Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Update (21st May 2008) Sadly, Ireland's Dustin the Turkey didn't make it past the semi-finals.
Monday, 19 May 2008
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
c.1200, from O.N. þierra, gen. of þeir "they". Replaced O.E. hiera. Use with singular objects, scorned by grammarians, is attested from c.1300. Theirs (c.1300) is a double possessive. Alternate form theirn (1836) is attested in Midlands and southern dialect in
O.E. ure "of us," genitive plural of the first person pronoun, from P.Gmc. *ons (cf. O.S.
Their and our are plural possessive pronouns which have a similar function / position to an adjective in standard English. But ‘their dog’ does not describe the dog but actually gives information about the people who own the dog. ‘their dog’ = the dog of them.
In English, the important function of our & their is that we can separate people grammatically for different purposes. For example, in George Bush’s speech after the attack in
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
Pinko-liberal Guardianistas and Scousers the world over may (quite rightly) loathe The Sun, but to be fair when it comes to headlines The Sun has it down to a fine art. Following yesterday's High Court conclusion to the acrimonious divorce between Sir Paul 'Macca' McCartney and Heather 'Mucca' Mills, I was looking forward to what The Sun would come up with. They did not disappoint:
Mucca chucksa cuppa water over Macca's lawyer Shacka
Right: let's start with lexis...
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Tuesday, 4 March 2008
Present-day English is being changed by technology. Whole new languages are being invented in internet chatrooms and via texting.
Using examples from language associated with new technology, describe and explain a range of changes which are taking place in language use. Give your views about whether an entirely new language is being invented.
During the past 15 to 20 years there has been a major communications revolution sparked by the emergence of new communication technologies. Mobile Phone and Internet technologies are arguably the most visible examples, at least in terms of popularity and regularity of use. Linguists and social commentators have been quick to explore the impact of this technology on language, with some even suggesting it to be as significant as Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1440[s1] . Another significant claim, as revealed in the essay question, suggests that these new technologies have even encouraged the emergence of ‘whole new languages.’
The invention of the printing press impacted so profoundly on language use because it enabled, for the first time, a medium of mass written communication. Its impact on the expansion of literacy and therefore the expansion of ideas helped stimulate the emergence of new thought, as well as helping to secure the eventual ‘standardisation’ of the written word.[s2] Similarly, the emergence of new communication technology has had no less an impact because it too has reached a mass audience. However unlike the printing press, the www and mobile phone appear to have encouraged an apparent departure from standardised linguistic forms. This irony can be largely attributed to the nature of the technology itself. Let me[s3] explain.
E-mailing (WWW) and texting (Mobile-phones) are mechanisms of instant communication. The medium of that communication however is not voice or even the pen, but the keyboard or keypad. Once ‘sent’ the message arrives at its destination almost immediately – and the response can be equally speedy. [s4] Subsequently the technology encourages (and perhaps, determines) a language that is much more informal and colloquial. The language of text messages has for some become so distinct from standard linguistic forms that it has been given its own name – textese[s5] . What defines textese? It is evidently filled with non-standard spelling and grammar. It is generally colloquial and ignores the conventions of ‘traditional’ orthography. It is semantically loaded yet light in content – it is quick, instant and to the point. Similarly, emailing is equally ‘non-standard’ in its linguistic variety. Add to this the ‘instantaneous’, non-permanent characteristic of this digital dialogue and you have what appears to be the emergence of a truly new language. It lies somewhere between the spoken and the written. [s6] It has its own emerging lexicon – neologisms, acronyms and hieroglyphic codes that are really only meaningful to those competent enough to use the technology in the first place. This could perhaps be used as evidence to support the ‘new language’ assertion: like any language, there are those who can speak it (or should I say, text it?) and there are those who cannot.
The truth is, however, that whole new languages are not being invented at all. [s7] ‘Textese’ is not a new language. It is a new form of English that has emerged in response to a technologically-determined medium of communication. The experience of language is the experience of social change. It is diachronic and evolutionary – language responds to a vast array of influences and adapts itself accordingly. Of course, how we interpret and respond to such changes is largely a reflection of our own attitudes to language[s8] and its use. For example, recent language commentators appear to be expressing a new ‘prescriptivism’ – in short a reaction by those who feel that technology is somehow ‘damaging’ language. Some of this conservatism may be in part due to a fear not so much of the technology, but its users. ‘Texting is penmanship for illiterates!’ [s9] one commentator recently exclaimed. But this elitist hysteria is surely misplaced. Teenagers have always ‘broken the rules’ when writing (and speaking) to each other – the ‘thanx’ that may previously have been written in a letter between pen-pals now becomes the ‘thnx’ of a text or email. It is just now that the speed of communication is making non-standard spelling forms more visible, numerous and indeed imaginative – but this does not imply that the individual scripting the message is unaware of the standardised form – it is just not appropriate for them to use it at that point. Context, again, determines all[s10] .
A further irony becomes evident when we consider the emotive topic of spelling. Pedants who advocate blind conformity to ‘standard orthography’ are increasingly uncomfortable with any forms of language that ignore it – however the spelling that we often find in texts and emails is in fact closer to the original ‘alphabetic principle’ that characterised early English spelling in the first place – namely that it is phonetic and reflects pronunciation rather than the arbitrary rules constructed by 18th century scholars[s11] who cared more for Latinate etymology than they did anything else. Any child learning to spell has to be told that they must place a ‘u’ in colour and ‘re’ at the end of centre regardless of the fact that this spelling has no relation whatsoever to their pronunciation. Why? Because Dr Johnson said so! In textese and in emails however, our technology literate children are, quite rightly, ignoring Dr Johnson and his like. As David Crystal [s12] points out, it is not a new language that has been born out of technology but a new language variety – and variety, surely, is to be celebrated. It is far more interesting.[s13]
[s1]Reveals historical knowledge (context)
[s2]Shows that technology is not ‘new’ and reveals that the relationship between it and language is “causal” – in other words, one impacts on the other.
[s3]Perfectly acceptable to use personal pronoun – remember this is not a commentary. For once you have the chance to express an opinion!
[s4]Here I am trying to convey a sense of what is ‘new’ about this technology as far as communication is concerned.
[s5]Here I am using relevant terminology as well as reinforcing the idea that a new language is emerging.
[s6]Evidence for the ‘new language’ hypothesis.
[s7]My viewpoint – you may not agree with it, but whatever your position is you must support it with evidence.
[s8]Even though the question did not directly refer to ‘attitudes’, clearly it would be difficult not to consider the various ways in which people have responded to these new technologies and the impact they have had on how language is used.
[s9]Short, snappy quote. Lovely!
[s10]Which is at the heart of a descriptivist perspective
[s11]More historical knowledge.
[s12]Authoritative source – David Crystal is a linguist.
[s13]Try and finish with an enthusiastic assertion – but don’t be too dogmatic.
Monday, 28 January 2008
Useful for: Language Topics / Change
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
Useful for: Language Change
Ever since a lunch when my Australian mate declared he could chew the leg off a skinny priest, I've realised that Australians are uniquely creative with the Queen's English.
Most Poms' hazy sense of the Australian vernacular stretches as far as strewth, dag or bonzer. But a competition by an online dictionary to find Australia's word of the year shows that the country is still chewing up English and spitting out something far more direct and interesting.
Have you always hated those tattoos hovering above the backside? Now you've got a name for them: arse antlers. Want a new euphemism for an obese person? Try salad dodger.
This kind of slang is not really surprising because Aussies have always excelled at insults, none more so than former prime minister Paul Keating, who liked to savage his parliamentary opponents as "gutless spivs" or "foul-mouthed grubs".
Most of the terms listed by the Macquarie Dictionary are gentler: tanorexics are people obsessed with sunbathing; Helengrad is the nickname for the New Zealand capital Wellington - implying it is dominated by their long-serving prime minister Helen Clark.
Many of Australia's 85 words of 2007, which you can vote for at the Macquarie Dictionary website, are typically dry observations about modern life, which apply across the western world. At work, we all suffer from password fatigue, having too many passwords to remember; infomania is that twitchy, distracted state brought on by constantly giving priority to the latest emails and text messages; pod slurping is the downloading of huge quantities of music or data onto an iPod or memory stick.
At home, you will find the floordrobe, an ironic term for that lazy kind of storage system which is actually a bedroom floor covered with discarded clothes; and Kippers, an acronym for adult children who refuse to leave home (Kids in Parents' Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings).
Some of these words are already gaining use around the world and may not even be uniquely Australian.
My friend who waxed lyrical about eating skinny priests and wrestling pigs in hallways has always worried that globalisation would herald the end of the Australian vernacular. He needn't be overly concerned, however. There are still plenty of new, uniquely Australian terms to play with - from toad juice, a liquid fertiliser made from crushed cane toads, to microgroms, those infuriatingly brilliant Aussie surfers who can't be more than 10 years old.
Useful for: Varieties of English / World Englishes