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Showing posts from February, 2013

7) Phonetic Transcription and Recieved Pronunciation

As we have discovered in previous posts, and as I have prefaced many times before that, the main problem with considering the sounds of language, is that not all people sound out language in the same way. There are many variations which may depend on regional dialects, first languages, social class or even speech impediments. It is a hugely complicated task to attempt to take account of all the variations of English which might exist. For this reason, when we talk about the sound qualities of particular phonemes we do so in relation to a standard form of English.

It's fine to be angry about government, but not to become self-righteous

A comment was made to me recently that I had been keeping 'rather quiet' of late.  It was nice of anybody to notice of course - and I muttered some drivel about marking, and assessment boards, and preparing a new module, and that sort of thing.  All of which is true.  However, the comment made was not a general one about the fact that I have not been irritating everyone with countless tweets quite so much, but was more specifically about the fact that they had not seen me rant and rave wildly about politicians. 

More specifically, about the Conservative government. 

More specifically, about Michael Gove.

It is not that I have become a convert to any of these things, but there are two reasons why I have been consciously trying to reign in my impatience for Conservatives policies and ideologies, and my tendency to twitch violently at the very mention of Gove.

Reason 1: Misery and Pessimism
The first is that the whole business has simply got me down.  I know this is a wussy, che…

8) Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics

So far in this series on the basis of linguistics, we have considered how words are constructed of morphemes, and how words are classified, and form groups known as phrases. We have, as well, considered how language is created through the human vocal apparatus. We have explored how phonemes are created through the place and manner of articulation.

Shaun Tan: Migration, Displacement and Belonging in Children's Picturebooks

I have been reading a lot about Shaun Tan in recent weeks.  His illustrated books are extraordinary things, and well worth a look.  Equally interesting though, is what Tan himself says about them - particularly in relation to his recurring themes of migration, displacement and belonging.

In this keynote speech from the 2012 IBBY cogress (a full transcript of which is available on Tan's own website), Shaun Tan explains about the themes of migration, identity and belonging in his books - and in particular in his book The Arrival. Tan highlights the relavance of stories of migration by suggesting that children develop a sense of their own identities by being able to measure it against 'otherness'. "Culture, nature, family, belief, work, play, language" Tan says, "are flexible realities, something we realise especially when we travel overseas, and discover that the commonplace is exotic and the exotic is commonplace, depending on what side of the tour-bus w…

9) Pragmatics and Grice's Cooperative Principal

We have so far considered how words are formed and classified, and how words are grouped to form phrases. We have considered as well how words are formed vocally through the manner and place of articulation. We have even explored the murky realms of semantics to consider the difficult issue of how all these factors combined to make a language capable of communicating meaning.

10) The origins of language: Language Acquisition

The question of the origins of language has two parts, which do not easily connect to each other.

1. On the one hand, the question is one which relates to human development – the natural history of language. How does language start? Where does it come from? We have already seen that human language is totally unique from the animal kingdom. How did this happen?

Re. Clothes do not make the scholar?

This morning's interesting read comes again from Pat Thomson's excellent blog, in which today she comments on several articles that have focused on the dress sense of academics.  These articles, she points out, lean on "some rather hoary old stereotypes" which assume that academics simply don't live in the real world.  In contrast, Thomson argues, academic can indeed be real people too and perhaps it is the Harvey Nick's catalogue cronies who actually have the problem.

Don't know why, but I have a mental image of this idea being converted into a successful film - doubtless directed by Chris Columbus - in which a a beleagured academic sporting sandles and a bow tie is harried through a train station by bronzed TOWIE-types, until the emotional climax where the academic (doubtless played by Bill Nighy) is cornered and bellows 'I am not an ivory-tower anachronism!  I am a human being!'

Actually the reasons why this strikes home a little for me are two…

Something New: Designing a new module in Children's Literature

In the forthcoming semester, I will be embracing something NEW and teaching a module on children’s literature – a significant shift from my areas of specialism in eighteenth-century literature, American drama and cultural theory.

This is something I have been wanting to do for some time – before, indeed, I had the pleasure of becoming and parent and finding myself reading Maurice Sendak and Julia Donaldson so repetitively that at times I find myself reciting ‘a mouse took a walk through the deep dark wood’ to myself as I walk down the road, like a Gruffaholic zombie. It has always interested me largely because it seems to interest my students so much. Of all the dissertations I have supervised (and despite my best efforts to get people to write about Tristram Shandy) children’s literature has probably been one of the most recurring topics. Not surprising given the explosion of critical interest in the field, rather nicely demonstrated by this ngram chart:

Indeed, it is even less su…

Children's Literature Assessment Design

For this task, due on 10th June, you will be writing an essay – but not just an ordinary essay. Remembering that one of the learning outcomes for this module is to “[d]evelop skills in crafting writing for specific purposes, both academic and non-academic”, this essay is going to centre on a more creative approach to the subject.

This essay will therefore chart your development of your own idea for a piece of children’s literature. Hopefully it will not take you long to realise that such a task is far from simple. It will require a number of complex processes, of critical awareness, and an understanding of how language can be narrowed in order that the reader has multiple pathways of possible expansion.

This assignment does not require that you actually write a children’s story (although if you wanted to do so, you could add it as an appendix).

What it requires is that you demonstrate a process of shaping a story – thinking about it in terms of its ideas and their relationship to c…

David Mamet

Throughout the twentieth century, we can see a consistent degradation America’s own view of itself, through the work of the playwrights studied. Its dreams and idealisms have, for these playwrights, fallen down around them. The Depression destroyed the dreams of economic security and the confidence in capitalism. The McCarthy trials destroyed faith in American democracy, and its position as a ‘land of the free’ was challenged by those who pointed out the vast inequalities sustained by so-called American ideals. 

Playwright’s responded to these various set-backs in a variety of ways. Some like Clifford Odets wrote plays designed to act as clarion calls: calls for social reform, as idealistic and as optimistic as those of the Founding Fathers. Others, like Tennessee Williams, responded with despondency, presenting a world of decayed values in which the individual soul was irretrievably lost amid the confused jockeying of societies privileged few. …

Arthur Miller and the American Dream

The notion of the American Dream has now established itself fully into the mythological life not only of America, but of many nations around the world – including (arguably) our own. The term ‘American Dream’ was not a commonly used one until 1931, when the popular historian James Truslow Adams attempted to use it as the title for his short history of America. His publishers were not happy with the title, preferring the eventually chosen one of The Epic of America. Adams used the term ‘American Dream’ more than 30 times throughout his book though, and in the years to follow – during which the popularity of The Epic of America became immense - the term became commonplace. Now, Jim Cullen writes that the:
American Dream” has long since moved beyond the relatively musty domain of print culture into the incandescent glow of the mass media, where it is enshrined as our national motto. Jubilant athletes declaim it following championship games. Aspiring po…