Chapter 1

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Information about Chapter 1

Published on January 28, 2008

Author: Veronica1


Chapter 1:  Chapter 1 Introduction: A discourse perspective on grammar Come on, please…..:  Come on, please….. Please open your copy of the Longman Grammar. We’ll work through Chapter 1 together so that I can try to help you understand the content. But you can’t really benefit from this overview unless you have your copy of the book open and ready to use. Thanks! Pat Organization of Chapter 1:  Organization of Chapter 1 Look over the list on page 1 of the topics covered in the chapter. Look through the chapter to see how those 5 topics are presented…find the headings. Just flip through the chapter to get a sense of what’s going on. What does the Introduction introduce?:  What does the Introduction introduce? Their purposes Their methods Their beliefs about language Their work on another grammar book called the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English The relationship between LGSWE & our text So? What methods do they use? For what ends? Corpus-based grammar:  Corpus-based grammar The information in this reference book comes from the study of a collection of 40,000,000 words of text. Their corpus combines written English with spoken English. Using corpus data means that they achieve some important goals: Real examples they haven’t made these up. They can show us how English is really used. Coverage of language variation they show how English grammar is alike and different when used for 4 different kinds of communication Coverage of preference and frequency they tell us what speakers of English tend to do most of the time when we communicate in particular ways Interpretation of frequency: context and discourse they tell us about which grammar and vocabulary tend to show up in particular places Lexico-grammatical Ok, a big new word deserves its own slide….please continue…. Lexico-grammatical:  Lexico-grammatical Lexico = “words” and “vocabulary” as in lexical, lexicographer, and so on. Lexico-grammatical patterns…that’s the usual combination What does the word mean? Combinations of words and grammar Combinations that often (or always) happen together Verbs followed by that: believe that…. Two-words verbs: look up [the meaning of something] Verb and prepositions that often come together: think about…. Verbs that are used more in past tense than other tenses: said All words are used in particular grammatical patterns. Words are not “grammar free.” Why does the concept matter to us? Because it turns out that we need to be teaching particular vocabulary along with grammar rather than separating them into 2 different parts of the curriculum Register:  Register Register: a sub-set of English, a particular communication setting, a genre Newspaper English Academic English Conversational English Fiction Poetry Specialized English like “aviation mechanic English” or “ESL teacher English” with special vocabulary and special uses of the vocabulary-grammar We’ll see this word with this meaning through the whole semester. Research has shown us that English is used in particular ways for particular kinds of communication. Think about the differences between a U.S. history textbook and a psychology textbook. The history uses a lot of past tense and a lot of proper nouns for the names of people, places, & events. The psychology uses a lot of present tense for generalizations about behavior and a lot of abstract nouns to name theories and kinds of behaviors. There are other details but we can see that the English of U.S. history and the English of psychology have distinctive differences. So….as teachers we need to know about the various ways that English is used so that we can teach English vocabulary-grammar accurately. Dialect:  Dialect We will not be paying much attention to what linguists call dialects. Dialects tend to be social…the language used by a particular set of people in a particular location. Dialects are really interesting but information about them is not of as much help to an ESL/EFL teacher as information about registers. The textbook will provide some information about dialect differences, especially at a high level of generality about differences between American English and British English. Our basic focus will be on ways that grammar and vocabulary work together for particular kinds of communication and particular kinds of meaning. Standard vs. Non-standard:  Standard vs. Non-standard On the whole, “standard” refers to the English used by educated speakers who are in political control of a country or culture. On the whole, “non-standard” refers to the English used by speakers who are not as schooled in the language used by the people in control of the country or culture. Differences between the 2 kinds of English are hard to pin down. People can use features of both types for different purposes. Because the book is corpus-based, samples of both types of English show up in their explanations. But their samples are primarily of “standard English.” Their basic interest is in the “standard” English that’s found in the kinds of discourse that they analyze: newspapers and academic writing are basically presented in standard vocabulary/grammar. However, conversational English and some newspaper writing (columns, sports writing, interviews) can show features we associate with non-standard uses. And of course fiction can include dialogue that attempts to imitate the speech of speakers from all walks of life. Prescriptive vs. Descriptive Grammar:  Prescriptive vs. Descriptive Grammar Take a look at page 7 on the differences between “prescriptive” and “descriptive” grammars. This topic is presented as a sub-set of the broader topic “Standard and non-standard (vernacular) English.” Why’s that? Why this topic at this point? Prescriptive grammarians want to tell us how to avoid errors in usage so that we can present ourselves as socially part of the educated upper middle class. On the whole, prescriptive grammarians stick to a narrow range of topics and work from traditions about what we should do without always paying enough attention to what educated speakers really do. Our approach will be descriptive…looking at lots of real usage to find out how English is really used for particular types of communication. Teaching ESL/EFL actually needs to start from descriptive work to find out about English vocabulary and grammar and then to become neo-prescriptive in that we teach students how to use a particular kind of language. The danger for us is in skipping over the descriptive stage! We have to base our presentation of English grammar-vocabulary on what is really done. We do not want our students to use the grammar of academic writing in their conversations or the grammar of conversations in their academic writing. Description first; then, teaching materials based on that descriptive information. Core Registers:  Core Registers Please look at Table 1.2 on page 8 Throughout the semester, we’ll be learning about English grammar in 4 settings: Conversation Fiction News Academic Prose Our basic questions are….. ”What’s the grammar like? When we have a conversation in English, what grammar do we use? What grammar tends to be used in English fiction? What grammar tends to be used in the newspaper? What grammar tends to be used in academic writing? Spoken English in Their Corpus:  Spoken English in Their Corpus Transcription: Notice that a corpus is written materials that a computer can analyze. So, the spoken part of a corpus has to be changed into written format. For this corpus, the samples of conversational English have been put into a written format that uses regular spelling rather than a phonetic system. That’s because we’re interested in grammar and vocabulary rather than in pronunciation. Visible Frequency:  Visible Frequency Here’s something really important for us to notice about how this book presents materials Tables & Figures are central to their presentation of data. These are not for decoration!! Always take the time to figure them out. Never rush past a figure or a table! If you can’t figure out what’s going on, please email me with the page number and your question! It’s important to take the time to understand the data!!! Normed frequency:  Normed frequency Now don’t get all uptight about this topic It’s really pretty straightforward Here’s their problem: Different sub-sections of their corpus have different numbers of words But they want to be able to compare fiction to conversation to academic writing to newspaper writing How can they compare frequency in the different sub-sets if the sub-sets are not of the same lengths? They do a little arithmetic called “norming.” They figure out how many times a particular word is used “per so many words.” Per 100 or 1000 or a million…what ever unit is reasonable based on the data Then, they can compare frequencies in terms of “per 100 words” or “per million words” Our challenge is to read their figures and tables carefully to be sure we know what units and numbers they are presenting Look at the figure on the next slide from Quiz 1.3. Normed frequencies:  Normed frequencies This figure is from Quiz 1.3. The figure tells us about the number of times the words or, but, & and are used in the 4 registers. The numbers are normed per million words The graph is done in terms of 1000s to have easy to read numbers. So, and is used 20,000 per million words in conversation; but is used about 6000 times per million words in conversation; or is used about 3000 times per million words; the 3 words together are used about 29,000 times per million words. Ok. Read it!:  Ok. Read it! Now that you have an overview of the chapter, read it. Try the quizzes. And email me with your question-of-the-week! Remember that I want to have a chance to work with you on grammar…and need to know which part of your reading on grammar are confusing for you. So, please, email me with your grammar questions when you find puzzling information or statements in the assigned reading.

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