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)

What are the linguistic consequences of Brexit?

Blog post written by Gordana Lalic-Krstin and Nadezda Silaski, authors of the article ‘From Brexit to Bregret: An account of some Brexit-induced neologisms in English’ recently published in English Today.

What are the linguistic consequences of Brexit? Judging by the material we collected from news media (broadcast and online), Facebook and Twitter, blogs and internet forums, the event  has generated a myriad of neologisms in English, using Brexit as a model or as a source word.

Brexit  was modelled after Grexit, a word coined to denote the possibility of Greece leaving the Eurozone, giving rise to at least two more similarly coined blends, Spexit and Itexit, referring to the prospect of the same event in Spain and Italy. However, this was just a beginning of a true explosion of Brexit-related neologisms (or would that be Brexplosion / Brinvasion of Brexicon), many of which feature ludicity and humour. As the UK referendum approached and the media coverage intensified, building up suspense, new words proliferated in a matter of days to name hypothetical scenarios in other EU countries (e.g. Auxit [Austria + exit], Bexit [Belgium + exit], Chexit/Czechit [Czech + exit], Fixit [Finland + exit], Irelexit / Irexit [Ireland + exit], etc. For a while it seemed that there was a real craze on the internet as to who would come up with the most imaginative word. Very soon the morphological pattern was generalized and the meaning extended from that of ‘Britain leaving the EU’ to that of ‘any country leaving a political union’, as evidenced by Calexit [California + exit] ‘California leaving the US’, Texit [Texas + exit] ‘Texas leaving the US’ and Scexit/Scoxit [Scotland + exit] ‘Scotland leaving the UK’.

From the point of view of its word-formation, Brexit can be interpreted as having been coined from either Britain + exit or from British + exit, the latter interpretation being more prevalent. Similarly, with quite a few newly formed blends, it is equally unclear whether the first source word is Britain, British or Brexit, as for instance in breferendum, Brexpats or (point of no) Breturn. Clear cases include suffixations such as brexiter, brexiteer  or Brexitesque and neoclassical compounds Brexitography, Brexitology  or Brexitophobia. Blending proved to be one of the most productive mechnisms as in, for example, Borexit<Boris + exit, bracceptance<Brexit + acceptance, Braccident<Brexit + accident, Branalysis<Brexit + analysis, branger<Brexit + anger, brargaining<Brexit + bargaining, bredictable<Brexit + predictable, Bre-do<Brexit + redo, breferendum<Brexit + referendum, bregret<Brexit + regret, brenial<Brexit + denial, Brepeat<Brexit + repeat, brepression<Brexit + depression, bresults<Brexit + results, etc.  Blends coined with source words other than Brexit include: Brentry [Britain/British + entry], the word coined retrospectively by analogy with Brexit  to denote the entry of the UK into the European Economic Community in 1973; beleave [believe + leave], a slogan urging people to believe in the leave vote; EUge (mistake) [EU + huge], used by those opposed to Brexit to describe the EU referendum results; Eurhope [Europe + hope], Eunity [EU + unity] and Euthanasia [EU + euthanasia], all three seen on placards on pro-EU demonstrations.

Other word-formation processes have proved far less frequent: a number of neoclassical compounds have been recorded (Brexitography, Brexitometer, Brexitology and Brexitophobia), three nouns have been turned into verbs through conversion (bregret, brexit and regrexit). The verb brexit has been used in a clipped form brex, as in ‘Don’t go brexin’ my heart’, a play on a popular song. Bregret, brexit and bremain have so far been used as bases for suffixations: bregret>bregretter; brexit>brexiter, brexiteer, Brexitesque; bremain>bremainer.

Some of these words are clearly here to stay whereas others will surely be soon forgotten, failing to make a lasting contribution to the English word stock. And while predicting their failure or success can be a challenging and insightful linguistic endeavour, one thing is for sure: the word Brexit has already made an impact on the English lexicon and more related neologisms may be expected as new political and economic developments surrounding the process of Britain’s exiting the EU continue to unfold.

Read the full article ‘From Brexit to Bregret: An account of some Brexit-induced neologisms in English‘ published in English Today here.

The grammar of engagement

This blog post is written by Nicholas Evans, inspired by the Language and Cognition article “The grammar of engagement I: framework and initial exemplification” by Nicholas Evans, Henrik Bergqvist, and Lila San Roque. Read it online now.

‘Philosophy must plough over the whole of language’, as Wittgenstein famously stated. But which language? Singularising the noun allows a deceptive slippage between some language whose premises we take for granted (‘The limits of my language are the limits of my world’ was another great, and corrective, line of his) and ‘language’ in some dangerously, presumptively general sense. One of the great what-if questions for linguistics, philosophy and cognitive science is how different the last two millennia of western thought would be if we had built our disciplines on the foundations of languages radically different in what their grammars prioritise from Greek, Latin, Hebrew – or, more recently, German, French or English.

If we trace the development of language studies in the west, we find an early bisection between logic – which came to be associated with the study of meaning and reasoning, which should be shorn of all context – and rhetoric, where the relations between speaker and hearer are all-important but which does not primarily focus on grammar. The echoes of this continue today as, for example, formal semanticists continue to wrestle with how to define definiteness (the noisy neighbour) in ways that are based on set theory and mathematics rather than embodying representations of the speech setting or of ‘theory of mind’. But the recent ‘subjective’ turn among cognitive linguists, and the even more recent ‘intersubjective turn’, continue to throw up evidence about how deeply woven into language we find the search for common ground and its constant renegotiation, rooted in the speaker’s attention to their addressee’s attentional, emotional and belief states.

I’ve long been interested in ‘multiple perspective’ (Evans 2006) – originally sparked by special ‘triangular’ kin terms in Australian languages with meanings like ‘the one who is your mother and my daughter, me being your grandmother’. The conversation that was the genesis of this article took place with Jon Landaburu in 2004, on a bus trip from Mexico to Teotihuacan. In discussing the general issue of multiple perspective, I asked him whether he thought that similar biperspectival constructions ever get grammaticalised with modality. He then told me about his work on ‘engagement’ in the Colombian language Andoke, which later came out in the seminal article we refer to in ours. I was particularly struck by his suggestion that ‘it is the traditional influence on grammar of logic, whether scholastic or formal, which has led led to the separation of these two dimensions (i.e. speaker knowledge and intersubjective assessment) which are necessarily present and interwoven in any act of communication’ (Landaburu 2007:30-1, my translation). The crucial part of his article is that it allows for a bidimensional distribution of attention/knowledge or its absence: both speaker and hearer (assertion based on common ground/attention), neither (question for which no informed answer is expected), speaker-only (authoritative statement by speaker, who assumes the hearer doesn’t know or attend), addressee-only (inquiry of presumably better-informed addressee).

Although I loved the article, I was frustrated by the paucity of examples, and the lack of an interrogable corpus. I also thought that the full significance of his discovery wouldn’t be clear until comparable phenomena were found in other languages, and a proper analytic framework developed based on cross-linguistic comparison. In the succeeding years I gradually accumulated case studies that could form the basis of a typology. Perhaps more importantly, I was joined in this research by my two co-authors in this article, Henrik Bergqvist and Lila San Roque, each of whom, unlike me, has deep, firsthand experience working on languages in which engagement is a central part of the grammar – respectively Kogi in Colombia (close to, but unrelated to, Andoke) and Duna in Papua New Guinea. Their detailed fieldwork-based insights allowed a deeper probing of how this phenomenon really works in those languages. Even so, however, our understanding of how the grammar of engagement works is at an early stage and a major priority in the next stage of research is to gain more detailed field data, through a combination of recording naturalistic conversation and developing protocols for what Nikolaus Himmelmann calls ‘staged communicative events’ which allow us to vary, with more confidence, the factors at work.

In talks I’ve given on this phenomenon, I’m often asked: ‘isn’t this just the same as saying “so” or ‘hey!” or “actually” in English’. Well, there are clear overlaps in communicative function, and these words are the closest we can get to translating sentences from languages like Andoke in a reasonably natural way. But they are not systematically integrated into the grammar in the same way, forming tightly bound paradigms that require constant scanning of the addressee’s attention and knowledge states by the speaker.
Linguists have long believed that it makes a difference whether something is part of the grammar or simply an optional add-on – just as it makes a difference whether we need to obligatorily specify tense and definiteness, as in English, or do so in more roundabout ways, as in Chinese. Viewed another way, from real-time processing, psycholinguist Paula Rubio-Fernandez asks: is attributing mental states to others .. too costly to be used as a basis for online interaction? As an inflectional category, engagement definitely needs to be processed online, and it definitely involves attributing mental states to others – so our emerging typology is directly relevant to this central question for the psychology of social cognition.

Had the intellectual tradition of linguistics begun with Foe, Duna, or Kogi rather than Greek and Latin our notions of what is basic might have looked very different – and intersubjective categories would have demanded treatment from the very beginning. Ironically, what I have presented as a third, ‘intersubjective’ stage in linguistic approaches to the grammar of meaning – collaborative communication between speakers attending to each other, altering their common ground through time, and representing what each other knows – is arguably the precondition for the evolution of language in the first place.

One language’s grammar is another language’s discourse. The fact that we have had to travel to far-flung lands to find the ‘pure’ examples of engagement discussed in our article does not imply that their functional equivalents won’t turn up in interesting ways in all languages. At the same time, the interesting question arises of what difference does it make for a category like engagement to be elevated to a central grammatical position. For this we need sensitive cross-linguistic studies, preferably involving parallel or semi-parallel corpora, as well as psycholinguistic studies comparing the learning and processing of intersubjectively relevant categories, and taking as the independent variable the gquestion of whether the language has clearly grammaticalised engagement categories.

This piece is inspired by the Language and Cognition article “The grammar of engagement I: framework and initial exemplification” by Nicholas Evans, Henrik Bergqvist, and Lila San Roque. Read it online now.

References

Evans, N. (2006). View with a view: Towards a typology of multiple perspective. Berkeley Linguistics Society (BLS) 32, 93–120.
Landaburu, J. (2007). La modalisation du savoir en langue andoke (Amazonie colombienne). In Z. Guentchéva & J. Landaburu (eds.), L’énonciation médiatisée II: Le traitement épistémologique de l’information: Illustrations amérindiennes et caucasiennes (pp. 23–47). Leuven: Peeters.

Q & A: Registered Reports from Journal of Child Language

Beginning in summer 2018, Journal of Child Language will publish a new article format: Registered Reports. We asked two of the journal’s associate editors, Melanie Soderstrom and Elizabeth Wonnacott, a few questions about the introduction of this format.

 

What inspired the introduction of the Registered Reports?

MELANIE: Registered reports are a relatively new phenomenon in our research community, although to my understanding they come from a similar approach in the medical research community that has been around for many years for clinical trials. They are one part of the research community’s broad-based response to the so-called “Replication Crisis”. In early 2016, we were approached by the Center for Open Science requesting that we consider bringing this format to Journal of Child Language, and the idea received strong support.

LIZ: Yes – I don’t recall any dissenting voices when this idea was raised. I think many researchers in language development have been increasingly concerned about issues of replicability. Also, as editors, we see first-hand the benefit of getting feedback before the work is carried out. It is extremely frustrating to handle a paper where reviewers identify critical flaws, but a large amount of work has taken already place.

 

Can you describe the replicability crisis, for those who may not be aware?

MELANIE: The “Replication Crisis” is a term being used to describe the growing awareness of a cluster of phenomena centered around the idea that research findings may not be as robust as we like to think. On the empirical side, some very high profile studies have now shown that studies don’t replicate as well as we would like – although there is also now important discussion around what it means to replicate, and what IS a reasonable replication rate. Methodologically, it refers to widespread analytic practices like p-hacking, HARKing, and underpowered studies that inflate significant findings and lead to both Type I and Type II errors. On the practical side, there is little incentive among traditional publication/granting models to encourage replication of research findings. The Registered Report is a partial answer to these concerns.

LIZ: I think it is important to recognize that there are a lot of pressures on academics to publish papers with tidy results which tell a clear story. This might lead to practices such as exploring different ways of analysing a dataset until you find an analysis that “works out” (while reporting the results as though this was the only analysis attempted), or simply not attempting to publish studies which have null (or messy) results. These practices distort our literature. Registered Reports require researchers to publish regardless of the outcomes, and to be upfront about which aspects of the analyses are more exploratory.

 

How do these reports reflect wider trends in linguistics research?

MELANIE: Registered Reports are best suited for high-powered experimental work. As a linguistics journal, our mandate also includes analytic and observational work, and work on small populations, for which high power may be impractical, so not every study is suited for the Registered Report format. That said, there are benefits of this format that go beyond encouraging replication and reducing bad analytic practices. For example, authors receive valuable feedback from reviewers on their study prior to investing those crucial grant funds in an endeavor. Moreover, Registered Reports are part of a much larger movement toward Open Science (the idea that we have an obligation to share our data, methods and analyses for scrutiny and use by other researchers), something that is of importance to all sub-disciplines of experimental psychology and linguistics.

LIZ: It feels like a time of change in experimental research more broadly. For example, fifteen years ago, it was extremely difficult to publish null results in any journal, and this is certainly no longer the case. It was also rare for labs to make their data openly available, publish their analyses scripts etc. Attitudes are gradually changing so that it is now relatively common to see these types of Open Science practices, which are increasingly valued in researchers.

 

Read more about the format at this link.

 

Melanie Soderstrom is Associate Professor and Associate Head (Graduate) in the Department of Psychology at University of Manitoba, Canada.

Elizabeth Wonnacott is Senior Lecturer in Language and Cognition at University College London, UK.

Where is Applied Linguistics headed? Cambridge Journal editors weigh in

In advance of the upcoming AAAL Annual Meeting in Chicago, we asked editors of Cambridge applied linguistics journals for their thoughts on the state of the field.

Where is applied linguistics headed? Are there new approaches, methods or priorities that you think will have real impact on research and related practice in coming years?

Martha Crago, editor of Applied Psycholinguistics“In the next year’s two major developments, one technological and one social, will have a striking impact on applied linguistics: 1)The disruptive technology of machine learning (artificial intelligence) is based on the early work on neural networks in neuropsychology as well as on reinforcement learning that was once considered a learning mechanism for language acquisition. These new technological developments are likely to circle back and inform or intersect with work in applied psycholinguistics and its underlying theories. In addition, “big data” (computational linguistics) and its growing ability to look at large data sets in increasingly sophisticated ways will become a future direction for the field. 2) Human migration has reached vast proportions in the last few years. It is leading to very large numbers if refugees who are either in transit, often for years, or who are arriving to become residents, both legal and illegal, in a new country. These migratory patterns have striking implications for multi-lingualism and -literacy in people of all ages. This in turn has consequences for social integration and education. As a result, refugee populations will become a major preoccupation for applied psycholinguistic researchers.”

Alex Boulton, Editor of ReCALL “Applied linguistics is itself a controversial term which means different things to different people, and covers different domains in different languages. In French, for example, “linguistique appliquée” fell largely out of favour in the 1990s as it suggested simply applying linguistics to real-world problems. What is probably the largest domain is now referred to as “didactique” – i.e. language teaching and learning. Various initiatives have been undertaken to explore this at national and international levels, notably through AILA – the International Association of Applied Linguistics, founded in France in the 1960s.

Published by CUP and owned by EUROCALL, ReCALL is a leading journal focusing specifically on computer-assisted language learning. In the 30 years of its existence, we have seen increasing democratisation of technology and access to it, especially via the internet. This is evident in everyday practices (learners no longer have to be in a classroom or a computer room) as well as in the research being conducted into informal online learning. While early papers tended to place the software itself at the centre of the paper, today the emphasis is more on what actually happens in the learning process when using various types of technologies in different situations for different purposes.
In terms of methodologies, various surveys have found the majority of studies in applied linguistics to be quantitative in nature; while these were traditionally considered the most prestigious by many researchers, the situation is certainly evolving. There is no question of abandoning quantitative work, especially for learning outcomes or large-scale surveys, but there seems to be increasing room for more qualitative approaches, which allow greater emic understanding of the complexity of the learning process and the individuals involved. Of particular interest are mixed methods studies which, appropriately conducted, can draw on the strengths of both quantitative and qualitative work. Another evolution is the rise of rigorous research syntheses of various types, from the quantitative meta-analysis to the more qualitative narrative synthesis, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

Julia R. Herschenesohn, Coordinating Editor, Journal of French Language Studies “As we approach the third decade of the 21st Century, the most important opportunity that I see in applied linguistics research is the accessibility of big data—large corpora of empirical evidence that are available online to all researchers. Cloud storage, open access and increased computational power open a range of options for obtaining and analyzing evidence of language use and acquisition. Open access databases allow scholars to use statistically significant quantities to form generalizations, test hypotheses, replicate earlier studies and reanalyze previous research using different methodologies. The combination of language data—including controlled experiments, monitored production, informal speech and spontaneous dialogue—and sophisticated statistical software has already impacted research and related practices and will continue to expand in the following decades. As Editor of JFLS, I have seen a shift in the submissions we receive to a much larger number of articles including evidence from public access databases. For example, our next special themed issue comprises articles drawing from a few corpora of carefully transcribed and annotated examples of contemporary French speech that are analyzed by several authors in terms of lexical, morphosyntactic and phonological characteristics. The contributors bring to bear different methodologies and sub-discipline perspectives while mining the same source of data. The availability of big data allows scholars to test theoretical hypotheses with solid statistical tools to further our knowledge of how language is acquired and used under various circumstances.”

Graeme Porte, Editor of Language Teaching

Recurrence, revitalization, and replication in Applied Linguistics

“Like any dynamic field of science, Applied Linguistics (AL) is both in constant change and ever eager to be of practical use to those who benefit from its research discoveries. As researchers we are urged to “apply” our discoveries – ideally to some kind of language learning context. Since those contexts will almost certainly involve a practitioner, the nexus between the FL teacher and the AL researcher should be a close and mutually-benefitting one.

We have been lucky in that both AL researchers and practitioners have traditionally embraced new methodologies and promising trends – together with the occasional fad and damp squib – with anticipation. A cursory historical overview of these apparently novel approaches will, however, reveal timely re-emergences of elements which are key to many of these movements.

There has been a tendency actually to re-discover what we often think we are discovering and then mould it through more modern hands into something more acceptably novel, consistent with current attitudes and/or linguistic fashion (Cook, 2003[1]). Such “discoveries” can be seen as heralding in a new age for practitioners or even paradigm shifts for researchers. Whole new careers can be forged, exciting new angles on L2 learning revealed – and novel text book series sold by the thousands! Some teaching methods – such as TPR or Suggestopaedia – can be short-lived; others, such as the “communicative approach”, can become thoroughly regenerated into other methods. Yet others, as Michael Swan reminds us in his latest position piece for us (Language Teaching, 51.2 April), are regularly dismissed in their entirety as deficient approaches only for latter-day AL pioneers to uncover seemingly redeeming kernels of wisdom in their theoretical and practical bases. In the case of “Grammar-Translation”, for example, there are still many L2 learners who feel knowledge of grammar and L1-L2 equivalences improve their understanding of the target language and continues to satisfy a perceived need for going about “serious” language learning.

A similar picture might be painted of our research paradigms. In our embracing of AL as an essentially social science endeavour, we might be accused of being over keen to dismiss methodological approaches which smack too much of a “pure science” rather than a “social science” approach. Once again, however, we are witnessing a recent re-visiting of these previously out-of-favour research approaches.

Language Teaching is now at the forefront of a push for a renewed effort to recognise the contribution of replication studies to our literature. Replicating previous studies as a serious research methodology has only emerged onto the applied linguistics scene relatively recently; it has been a subject of interest elsewhere for much longer and has appeared as a fleeting subject of debate in the general social sciences literature for decades. Its feted re-appearance owes much to the concern expressed by many who depend on our research for its possible pedagogical implications and applications and who are rightly concerned about the presence of undetected error or the lack of confirmatory evidence provided across many of our empirical endeavors.

We may go back empirically to a study for several reasons, but that revisiting is predicated on the idea that no one piece of research (or researcher!) can include, or control for, all the many variables that might affect an 0utcome. It follows that a particularly important study only stands to benefit from such renewed attention if it can have its findings more precisely validated, its reliability focused on, its generalization tested, or even delimited, and its eventual application in learning contexts more finely tuned.

[1] Cook G. (2003). Applied Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Andrew Moody, Editor of English Today “The question of where Applied Linguistics is headed is a very difficult one to address because the field is already quite diverse. As a new editor (for English Today), I don’t feel highly qualified to be making predictions about the future of the disciplines that work within Applied Linguistics, but there are two developments that I have noticed as a reader and researcher in sociolinguistics and I think that these two are likely to become more prominent.

First, sociolinguists (and this is especially relevant to sociolinguists who are working with the English language) have become increasingly comfortable working with data that would traditionally have been discarded as ‘non-spontaneous’ or ‘not naturally occurring’. Data sources might include English-language media, literary texts or texts from popular culture. These texts show a rich interplay between local voices (ones that might be thought of as ‘authentic’ languages) and global voices, and the sociolinguistic analyses of these kinds of interplays and tensions (between, for example, ‘global English’ and ‘local English’) have grown in sophistication and cogency. Consequently, the relationship between language and identity — a relationship that all too often had been conceptualised as a simple and static one-to-one exchange between identity and language use — is a relationship that is increasingly being explored as more pluralistic, situated, complex and performative. I imagine that this trend will continue within the disciplines of Applied Linguistics for some time.

Secondly, I have also noticed within the space of my career in English sociolinguistics an increasing degree of comfort that teachers and researchers have when discussing ‘Englishes’, and the linguistic variation that is represented by such a term. When I was writing my PhD dissertation on Hong Kong English, the consensus opinion among scholars working in Hong Kong (with only a few very prominent exceptions) was that ‘there was no such thing as Hong Kong English’. The justification for that point of view was that the variety of English used in Hong Kong was a ‘learner variety’ and that this somehow negated or diminished any status that the language might have as a variety of English that deserved to be studied sociolinguistically. Increasingly there is a willingness to accept the existence and the status of varieties like Hong Kong English, Japanese English, Chinese English, etc. and to allow these varieties to be studied more fully as English varieties. I expect that this trend will also continue for some time within English sociolinguistics, and within applied linguistics more generally.”

 

Going to AAAL? Visit the Cambridge booth to browse our journals, pick up new books, and grab a few freebies! Even if you are not attending, visit our website for 20% off all books on display.

‘World Englishes or English as a Lingua Franca: Where does English in China stand?

Blog post based on an article in English Today 

The spread and development of the English language has triggered debates about issues related to language ideology, identity, and ELT. China is an important context where the popularity of English use and English learning has generated various debates. In this paper, I discuss the use of the English language in China from the perspective of Global Englishes (GE) and I explore the debate about whether it should be positioned from the paradigm of World Englishes (WE) or English as a lingua franca (ELF).

Essentially, the WE paradigm investigates different varieties of English in order to understand the various features of the language (including phonology, morphology, and syntax) as it is used in many post-colonial settings. The ELF paradigm focuses more on the use of English in a broader setting that, from a multilingual perspective, transcends boundaries. With regard to some shared features of the language as it is used by Chinese speakers of English, some previous studies have argued that the English used in China should be positioned from a WE perspective, and that China English (CE) should be regarded as a distinct variety of the English language. However, because of the lack of English use in non-educational settings there, and China’s geographical and dialectical diversity, it is difficult to portray specific common features of the English used by such a large variety of Chinese people. Thus, other scholars believe that the use of English in China should be positioned from the ELF perspective, with its fluid and dynamic features aiming for mutual intelligibility in terms of communication.

In my article, I first briefly review the development and status of English in China. I then move on to the ideological negotiation and attitudinal debate about the use and function of English there. From the WE perspective, I discuss the history of CE and the complexity of distinguishing CE and ‘Chinglish’ in some situations (for example, the differences between how the following phrases are expressed: ‘to accelerate the pace of economic reform’, and ‘imports of foreign automobiles have declined sharply this year’). I also summarise several previous studies that have favoured positioning CE as a variety of English from the WE paradigm. I then move on to discuss the opposing view that CE is not a variety of English. I present two key arguments for this position: first, very few teaching materials today have introduced the concept of the Chinese variety of English; second, not many Chinese people use English spontaneously for intra-ethnic communication.

We need to recognise that the use of English in the Chinese context is rather complicated. I prefer not to draw a particular conclusion about whether the use of English should be positioned from the WE or ELF paradigm. I believe that further research is needed to determine whether or not CE is a variety of English (although this will be a lengthy and complicated process), and that the debates about ideology and identity will persist. I think it is important to research people’s attitudes towards the use of English in China. As I present in this paper that the English language that Chinese people use is still rather fluid and dynamic, local features of the English used in China should be recognised and included in language classrooms. Both WE and ELF paradigms break the strict adherence to Standard English from native-speaker norms and challenge the ownership of English. I conclude my paper with, ‘we should realise that language is not a static entity in a vacuum, but rather develops and evolves through language contact.’

Read the full article here without charge until the end of April 2018

 

Learning Construction Grammars Computationally

Blog post by Jonathan Dunn, Ph.D.

Construction Grammar, or CxG, takes a usage-based approach to describing grammar. In practice, this term usage-based means two different things:

First, it means that idiomatic constructions belong in the grammar. For example, the ditransitive construction “John sent Mary a letter” has item-specific cases like “John gave Mary a hand” and “John gave Mary a hard time.” These idiomatic versions of the ditransitive have distinct meanings. While other grammatical paradigms consider these different meanings to be outside the scope of grammar, CxG argues that idiomatic constructions are actually an important part of grammar.

Second, CxG is usage-based because it argues that we learn grammar by observing actual idiomatic usage: language is more nurture than nature. The role of innate structure is limited to general cognitive constraints such as limits on working memory and the ability to recognize and categorize differences. CxG views language learning as a bottom-up process of systematicity spreading from idiomatic constructions to generalized constructions.

The problem is that the usage-based approach to grammar has struggled to live up to its own expectations. First, a very large number of idiomatic constructions could be posited to resolve any descriptive challenge. As a result, CxG has struggled to show that its grammars are falsifiable. Second, there are potentially large numbers of overlapping idiomatic constructions each with its own distinct meaning; thus, without relying on innate constraints, CxG has struggled to show that its grammars are learnable.

This paper takes a computational approach to learning CxGs in order to resolve these difficulties. Can stable, generalized grammars be learned from actual usage? Without innate structure to limit the space of possible constructions, this approach faces four challenges that make it difficult to learn the best grammar:

First, we do not know how many items or slots a construction contains, so the algorithm must be able to perform segmentation in order to find construction boundaries. Second, CxG allows multiple types of representation (lexical, semantic, syntactic), so the algorithm must be able to find the best way to describe each slot in a construction. Third, CxG allows unfilled slots, so the algorithm must be able to find constructions that do not appear to be continuous. Fourth, slots can have recursive internal structure, so the algorithm must be able to find complex fillers.

The difficulty is that these challenges must be solved with as few language-specific assumptions as possible in order to qualify as usage-based in the senses described above. This paper shows that a learnable and falsifiable usage-based CxG is possible, the first step in reconciling the claims and the actuality of the Construction Grammar paradigm.

Jonathan Dunn, Ph.D., is Research Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Illinois Institute of Technology. His recent article, “Computational learning of construction grammars,” can be accessed without charge until March 15th. Explore all of Language and Cognition by clicking here.

Rihanna Works Her Multivocal Pop Persona: Morpho-syntactic and Accent Variation in Rihanna’s Singing Style

Based on an article in English Today

Pop music surpasses national and linguistic boundaries. It creates a marketplace of various linguistic resources that artists use in their music performances to create their pop personas. Performers are mobile, transnational linguistic agents. They do not only physically travel worldwide and spread their multivocality, but their products are distributed and consumed internationally via a multitude of media channels. They transport mobile standard and non-standard varieties into new spaces and make them accessible to a broad audience.

Rihanna is a globally successful artist with Caribbean roots who combines different musical styles (R’n’B, hip-hop, reggae, pop) and the performance codes associated with these genres (African American English, Jamaican Creole, Standard American English). Her single “Work” stirred up attention: it was praised for displaying her Barbadian heritage, others dismissed it as lyrical gibberish. Intrigued by this intensified media coverage, we became interested in how Rihanna works her multivocal pop persona in this single. We conducted a morpho-syntactic analysis of the lyrics and investigated the accent of Rihanna’s singing style in this song to discover how she combines different linguistic resources. Furthermore, we analyzed an accompanying music video to show how Rihanna visually represents her pop persona.

The morpho-syntactic analysis shows that Rihanna uses numerous features typical of Caribbean English Creoles: for example, the personal pronoun me and him in subject position (me na care if him hurt), copula absence and negator na (you na righteous), modal auxiliary hafi and quotative se (he se me hafi work). While almost all of these features are shared by most Caribbean English Creoles, including Bajan, which is the local vernacular of Rihanna’s home country Barbados, all of them are typical of Jamaican Creole. Jamaican Creole is the most well-known Caribbean Creole and has spread globally through reggae and dancehall. Moreover, some of the features, such as copula absence, are also typical of African American English. However, large parts of the lyrics, especially the second and third verse, are dominated by Standard English grammar.

The accent analysis corroborates that Rihanna combines diverse linguistic influences: her accent is marked by several features typical of Caribbean Englishes/Creoles (e.g. face monophthongs, TH-stopping) and particularly in the chorus she has a distinctly Bajan accent, marked by a high degree of nasalization, under-articulation of consonants, and rhoticity. Besides the Bajan chorus, all features are typical of Jamaican Creole. Some of these Caribbean features are shared with African American English but there are no exclusive accent features for this variety. However, the single “Work” also includes passages where Rihanna uses a Standard American English accent, particularly in the second and third verse.

This combination of different linguistic resources is not random but patterns with the mode of the performance: the Caribbean accent and morpho-syntactic features occur most consistently in the chorus and the first verse. Rihanna uses her Caribbean voice mainly when speaking/rapping. In contrast, her singing style in the last two verses it marked by Standard English morpho-syntax and a Standard American English accent.

The music video of “Work” demonstrates that the Caribbeanness of the music performance is reinforced through visual modalities in an exoticizing and commodifying way. It portrays a dancehall event, where Rihanna is staged as a dancehall queen, and employs an abundance of stereotypical Caribbean images (e.g. Caribbean beer brands, dancehall dance moves, or the pan-African colors red, green, and black).

Our multimodal analysis shows that Rihanna mixes different linguistic and cultural identities to underline and express her multivocal pop music persona in her single “Work”. She mainly combines Standard (American) English with Caribbean Englishes/Creoles but relies strongly on Jamaican Creole and Jamaican dancehall images to perform her Caribbeanness. African American English is another potential resource for Rihanna’s hybrid persona, but it is not saliently displayed in “Work”.

Through such multivocal performances as in “Work”, Rihanna is a global transporter of diverse varieties of English. This playful mix of features is not only a display of her multifaceted and multivocal identity, but it gives insight into language-ideological processes within the global dynamics of English. Pop culture provides rich data for investigations of global Englishes as different varieties of English meet and interact at a high density.

Read the full article here

Link to video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL1UzIK-flA

Link to annotated lyrics:

https://genius.com/Rihanna-work-lyrics

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.

New: Registered Reports for Journal of Child Language – coming summer 2018

Journal of Child Language is pleased to announce the introduction of Registered Reports. The cornerstone of the Registered Reports format is that a significant part of the manuscript is reviewed prior to data collection. Initial submissions will include a description of the key research question and background literature, hypotheses, experimental procedures and detailed analyses plan. Papers will be accepted on the basis of potential theoretical impact, and the highest quality manuscripts will be given an “in principle acceptance” commitment to publication after data collection. Authors will also be required to submit data and analyses scripts to public repositories such as OSF (although exceptions may be possible where ethical reasons prevent sharing of some parts of the data).

We hope that this new format is a step towards greater transparency in the study of child language and will help to minimize bias in our science.

Journal of Child Language will continue to publish the other formats which are currently part of the journal, General Articles and Brief Research Reports.

We plan to update our systems to start accepting this new format by summer 2018. In the meantime, any researchers who are potentially interested in this new format should contact the editor.

Please also see our new Registered Report guidelines for authors and reviewers for full information.

We welcome any comments or suggestions regarding this new format.

To explore the latest issue of the journal, click here.