Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wrath of the grammarbot

Yesterday's Independent features a story about grammar rage on the net which is well worth looking at if you're studying language change, technology and/or attitudes to change.

Outraged at the apparent upsurge in grammar errors on the web, grammar nerds have programmed deadly (ish) attack bots to roam the Twittersphere looking for mistakes and immediately punishing them with sarcastic replies. Basic homophone errors like their/there, your/you're and where/were are the prime targets, but others are facing the wrath of the grammarbot too, like the overuse of CAPS LOCK or the misspelling of sneak peek as sneak peak.

But are Twitter and other forms of digital communication making us worser and worser with are grammer and spelling? Apparently not, if recent linguistic research is to be believed.

In fact, (Tim) Stowell says there is no evidence that any form of "specialized speech" has corrupted spoken or written English, and plenty of recent studies have come to the same conclusion. In September, researchers at Coventry University in Britain ruled that there's no link between text-message conventions, which are also used on Twitter, and bad spelling or grammar in other forums. A 2009 study from the University of Alberta concluded that text-speak should be viewed as a dialect that people can switch into and out of.
Others disagree - sometimes quite violently - and the whole debate is one that we look at when we study the Language Discourses part of ENGA3. There are masses of posts about this very topic here on the blog, so have a look and fill you're boots.

And on the sixth day He made meggings

Can these ball-crunching jodhpur variants really be the next thing in male fashion, I ask Albus, a balding builder from Lithuania?
Nah. "I don't like them," says Albus. "I like more traditional designs. Jeans. Combat trousers. Military stuff. It's a personal choice."
As if jeggings (jeans + leggings) wasn't a blend too far, we now have meggings (men's leggings). I'm reliably informed that treggings (trousers + leggings, or tramp's leggings, if you prefer) also exist. Blends are nothing new, but what differentiates a man's leggings from a woman's leggings? In other words, why can't a man just wear jeggings? It's something that Patrick Kingsley asks in his short piece on meggings and one that applies equally to other man-words like manbag (a man's handbag), mankini (see below) and mantyhose.



Perhaps, given that these items are generally seen as being the preserve of women, men feel more self-conscious about wearing or using such items unless they've been rebranded and renamed as manly clobber. Stan Carey, blogger and contributor to MacMillan Dictionaries excellent language blog, has written about Manguage here and it's worth a read if you're into new words or just fancy some tight-fitting full-length budgie-smugglers.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Filth and fury

We've often looked at attitudes to language change and variation on this blog, and this post on the excellent Linguistics Research Digest refers to some work done in Australia by the linguist, Kate Burridge (whose books on the topic are a very good read and highly recommended for those of you studying ENGA3 for the AQA A spec).

Burridge is interested in how people feel about language and where their views come from, so as well as surveying  national media for letters, online comments and opinion pieces, she has used questionnaires with university students and found that - even among younger people brought up on social media, texting and a curriculum that supposedly teaches that non-standard usages of English are valid - attitudes are pretty firmly against change and variation, especially when it comes from the USA.

On a related note, if you're interested in contributing to debates about language, this competition is now running as part of the  build up to the emagazine English Language conference. Go on, have a go.




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Say 'Hi' to Hinglish

For those of you doing the AQA A spec, World Englishes is a fairly new topic which appears as part of the ENGA3 exam. Today's BBC News Magazine has a story on the spread of English in India and the growth of what has been termed Hinglish, a new form of English, spoken there.

If you want to find out more about English around the world and issues around how it's viewed, differences in how it's spoken, arguments over intelligibility and influence,  I'd recommend Jane Setter's chapter on it in the EMC's Language Handbook (available here and here and currently helping contribute to my kids' xmas list) and to have a look at some of the other World Englishes links from the last couple of years.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Urban tweetz

As we saw last week, Twitter is proving to be a great way of tracking language change and variation, admittedly with a few limitations about tweeters' real identities and the like. This week, New Scientist reports on research by Jacob Eisenstein and his team at Georgia Institute of Technology which seems to indicate that new word formations and abbreviations of older ones are more likely to spread via Twitter from US urban areas with large African-American populations.

Slang - and some of these formations like CTFU (Cracking The F*** Up) and bruh (brother) probably fit under that umbrella term - has long had deep links with the black community. Julie Coleman's excellent book, The Life of Slang looks at how some forms of slang have been created and kept alive in African-American culture, so it's not a great surprise to find that this ethnic group is still leading the way in lexical innovation where a new technology is concerned.

There's more here too. 

 


Friday, November 16, 2012

The geeks shall inherit the earth

Sheldon Cooper - reclaiming 'nerd' and 'geek'?
In good news for nerds and geeks and those caught somewhere in the middle - neeks - Big Bang Theory has returned to E4's screens. But in even better news, the words themselves seem to have gone through a process of amelioration, gaining positive semantic associations from their initially rather negative origins.

In this piece for the BBC News Magazine, the history of the words is outlined and examined by lexo-boffins and neologo- nerds, who tell us that the words are subtly different in their meanings and even carry different connotations depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on:

It's easy to argue that "nerd" and "geek", with their very different roots, retain different meanings, arguably with the former still more derogatory than the latter. And some see a transatlantic divide, with "geek" used in US and UK, but "nerd" somehow feeling less British.

And as the writer of the article, Kathryn Westcott, goes on to say, the gradual shifts in meaning are not a new occurrence in language. Yesterday, we looked at the word yid and its changing meanings to Jews and non-Jews, and in other posts over the years, we've considered queer, nigger, slut and bitch. Are geeks and nerds now reclaiming these once-negative labels and marching proudly under their new banner out of the labs and libraries and into the mainstream?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tracking tweets

Twitter is proving to be a fantastic resource for linguists and you can see several examples of what's been done with it in these previous blog posts.

More recently, researchers at UCL have been looking at what tweets in London reveal about patterns of language use. The people looking at it, Ed Manley and James Cheshire, aren't linguists but an engineer and spatial analysis lecturer (eh?) so they're more interested in where things happen rather than necessarily exploring why - which might be more interesting for English Language students - but it raises good questions about why certain languages don't appear as often as might be expected- Bengali and Somali, for example - while others do make an appearance - Haitian Creole, Basque and Swahili -among them.

But what might be of even greater interest to A level English Language students is how Twitter is proving to be a source of fantastic data on gender and language, and what we might term communities of practice: groups of people that you "do" language with in your various day to day activities and whose language styles influence your own.

This excellent article by Ben Zimmer in the Boston Globe gives you a clear introduction to what Twitter is offering linguists and you can see more of the work of Tyler Schnoebelen and his colleagues in this powerpoint of their presentation to #nwav41 (Warning! Contains advanced statistics to boggle the mind).

In other Twitter-related research, this link to a paper by Rebecca Maybaum  gives you a glimpse of how Twitter can be used to track evolving slang: in this case, the words used to describe people on Twitter. Tweeps? Twiends? Tweethearts?

Getting rid of 'Yid'

Football supporters aren't renowned for their delicacy when it comes to the chants 'sung' (or in Millwall's case, grunted) at games, so it's not much of a surprise to find that homophobic, sexist and racist abuse often plays a part in many of them.

Recent events involving Chelsea supporters monkey chanting at black Man Utd players, Leeds Utd supporters singing songs about Sheffield Wednesday's manager Dave Jones and (unfounded) allegations of child abuse against him, and Sheffield Wednesday supporters goading Leeds' fans with references to two murdered Leeds fans have been in the press recently, but another element of racist chanting is picked up in this great article by Anthony Clavane on the use of the word yid.

Clavane has written extensively on Jewish involvement in football, most recently in his book Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here?, but previously as part of his excellent book on the mighty Leeds United, Promised Land, so he knows his stuff. Clavane points out that there's a clear difference between non-Jewish rivals using the word yid, - as he puts it "a term of opprobrium equivalent to words like “Nigger” and “Paki”" - and the Spurs fans themselves claiming the term as a badge of pride.

What makes this such a good topic for discussion within the English Language A level is that it's all about words, meanings, identity and context. Words themselves are rarely - ever? - bad in and of themselves, but some words can pick up such negative connotations that they rarely escape disapproval. With yid being a term used for so long by anti-Semites - Moseley's fascist blackshirts in England, Hitler's nazis in the 1930s and 40s and Chelsea's neo-nazi supporters in the 1980s and early 1990s - can it ever be used without carrying associations of prejudice and genocidal hatred?

Well, if nigger is anything to go by, then yes. But only with some heavy qualification. Who is using the term? What do they intend by it? What position are they adopting when they use it - solidarity or opposition? What context is it being used in?

Spurs - a football club with a long history of Jewish involvement, but arguably as much a Jewish club these days as any other - has fans who may well see the word yid as their own and describe themselves as yiddos or the Yid army, but the chucking around of terms like this by a now largely gentile fanbase runs the risk of making the term seem acceptable for general use.

That's why, as this Mirror article explains, the Society of Black Lawyers has called for those chanting it to be prosecuted. But is the case as cut and dried,  as simple, as they say?  The Mirror reports that Tottenham Hotspur have released a statement which sounds more nuanced and intelligent than many of the bland club releases that generally reach the press:

"Our guiding principle in respect of the 'Y-word' is based on the point of law itself - the distinguishing factor is the intent with which it is used ie if it is used with the deliberate intention to cause offence. This has been the basis of prosecutions of fans of other teams to date.

"Our fans adopted the chant as a defence mechanism in order to own the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse. They do not use the term to others to cause any offence, they use it as a chant amongst themselves."
But how do we deal with this? Could, potentially, Jewish Spurs fans end up in court accused of racial chanting against themselves? That would seem ridiculous.

As Clavane points out, "In a perfect world, the Y-word would not be used. But it would be idiotic to report to the police any anti-Semitic chants heard at White Hart Lane. The real evil emanates from the anti-Semites who taunt Spurs – and, it should be noted, Jewish players and fans from other teams."


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WOTY not YOLO but GIF? KMBCT

It's reaching that time of year when the dictionary publishers and lexophiles start assessing the new words that have popped up and bobbed around in the public's consciousness over the last 12 months and select their favourites. There's often a difference between the ones that the UK and US dictionaries go for and so far we've had the following:

The Oxford English Dictionary has gone for Omnishambles which is also considered here on the BBC site.

Oxford Dictionaries USA have plumped, controversially and rather strangely, for the verb 'to gif' (an acronym to noun to verb conversion, apparently) which is a choice criticised here on Slate's website.

Meanwhile, the American Dialect Society get very serious about this (while enjoying the silliness too, I'm sure) and vote for their WOTY at a big ceremony/party. Last year they chose Occupy, and this year the contenders might be frankenstorm, romnesia and robama, among others.

Soon, we'll have plenty of lists appearing in the papers, so have a think back to the words (and by words we can actually include noun phrases like squeezed middle and fiscal cliff) that have made an impression on you. Perhaps it's going to be gangnam style or even an old word that has been made popular again, pleb.

WOTY not YOLO but GIF? KMBCT

It's reaching that time of year when the dictionary publishers and lexophiles start assessing the new words that have popped up and bobbed around in the public's consciousness over the last 12 months and select their favourites. There's often a difference between the ones that the UK and US dictionaries go for and so far we've had the following:

The Oxford English Dictionary has gone for Omnishambles which is also considered here on the BBC site.

Oxford Dictionaries USA have plumped, controversially and rather strangely, for the verb 'to gif' (an acronym to noun to verb conversion, apparently) which is a choice criticised here on Slate's website.

Meanwhile, the American Dialect Society get very serious about this (while enjoying the silliness too, I'm sure) and vote for their WOTY at a big ceremony/party. Last year they chose Occupy, and this year the contenders might be frankenstorm, romnesia and robama, among others.

Soon, we'll have plenty of lists appearing in the papers, so have a think back to the words (and by words we can actually include noun phrases like squeezed middle and fiscal cliff) that have made an impression on you. Perhaps it's going to be gangnam style or even an old word that has been made popular again, pleb.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The rise of the regions

A research project based at Aston University is finding that local varieties are on the up. This follows years of concern that local accents and dialects have been in decline as a result of people's increased mobility, the spread across regional and national boundaries of new media and technologies, and the belief that such changes might lead to dialect levelling (more here and here).

You can read more about it in The Daily Mail or go straight to the source at Aston University through this project site* or through Urszula Clark's summary, You Are What You Speak which raises lots of good points about accent, identity and class in the UK.

And for a lighter look at West Midlands accents, have a look at this piece from The Guardian**


(*Thanks to Jon H @ruchbah for this one and for doing it in the first place)
(**Thanks to Nicky W for link to this)

The rise of the regions

A research project based at Aston University is finding that local varieties are on the up. This follows years of concern that local accents and dialects have been in decline as a result of people's increased mobility, the spread across regional and national boundaries of new media and technologies, and the belief that such changes might lead to dialect levelling (more here and here).

You can read more about it in The Daily Mail or go straight to the source at Aston University through this project site* or through Urszula Clark's summary, You Are What You Speak which raises lots of good points about accent, identity and class in the UK.

And for a lighter look at West Midlands accents, have a look at this piece from The Guardian**


(*Thanks to Jon H @ruchbah for this one and for doing it in the first place)
(**Thanks to Nicky W for link to this)

Emagazine English Language conference 2013

happy language students and teachers with the big DC last year

The details of February's 2013 English Language conference put on by emagazine at the Institute of Education in London have just been made available.

The speakers are David Crystal, Ron Carter, Sylvia Shaw and Marcello Giovanelli and it's set to be another great event.

The conference website is here and I'm running a supporting blog to offer teachers and students material in the run-up to the conference. There'll be a really good competition this year, with the prize presented by the great man himself, David Crystal.

Emagazine English Language conference 2013

happy language students and teachers with the big DC last year

The details of February's 2013 English Language conference put on by emagazine at the Institute of Education in London have just been made available.

The speakers are David Crystal, Ron Carter, Sylvia Shaw and Marcello Giovanelli and it's set to be another great event.

The conference website is here and I'm running a supporting blog to offer teachers and students material in the run-up to the conference. There'll be a really good competition this year, with the prize presented by the great man himself, David Crystal.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Make yourself better with slang

This quick link (with more discussion on the audio link) gives some good reasons why we should treat slang as a positive, creative form of language use.

Michael Adams' book, Slang, The People's Poetry, is a damn good read, as is Julie Coleman's The Life of Slang, which focuses a  bit more on UK slang.

Make yourself better with slang

This quick link (with more discussion on the audio link) gives some good reasons why we should treat slang as a positive, creative form of language use.

Michael Adams' book, Slang, The People's Poetry, is a damn good read, as is Julie Coleman's The Life of Slang, which focuses a  bit more on UK slang.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Redefining misogyny

There's some good discussion about sexism and language in the aftermath of the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard's attack on her male rival for his dodgy attitudes to women. Here, several feminists look at gillard's use of the word misogyny and the Macquarie Dictionary's decision to update their entry for the word in the light of Gillard's use of it.

They are now adding a definition of it, according to this piece from the Australian Financial Review,  so it changes as outlined here:


While this is good material for language and gender, it's also interesting to think about how dictionaries work these days and the ways in which they respond to changing usages. We all know that language changes, but there are different positions adopted by commentators about how much a dictionary should change and respond to - what some might describe as - mistaken or just plain wrong usage. And when you introduce sexism and political correctness to the mix, you have a recipe for some heated debate, like you'll find here and in the comments that follow this piece in The Guardian.

Redefining misogyny

There's some good discussion about sexism and language in the aftermath of the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard's attack on her male rival for his dodgy attitudes to women. Here, several feminists look at gillard's use of the word misogyny and the Macquarie Dictionary's decision to update their entry for the word in the light of Gillard's use of it.

They are now adding a definition of it, according to this piece from the Australian Financial Review,  so it changes as outlined here:


While this is good material for language and gender, it's also interesting to think about how dictionaries work these days and the ways in which they respond to changing usages. We all know that language changes, but there are different positions adopted by commentators about how much a dictionary should change and respond to - what some might describe as - mistaken or just plain wrong usage. And when you introduce sexism and political correctness to the mix, you have a recipe for some heated debate, like you'll find here and in the comments that follow this piece in The Guardian.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Media stereotypes

The Guardian has been running some really useful material for ENGA2 recently. The links here relate to their coverage of research into newspaper front pages and how women are both represented in terms of their construction and depiction in news stories, but also in terms of their representation in the workforce of newspapers as journalists writing front page stories. To cut a long story short, it's pretty bad representation for both...

In this piece, the headline figures are that 78% of front page stories are written by men and 84% of those mentioned or quoted are male.

In this piece, the study by Women In Journalism is looked at in depth. They address the methodology used, the details of their findings and the bleak picture for women in the UK media.

*Thanks to Nikolai for the links.

Media stereotypes

The Guardian has been running some really useful material for ENGA2 recently. The links here relate to their coverage of research into newspaper front pages and how women are both represented in terms of their construction and depiction in news stories, but also in terms of their representation in the workforce of newspapers as journalists writing front page stories. To cut a long story short, it's pretty bad representation for both...

In this piece, the headline figures are that 78% of front page stories are written by men and 84% of those mentioned or quoted are male.

In this piece, the study by Women In Journalism is looked at in depth. They address the methodology used, the details of their findings and the bleak picture for women in the UK media.

*Thanks to Nikolai for the links.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Giving the old folks airtime

Habits of telephone use are changing, according to research carried out by the US media research organisation, Nielsen and covered in The Washington Post.

On the whole, the number of voice calls made and the length of the calls themselves, particularly among younger age groups (late teens to mid-30s...so not me any more), are falling. Meanwhile, the older generations still seem to prefer the phone to the text message, but for how long?

Language is clearly being affected in different ways by advances in technology, with many arguments raging about the effects (positive or negative) of text messaging on literacy levels, but as with so many other things, phone use is a type of technology too. Perhaps it's because it's been around for so long that we forget it too caused genuine concern about what would happen to people's relationships and even the language itself.

Of course, mobile phones have changed the way we used to talk on landlines, because a) we know who is calling us (and therefore can avoid all the old-fashioned rituals of "Hello, you are speaking to Bartholomew Smythe-Gherkin; to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?") and b) we can talk nearly anywhere we like (apart from in Norfolk, where mobile phone use is viewed as akin to witchcraft).

But if mobile use is now changing too, what is it about voice calls (and that expression itself didn't really exist, as far as I'm aware, until video calls came along, since all calls were voice calls back then) that puts off younger people? Some talk about them as being more intrusive than a text message, others that they're less convenient. I know that I've never really liked talking on the phone, conference calls give me the shakes and I don't even want to start talking about Skype because it drives me to despair, but is this down to a lack of social skills or a justified belief that words come out better when texted on a phone? I don't know. Perhaps, in the near future, very few of us will talk at all on the phone and all communication will be via messages. Anyway, go to go now as I need to give my mum and dad their weekly call.

Giving the old folks airtime

Habits of telephone use are changing, according to research carried out by the US media research organisation, Nielsen and covered in The Washington Post.

On the whole, the number of voice calls made and the length of the calls themselves, particularly among younger age groups (late teens to mid-30s...so not me any more), are falling. Meanwhile, the older generations still seem to prefer the phone to the text message, but for how long?

Language is clearly being affected in different ways by advances in technology, with many arguments raging about the effects (positive or negative) of text messaging on literacy levels, but as with so many other things, phone use is a type of technology too. Perhaps it's because it's been around for so long that we forget it too caused genuine concern about what would happen to people's relationships and even the language itself.

Of course, mobile phones have changed the way we used to talk on landlines, because a) we know who is calling us (and therefore can avoid all the old-fashioned rituals of "Hello, you are speaking to Bartholomew Smythe-Gherkin; to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?") and b) we can talk nearly anywhere we like (apart from in Norfolk, where mobile phone use is viewed as akin to witchcraft).

But if mobile use is now changing too, what is it about voice calls (and that expression itself didn't really exist, as far as I'm aware, until video calls came along, since all calls were voice calls back then) that puts off younger people? Some talk about them as being more intrusive than a text message, others that they're less convenient. I know that I've never really liked talking on the phone, conference calls give me the shakes and I don't even want to start talking about Skype because it drives me to despair, but is this down to a lack of social skills or a justified belief that words come out better when texted on a phone? I don't know. Perhaps, in the near future, very few of us will talk at all on the phone and all communication will be via messages. Anyway, go to go now as I need to give my mum and dad their weekly call.

'Anglocreep'

There's more discussion of the two-way traffic between British and American English in the New York Times this week, including some insightful comment from linguists. Anglocreep is a word for the gentle drift of British English terms into the US English vernacular - words like cheers for thank you, mate for friend, ginger for redhead - and it's viewed with the same ambivalence and sometimes outright hostility as American English is in the UK.

We looked at the rising phenomenon of Britishisms here, but it's also been covered since then by The Sun and The Daily Telegraph. This is all good stuff for AQA A's ENGA3 unit, especially the World Englishes section. Have a look at other releavnt blog posts by clicking on the labels below (e.g. ENGA3, American English and World Englishes). Toodle pip, old beans.

'Anglocreep'

There's more discussion of the two-way traffic between British and American English in the New York Times this week, including some insightful comment from linguists. Anglocreep is a word for the gentle drift of British English terms into the US English vernacular - words like cheers for thank you, mate for friend, ginger for redhead - and it's viewed with the same ambivalence and sometimes outright hostility as American English is in the UK.

We looked at the rising phenomenon of Britishisms here, but it's also been covered since then by The Sun and The Daily Telegraph. This is all good stuff for AQA A's ENGA3 unit, especially the World Englishes section. Have a look at other releavnt blog posts by clicking on the labels below (e.g. ENGA3, American English and World Englishes). Toodle pip, old beans.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Everyday sexism

In looking at language and representation, we've started to think a bit about the links between language and gender: how language often reflects historically sexist attitudes while also constructing (or reconstructing) those same attitudes. Many of the comments in class along the way have treated sexism or patriarchal attitudes as things of the past, old-fashioned views held by long-dead men, but this disturbing article about the kind of everyday sexism experienced by university students shows that while the sexism still exists it has just shifted its frame of reference.

It's the almost normal way in which slut-dropping, rape and hoes are talked about that makes this so wrong. If the words are treated in such a casual way, doesn't that also suggest that the attitudes are pretty casual too?

There's more about this on the Everyday Sexism Project's site.

Everyday sexism

In looking at language and representation, we've started to think a bit about the links between language and gender: how language often reflects historically sexist attitudes while also constructing (or reconstructing) those same attitudes. Many of the comments in class along the way have treated sexism or patriarchal attitudes as things of the past, old-fashioned views held by long-dead men, but this disturbing article about the kind of everyday sexism experienced by university students shows that while the sexism still exists it has just shifted its frame of reference.

It's the almost normal way in which slut-dropping, rape and hoes are talked about that makes this so wrong. If the words are treated in such a casual way, doesn't that also suggest that the attitudes are pretty casual too?

There's more about this on the Everyday Sexism Project's site.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Help make the dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary is appealing for help from the public in tracing the earliest appearances of words. What they're looking for is documentary evidence of when a word was first used, so at the moment they're after evidence that disco appeared before September 1964, FAQ earlier than 1989 and a few others.

You can read more on the OED blog or follow them at @OEDonline to find out how it is progressing. Apparently, they've already found an earlier appearance of FAQ just today.

Help make the dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary is appealing for help from the public in tracing the earliest appearances of words. What they're looking for is documentary evidence of when a word was first used, so at the moment they're after evidence that disco appeared before September 1964, FAQ earlier than 1989 and a few others.

You can read more on the OED blog or follow them at @OEDonline to find out how it is progressing. Apparently, they've already found an earlier appearance of FAQ just today.

Over two and a half million 'faggots'

We've started to look at language and representation in AS Language recently, so this link might be of interest to you. It uses Twitter to track the use of potentially homophobic language items, such as dyke and faggot.

It's pretty shocking that so many casually abusive words are chucked around so frequently, but is it the whole story?  As we've been looking at with racist and sexist terms, part of the consideration we need to give to some of these words is the context they're used in. For example, slut might mean one thing when shouted across a street or posted by some sleazy internet troll, but might mean something completely different when used in banter with another female.

We've already seen that the word nigger (or nigga) mean different things to different people in different contexts, so is a blunt tool like counting the number of times a word is used really going to reveal much abut homophobic attitudes? It's a start, at least, so might then allow a more detailed analysis of the contexts and meanings in each case.

There's more about the real-time Twitter feed here, where you can really look at each tweet as it appears, and yes, most of them are from teenage boys abusing each other or talking rubbish. The questions then might be, does it matter? Is anyone really offended by it? Why is it seen as acceptable for these words to be chucked around with such gay (sorry) abandon by some of these people? Does it reflect a deeply ingrained anti-gay attitude, or just a casual attitude to what words mean and how they can harm?

Some of these questions are addressed here on the No Homophobes site, and it makes for a provocative and interesting read.

Over two and a half million 'faggots'

We've started to look at language and representation in AS Language recently, so this link might be of interest to you. It uses Twitter to track the use of potentially homophobic language items, such as dyke and faggot.

It's pretty shocking that so many casually abusive words are chucked around so frequently, but is it the whole story?  As we've been looking at with racist and sexist terms, part of the consideration we need to give to some of these words is the context they're used in. For example, slut might mean one thing when shouted across a street or posted by some sleazy internet troll, but might mean something completely different when used in banter with another female.

We've already seen that the word nigger (or nigga) mean different things to different people in different contexts, so is a blunt tool like counting the number of times a word is used really going to reveal much abut homophobic attitudes? It's a start, at least, so might then allow a more detailed analysis of the contexts and meanings in each case.

There's more about the real-time Twitter feed here, where you can really look at each tweet as it appears, and yes, most of them are from teenage boys abusing each other or talking rubbish. The questions then might be, does it matter? Is anyone really offended by it? Why is it seen as acceptable for these words to be chucked around with such gay (sorry) abandon by some of these people? Does it reflect a deeply ingrained anti-gay attitude, or just a casual attitude to what words mean and how they can harm?

Some of these questions are addressed here on the No Homophobes site, and it makes for a provocative and interesting read.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Teenage dirtbags

The representation of social groups is an area that we're starting to look at in AS English Language this week, so I've been gathering together texts and extracts on different groups to start some discussion. One good area of study is how young people are represented in the media, so this piece in today's BBC News Magazine on the death of the teenage rebel is a good read.

Apparently, recent studies suggest that young people are now less likely to smoke, drink and take drugs than ten years ago. So, why are young people still almost universally slated in the mainstream media?

A study by the children's charity Barnardo's back in 2008 addressed some of these concerns and you can find some of the relevant blog posts about their study and campaign here (along with some older posts about attitudes to young people).

You'll also find these articles, which we'll be looking at in class over the next few weeks, go some way towards answering that question and are worth a read if you're planning ahead and thinking about your potential coursework project.

"Thugs consider ASBOs a diploma" - Daily Mail article
"We see young people as pestilent" - Tanya Byron in The Guardian
Tony Parsons on attitudes to young people

Teenage dirtbags

The representation of social groups is an area that we're starting to look at in AS English Language this week, so I've been gathering together texts and extracts on different groups to start some discussion. One good area of study is how young people are represented in the media, so this piece in today's BBC News Magazine on the death of the teenage rebel is a good read.

Apparently, recent studies suggest that young people are now less likely to smoke, drink and take drugs than ten years ago. So, why are young people still almost universally slated in the mainstream media?

A study by the children's charity Barnardo's back in 2008 addressed some of these concerns and you can find some of the relevant blog posts about their study and campaign here (along with some older posts about attitudes to young people).

You'll also find these articles, which we'll be looking at in class over the next few weeks, go some way towards answering that question and are worth a read if you're planning ahead and thinking about your potential coursework project.

"Thugs consider ASBOs a diploma" - Daily Mail article
"We see young people as pestilent" - Tanya Byron in The Guardian
Tony Parsons on attitudes to young people

A noun phrase to end all noun phrases

Ed Miliband's speech to the Labour Party conference (of which there'll be more on this blog tomorrow), featured a cracking example of a super-long noun phrase for those of you who like that kind of thing.

Here we go... "Have you ever seen a more incompetent, hopeless, out-of-touch, U-turning, pledge-breaking, make-it-up-as-we-go-along, back of the envelope miserable shower than this prime minister and this government?".

For this week's Haribo prize, what's the head word in the highlighted noun phrase? First person to post the right answer in a comment gets the prize.

A noun phrase to end all noun phrases

Ed Miliband's speech to the Labour Party conference (of which there'll be more on this blog tomorrow), featured a cracking example of a super-long noun phrase for those of you who like that kind of thing.

Here we go... "Have you ever seen a more incompetent, hopeless, out-of-touch, U-turning, pledge-breaking, make-it-up-as-we-go-along, back of the envelope miserable shower than this prime minister and this government?".

For this week's Haribo prize, what's the head word in the highlighted noun phrase? First person to post the right answer in a comment gets the prize.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Rules" rule, OK?

For those of you doing A2 English Language, the big debate between prescriptivist and descriptivist attitudes to language is a central plank of the course. The terms themselves are a little problematic, as you'll no doubt see for yourselves as the course goes on, but in this article from the New York Times last week, two writers from opposing sides - Robert Lane Greene and Bryan A. Garner - slug it out, arguing about the "rules" of English and how we should  talk about usage. Can a native speaker ever really be "wrong", or should the "rules" always reflect the usage?

It's a well-argued piece, on both sides, and offers plenty of ammunition for those of you putting together Language Interventions for coursework, and material for discussion in class as we move into ENGA3 exam topics later in the year.

"Rules" rule, OK?

For those of you doing A2 English Language, the big debate between prescriptivist and descriptivist attitudes to language is a central plank of the course. The terms themselves are a little problematic, as you'll no doubt see for yourselves as the course goes on, but in this article from the New York Times last week, two writers from opposing sides - Robert Lane Greene and Bryan A. Garner - slug it out, arguing about the "rules" of English and how we should  talk about usage. Can a native speaker ever really be "wrong", or should the "rules" always reflect the usage?

It's a well-argued piece, on both sides, and offers plenty of ammunition for those of you putting together Language Interventions for coursework, and material for discussion in class as we move into ENGA3 exam topics later in the year.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bitch bad, woman good


Rap's never really had a good reputation for its representation of women. Bitches, hos, big booties bouncing and lollipops getting licked seem to be where it's at for a lot of rappers. But Lupe Fiasco isn't your average rapper and his latest album features a track called Bitch Bad, which pulls apart the construction of the word, its representation of women, its reflection of a materialistic society and its influence on malleable minds.

You can see the video here if it's not embedded above, and read the lyrics here. It's worth looking at how he pulls apart the assumptions and associations around the word, as it's a key part of what we do on ENGA2 when we look at the Investigating Representation task for coursework. Areas like how gender, ethnicity and sexuality are constructed and reflected through language are central to the unit, and it's worth spreading your net wide to gather language examples to focus on and write about.

If you're interested in other areas around words related to gender, try looking for material on this blog last year about Slutwalks. If the language used to describe disability is more your thing then you may want to look at the arguments here about the words mong and spastic.

Bitch bad, woman good


Rap's never really had a good reputation for its representation of women. Bitches, hos, big booties bouncing and lollipops getting licked seem to be where it's at for a lot of rappers. But Lupe Fiasco isn't your average rapper and his latest album features a track called Bitch Bad, which pulls apart the construction of the word, its representation of women, its reflection of a materialistic society and its influence on malleable minds.

You can see the video here if it's not embedded above, and read the lyrics here. It's worth looking at how he pulls apart the assumptions and associations around the word, as it's a key part of what we do on ENGA2 when we look at the Investigating Representation task for coursework. Areas like how gender, ethnicity and sexuality are constructed and reflected through language are central to the unit, and it's worth spreading your net wide to gather language examples to focus on and write about.

If you're interested in other areas around words related to gender, try looking for material on this blog last year about Slutwalks. If the language used to describe disability is more your thing then you may want to look at the arguments here about the words mong and spastic.

The Brits are Coming

Crikey!
The language traffic between the USA and UK is often portrayed as only working in one direction. We get hos, feds, bling, couch and candy while they get Harry Styles and his semi-pubescent chums. But is it really one way traffic? Not really, according to various linguists and language watchers.

The BBC has just run a feature on what they call the Britishisation of American English (note the stiff upper lipness of their -isation rather than limp yankee -ization) and it would appear that some speakers in the USA are picking up terms from here and sprinkling them into their vernacular, without so much as a by your leave or missing you already. So words like snog and ginger have crept up the usage charts (and may even rival 1D's chart positions soon) and fixed expressions like go missing and chat up are also gaining popularity.

The usage graphs themselves are interesting things to have a look at because they show the increasingly scientific approach taken to language study that the digitisation of newspapers and books has given us. Plus, they reflect the influence of UK cultural exports like Harry Potter (and perhaps more precisely, in the case of ginger, Ron Weasley).

Of course, the media love to stoke friendly rivalries between the old colonial masters and their upstart offspring, with articles like this by Matthew Engle kicking off some hardcore peeving over the infectious disease of American English (which we covered on this blog here), but the picture has always been more varied than the caricatures suggest, and with linguistics now taking a much more nuanced turn towards language as performance and a marker of identity rather than simply reflecting fixed categories we fall into (British, American, male, female, working class, posh etc.) it's clear that more attention can be given to individual reasons why some British words might take off in the USA and others not.

All of this is a topic that we'll cover in ENGA3 as part of World Englishes and Language Discourses, because it's a debate about language use and its users that provokes so many different opinions. In the meantime, before we get to studying this in class, I'd recommend Lynne Murphy's excellent blog Separated by a Common Language and reading a bit of David Crystal's Encyclopedia of the English Language to see how American English developed its own distinct identity and continues to be the dominant English form spoken all over the world.

Edited on 28th September to add:
The Guardian have also run a comment piece on this topic today.

The Brits are Coming

Crikey!
The language traffic between the USA and UK is often portrayed as only working in one direction. We get hos, feds, bling, couch and candy while they get Harry Styles and his semi-pubescent chums. But is it really one way traffic? Not really, according to various linguists and language watchers.

The BBC has just run a feature on what they call the Britishisation of American English (note the stiff upper lipness of their -isation rather than limp yankee -ization) and it would appear that some speakers in the USA are picking up terms from here and sprinkling them into their vernacular, without so much as a by your leave or missing you already. So words like snog and ginger have crept up the usage charts (and may even rival 1D's chart positions soon) and fixed expressions like go missing and chat up are also gaining popularity.

The usage graphs themselves are interesting things to have a look at because they show the increasingly scientific approach taken to language study that the digitisation of newspapers and books has given us. Plus, they reflect the influence of UK cultural exports like Harry Potter (and perhaps more precisely, in the case of ginger, Ron Weasley).

Of course, the media love to stoke friendly rivalries between the old colonial masters and their upstart offspring, with articles like this by Matthew Engle kicking off some hardcore peeving over the infectious disease of American English (which we covered on this blog here), but the picture has always been more varied than the caricatures suggest, and with linguistics now taking a much more nuanced turn towards language as performance and a marker of identity rather than simply reflecting fixed categories we fall into (British, American, male, female, working class, posh etc.) it's clear that more attention can be given to individual reasons why some British words might take off in the USA and others not.

All of this is a topic that we'll cover in ENGA3 as part of World Englishes and Language Discourses, because it's a debate about language use and its users that provokes so many different opinions. In the meantime, before we get to studying this in class, I'd recommend Lynne Murphy's excellent blog Separated by a Common Language and reading a bit of David Crystal's Encyclopedia of the English Language to see how American English developed its own distinct identity and continues to be the dominant English form spoken all over the world.

Edited on 28th September to add:
The Guardian have also run a comment piece on this topic today.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Say Yah to the Rahs

It's that time of year again, when new students are starting to flock to universities for their two weeks of seminars before it's reading week and then Christmas holidays, so it must also be time for the student-friendly Guardian to run its dictionary of student slang. So, here it is.

Given that today's students are from a much more representative demographic than twenty or thirty years ago, the slang is not really limited to just the upper middle classes any more, and now draws on much more eclectic influences - Caribbean patois, US teenspeak and TOWIE - so it could be argued that what students speak isn't really their slang at all. Then again, there are some examples - BNOC and chundergrad - which seem fairly restricted to campus life, so do seem to fit a strict definition of student slang.

And while we're on the subject of slang, a really excellent new book called The Life of Slang: A History of Slang by Professor Julie Coleman of Leicester University, is definitely worth a read for anyone thinking of investigating the topic further. It's funny, informative and frankly possesses a level of bare teckers that is hard to match in this field.

Say Yah to the Rahs

It's that time of year again, when new students are starting to flock to universities for their two weeks of seminars before it's reading week and then Christmas holidays, so it must also be time for the student-friendly Guardian to run its dictionary of student slang. So, here it is.

Given that today's students are from a much more representative demographic than twenty or thirty years ago, the slang is not really limited to just the upper middle classes any more, and now draws on much more eclectic influences - Caribbean patois, US teenspeak and TOWIE - so it could be argued that what students speak isn't really their slang at all. Then again, there are some examples - BNOC and chundergrad - which seem fairly restricted to campus life, so do seem to fit a strict definition of student slang.

And while we're on the subject of slang, a really excellent new book called The Life of Slang: A History of Slang by Professor Julie Coleman of Leicester University, is definitely worth a read for anyone thinking of investigating the topic further. It's funny, informative and frankly possesses a level of bare teckers that is hard to match in this field.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tory toffs, plod and plebs

Tory Minister, Andrew Mitchell is in hot water over his alleged outburst to police officers at the Houses of Parliament. It is reported that he swore at them, using the dreaded f-word, but much worse than that for a Tory government consisting largely of ex-public schoolboys who are generally seen to be aloof, arrogant and out of touch (even by their own nannies), he called the police plebs. Worse than the f-word? Really? Well, it depends on what you think of its significance. Some describe it as "politically toxic".

Plebs is a back-formation from a Latin word plebeian used in ancient Rome, basically meaning "of the common people" as opposed to being from the ruling aritocracy. As this BBC News Magazine article explains, the word gained currency in British public schools which often modelled themselves on ancient classical tradition and in the class divide that such an education created.

Given the timing too - in a week where two police constables were shot dead in what appears to have been an ambush in Manchester - it's not really a great week for a Tory MP to belittle the men and women who are protecting them and shows again the power of language to reflect social attitudes when it's used.


Tory toffs, plod and plebs

Tory Minister, Andrew Mitchell is in hot water over his alleged outburst to police officers at the Houses of Parliament. It is reported that he swore at them, using the dreaded f-word, but much worse than that for a Tory government consisting largely of ex-public schoolboys who are generally seen to be aloof, arrogant and out of touch (even by their own nannies), he called the police plebs. Worse than the f-word? Really? Well, it depends on what you think of its significance. Some describe it as "politically toxic".

Plebs is a back-formation from a Latin word plebeian used in ancient Rome, basically meaning "of the common people" as opposed to being from the ruling aritocracy. As this BBC News Magazine article explains, the word gained currency in British public schools which often modelled themselves on ancient classical tradition and in the class divide that such an education created.

Given the timing too - in a week where two police constables were shot dead in what appears to have been an ambush in Manchester - it's not really a great week for a Tory MP to belittle the men and women who are protecting them and shows again the power of language to reflect social attitudes when it's used.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

#TOMA, ITKers and WUMs

If you are unlucky enough to be a fellow Leeds United supporter, then this summer will have introduced you to a whole new world of anxiety, anticipation and moments of near-euphoria followed by crushing disappointment. And that's before you even go to a game, watch Ross McCormack get scythed down,  or see the "highlights" of another dreary defeat on TV. For this summer has been #TOMA summer.

TOMA? Yes TOMA. Take Over? My Arse. With the proposed takeover of Leeds United by a Bahraini/Saudi Arabian consortium now into its well over one hundredth day of negotiations and no deal with megalomaniac owner Ken Bates yet signed, Leeds fans have become used to TOMA fever. It consists of dripfeeds of information from ITKers (In The Know people) on WACCOE (We Are the Champions Champions Of Europe chat forum) who often turn out to be WUMs (Wind Up Merchants), campaign updates from LUST (Leeds United Supprters Trust) and the constant hitting of F5 (refresh).As well as nail-biting tension (and inevitable despair) it's been a hotbed of linguistic innovation.

The flexibility of initialisms and acronyms gives language the chance to express ideas very quickly and it's a really productive area of word formation. What's also interesting from a linguistic point of view is the ones which stay in use and the ones that don't. Will we still be ROFLing and LOLing in ten years, for example? Do we even realise that Radar, Laser and Scuba were once acronyms? And will we ever find out who was really ITK and who was just a WUM?

#TOMA, ITKers and WUMs

If you are unlucky enough to be a fellow Leeds United supporter, then this summer will have introduced you to a whole new world of anxiety, anticipation and moments of near-euphoria followed by crushing disappointment. And that's before you even go to a game, watch Ross McCormack get scythed down,  or see the "highlights" of another dreary defeat on TV. For this summer has been #TOMA summer.

TOMA? Yes TOMA. Take Over? My Arse. With the proposed takeover of Leeds United by a Bahraini/Saudi Arabian consortium now into its well over one hundredth day of negotiations and no deal with megalomaniac owner Ken Bates yet signed, Leeds fans have become used to TOMA fever. It consists of dripfeeds of information from ITKers (In The Know people) on WACCOE (We Are the Champions Champions Of Europe chat forum) who often turn out to be WUMs (Wind Up Merchants), campaign updates from LUST (Leeds United Supprters Trust) and the constant hitting of F5 (refresh).As well as nail-biting tension (and inevitable despair) it's been a hotbed of linguistic innovation.

The flexibility of initialisms and acronyms gives language the chance to express ideas very quickly and it's a really productive area of word formation. What's also interesting from a linguistic point of view is the ones which stay in use and the ones that don't. Will we still be ROFLing and LOLing in ten years, for example? Do we even realise that Radar, Laser and Scuba were once acronyms? And will we ever find out who was really ITK and who was just a WUM?

A f**king swearfest

As mentioned a few weeks back, Lexicon Valley is a regular language podcast from Slate magazine. The latest edition is great if you're a fan of profanity, obscenity and vulgarity. And let's face it, if you aren't, you really should be, you dumb fu....sorry, getting carried away there. In this edition, the guest linguist is Geoff Nunberg who talks at length about the word asshole: where it comes from, what it means and who can be one.

He argues that a child can't be an asshole; only a person who knows better can be one. But what is an asshole? It appears to be a term applied to someone (almost always a man) who is arrogant, unpleasant, and showing an overblown sense of entitlement. Does it really have anything to do with the body part it refers to? Well, yes and no. And that's why the word is so interesting, because like so many other swear words, it appears to have slipped its mooring and drifted into completely new territory, referring to things it never used to.

But does it have the same meaning in the UK? To me, it seems to be a specifically American term and  - as this article makes clear - ass and arse aren't quite the same thing, meaning that asshole and arsehole aren't necessarily the same thing either. After all, why say asshole when you can say dickhead, which is a much more British word?

Anyway, swearing aside, the interview sheds plenty of light on how swearing is used, its roots in culture and society and people's attitudes to it. Go on. Don't be an asshole. Give it a listen.

A f**king swearfest

As mentioned a few weeks back, Lexicon Valley is a regular language podcast from Slate magazine. The latest edition is great if you're a fan of profanity, obscenity and vulgarity. And let's face it, if you aren't, you really should be, you dumb fu....sorry, getting carried away there. In this edition, the guest linguist is Geoff Nunberg who talks at length about the word asshole: where it comes from, what it means and who can be one.

He argues that a child can't be an asshole; only a person who knows better can be one. But what is an asshole? It appears to be a term applied to someone (almost always a man) who is arrogant, unpleasant, and showing an overblown sense of entitlement. Does it really have anything to do with the body part it refers to? Well, yes and no. And that's why the word is so interesting, because like so many other swear words, it appears to have slipped its mooring and drifted into completely new territory, referring to things it never used to.

But does it have the same meaning in the UK? To me, it seems to be a specifically American term and  - as this article makes clear - ass and arse aren't quite the same thing, meaning that asshole and arsehole aren't necessarily the same thing either. After all, why say asshole when you can say dickhead, which is a much more British word?

Anyway, swearing aside, the interview sheds plenty of light on how swearing is used, its roots in culture and society and people's attitudes to it. Go on. Don't be an asshole. Give it a listen.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

ENGA2 Investigating Representation

I'm going to be teaching the investigation coursework part of the AS course for the first time in a few years, so have been looking around for ideas that might work. What I am hoping is that this post can become a bit more collaborative than the usual ones, with students and teachers suggesting topics and approaches that have worked for them. So, if you are an A2 student who did an interesting topic last year or a teacher of the A spec who has some good ideas about topics from work you've set/seen, please add your comments.

Conscious of the fact that lots of students have gone for celebrity profiles in the past (representation of individuals) and that these are often a bit pedestrian, I've tried to suggest a couple of issue-based topics below, so any other ideas would be very welcome.

Page 3
Institution: is it an institution? Should it even exist?
Issue: sexism, pornography
Social group: women and representation of gender
Suggested text to start off with: Deborah Orr in The Guardian

Hillsborough
Event: comparison of reporting on event then and now, with The Sun's coverage being of particular interest.
Social groups: football fans, Liverpool fans/Scousers (regional stereotyping)
Institution: the police
Suggested texts to look at: Neil Warnock on memories of the disaster, The Sun's front pages then and now:


Football fans
Following on from coverage of the Hillsborough inquiry, it could also be worth looking at changing representations of football fans, from the hooligans of the 1970s and 80s through to the prawn sandwich munchers of the 2000s.
Social group: football fans
BBC News magazine article on this
Football Supporters Federation - representing fans

Some other possibilities (updated Friday 28th September):

Pussy Riot
Event: jailing of the band
Individuals: as band members
Issue: protest, feminism
Social group: women, activists
There are some sharply contrasting representations of them in the media too.
The Economist covers it here.
Guardian comment piece.
NME interview with jailed band members
Bad taste tweets?

Jeremy Forrest and Megan Stammers
Perhaps a bit too soon to look at this dispassionately, but now they've been found (apparently alive and well), this case and its coverage - particularly the representation of Forrest in the tabloid press and in interviews with his parents - could be a very interesting one to explore.
This link to the press conference where his parents spoke might be a good place to look.
The Sun's coverage a few days into the story.
Event, Individuals, Social groups, Issues could all be covered here.

ENGA2 Investigating Representation

I'm going to be teaching the investigation coursework part of the AS course for the first time in a few years, so have been looking around for ideas that might work. What I am hoping is that this post can become a bit more collaborative than the usual ones, with students and teachers suggesting topics and approaches that have worked for them. So, if you are an A2 student who did an interesting topic last year or a teacher of the A spec who has some good ideas about topics from work you've set/seen, please add your comments.

Conscious of the fact that lots of students have gone for celebrity profiles in the past (representation of individuals) and that these are often a bit pedestrian, I've tried to suggest a couple of issue-based topics below, so any other ideas would be very welcome.

Page 3
Institution: is it an institution? Should it even exist?
Issue: sexism, pornography
Social group: women and representation of gender
Suggested text to start off with: Deborah Orr in The Guardian

Hillsborough
Event: comparison of reporting on event then and now, with The Sun's coverage being of particular interest.
Social groups: football fans, Liverpool fans/Scousers (regional stereotyping)
Institution: the police
Suggested texts to look at: Neil Warnock on memories of the disaster, The Sun's front pages then and now:


Football fans
Following on from coverage of the Hillsborough inquiry, it could also be worth looking at changing representations of football fans, from the hooligans of the 1970s and 80s through to the prawn sandwich munchers of the 2000s.
Social group: football fans
BBC News magazine article on this
Football Supporters Federation - representing fans

Some other possibilities (updated Friday 28th September):

Pussy Riot
Event: jailing of the band
Individuals: as band members
Issue: protest, feminism
Social group: women, activists
There are some sharply contrasting representations of them in the media too.
The Economist covers it here.
Guardian comment piece.
NME interview with jailed band members
Bad taste tweets?

Jeremy Forrest and Megan Stammers
Perhaps a bit too soon to look at this dispassionately, but now they've been found (apparently alive and well), this case and its coverage - particularly the representation of Forrest in the tabloid press and in interviews with his parents - could be a very interesting one to explore.
This link to the press conference where his parents spoke might be a good place to look.
The Sun's coverage a few days into the story.
Event, Individuals, Social groups, Issues could all be covered here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tweeps, LOLZ and the continuing bastardisation of English

Following on from the Collins new words post earlier today, here's one on August 2012's new additions to Oxford Dictionaries.

While the words aren't a great surprise to anyone who has kept their eyes and ears open over the last year or two (tweeps, ridic, hat tip and Essex's very own, vajazzle) the discussion that follows them in the comments section provides a nice snapshot of some of the arguments that rage about language usage (arguments we will look at when we do ENGA3 Language Discourses and ENGA4 Language Interventions).

Doughnut Guy is upset about the continuing "bastardisation" of the English language, while John List sees it all as part of language evolution, and the role of the dictionaries as being to reflect what's being written, said and tweeted out there in the real world.

So, in weeks to come we'll start this year's Heated Debates and kick off with the topic of new words, dictionaries and the changing face of English...

Tweeps, LOLZ and the continuing bastardisation of English

Following on from the Collins new words post earlier today, here's one on August 2012's new additions to Oxford Dictionaries.

While the words aren't a great surprise to anyone who has kept their eyes and ears open over the last year or two (tweeps, ridic, hat tip and Essex's very own, vajazzle) the discussion that follows them in the comments section provides a nice snapshot of some of the arguments that rage about language usage (arguments we will look at when we do ENGA3 Language Discourses and ENGA4 Language Interventions).

Doughnut Guy is upset about the continuing "bastardisation" of the English language, while John List sees it all as part of language evolution, and the role of the dictionaries as being to reflect what's being written, said and tweeted out there in the real world.

So, in weeks to come we'll start this year's Heated Debates and kick off with the topic of new words, dictionaries and the changing face of English...

No, Chomsky

For a long time, Noam Chomsky has been viewed as one of the big hitters in linguistics. It's probably fair to say that he's one of its most influential thinkers, widely admired for his groundbreaking ideas on language acquisition and what he came to term Universal Grammar. But in recent years there's been a growing body of research to suggest that his nativist approach to language acquisition - that all children acquire language through an inbuilt ability to relate universal rules of grammar to the language that is used around them - is on shaky ground.

The argument gets quite heated (and frankly, for me at least, almost completely unfathomable) in some places (like the comments that follow this Geoff Pullum THE review of a recent Chomsky publication) and I don't have the intelligence to follow most of it, but this is an interesting and readable account of some of the recent criticisms of Chomsky's approach by Dorothy Bishop on her blog and worth a read if you've already studied child language acquisition at AS/A level or are interested in finding out more.

There's also a really good chapter in the forthcoming EMC Language handbook, written by Paul Ibbotson of Manchester University, on new approaches to child language research.

No, Chomsky

For a long time, Noam Chomsky has been viewed as one of the big hitters in linguistics. It's probably fair to say that he's one of its most influential thinkers, widely admired for his groundbreaking ideas on language acquisition and what he came to term Universal Grammar. But in recent years there's been a growing body of research to suggest that his nativist approach to language acquisition - that all children acquire language through an inbuilt ability to relate universal rules of grammar to the language that is used around them - is on shaky ground.

The argument gets quite heated (and frankly, for me at least, almost completely unfathomable) in some places (like the comments that follow this Geoff Pullum THE review of a recent Chomsky publication) and I don't have the intelligence to follow most of it, but this is an interesting and readable account of some of the recent criticisms of Chomsky's approach by Dorothy Bishop on her blog and worth a read if you've already studied child language acquisition at AS/A level or are interested in finding out more.

There's also a really good chapter in the forthcoming EMC Language handbook, written by Paul Ibbotson of Manchester University, on new approaches to child language research.

Dollops of proper rustic hipsters

Here are two quick links to things which might tickle your fancy. First, here's a list of words nabbed from Luke Wright's twitter feed, allegedly promoted in Jamie Oliver's restaurants to sell his food. Now, I'm a big fan of Jamie - to my mind, he's a national treasure with his fight for decent school meals and his obvious dislike of Michael 666ove - but aren't these words a bit daft? Presumably they fit with his image of effortless, commonsense cooking, but "proper rustic" sounds a bit like a dry biscuit or a six-fingered Norfolk farmer.

The second link is a Hipster translator. We may admire their Hoxton fins from a distance and their ridiculous trousers, but hipsters speak the same language the world over: and here you can learn what it means.


Dollops of proper rustic hipsters

Here are two quick links to things which might tickle your fancy. First, here's a list of words nabbed from Luke Wright's twitter feed, allegedly promoted in Jamie Oliver's restaurants to sell his food. Now, I'm a big fan of Jamie - to my mind, he's a national treasure with his fight for decent school meals and his obvious dislike of Michael 666ove - but aren't these words a bit daft? Presumably they fit with his image of effortless, commonsense cooking, but "proper rustic" sounds a bit like a dry biscuit or a six-fingered Norfolk farmer.

The second link is a Hipster translator. We may admire their Hoxton fins from a distance and their ridiculous trousers, but hipsters speak the same language the world over: and here you can learn what it means.


Apologies...

Sorry for the lack of regular blog updates since June. I spent most of June and July marking exams and moderating coursework, went on holiday to Italy (lovely, thanks) and then was busy writing and editing some stuff. If you want to read/buy any of it, check the sidebar "Books wot I have writ" and you can help feed my family (and keep me in red wine and Dime bars).

Regular service now resumed, I hope :-)

Embracing Independent Study (at home!)

This is a guest blog by Richard Young, an A level student at St Thomas More RC Academy in Tyne and Wear, who's hoping to go on to study ...