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.

Albert Valdman Award Winners 2017

Blog post from Akira Murakami and Theodora Alexopoulou:

We wish to express our sincere gratitude to Studies in Second Language Acquisition and Cambridge University Press for selecting our paper, ‘L1 influence on the acquisition order of English grammatical morphemes: A learner corpus study’, as the winner of the Albert Valdman Award. The paper is based on the PhD thesis of Akira, who first grew his interest in SLA when he learned about the natural order in an undergraduate SLA class. It is an interesting coincidence that his very first journal paper turned out to be on the topic and eventually won this prestigious award. Morpheme studies in the 1970’s and 1980’s let us believe that the morpheme acquisition order is universal. Modern large-scale learner corpora have made it possible to empirically test the claim on a large dataset. We believe our study exemplifies a case where large-scale learner corpora contribute to SLA research, and it is our hope that more SLA researchers will turn to corpora as a data source in their research.

“Analysing English Sentences” – A. Radford

By Susan E. Holt

My love affair (and it really is love) with linguistics began back as a nine year old watching “My Fair Lady” for the first time.  After the initial romance, it was time to make a serious commitment and that came in the form of saying “I do” to a university place at Durham studying English Language and Linguistics.  This marriage was solemnized in the presence of a holy book: “Analysing English Sentences” by Andrew Radford.

So my venture into the book began in the first week of university.  The heaviest of all  the books on our booklist, myself and my new linguistics friends quickly (and correctly) figured it must be important.  During first year syntax, the red book was omnipresent in our tutorials and on our study desks: all those tree diagrams and what is more, we were beginning to understand them!  So many did we have to draw that we came up with the idea of manufacturing tree diagram stencils.  This idea was a bit of a non-starter as every subsequent chapter seemed to add more layers and labels. That’s why this book works: it guides you through at an effective pace.  Anyhow, destined to complete our first year of university rather than enter a design and manufacturing career, we came to be really appreciative of Radford’s explanations.  

At my university, we quickly came to understand that at the heart of every course was Noam Chomsky.  What is more, our Professor, his PhD tutor was Noam Chomsky himself; ergo, we were just one step from the big guy himself!  We were curious as to why no Chomsky books were on our reading list for our linguistics course.  And so one day we marched to our university library in search of Chomsky’s work after all, we were studying him and thus it made perfect sense to us.  So full of first year thirst for betterment, enlightenment and knowledge, we approached the linguistics shelf in the library and to our initial delight we were presented with gleaming spines reading “Chomsky”.  Finally, we could read Chomsky’s work.  So we took one of his books from the shelf and opened it.  We opened the cover and began reading.  Yikes.  We ever so quickly realised our eminent tutors, Doctors and Professor had in fact been shielding us from what we were striving towards, they were packaging up Chomsky’s ideas into piecemeal chunks and knew that seeing the work in the original would have scared us silly – as indeed it had done in that university library that day.

And so it was with renewed love and affection that we turned back to our beloved Radford book “Analysing Sentences”.  Radford’s book was to be our map through the forest of syntactic trees. Overlooking the green lawn, every tutorial was filled with the trees of Radford’s exercises.  Whilst they seemed tricky back then, it was all part of the learning process and actually we all found them fun.

Radford’s textbook didn’t just serve us well in our first year, many of us were still using it through our finals.  Whilst we may have moved on to learning about government and binding theory and the minimalist approach, our first love of the big red book would never wane.  So much so was our love of the book that as undergrads we did in fact send an email of thanks for his helpful book. Now, sending an email at that time was in itself very exciting as email and the internet was just starting, however what was even more thrilling was an email reply from Andrew Radford!  Radford responded so kindly, informatively and not a tree in sight (tricky in an email back in those days I guess).  What a boon to our quest for scholarly enlightenment: forget being one step from Chomsky, we had just received an email from the author of the book which made all linguistics learning possible.

And so my love of linguistics was enhanced by this book and whilst I may not read the book every night, I can never think of syntax without a smile of gratitude for Radford’s book and all of his trees.

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Find out more about the new second edition of Analysing English Sentences by Andrew Radford

Andrew Radford Analysing English Sentences

Tasks, methodological transparency and the IRIS database of research materials

Commentary by Emma Marsden, University of York and Margaret Borowczyk, Georgetown University

IRIS is a repository of instruments used in second language research. It was created to increase access to the variety of materials used to elicit data for empirical studies (e.g. pictures, participant instructions, language tests, response options, working memory tests, videos, software scripts). These materials are so often left out of research reports, mainly due to publishers’ space constraints. IRIS allows consumers to more directly evaluate the validity of certain research and improves the speed and accuracy of replication research.  It is a free, theory agnostic, database that is searchable across over one hundred different search criteria (such as ‘type of instrument’, ‘research area’, or ‘language’). IRIS currently holds more than two and a half thousand files, bundled into almost a thousand complete sets of data collection tools. Most instruments are downloaded by Ph.D. students (4,600 downloads to date), followed by Master’s students (4,400) and language teachers (2,370). This suggests that new generations of second language researchers are making productive use of this resource and building their studies on pre-trialed and peer-reviewed instruments, which will help to develop more tightly related research agendas and increase our understanding of the validity and reliability of the tools that we use. Critically, materials downloaded from IRIS can be adapted by others to suit the particular context under investigation.

The Annual Review of Applied Linguistics began to publish its first empirical articles with the 2016 issue, which focused on tasks. (Prior to this, ARAL had published exclusively reviews). All the instruments used for the studies in the 2016 issue are part of the IRIS repository. ARAL will continue to publish empirical studies (as well as review and position papers) and all instruments used for ARAL articles will be shared via the IRIS database, to benefit the second language research community. Indeed, ARAL is an official journal of AAAL, and AAAL, in line with the methodological reform movement in applied linguistics and beyond, now highlights IRIS in its publication guidelines.

The 2016 ARAL issue on tasks contains several articles that used valuable instruments, each with very wide appeal. For example, Plonsky and Kim (2016) provided a meta-analysis of 85 studies that analyzed task-based learner language, and shared their coding scheme (an Excel file) with IRIS. Their instrument makes explicit the target features (e.g. grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, pragmatics), methodological features (e.g. study designs, sampling, analyses, reporting practices), and contextual and demographic variables that entered into their analysis. IRIS contains six other meta-analysis assessment instruments, including coding schemas for meta-analyses of L2 strategy instruction (Plonsky, 2011), learner corpus research (Paquot & Plonsky, in press), test format effects on reading and listening test performance (In’nami & Koizumi, 2009), and task and rater effects in L2 speaking and writing (In’nami & Koizumi, in press). Overall, these instruments have proven to be popular, with meta-analysis assessments garnering over 100 downloads as of February 2017.

Révész and Gurzynski-Weiss (2016) contributed an article that combined introspective and behavioral data from teachers to examine what made tasks easy or difficult from teachers’ perspectives. The researchers asked 16 ESL teachers to look at slides that detailed four tasks and 1) assess the linguistic ability students would need to carry out the tasks and 2) consider how they would adapt the tasks to suit the needs of learners at lower and higher proficiency levels. As the teachers contemplated these questions, they were asked to vocalize what they were thinking about, and their eye movements were tracked to provide information about the extent to which they interacted with the task instructions and pictorial input. The slides that Révész and Gurzynski-Weiss used to elicit these data are available on IRIS. The repository contains many other think-aloud protocols which have been used in studies of semantic implicit learning (Paciorek & Williams, 2015), the reactivity of verbal reports (Bowles, 2008), strategy instruction of reading comprehension (Karimi, 2015), and numerous others. As second language research communities working with think-aloud and psycholinguistic data expand, we expect IRIS to be an invaluable resource.

Finally, in the 2016 task issue of ARAL, Li, Ellis, and Zhu (2016) conducted a study comparing the effectiveness of task-based and task-supported instruction for the acquisition of the English passive construction. The effect of four treatments (no instruction, pre-task explicit instruction, within-task feedback with no instruction, and within task feedback with explicit instruction) was measured using a grammaticality judgment test (JT) and an elicited imitation test (EIT). Both instruments are available on IRIS. Searching for ‘elicited imitation’ shows another 45 similar materials are accessible in a wide range of languages, including Arabic, Japanese, Russian and Vietnamese. This is an indication of the growing interest in this method, not only as a measure of sensitivity to specific language features but also as a potentially reliable proxy for general language proficiency. JTs (the other instrument used by Li, Ellis, and Zhu) are, in fact, the second most downloaded instruments on IRIS (following questionnaires, which elicit data on, for example, language awareness, language background, learning strategies). JTs from 425 studies across a wide range of subfields are available, providing an incredibly varied and comprehensive assortment from which to draw. 315 of these JTs have been sourced for an IRIS ‘Special Collection’ (see the button on the Search and Download page) as they are linked to a methodological synthesis of this hugely popular technique (Plonsky, Marsden, Gass, Crowther, Spinner, in preparation). Another Special Collection on IRIS holds approximately 60 self-paced reading tests, also linked to a methodological synthesis (Marsden, Thompson & Plonsky, under review). Other researchers are welcome to develop such collections that are linked to syntheses or meta-analyses they are undertaking

Materials, including data and analysis protocols, are eligible for upload to IRIS if they have been used for any publication that has been peer-reviewed, including Ph.D. theses. In tandem with methodological reform movements in other fields, ARAL, as well as thirty other journals in the field, encourages its authors to make their materials available on IRIS. For further information, see FAQs or contact [email protected]

The American Association for Applied Linguistics and the Annual Review of Applied Linguistics: New format/closer ties

Commentary by Kathleen M. Bailey, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and President, AAAL and Alison Mackey, Georgetown University and Lancaster University and editor of ARAL

Every year for almost four decades, ARAL has served a pivotal role as an official journal of AAAL. ARAL has long been a preeminent source for state-of-the-art reviews and syntheses of timely topics within the field of applied linguistics, thus providing a kind of compass indicating interests and developments in applied linguistics. It will retain this function, in addition to becoming a source for position pieces, methodological critiques, and empirical articles that stay on the pulse of new approaches to the field.

On a few occasions, ARAL’s theme has coincided with the theme of the AAAL conference, with plenary and colloquia speakers contributing articles, thereby extending their conversations across the written pages and conference spaces. For instance, in 2015, all of the speakers in the “Identity in Applied Linguistics” colloquium at AAAL contributed articles to the 2015 Identity issue of ARAL (one of which, by Darvin & Norton, won the annual TESOL Award for Distinguished Research).

New Annual Commentary paper:

In 2016, the topic of ARAL was task-based language teaching (TBLT). Now, one year later, timed to coincide with the 2017 AAAL conference and the 2017 TBLT conference, ARAL is, for the first time, publishing a [forthcoming] Commentary, made up of short responses to the TBLT issue written by leading scholars in the field (Martin Bygate, Susan M. Gass, Rhonda Oliver and Peter Robinson). These knowledgeable voices express views that are sometimes complementary, sometimes questioning and often entertaining. The Commentary will only appear online, a new move for the journal. It will appear in conjunction with the annual AAAL conference every year, giving members the opportunity to review the journal’s contents from their colleagues’ perspectives as well as their own.

New blogs:

In addition to the Commentary, in another new move for ARAL, short pieces by AAAL members and other applied linguists will also appear here, in the Cambridge Extra blog. The first blog after this one explains how, like almost all journals in applied linguistics, we ARAL now requests that all instruments used in empirical articles be made available on the online free, searchable IRIS materials repository. This will increase the accessibility of valid and reliable measurement tools and materials, providing a resource for existing and future generations of applied linguistics researchers. This is outlined in the blog by Marsden and Borowczyk.

Both AAAL and ARAL benefit from the recent changes to the journal’s scope and online presence. The decision to expand the scope of the journal to include reviews, position papers, and empirical articles will help keep conversations generated by the journal current and prospective, as well as retrospective, to reflect the interests of the membership. We expect that this move will expand the reach and appeal of the journal to scholars, educators, and students who might be better served by any of the new genres. Consistent with AAAL’s strategic plan, which promises to provide members with resources and opportunities for professional development and valuable benefits beyond the conference, ARAL’s commitment to making top-notch research accessible to communities of applied linguists, educators and students, and providing resources for young researchers in the form of materials and instruments, will be central in furthering our mission.

AAAL and ARAL leadership look forward to working together to reflect and promote the field of applied linguistics towards a future where it can be pedagogically impactful and theoretically robust, and we believe the new format of the TBLT issue is an exciting step in that direction.

Read the TBLT issue here

The merits of a case study approach in communication disorders

Blog post by Louise Cummings, Nottingham Trent University.

The case study has had something of a bad press in recent years. How often do we hear that they provide low-quality evidence of the effectiveness of an intervention in speech and language therapy? The emphasis on evidence-based practice in healthcare has seen the case study relegated to the bottom of the hierarchy of evidence. From this lowly position, the case study is seen to fall of scientific objectivity and rigour which are the hallmarks of other types of investigation, most notably systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials. The result is that researchers, teachers and practitioners in a wide range of disciplines feel almost duty-bound to preface their use of case studies with a health warning – these studies are of limited scientific value and should be treated as such. I have no intention of issuing health warnings or adopting an apologetic approach to the use of case studies. Indeed, I believe they offer immeasurable benefits in instructional and research contexts in communication disorders and elsewhere. These benefits are threefold.

First, case studies are the most effective way of introducing students of communication disorders to the key skill which all clinicians must possess, namely, clinical decision-making. Speech and language therapists must make decisions on a daily basis about how best to assess and treat their clients, when to terminate a course of therapy and refer clients to other medical and health professionals, and how to measure the outcomes of intervention. Of course, it is true that clinicians acquire and refine most of their skills of clinical decision-making ‘on the job’. But it is also possible to get a head start on this process by interrogating the basis of decisions that are taken in the management of actual clients. This is where the case study comes into its own. By exploring the basis of the full gamut of decisions which clinicians must make in relation to a client, students can begin to assimilate the very essence of this most elusive of clinical skills. The case study is not just the most effective, but the only, method by means of which this can be achieved.

Second, case studies provide an invaluable opportunity for students of communication disorders to put their skills of linguistic analysis into practice. The narrative produced by an adult with a traumatic brain injury or the conversational exchange between a client with aphasia and his or her spouse is the richest possible data on which to fine tune these skills. I will not be alone in lamenting the lack of such data in modern research articles in communication disorders, the emphasis of which is on the reporting of largely quantitative results in the shortest space possible. It is something of an irony that as electronic publications have surpassed print publications, in journals at least, the extended extracts of language often seen in older research papers have all but disappeared in more modern articles. If anything, an electronic format should make the inclusion of client narratives and conversational exchanges more, not less, likely to be published. There is simply nowhere for the student of communication disorders to get this practice other than through case studies.

Third, all medical and health professionals are encouraged to see the client first, and their medical condition or other disorder second. This is no less the case for speech and language therapists who must learn that aphasia, dysarthria and other communication disorders sit alongside an array of factors which can influence a client’s adjustment to communication disability. Case studies are the best context in which to appreciate the complex interplay that exists between communication disorders and these factors.

For all these reasons, I have championed a case study approach to communication disorders in my recent book Case Studies in Communication Disorders (Cambridge University Press, 2016). I urge other researchers, teachers and practitioners in speech and language therapy to do likewise.

Click here for a free extract

Cambridge Applied Linguistics Series

Cambridge Applied Linguistics Series Cambridge University Press

Blog post written by Carol A. Chapelle & Susan Hunston, Series Editors

The Cambridge Applied Linguistics Series highlights key topics in the field. Topics reflect the broad range of current interests in Applied Linguistics and include aspects of Language Acquisition, Language Teaching, Learning and Testing, Sociolinguistics, Cognitive Linguistics, Discourse Studies, and Research Methodologies. Although the series in the past has prioritised titles relevant to English Language Teaching, our current location within Cambridge Academic means that we are able to welcome titles with a broader remit.

All our books present original research, and many introduce important new concepts or offer significant novel contributions to existing debates. These titles are of particular interest to researchers. The series also includes books which address the concerns of students taking graduate courses in Applied Linguistics and TESOL. These survey key themes in Applied Linguistics, offering an authoritative contemporary account.

The series editors welcome proposals for new titles on a range of topics. We publish a mixture of single- or co-authored books and edited collections. If you have an idea for a book that you would like us to consider for the Cambridge Applied Linguistics Series, please contact one of us.

Series Editors:

Carol A. Chapelle – [email protected]

Susan Hunston– [email protected]

Commissioning Editor, Cambridge University Press:

Rebecca Taylor – [email protected]

Trump’s Monolingual Disadvantage

Blog Post by Douglas Kibbee, author of Language and the Law: Linguistic Inequality in America

Early in the fall of 2016 several news agencies speculated that Donald Trump might be suffering from early onset dementia.  Could this be related to his adamant monolingualism?  During his campaign Donald Trump rebuked Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish, telling him to talk English, he’s in America (2015).  In the campaign against Hilary Clinton, Trump dismissed bilingual communities, refusing to advertise in languages other than English. America will not be made great by making it monolingual.  Monolingualism is not just a threat to national security and economic competitiveness.  It’s a threat to public health.

One of the greatest weaknesses of our educational system is the decline in foreign-language education, confirmed in a recent report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (The State of Languages in the U.S. A Statistical Portrait, https://www.amacad.org/multimedia/pdfs/publications/researchpapersmonographs/State-of-Languages-in-US.pdf).  The Academy’s report describes a decline in offerings of foreign language education and the widening gap between American education and the rest of the developed world.  In the U.S. only a fifth of K-12 students are enrolled in languages other than English, compared to more than half of European students.   Middle schools offering other languages have dropped from 75% to 58%, effectively foreclosing the possibility of advanced competency.  At the same time, the benefits of dual-language immersion are substantial : by the eighth grade students in dual-language immersion programs are a full year ahead of their counterparts in English language skills.  A study by researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University placed Mr. Trump’s English skills at a 5th-6th grade level, by far the lowest of any of the serious candidates from either party.

As a policy issue, the decline in foreign-language education may reflect a fundamental misconception of education’s role. The fragmentation of education represented by home schooling and the charter school movement is a means to make education confirm what students (and their parents) already believe, rather than to challenge them to understand a diverse world. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Education, spins this as a rejection of “one size fits all” education, but in fact it’s a rejection of very foundation of education.  Self-segregation by race or religion is on the rise, while students avoid exposure to other ways of thinking, including language.  Eva Moskowitz, CEO of one of the largest charter school groups (Success Academy in New York) bragged to the American Enterprise Institute about dropping foreign language education at her schools, serving, or disserving, 10,000 students in New York.

Apart from the social, economic and political consequences, monolingualism turns out to be bad for public health.  Scientific evidence for a bilingual cognitive advantage has been building.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that knowing two languages significantly improves transferable brain skills, an advantage psychologists call the “executive function system” of the brain.  The development of this sytem, located in the prefrontal cortex, is described by Canadian psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Fergus Craik as “the most crucial cognitive achievement in early childhood”.  The executive function system allows children to focus their attention, to distinguish relevant from distracting information, and to remember more accurately sequences of colors or shapes.

The scientific evidence is sometimes contested and certainly merits more, and more sophisticated, research, but it is clear that over one’s lifetime there are advantages to bilingualism.  Most clearly, Bialystok and her team found that for bilinguals the onset of dementia was delayed by over four years, compared to the onset age for monolinguals.  The advantages of lifelong bilingualism were confirmed in recent PhD research by Henrietta Boudros of Central Michigan University.

Computer brain games to maintain cognitive function have become a multibillion dollar industry, but the claims of the commercial applications are largely unsubstantiated.  A recent review of the research concluded “the evidence larely does not support claims of broad cognitive benefits from practicing the sorts of cognitive tasks used in most brain-training software” (Simons et al 2016, 172).  In short, the computer brain games make you better at playing computer brain games, but have little or no proven effect on cognition.

Instead Simons and his team found that “the development of such capacities appears to require sustained investment in relatively complex environments that afford opportunities for consistent practice and engagement with domain-related challenges” (2016, 112)  – exactly the challenges that learning and maintaining a second language provide.

Instead of mocking foreign language knowledge we, as a nation, should encourage it, both in educating our children and in supporting our bilingual communities.  We have done this in the past, as my book demonstrates; now more than ever it is essential that we embrace bilingualism.  Denial of language education and the suppression of bilingualism is not just a threat to national security, to international economic competitiveness, but also to public health.  It’s never too late to start learning another language, Mr. Trump.  Maybe Russian?