Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Books for Thought-Provoking Reading

Okay, so it's not summer... yet. But, as students of the English Language, you should read anything and everything you can lay your hands on. 

Of this list, I'm currently reading The Information, which just happens to include an interesting chapter on early printers and dictionary makers, the names of whom my A2s will recognise. It's got some cool stuff on codes and the transformation of the world by communications technology too. 

The list ends with Kurt Vonnegut, of whom you should read everything, because he's funny and clever and fun and wise. 

10 Essential Books for Thought-Provoking Summer Reading

i love english language

i love english language collects a range of links, blog posts (usually copying across the whole article rather than just linking), accounts of elements of grammar, pages on language theory, and much more. Worth following.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Grammar Rock!

He started shoutin' out in-ter-jec-tions!   Busy prepositions, always on the march!  On the top is where you are... over the rainbow...  And many, many more.

All your favourite Grammar Rock is in this playlist, along with some other short vids to help revise word classes and grammar stuff.  


Sunday, 29 May 2011

I Read Where I Am

Articles about reading, its history and nature, with some interesting graphology and a striking style. Mainly for A2s, I guess, but interesting for anyone. Try any of the articles on this blog. 

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Kate Middleton Tops Gaga for Top Fashion Buzzword

The Language Monitor has been tracking the frequency of usage of phrases in the fashion press, and compiles an annual report, which you can find on this page. We see a bunch of eponyms, some blendings, compounds, and a menagerie of other word types. I particularly liked* 'meggings'.


*By 'liked', I mean loathed. And if you ever see me wearing any, please punch me until I stop.

The Case for Forensic Linguistics

I was looking for forensic linguistics links, and there's a whole load of them; but often they're rather academic - or the meat is hidden away, because they want you to take a paid course.
This BBC article gives a neat case study - using some concepts you'll recognise. Try Wikipedia's Forensic Linguistics page as a follow-up - if you haven't already. There are lots of links to cases and YouTube videos of lectures there. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7600769.stm

Friday, 27 May 2011

Article: Web Makes Keeping Up Tough for Slang Expert

You can't make a slang dictionary quick enough these days. 

(Also fun: the interactive guess-the-slang widget on the left of the article.)

Thursday, 26 May 2011

5 Kudzu Words...

What's Kudzu? According to Darlene here at Grammar Divas, a kind of creeping weed that wheedles its way into your world. I guess it means more as an image to her than it does to me, but her discussion here, of everyday 'spoken' words that find themselves in a first draft and weaken the written style, shows how paying attention to those little grammar words can reveal a lot about the nature and quality of a piece of writing. 

5 Kudzu Words That Creep Into Your Writing

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Mistake That Bugs He & I

Okay, so I tend to agree with the argument made here... but hang on a moment. It's far from watertight. 

So fine, it'd be stupid to say 'me tend to agree'; which does seem to lead to the conclusion that 'Jim and me tend to agree' should be wrong, and it ought to be 'Jim and I tend to agree'.


But who's to say that 'compound subjects' don't follow different rules? They're not exactly the same as singular ones; they're plural. It'd be equally silly to say 'Jim and I is right', or 'Jim and I am right' - it's 'Jim and I are right', right?  (Or is it 'Jim and me are right'...?)

Have a read and see what you think. 

Robots develop language

Hasn't Cyberdyne systems already created Skynet?

Robots develop language to 'talk' to each other

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Official Sussex Downs College Blog

Looks like I'm not the only one with the blog bug...


Rosewarne on Estuary English

For A2s, as promised in class, here's David Rosewarne describing Estuary English in a version of his seminal article.

At the bottom of the article there's a link to the Estuary English web page that contains it - full of more info than you could ever possibly want on EE.

Rosewarne: Estuary English (1984)

Monday, 23 May 2011

I, Obama: Presidential Pronouns

Is Barack Obama the most egotistical president since Nixon? Let's look at his use of the first person pronoun, and find out. But do be careful what counts and what doesn't, eh...?

Presidential pronouns, one more time

Sunday, 22 May 2011

From Quill to Keyboard

I'm currently reading The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, which has a bunch of seminal ideas about how to make the technologies we use every day more friendly and obvious. 

He has some interesting things to say about the effect of technologies on how we write:

In earlier times, when goose quill and ink were used on parchment, it was tedious and difficult to correct what had been written. Writers had to be careful. Sentences had to be thought through before being set to paper. One result was sentences that were long and embellished—the graceful rhetorical style we associate with our older literature. With the advent of easier to use writing tools, corrections became easier to make; so writing was done more rapidly, but also with less thought and care—more like everyday speech. Some critics decried the lack of literary niceties. Others argued that this was how people really communicated, and besides, it was easier to understand.
With changes in writing tools, the speed of writing increases. In handwriting, thought runs ahead, posing special demands on memory and encouraging slower, more thoughtful writing. With the typewriter keyboard, the skilled typist can almost keep up with thought. With the advent of dictation, the output and the thought seem reasonably well matched.
Even greater changes have come about with the popularity of dictation. Here the tool can have a dramatic effect, for there is no external record of what has been spoken; the author has to keep everything in memory. As a result, dictated letters often have a long, rambling style. They are more colloquial and less structured—the former because they are based on speech, the latter because the writer can't easily keep track of what has been said. Style may change further when we get voice typewriters, where our spoken words will appear on the page as they are spoken. This will relieve the memory burden. The colloquial nature may remain and even be enhanced, but—because the printed record of the speech is immediately visible—perhaps the organization will improve.
The widespread availability of computer text editors has produced other changes in writing. On the one hand, it is satisfying to be able to type your thoughts without worrying about minor typographical errors or spelling. On the other hand, you may spend less time thinking and planning. Computer text editors affect structure through their limited real estate. With a paper manuscript, you can spread the pages upon the desk, couch, wall, or floor. Large sections of the text can be examined at one time, to be reorganized and structured. If you use only the computer, then the working area (or real estate) is limited to what shows on the screen. ... The result is that corrections tend to be made locally, on what is visible. Large-scale restructuring of the material is more difficult to do, and therefore seldom gets done. Sometimes the same text appears in different parts of the manuscript, without being discovered by the writer. (To the writer, everything seems familiar.)

You can get yourself a copy of the whole book here, if you're interested:

Saturday, 21 May 2011

No word for Rapture

Lots of posts today. Of course, there may not be a tomorrow, so better get 'em in. Here's a bit of linguistic exploration of the word 'rapture', just in case it doesn't happen and you have to sit your exams after all. This one mainly for A2s. 

The Verbification of the Nation

We've called it conversion or class change. 

The Verbification of the Nation

The opposite change is 'nominalisation'. Just in case you wanted to know. 

Budget Mix-Up in Education...

The Onion is a great source for chuckles, and figuring out how they achieve their effects makes for a good linguistic workout too. The juxtaposition of registers does much of the work:

Budget Mix-Up Provides Nation's Schools With Enough Money To Properly Educate Students

Of course the content here might provide a somewhat hollow laughter...

Cool Jargon of the Day

Want some material to test your revision of word formation? What about your knowledge of field-specific lexis for electronic texts (amongst a bunch of other things)? Or maybe just some funny coinages that describe life's little ironies. Jargon.net covers geeky neologisms in a cross-referenced, hyperlinked format.


Friday, 20 May 2011

The apostrophe within LA Noire

My excuse for posting this comes within the last paragraph of the article rather than the content, and it's a surprising instance of apostrophe abuse in a broadsheet newspaper:

"Well, I played with friends and there was much shared attention and debate over suspects' behaviour. But no matter how sharply focussed you and your friends' cheater detection modules, MacGuffins, red herrings, and double bluffs lurk in both the shadows of Cole Phelps' mind and in the dark corners of the game. You better fasten your seatbelts, because all you Cole Phelps' out there are in for a bumpy ride."

The plurals 'friends' and 'bluffs' and 'corners' are fine of course, and the plural possessives 'suspects'' and 'friends'' well handled with the apostrophe after the -s. They handle the possessive on 'Phelps' in 'Cole Phelps' mind' with equal accuracy. Why do they feel they need to bung an apostrophe on 'all you Cole Phelps' out there' though?

Glass - glasses. Pulse - pulses. Octopus - octopuses, unless you go all Latin. (Surely never Octopus' though!) So Phelps - Phelpses.  Nyeh. 

CDC EPR | Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse

Okay, so I'm mainly posting this because it's cool. The English Language excuse is to look at how they blend the fictional, the signals that it's humorous (don't really panic, folks!), and the genuine advice in an authentic format. And just because it's humorous doesn't mean a zombie apocalypse won't happen.


Thursday, 19 May 2011

5 Types of Eponyms (dailywritingtips.com)

More detail than you strictly need to know about eponyms, but after you've read it, you should remember what an eponym is.

5 Types of Eponyms

Creative Writers take note...

When it comes to writing first drafts, are you a Perpetual Starter, a Polisher, a Bunny or a Jumper? http://tinyurl.com/66rcgel

Writer Sarah Skilton discusses approaches to drumming up your novel. Do also follow the first link in her article to find out about 'pantsters'...


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

LSA on saying 'asteriks'

A 2-minute video on metathesis, just in case anyone's aksing. A couple of nice little etymological nuggets here too...

Anatomy and Glossary of Type

This one for A2 students: any search for 'anatomy of type' will uncover assorted versions of this glossary and diagram; this one is a decent intermediate example. If you've absolutely, positively got to talk about graphology, do it like a pro. :)


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Language Myths

Language Myths covers a range of misunderstandings about the nature of language, and not just English: there's cross-language comparison here too.

The articles are written by a range of 'stars' among linguists, including some names of theorists you might recognise, and using concepts both familiar, and those beyond our scope at A-Level.

Having said that, it's lucidly written for the general reader and a great way to expand your knowledge and revisit some concepts in use.

Language Myths

Not Jest For Pun

Homonyms and polysemy for the humorous of heart. 

Not Jest For Pun: A Surprising History Of Wordplay

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Do you think ‘alright’ is all right to write?

Little article discussing the progress of compounding that's occurring to 'all right'. Alright?

Do you think 'alright' is all right to write?

Phonemic Fun

This awesomely handy site includes a phonemic keyboard for putting symbols in your essays easily, but also has clickable phoneme test and a downloadable pdf of flashcards.

You can also find a clickable phonemic chart here... use headphones, or prepare to be looked at weirdly as your computer says /ɪə/ ... /ɔ:/ ... /u:/ ... /ʧ/ ... etc. :)

Letters of Note

Letters of Note is an awesome collection of writing from public figures to private recipients... usually.  a look behind the scenes of people's linguistic lives and a treasure trove of register past and present.  Fascinating, nosy, and full of meaty language.


Fascinating and funny applications of 'context-bound' language...



Welcome to the Park Language Blog.

Assuming it's easy and functional enough to keep up regularly, this is where I'll be posting links to interesting websites, articles and source materials for all those interested in language and linguistics.

The aim is that this'll be a place where my A Level students can find, comment on, repost and explore the cool language stuff I mosey across on the web.