Thursday, August 31, 2006
According to The Daily Mirror, "joke" surnames are fast disappearing as people change their embarrassing soubriquets through either marriage or deed poll. So, surnames like Smellie (popular in Glasgow), Pigg (popular in Newcastle) and Daft (big in Nottingham) are on the way out.
The article itself has many more terrible puns about men's anatomies than I can manage, so it's worth a read. And it's not too long (as it were).
But more seriously, names make the basis for some very interesting language investigations. There are obvious links between surnames and ethnic/geographical origins, as well as many that link to human characteristics. The significance of naming traditions in different societies is well worth a look at, with the whole issue of women taking their husbands' surnames central to many groups of people.
Then you have first names and the influence of a growing influence from foreign cultures and celebrities: Mohammed is in the top 20 for boys' names now, while Whitney is often a popular choice among girls. Jordan, Chantelle, Preston and Romeo could all be on the up too. A quick search of this blog (use the search bar at the top of the page) should take you to previous posts on this topic and links to top 20 lists of boys' and girls' names that might help you with some research.
EA4C - Language Investigations
Age-related language is often overlooked when we focus on Language & Representation in ENA1, so this could prove a valuable area of research. Is there a tendency to label older people with demeaning terms such as "crumblies", "senile old gits" and "has beens"? And if so, are these labels out of proportion to those applied to younger people "hoodies", "yobs" etc. ?
ENA1 - Language & Representation
According to Dr Pia Pichler from Goldsmiths College, many of the new words betray a derogatory representation of women, far outnumbering the derogatory words for men. For those of you who have looked at Language and Representation in ENA1, the name Julia Stanley might ring bells. Her research in the 1970s suggested that the number of pejorative terms for women outweighed those for men by a factor of about 10 to 1. So for every "nobhead" there were ten "sluts", "hoes" and "mooses"...or something like that.
What this article seems to suggest is that this lexical over-representation is still evident: perhaps it's even increasing because of the huge amount of new words and phrases used to describe female bodies. So, the obsession with trying to look like an orange-skinned celebrity nonentity (like Jordan, Chantelle or those strange looking girls from Atomic Kitten) has led to all sorts of new words and phrases to describe processes of hair removal ("Brazilian"), breast enhancement ("tit tape") and skin colour ("permatan") but has also led to new terms for those women who don't make the grade or whose bodies don't fit the skinny, plastic template: "bingo wings" for wobbly bits on the underarm; "muffin tops" for those outpourings of flesh over the top of too-tight belts; "salad dodgers" for people who don't follow diets.
So years on from Julia Stanley's research, do we still have the same level of over-representation for terms used to describe women and their bodies? How do we find out? Well, don't rely on other people's research. Do what Julie Blake has always suggested on her Language Legend blog and DIY! With all sorts of new ways of researching language - using google to find out the popularity of certain new words, or using online corpora to analyse language use in written or spoken texts - you can find out if particular patterns exist. And then you can work out if it means women are still the target of the arsenal of nasty words, or if men are finding themselves the victims of new pejorative terms as well.
ENA1 - Language & Representation
EA4C - Language Investigation
ENA5 - Language Change
ENA6 - Language Debates
Monday, August 28, 2006
And well done to those of you who got your AS results. These were also very good overall, but not quite as many top grades as we'd have liked, so we'll go through these in detail with you when you get back. So don't worry just yet...
Monday, August 21, 2006
Rather like Howard Giles' famous matched guise experiment into accents, this research measures how "warm" or "cold" the speakers are perceived to be. As The Guardian reports, "After asking 4,000 people to listen to the same joke in 11 different regional accents, researchers from the University of Aberdeen concluded that the Brummie accent, as typified by the likes of Frank Skinner, Jasper Carrott and Lenny Henry, is Britain's funniest, appealing to more than a fifth of those questioned".
Received Pronunciation (R.P.) comes out at the bottom, below accents from Manchester and Glasgow. So it's not just the way you tell 'em, it's the voice you tell 'em in.
ENA5 - Language Varieties
Friday, August 18, 2006
My normal reaction to stories like this is to see them as part of a right wing agenda which seeks to discredit any attempt to get peopel to look at the language they use and how it might offend others. "Common sense" ideas about "PC gone mad" are put forward, but really they're just reactionary ramblings that see any attempt to remove racist or sexist language as part of some weird communist plot. But is that all that's going on in this case?
Another element to this story is the issue of dialect and identity. As one council worker puts it, "It's like they are trying to kill the Geordie language. It's totally bloody crackers". This point is developed later in the article:
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
If you remember the Cognitive theory as proposed by Piaget and his followers, language development occurs as part of a child's wider cognitive development. If that's the case then how does something like this occur?
Researchers at the University of London’s School of Languages have observed a four-year-old boy with autistic spectrum disorder who rarely speaks spontaneously and shows little evidence of verbal comprehension but who can read aloud precociously – a phenomenon that’s known as hyperlexia.
On psychological tests, the boy is found to have a mental age of just one and half years and yet he can correctly pronounce irregular words not normally encountered by children before the age of nine. Irregular words like ‘yacht’ don’t follow the usual letter-to-sound rules and his
correct pronunciation of them betrays a level of linguistic development far beyond that predicted by his mental age.
Even when presented with novel Greek letters, he attempts to read them as English letters and numbers. “This behaviour is possibly indicative of the type of driven, compulsive, and indiscriminate reading behaviour associated with hyperlexia”, the researchers said. Indeed, the boy’s mother recalled that her son looked through newspapers with an unusual intensity before he was even two years old.
Because the boy doesn’t communicate it is difficult to gauge his actual comprehension of the words he can read. Nonetheless it remains remarkable that his reading ability “just happened”, as his mother put it, and the researchers concluded “Existing cognitive accounts are inadequate to account for the development of literacy in this child”.
ENA1 - Child Language Acquisition