English for Language and Linguistics – the Progress or Decay of General Linguistics. The fate of General Linguistics within/for English Studies Alexandra Bagasheva.
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The fate of General Linguistics within/for English Studies
A key consideration in such contexts is the coincidence of the target language and the metalanguage, where the metalanguage is a foreign one for the students. This necessitates the establishment of an efficient balance between English Linguistics and English for Language and Linguistics. This boils down to decisions concerning the teaching of English for Specific Academic Purposes within the foundational introductory, survey course in General Linguistics.
“[ General Linguistics] aims to collect data, test hypotheses, devise models, and construct theories. Its subject matter is unique: at one extreme it overlaps with such “hard” sciences as physics and anatomy; at the other, it involves such traditional “arts” subjects as philosophy and literary criticism. The field of linguistics includes both science and the humanities, and offers a breadth of coverage that, for many aspiring students of the subject, is the primary source of its appeal” (Crystal 1987: 186)
“You have to understand linguistics to do it. But at the same time you have to do it to understand it: you have to get your hands dirty by engaging with data – grappling with data, attempting to understand it and relating it to what you already know (or think you know) about language or a language (McGregor 2009: xii)
a) intersubject-focused introductions
b) theory-tailored introductions
“I suspect that there are quite a few teachers of introductory linguistic classes who, like me, have been frustrated by the lack of a single book that can give their students a self-contained overview of the subject reflecting today’s linguistic theory and practice” (Katamba 1996: xv).
What is missing are “integrated surveys of today’s linguistics intended to provide students with a solid grounding in current linguistics” (Katamba 1996: xv)
English language assignments are of two basic types:
a) grammatical/lexical analysis for/within the practical English course;
b) illustrate/exemplify a phenomenon X in English for/within the General Linguistics course
This does not alert students to multi-disciplinarity, rather it creates a false impression and a dubious attitude in students as to disciplinarity constitution and cognitive-discursive peculiarities of Linguistics.
This leads us back to the initial definitional problem: What are we actually teaching? A foundational, introductory B. A. course or an ESAP course? Traditionally BA courses are ecumenical, trying to avoid the viewpoint problem and are consequently content-focused, not problem-oriented. This ecumenicity determines the underdevelopment of the subject’s discursive identity and the lack of specific communal practices. Sandwiched within English Studies and designed for students of English, the course is structured so as to match the needs of the future courses within the linguistic module in the BA program.
Academic classroom practice in Bulgaria is traditionally restricted to presenting a state-of-the-art synopsis of a discipline as it is constructed outside the classroom. “Text-attack” practices are rare or beyond freshmen academic reading abilities. Students’ opinions consistently center around the following: a) exceeding reading load; b) too many unfamiliar and confusing terms; c) lack of hands-on analytical experience; d) lack of skills for the exam paper.
These although of disparate nature, can be catered for by an extended ESAP component. The transition will not be shattering, taking into account the degree of reflexivity in linguistics.
“This overhaul is needed to demonstrate that there has been a gross confusion by orthodox linguists between first- and second-order linguistic constructs, which has prevented linguists from arriving at a proficient and practical understanding of communication. Orthodox linguists tend to treat languages as autonomous first-order objects which pre-exist their use by speakers.
It is in the hands of tutors and students to negotiate the most pragmatically-informed, career-profitable and professional needs- centered constitution of the Linguistics classroom. An easy way to achieve this is the enhancement of the implicitly present ESAP component and changing students’ attitudes in view of this new focus.
The structure of teaching within English Studies allows for a natural integration of content and literacy teaching:
a) lectures can be shaped as to correspond to content/factual teaching
b) seminars can be focused on situated literacy development with an in-built EASP component (English for Language and Linguistics, A. Manning)
Only time will show whether shifting the focus onto situated literacy development and discourse skills development in the General Linguistics course will lead to higher linguisticS competences for students.