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Linguistics and education. Richard Hudson University of Westminster October 2007. What can these people …. …say to these people?. After all, …. Linguistics is technical and abstruse. It’s all about velarization, subjacency, etc. What’s it got to do with anything, let alone education?

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linguistics and education

Linguistics and education

Richard Hudson

University of Westminster

October 2007

after all
After all, …
  • Linguistics is technical and abstruse.
    • It’s all about velarization, subjacency, etc.
    • What’s it got to do with anything, let alone education?
  • The school syllabus has no room for more.
    • They’ve just added Citizenship, Thinking skills and Functional skills.
    • The only point of schools is league tables.
but i think
But I think …
  • Every teacher should know elementary linguistics.
  • English and FL teachers should know BA linguistics.
  • They should teach elementary linguistics in class.
in fact it s happening already
In fact, it’s happening already!
  • A-level English Language
  • National Curriculum for English
  • Primary phonics
  • National Curriculum for Foreign Languages
but will it last
But will it last?
  • Plenty of good ideas on paper, but:
  • Teachers lack subject knowledge.
  • HE is part of the problem.
    • It doesn’t produce the teachers we need.
  • Without changes in HE the reforms may peter out.
moreover
Moreover, …
  • Linguists are a special part of the problem.
  • Linguistics courses ignore education.
  • Because linguistics research ignores it.
  • So, here are my thoughts on linguistics and education.
the agenda
The agenda
  • Why schools need linguistics

2. What’s happening in our schools

3. What isn’t happening in our universities

4. Why linguists should know about education

5. An ideal world

what every teacher should know
What every teacher should know
  • Ideas, e.g.
    • Bilingualism is OK.
  • Models, e.g.
    • Letters and sounds are different.
  • Descriptions, e.g.
    • Long <i> = /ai/ - but only in English.
what english teachers should know
What English teachers should know
  • Ideas, e.g.
    • Form and function are different but related.
  • Models, e.g.
    • Words in a phrase modify its head.
  • Descriptions, e.g.
    • Determiners are different from adjectives.
what foreign language teachers should know
What Foreign-language teachers should know
  • Ideas, e.g.
    • Different languages structure the world differently.
  • Models, e.g.
    • Vowel qualities are organised in a triangle.
  • Descriptions, e.g.
    • French <r> is uvular.
what pupils should know
What pupils should know
  • Ideas, e.g.
    • What they speak at home is a proper language.
  • Models, e.g.
    • Words form lexically related ‘families’.
  • Descriptions, e.g.
    • Adjective + -ness = Noun
    • <u> can be consonant + vowel (so: a unit)
but do linguists agree
But do linguists agree?
  • Yes.
  • We don’t notice the common ground
    • because we’re only interested in growth points of knowledge.
  • In 1981 I published a list of 83 ‘issues on which linguists can agree’
the agenda1
The agenda
  • Why schools need linguistics

2. What’s happening in our schools

3. What isn’t happening in our universities

4. Why linguists should know about education

5. An ideal world

the linguistics education interface
The linguistics/education interface:
  • is thousands of years old.
  • comes and goes
  • came in the 19th century
    • Driven by historical linguistics
  • went in the early 20th century
    • Universities did phonetics but no linguistics
  • came back in the late 20th century
linguistics meets education again
Linguistics meets education (again)
  • 1959 Quirk starts the Survey of English Usage.
  • 1962 Quirk publishes The Use of English for teachers (and others).
  • 1964-71 Halliday and team link linguistics and English teaching.
  • Now, English-language research booms.
the new ideas from linguistics
The new ideas from linguistics
  • Descriptivism
    • Non-standard and casual varieties are OK.
  • Language awareness
    • Language can and should be studied.
    • Language includes FL as well as English.
  • Knowledge About Language (KAL)
    • Everyone needs explicit KAL.
the new ideas in school english
The new ideas in school: English
  • We now have a National Curriculum
  • Descriptivism
    • ‘non-standard’ or ‘dialectal’ forms – not ‘errors’
  • KAL
    • “Pupils should be taught the principles of sentence grammar and whole-text cohesion …”
a level english language
A-level English Language
  • Descriptivism: all about variation
    • genres, dialects, change
  • Language awareness: language is interesting
  • KAL: the basic tools are ‘frameworks’ for analysing language structure
the new ideas in school foreign languages
The new ideas in school: Foreign languages
  • Language awareness
    • “Pupils …learn about the basic structures of language. They explore the similarities and differences between the foreign language … and English …” (FL NC 1999)
  • KAL
    • “Knowledge about language: Understanding how a language works and how to manipulate it. Recognising that languages differ but may share common grammatical, syntactical or lexical features.” (Programmes of study for KS3 2007)
the agenda2
The agenda
  • Why schools need linguistics

2. What’s happening in our schools

3. What is not happening in our universities

4. Why linguists should know about education

5. An ideal world

english departments
‘English’ departments …
  • …still don’t teach English (on the whole).
  • So only ‘English’ graduates can apply for PGCE ‘English’ places, although
    • they know about literature but not English
    • ‘English language’ or Linguistics graduates, know about language but not literature
  • But PGCE policy is improving.
french etc departments
‘French’ (etc) departments …
  • …don’t teach (much) French.
  • And research it even less.
  • e.g. PhD grants by AHRB Panel 5, 2000-2:

Culture: 181

Language: 11

  • But what school FL teachers teach is language, not literature.
  • So French graduates don’t become teachers.
pgce applications
PGCE applications …

This decline isn’t caused by the one in BA applications …

so what
So what?
  • BA courses in X don’t match school courses in X.
  • So HE should either change the BA courses
    • By giving more prominence to language
  • Or HE should rename the BA courses:
    • English Literature
    • French Literature
the agenda3
The agenda
  • Why schools need linguistics

2. What’s happening in our schools

3. What isn’t happening in our universities

4. Why linguists should know about education

5. An ideal world

why linguistics needs a theory of education
Why linguistics needs a theory of education
  • How does education affect language?
  • Can it distort ‘natural’ language, like a ‘virus’?
  • Some people think so
    • Noam Chomsky, 1991, Nick Sobin

old

virus

right

wrong

new

natural

educational gaps in linguistics
Educational gaps in linguistics
  • Research:
    • Development of school-age writing
    • Effects of explicit teaching
  • Linguistics teaching:
    • Writing
    • Analysis of texts
    • Standard and non-standard English
the agenda4
The agenda
  • Why schools need linguistics

2. What’s happening in our schools

3. What isn’t happening in our universities

4. Why linguists should know about education

5. An ideal world

the educational cycle
The educational cycle

adult

researcher

BA

know-

ledge

research

school teacher

know-

ledge

Year 1-13

infant

conclusions
Conclusions
  • Linguistics has already contributed a lot to UK school education.
  • But teachers don’t know enough linguistics.
  • We now need a major shift in universities towards language in both English and Languages.
thank you
Thank you

This slide show is available at

www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/talks.htm