among researchers – a not so common state-of-affairs in the humanities. This is, of course, not true for all those aspects of child bilingualism that parents consider as potentially problematic. But research on this topic has made such significant progress over that past 40 years that even the more controversial issues can be addressed with sufficient confidence. Today, early bilingualism is viewed much more favourably then 40 years ago, at least in many parts of the world. However, in spite of considerable efforts trying to inform about what is known about bilingualism in preschool years, one still encounters a surprising mixture of facts and fiction when media report on bilingual children, and parents receive contradictory advice and recommendations from family members and friends. I therefore think that a book that provides fact-based answers to the most pressing questions by parents or other caregivers should be useful.

What do you hope readers will get from the book?

My experience in counselling parents of children growing up bilingually over all these years has taught me that the majority of those who ask for advice are already quite well-informed about many aspects of early bilingualism. In fact, many of them have a good idea about what they want to do or do not want to do in raising their children bilingually. However, they are confronted with conflicting opinions in the media, in the advice offered by others, e.g. pediatricians. A guide for parents must take this into account. It will not suffice to present basic information about child bilingualism and offer advice reflecting the author’s opinions and beliefs. People who are willing to buy and read a book on this topic deserve in-depth information on the pros and cons of bilingualism at a very young age. My main goal is to help them to disentangle facts from fiction and to enable them to make decisions that will help them to reach their educational goals. Needless to say that I myself view child bilingualism positively, but this does not mean that I might try to talk parents into raising their children bilingually. Rather, I hope to have provided them with much of the information necessary in order to achieve the goals that they have set for themselves and for the linguistic development of their children. And I also hope to have given sufficient practical advice on how to go about when confronted with difficult or problematic situations that might arise in bilingual families.

What relation, if any, is there between a child’s intelligence and their ability to learn more than one language as they’re growing up?

There is definitely no relation between a child’s intelligence and the ability to learn more than one language. All children are born with what we can call a ‘Language Making Capacity’ that unfolds and develops in the course of children’s first years of life. The perhaps most important insight gained by studies of bilingual acquisition is that this Language Making Capacity is an endowment for multilingualism. In other words, children can acquire more than one ‘first’ language simultaneously. All that is required is exposure to more than one language in meaningful interactions where parents, other family members or other caregivers address them in these languages. One might even say that monolingualism is the result of a situation in which children are exposed to an impoverished input consisting of utterances in only one language although a bi- or multilingual setting would have allowed them to acquire more than one native language.

Discover more about Bilingual Children: a guide for parents

Image Credit: University of Calgary 

An interview with Peter Trudgill

Peter Trudgill, FBA, is one of the world’s best-known sociolinguists and dialect experts.  I interviewed him ahead of the publication of his latest Cambridge book, ‘Millennia of Language Change: Sociolinguistic Studies in Deep Historical Linguistics’.

Can you tell us about ‘Millennia of Language Change’?

Millennia of Language Change takes a (very) long view of important historical sociolinguistic developments which occurred during the thousands of years stretching from the Old Stone Age, through the Neolithic era and the Classical Age, and on to the Early Middle Ages, concentrating on processes involved in long-term linguistic change and long-distance migration and contact, with examples from a wide range of – in particular – European, Pacific Ocean and native North American languages.

What new things are we going to learn about language change, from your book?

In Ancient Greek, verbs could have more than 275 different forms. The West Greenlandic language has about a thousand different verbal affixes. These two languages came into being in very different communities, in very different parts of the world, but they have in common the fact that they are extraordinarily complex. One of the things which Millenia of Language Change considers is how many thousands of years it takes for such complexity to develop – and what linguistic processes might be involved.

Can you give us a brief overview of the topics the book will cover?

Major themes which are covered in the book include linguistic complexification; linguistic simplification; substrate theory; migration and conquest; geographical diffusion; koinéisation; and transitivity of contact. An example of “transitivity of contact” would be that, if the Brittonic Celtic precursor to Welsh was infuenced by contact with the Late-Latin/Northwestern Romance of the Roman provinces of Brittania and Gallia; and if Old English was subsequently influenced by contact with Brittonic Celtic; then some aspects of the structure of the Old English language might be due to the indirect influence of Northwestern Romance.

Who will benefit from reading this book?

The book will be of particular interest to academic linguists and graduate students in all parts of the world – the text takes examples from a very wide range of languages and linguistic areas – who are concerned with the great puzzles presented by linguistic change; the big challenges of historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, and historical sociolinguistics; the important insights provided by dialectology and variationist linguistics; the complexities involved in the investigation of language contact; and with the relevance to all these topics of work in linguistic typology.

What are the key benefits that the reader will take from reading it?

All of the papers which make up this book were originally published between 2004 and 2018 in – in some cases rather obscure – festschrifts, conference proceedings, handbooks, and journals. Millennia of Language Change now makes available some of my most important and innovative pieces, freshly revised and updated, and centring as a coherent whole around the big-picture theme of deep historical-sociolinguistics.

‘Millennia of Language Change: Sociolinguistic Studies in Deep Historical Linguistics’ is due to be published in April, and is available for pre-order.

Helen Barton
Commissioning Editor, Language and Linguistics
Cambridge University Press

Peter Trudgill has also featured in The Linguist List Famous Linguists, read the full entry here.

Image credit: The Academy of Europe

Global Ethnolinguistic Conflict, Redux

by Stanley Dubinsky (University of South Carolina)

 

In February 2018, a visit to Corsica by French President Macron refocused media attention on the issue of Corsican nationalism, a century old movement that seeks Corsican separation from France in “a centralized state with a single, national identity and only one official language.”  In the same month, a Voice of America News article reported on Korea, noting that “Sixty Years After Division, Korean Language Has Gone in Separate Directions.” Over the past 10-20 years, language and ethnolinguistic identity issues have come to play an increasingly important role in domestic internal politics across the globe: in Israel, between Hebrew and Arabic speaking populations; in Spain, where Catalan speakers are newly vocal about autonomy; with the Kurdish speakers of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran; and with Libya’s Berber speaking southern minority. The list could go on and highlights the fact that language and ethnolinguistic identity play an increasingly important role in defining and exacerbating conflicts in a post-colonial and post-Cold War world.

The resurgent salience of ethnolinguistically motivated conflict is somewhat unexpected, and even now not fully appreciated. When Language Conflict and Language Rights (Cambridge University Press 2018) was first imagined by its authors (William D. Davies and myself), they were simply seeking to write a book that would serve a course on Language Rights that Bill (Davies) had begun to teach at the University of Iowa. This was back in 2009-2010. In the intervening years, the number and intensity of conflicts categorized in the book have increased severalfold, with new ones (and newly sparked old ones) coming into focus on a weekly and monthly basis. As the book went to press, it seemed the world was imitating the book (rather than the book describing the world).

This is not to say that such conflicts were previously unknown. China’s present occupation of Tibet, dating back to 1950, is an ethnic conflict with a long history continuing into the present. And the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War, beginning in 1967 (four years after Nigeria’s independence), was only one of many conflicts to follow the decolonization of Africa. Yet the emergence of so many such conflicts has been slow in coming (though a likely outcome of the receding hegemonies of the Cold War). Following decolonization of the 1960s, the unraveling of the Soviet Union and its hold over East European states, the post-Vietnam War withdrawal of Western powers from Southeast Asia, and the weakening or dissolution of autocratic regimes in North Africa and the Middle East (e.g. Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen) have all opened the way for the emergence (or re-emergence) of long-standing and sometimes violent ethnic conflicts. This development is astutely noted in Robin Fox’s timely book, The Tribal Imagination: Civilization and the Savage Mind (Harvard University Press 2011), wherein he describes the ever more obvious dissonance between national borders and ethnic identification, especially in Third World conflict regions.

With this in mind, as the Language Conflict book was prepared for publication, Bill Davies and I realized that there was much, much more to be done, as regards educating others about the topic, documenting conflict cases, and making such information generally accessible. To address this, we proposed to create an online repository of such information. Bill’s passing in 2017 put the plan out of reach for a time, but soon after, colleagues at my own university stepped up and brought their own energy and imagination to bear upon the matter, leading to projects that would have been inconceivable ten years earlier – the creation of an Encyclopedia of Global Ethnolinguistic Conflict (EGEC) and the formation of a consultancy ConflictAnalytiXTM.

The consultancy, an effort with political scientist Harvey Starr, is in its initial organizational stages, while planning for the EGEC began in 2017 with digital humanities scholar Michael Gavin, and work on it commenced in August 2018. The EGEC will be a source of information about ethnolinguistic conflicts and language rights violations around the world, ultimately growing to several hundred cases, providing useful information to linguists, political scientists, historians, and legal scholars, as well as to students, public school teachers, journalists, and activists. Each conflict entry will provide information about: the parties to the conflict and the conflict itself; the languages/dialects spoken/used by those parties; key conflict events (causal/resolution events, aggravating/ameliorating events); laws, edicts, and constitutional acts pertaining to the conflict. Cases will be geolocated, with search functions filtering conflict type, language (family), state/territory/region, recency, and intensity.

It is our current plan to present the Encyclopedia with some prototyped entries at the January 2019 LSA Annual Meeting in NY, and to have a teaching and testing version of it up and running in time for a course on the topic at the 2019 LSA Linguistic Institute in June-July 2019 at University of California – Davis.

Language Conflict and Language Rights by William D. Davies and Stanley Dubinsky is available now.  The Encyclopedia of Global Ethnolinguistic Conflict is a curated digital source of information about ethnolinguistic conflicts and language rights violations around the world, information not readily available elsewhere

Call for Editor Proposals – Language in Society

Professor Jenny Cheshire is completing her tenure in December 2019 as Editor of Language in Society (LiS). Cambridge University Press is now inviting applications for the position of Editor. A team of two Co-Editors will also be considered. Final appointment decisions will be made by the Syndicate of Cambridge University Press.

The deadline for applications is February 1, 2018.

Language in Society is an international journal of sociolinguistics concerned with language and discourse as aspects of social life. The journal publishes empirical articles of general theoretical, comparative or methodological interest to students and scholars in sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, and related fields. LiS aims to strengthen international scholarship and interdisciplinary conversation and cooperation among researchers interested in language and society by publishing work of high quality which speaks to a wide audience. In addition to original articles, the journal publishes reviews and notices of the latest important books in the field as well as occasional theme and discussions sections.

LiS published volume 47 in 2018. Its 2017 Impact Factor was 1.426, placing it 45 of 181 journals in the Linguistics JCR and 56 of 147 journals in the Sociology JCR (ranked by Impact Factor).

Interested applicants should send a curriculum vita and cover letter along with an abbreviated development plan (not to exceed two pages) and the names and email addresses of three referees, to Amy Laurent at Cambridge University Press (details below).

Editorial responsibilities will include:

  • Shaping the strategic direction of the journal, in cooperation with Cambridge
  • Organizing and managing the editorial office, with support from Cambridge
  • Managing the peer review process (the journal uses the ScholarOne system)
  • Making final article acceptance decisions
  • Editing and proofing articles for the journal
  • Proposing and working with members of an active Editorial Board
  • Attending relevant conferences and an annual editorial meeting

In your application, please indicate your:

  • Experience of publishing in the field
  • Editorial experience, ideally with an academic journal
  • Ability to work under pressure, meet deadlines and work as part of a team
  • Strong professional and academic links
  • Organizational, communication and IT skills
  • Institutional support, financial or otherwise, to aid your work on the journal
  • Proposed plan for development, including areas such as:
    • Engagement of journal reviewers and editorial board members
    • Areas of focus for commissioning
    • Journal metrics

Please direct applications and any questions to Amy Laurent, Editor, Cambridge University Press at [email protected]Please use Language in Society Call for Editor as your email subject line.

English in the Movies by David Crystal

I hear pop songs in English in every country I visit. Just back from a lecture tour around Italy, and I heard them in taxis, in hotels playing background music, and in cars passing in the street with the radio on loud – in every city. Often, the listeners are singing along, demonstrating a level of English ability that is sometimes well beyond their general level of competence. It’s a great language-learning tool – and I’ve had exactly the same experience in my own encounter with other languages. When I was learning Portuguese in Brazil, my samba-ese far exceeded by general skill. But the musical dimension had all sorts of benefits. It gave me confidence. I felt I was beginning to identify with the culture. And I could drop musical quotations into my basic Portuguese that delighted both me and my hosts.

So why isn’t there always the same experience in the cinema? On my Italy tour, I was in a different hotel every night, and occasionally flicked through the TV channels. I glimpsed many English-language films, and every one was dubbed into Italian. What an opportunity missed! Same thing happened in Germany. I love watching foreign films in their original languages, with English sub-titles. It’s a totally different experience. One of my favourite films is La Nuit AmericaineDay for Night – and I’ve watched it both in French and dubbed into English. There’s something bizarre about seeing people with distinctively French expressions and gestures interacting with English voices. And my Italian friends on this trip told me they felt exactly the same watching English-language movies dubbed in Italian.

But the climate may be changing, and in this week of the launch of the third edition of CEEL I read news reports from different countries proudly announcing that it’s now possible to watch English-language films in the original language. And Italy is among the headlines! The website Wanted in Rome has a report about  the ‘growing number of cinemas in Rome showing movies in their original English-language versions, with subtitles in Italian’, and lists eighteen of them. In Spain, Murcia Today reports that  the Hornillo multicine shows Spanish-language films throughout the week, but every Tuesday shows English language originals – this week on 27 November The Girl in the Spider’s Web and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Might these initiatives spill over into television?

The mood seems to have been building up this year. I don’t recall such developments making online headlines before. In March, a teacher of English at a lycée in the town of Béziers, southern France launched a petition on Change.org calling for an end to the dubbing of foreign films and TV series and asking for all foreign programmes broadcast in their original version. She commented: ‘People say the French have problems with foreign languages but it is because they do not have the opportunity to hear them regularly enough.’ And the headline of the report is sympathetic: ‘Why it’s time France stopped dubbing English-language films and TV series’. For adults, of course, not for kids who are still learning to read.

It’s already happened in some countries. A report last year in Dutch Review headed ‘Why are the Dutch so good at speaking English?’ comments:

‘Fact is that the Dutch get in touch with the English language early in life through television. They don’t dub any movies or series, and contrary to other European countries like Spain, Germany or France you can watch everything on TV in original language while reading the subtitles in Dutch. This means that the kids in the Netherlands have a much more natural approach when it comes to learning and speaking English propelling them well ahead of their peers in other countries.’

I’ve found similar comments in relation to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. And as a regular visitor to the Netherlands (I have a daughter living there) I have to concur with the reporter. But my remarks are anecdotal. It would be really interesting to see a current survey on dubbing practices worldwide – and not just for English, but for all languages. I remember reading an English Proficiency Index report a few years ago which pointed out parallels between proficiency and subtitling. There wasn’t a total correlation (e.g. in Poland and Germany), and there were some complicated scenarios in places where the choice of ‘subs or dubs’ raises issues of endangerment and identity (such as Quebec). Practices evidently vary greatly worldwide.

David Crystal is one of the world’s foremost authorities on language, having published extensively over the past fifty years on his research work in English language studies.  An internationally renowned writer, editor, lecturer, and broadcaster, he received an OBE in 1995 for his services to the study and teaching of the English language. He is Honoury Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, and was made a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA) in 2000. David lives in Holyhead, Wales, where he is the director of the Ucheldre Centre, a multi-purpose arts and exhibition centre.

David Crystal’s third edition of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of English Langauge, with additional features such as audio recordings is now available.  Explore the David Crystal Collection which includes these resources, free articles, a competition and more.

Leading phonetician, Klaus J. Kohler, invites you to discuss Communicative Functions and Linguistic Forms in Speech Interaction

Dear Reader of this Blog,

Cambridge University Press has published the linguistic monograph

Kohler, K. J. (2017). Communicative Functions and Linguistic Forms in Speech Interaction (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 156). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In this Blog I, the author, introduce it to you and draw your attention to its new scientific message for spoken-language research.

 

Let us begin with a couple of questions.

Are you interested in how speech communication works in human interaction?

Do you study speech forms as anchored in communicative functions?

If you are a phonetician or a linguist or a psychologist in speech recognition and understanding or a sociologist in speech communication and conversation analysis or a communications engineer your answer to both Polarity Questions should be positive, and I would express this expectation by combining these syntactic interrogatives with falling intonation in the spoken medium.

As a psychologist or a sociologist you are bound to give a positive answer to the first question, but your answer to the second may be negative, because you may focus, in a behaviourist paradigm, on speech forms, such as signal differentiation in speech recognition, or interactive phrasal sequencing in conversation analysis. In both cases, semantic interpretation follows formal differentiation, i.e. function is anchored in form, rather than the reverse.

Many experimental phoneticians and lab phonologists may give negative answers to both questions, because they limit their investigation to phonetic measurement for phonological forms. This is the focus on form par excellence. For many linguists, the answers may be negative as well, because their main goal is to provide (parts of) grammars for undocumented, even endangered languages, for which a lexicon needs to be compiled, and the formal phonological, morphological and syntactic systems have to be set up before the use of these forms in interactional functions can be investigated. However, this no longer applies to formally well described languages such as English, German, the other Germanic languages, the Romance languages, the Slavonic languages, Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese. There, linguistic study will benefit immensely by placing speech communication in interaction at the centre and by relating the language-specific formal patterns to communicative functions, which are either linked universally to homo loquens or are culturally conditioned. This is the stance of Communicative Functions and Linguistic Forms in Speech Interaction. Therefore, if, against my assumption, your answers are negative, although you are working on well-described languages, I will retort with the Confirmation Questions

You aren’t interested?

You don’t study form in function?

in declarative syntactic structure, combined, when spoken, either with falling intonation in high register, or with a falling + high rising intonation contour. Both patterns pick up the negative answers to my preceding questions, expressing surprise at the negative answers and asking to reconsider them. The falling-rising pattern adds incredulity to surprise.

The above question interactions between author and blog reader illustrate two of quite an elaborate set of Question functions, which beside Request and Command are sub-functions of the Sender’s Appeal to the Receiver in communicative interaction. The formal exponents of the different Question functions are combinations of syntactic structures and intonation patterns in the spoken medium. The different intonation patterns in the two types of Confirmation Question are also exponents of the sender’s Expression function.

The book presents a partial framework of universally postulated communicative functions, on the basis of Karl Bühler’s Organon Model, which relates the linguistic sign to the Sender (Expression), the Receiver (Appeal) and to Objects and Factual Relations in space and time (Representation). Within Expression, Appeal and Representation sub-functions are set up; among others a fine-grained system of Question Appeals is developed. Then the discussion relates linguistic form to these functions, taking all relevant exponents into account – sounds, words, syntax, prosody. The function-form systems are presented in parallel for English and German, illustrated with rich documentation of descriptive data and experimental measurements in tables and figures, as well as audio files downloadable from the Resources site of the book on the CUP website. In spite of differences in formal detail, the two systems show great similarities, even in the prosodic forms associated with the Appeal and Expression functions.

The same functional Question Appeal framework has also been applied to the quite different syntactic and prosodic forms of Mandarin Chinese, providing an insightful contrastive comparison with the English and German systems. Thus, this book is sending out the message to the language and speech world to reconsider their standard form approach and ask instead what are the basic categories of meaning that speakers want to transmit to listeners, and what formal means do they use to achieve it?

Hopefully, I may have roused your interest to browse through the book, and perhaps even to apply the paradigm to other languages. I would be delighted to enter into discussion with you by email.

 

Klaus J. Kohler

[email protected].

https://www.ipds.uni-kiel.de/kjk/.

 

Interested in reading more? Enjoy free access to Chapter 1. Speech Communication in Human Interaction until 31 December 2018.

Figures of Speech Competition Winners

We are delighted to announce the winner of the Figures of Speech linguistics cartoon competition.

Congratulations to Jonas B. Wittke (a graduate student at Rice University, USA) and Jonathan Maki (an art teacher in Minneapolis) for winning the iPad Pro, Apple Pen and £100 of CUP vouchers with their cartoon series Minimal Peers.

The judges, including linguists, cartoonists and the CUP editorial team, thought the presentation of Minimal Peers was extremely professional and the cartoons funny with approachable and intelligent linguistic points.

We will be publishing the full cartoon series on our Twitter and Facebook pages over the next six weeks beginning on Friday 19 October.

Congratulations, too, to the three runners up who will each receive £100 of CUP books.

  • Selina Sutton, Northumbria University
  • Belinda Krottendorfer, University of Vienna
  • Samuel Crowe, University of York

We would like to express our thanks to everyone who entered the competition, it has been clear that entrants spent a significant amount of time and effort creating the cartoons and it has been a pleasure to read them all.

The judging panel included:

Dominic Wyse, author of How Writing Works
Dominic is Professor of Early Childhood and Primary Education at the University College London (UCL), Institute of Education (IOE), and Head of the Department of Learning and Leadership. Dominic will be President of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) from 2019 to 2021. He is a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS), and of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).
Click here to access How Writing Works.

Paul Baker, author of American and British English
Paul is a Professor in the department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University with an interest in Corpus linguistics, particularly in relation to discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis and recent diachronic change; representation of identity, especially gender and sexuality; and analysis of news and online corpora. Paul is the commissioning editor of Corpora journal.
Click here to access American and British English.

Berger and Wyse
Joe Berger and Pascal Wyse produce animation and comic strips for various outlets, including Channel 4, BBC, Sky, Discovery, and The Guardian. Their animations include the title sequences to BBC1’s Hustle (Bafta, Emmy and RTS nominations) and the more recent Ambassadors, starring Mitchell and Webb. You can currently see their work every Saturday in The Guardian Weekend magazine.
Click here to visit the Berger and Wyse website for examples of their work.

Cambridge University Press Linguistics Editorial Team
Andrew Winnard, Executive Publisher (Language and Linguistics, Anthropology)
Helen Barton, Commissioning Editor (Language and Linguistics)
Rebecca Taylor, Commissioning Editor (Linguistics)

Extracting Meaning from Sound — Computer Scientists and Hearing Scientists Come Together Right Now

Machines that listen to us, hear us, and act on what they hear are becoming common in our homes.. So far, however, they are only interested in what we say, not how we say it, where we say it, or what other sounds they hear. Richard Lyon describes where we go from here.

 

Based on positive experiences of marrying auditory front ends to machine-learning back ends, and watching others do the same, I am optimistic that we will see an explosion of sound-understanding applications in coming years. At the same time, however, I see too many half-baked attempts that ignore important properties of sound and hearing, and that expect the machine learning to make up for poor front ends. This is one of reasons that I wrote Human and Machine Hearing.

Machines that listen to us, hear us, and act on what they hear are becoming common in our homes, with Amazon Echo, Google Home, and a flurry of new introductions in 2017. So far, however, they are only interested in what we say, not how we say it, where we say it, or what other sounds they hear. I predict a trend, very soon, toward much more human-like hearing functions, integrating the “how”, “what”, and “where” aspects of sound perception to augment the current technology of speech recognition. As the meaning of sound comes to be better extracted, even the “why” is something we can expect machines to deal with.

Some of these abilities are becoming available already, for example in security cameras, which can alert you to people talking, dogs barking, and other sound categories. I have developed technologies to help this field of machine hearing develop, on and off over the last 40 years, based firmly in the approach of understanding and modeling how human hearing works. Recently, progress has been greatly accelerated by leveraging modern machine learning methods, such as those developed for image recognition, to map from auditory representations to answers to the “what” and “where” questions.

It is not just computer scientists who can benefit from this engineering approach to hearing. Within the hearing-specialized medical, physiology, anatomy, and psychology communities, there is a great wealth of knowledge and understanding about most aspects of hearing, but too often a lack of the sort of engineering understanding that would allow one to build machine models that listen and extract meaning as effectively as we do. I believe the only way to sort out the important knowledge is to build machine models that incorporate it. We should routinely run the same tests on models that we run on humans and animals, to test and refine our understanding and our models. And we should extend those tests to increasingly realistic and difficult scenarios, such as sorting out the voices in a meeting — or in the proverbial cocktail party.

To bring hearing scientists and computer scientists together, I target the engineering explanations in my book to both. A shared understanding of linear and nonlinear systems, continuous- and discrete-time systems, acoustic and auditory approaches, etc., will help them move forward together, rather than in orthogonal directions as has been too common in the past.

Find out more about the book and check out Richard Lyon’s commentary on, and errata for, Human and Machine Hearing.

Richard F. Lyon leads Google’s research and applications development in machine hearing as well as the team that developed camera systems for the Google Street View project. He is an engineer and scientist known for his work on cochlear models and auditory correlograms for the analysis and visualization of sound, and for implementations of these models, which he has also worked on at Xerox PARC, Schlumberger, and Apple. Lyon is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and of the Association for Computing Machinery, and is among the world’s top 500 editors of Wikipedia. He has published widely in hearing, VLSI design, signal processing, speech recognition, computer architecture, photographic technology, handwriting recognition, computer graphics, and slide rules. He holds 58 issued United States patents for his inventions, including the optical mouse.