Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mis-speaking management

There's a great article on the BBC News Magazine website here about the horrors of business-speak and management jargon: words and phrases like blue sky thinking, giving it 110% (like the mighty Lee on The Apprentice), stepping up to the plate and herding the dinosaurs.

There's also an interesting point of view broadcast here from Radio 4 which offers an angle on this horrible phenomenon.

What does it all mean? Why do people use it? How can we stop it? All good questions, but now we must go forward.

New stuff...

Now that the AS and A2 exams are done and dusted for 2008, this blog will shift its focus to concentrate on the new AQA A specification which we start teaching in September this year.

There'll still be stuff relevant to next year's A2 students (we don't want to leave you out!) but we'll also need to make sure there's help and ideas available for new AS students.

If you're a current AS student, there'll be some posts soon on next year's Language Investigation coursework (EA4C) and the mini-projects we have planned for your delight and delectation when you return next week and later in the year.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A real live language debate

I've just stumbled across this debate on The Guardian's blog. Here's what ENA6 is all about, in a nutshell: a debate about language in which different positions and opinions are put forward. Have a read of the main article (it's quite short) and then take a sample of some of the more coherent responses to see if you can identify descriptive and prescriptive positions in the debate.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Last bit of ENA6 stuff

...and of course, don't forget to check Beth Kemp's website where she has lots of stuff on approaches to ENA6 question 2a (the one everyone keeps asking me about). Chas's website here is also very handy and you can follow links to resources and word docs.

And if you're banking on the topic being Political Correctness, you could do worse than check this site where there are some really good ideas about why PC is necessary.

And for MEYD and new accents try searching this blog under jafaican, jafaikan, Sue Fox and MEYD.

ENA5 and ENA6

With ENA5 out of the way, it's just ENA6 to go, so good luck for tomorrow.

There are plenty of tips on this blog for how to approach this paper, but remember that reading carefully, annotating well and thinking about the specific demands of each question are the keys to success.

Don't spend too long on parts 1a and 1b: you should be able to get 10 marks for these in about 10 minutes maximum, leaving you about 50 minutes to analyse and evaluate the text for 1c. Remember that you;'re not just feature spotting (although that is part of your job), but you're supposed to be evaluating how the writer of the text represents the issue he or she is talking about. In the texts we've looked at in class (the ones that haven't been past paper questions), think about how the rabidly anti-PC David Gelernter constructed his attack on the feminist "language rapists" as he termed them, or how Michael McCarthy in his "I'm Happy to Boldly Get it Wrong" argued against prescriptive views in grammar and language change. The title of the paper is Language Debates and you will get more marks if you write like you're contributing to , and care about, the debate.

With part 2a, selecting your relevant sources is important: use a range of texts from the paper (and your own ideas and other study) and don't rely too much on the one you've just analysed for 1c. If you feel confident, tie this debate into that of other language topics. PC and Language Change are closely linked. Accents and dialects are changing too - they could be linked into Language Change. It's a synoptic paper, so look for links with other areas. But, be careful not to confuse your reader. You will be writing for a non-specialist audience, so take care to explain technical ideas and don't assume they will know who particular linguists are.

As for my top tips for which topic it might be, I suspect (based on previous papers and topics, not any inside information obviously) it will be either Political Correctness/ Language and Representation or something about Accent and Dialect. For the latter, I'd say look at ideas like dialect levelling and the ways in which new varieties of English have grown - MEYD, Estuary English etc. I got it right last year (attitudes to Language Change) but hopelessly wrong the year before (the speech of chipmunks and cheerleaders) so don't bet everything you have on my predictions.

Good luck.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pikeys and lesbos

Two words are currently in the news amid claims that they are problematic or offensive. Apparently, the islanders of Lesbos are up in arms about their island's name being used as a label for women who love other women, and are campaigning for the word to be returned to them. Read here for more on this Sapphic madness.

Elsewhere, ITV are being investigated for the use of the word pikey in a Grand Prix broadcast. So what is a pikey and why is it a bad word? The OED defines it as "a vagrant, a tramp, a traveller, a gypsy" and it's probably this last point that makes it more sensitive as a term of abuse as it could be used to label a specific ethnic group: Romany gypsies.

Like many other words, pikey probably isn't intentionally used by most people in such a way, but then I remember not so long ago "gyppo" was often used by people of my generation to describe anyone who looked remotely unkempt, scruffy or shifty-looking. I've heard it chanted at opposing football team players who have sported unfashionable haircuts, and a reliable source from West Ham (our very own Mr Rice) tells me that "anyone slightly east European looking" might find themselves at the harsh end of "pikey" or "gyppo" chants.

But is it just another harmless word, or should we be concerned about the potentially prejudiced social attitudes it might reflect? Linguist Tony Thorne is quoted in the BBC Magazine article as saying

This is the language of social discrimination and it's quite shocking that this
language is now being bandied about. It started with 'chav' and then the 'posh'
stuff about David Cameron and Boris Johnson.


I'm swayed by the social prejudice argument when it comes to groups who have traditionally had less power in society (gay people, travellers, ethnic minorities ), but I can't see what's wrong with attacking those who've got more power than most of us - privileged and arrogant public figures such as Bojo and Cameron - I mean if you can't have a go at the posh who can you have a go at? So, "political correctness gone mad" or due concern for dangerous language?

Useful for:
ENA6 - Language Debates
ENGA2 (new spec) - Investigating Representations