Friday, October 07, 2016

NEA: investigation ideas part 1

In this, the 1000th post on EngLangBlog (OMG), I'll run through a couple of quick ideas for language investigations based on recent stories in the news or language posts elsewhere.

1. Changing UK accents and dialects. 
The stories in the press and on the radio last week about the Sound of 2066 report were fascinating and worrying in equal measure. The report itself can be downloaded here and is a really good read (and very useful for anyone studying Change and Diversity for the new A level course). It looks at what English might look and sound like in 50 years and traces some patterns that have already been established - abbreviations, borrowing and simplification of sounds - to see what is likely to occur as time goes on.
Here's a nice clip of the report's authors talking about their predictions.
There are several language investigations in there, I think. One might be to consider one or two variables in your own family and the ways in which these might have changed across generations. Another might be to look at these changes in written texts over time: abbreviations cold be a good one as we have used them for a long time (e.g. etc. et al. & err... etc.) but many see them as a recent development.

Another set of investigations (which crosses over with Paper 2 Language Discourses work) would be to examine the coverage of the report. As I (no doubt, tediously) complained about on Twitter last week, the angles taken by various right wing news outlets, were worryingly xenophobic and played on anti-immigration themes. You can make your own mind up about these by looking at the headlines and main thrust of each of the following. Notice a pattern?

Telegraph
Mail (original headline published for this was "Is immigration killing off the Queen's English?"
The Sun
The Guardian

The local media coverage of stories like this is also good to consider. Here's what three regional publications made of it all:

Newcastle
Birmingham
Liverpool

2. Changing attitudes to taboo language
This one has always been a favourite  because it allows you to look at really bad swear words in an academic and mature way ("Ha, that says boobies!"). Every few years, Ofcom publishes a survey of social attitudes to swearing and their latest report can be found here. Looking back at their previous reports (check this blog), you can see some shifting social attitudes towards certain words.

Is this something you could do for your own investigation? An apparent time study (using an age-stratified sample of respondents) might allow you to test how people feel about different swear words and explore some of their reasons for finding them offensive or otherwise. There's plenty of scope for discussion about taboos around various bodily functions, sex and social behaviour, but also a lot of scope for discussion of religion, gender, race and sexuality, all of which feed into other parts of this course.

This article and this one are helpful for providing other angles.

More ideas next week, but if you have any of your own, please tweet them to @EngLangBlog.

3 comments:

Hayley Poulson said...

Thanks, Dan! The accent/dialect report is very useful and quite sobering! Hayley

Dan said...

Deeply depressing!

Steven Lockwood said...

Dan, A couple of my students are interested in an investigation which considers attitudes towards taboo language - similar to the idea you posted. My problem with this is knowing how they will meet the needs of the assessment criteria. Both in terms of the mark scheme and headings they should use in the 'report,' I am struggling to work out how they might pull it off. Any advice very welcome. Great blog. Steve