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Blog Post #4 & 5 (Due April 11)

Reflect on the examples of bilingual education that you saw in the documentary film, Speaking in Tongues, last Thursday.  Drawing on explicit examples and/or extrapolations of issues raised in this film, provide your own argument for or against the establishment of a bilingual school in your home town/city or, if you prefer, South Bend.  Explain your reasoning using examples from our course readings.  (aim for 300-400 words)

*Note: Arguments against a bilingual school are just as welcome as those advocating for such models.  My own stipulation is that you provide a thoughtful rationale for your choice by drawing on the film and our course content.

Blog Post #3 (Due Feb. 5)

Ok, we are going to get a bit more serious and detailed in this week’s blog post.  Hopefully, you will find this to be as geeky fun the same way I (and other linguists like me) do:

Language is constantly changing.  There is no static linguistic code among any set of speakers.  Indeed, as we will see later in our discussion of sociolinguistics in the second third of the course, language conventions vary from person to person and speech community to speech community with great frequency even when the same general language is being used.  Nonetheless, we do have standardized dialects that attempt to formalize what types of language use, and innovations of language use, are meaningful or acceptable among a common set of ‘native speakers’.   In writing, such standardization is often governed by formal organizations such as dictionary editorial boards (e.g.  Oxford English Dictionary)  or prestigious pseudo-governmental societies (e.g.l’Académie Française).  In speech, however, the constraints on standardization are much more liberal…

When a new word is introduced into a particular speech community, it may, if it follows certain morphological and phonological rules, become a part of common communicative currency immediately at the local level.   Consider, for a moment, the form and implication for these rules in a very broad sense.   Use Sean Puckett’s ‘Random Word Generator’ (http://www.nexi.com/fun/rw/index.html) to examine the potential for new words in the English language.  What morphological, phonological and [even] semantic constraints would limit the creation of a new word within a small speech community?  To put it another way, if you were to choose one of the ‘new words’ created by the ‘Random Word Generator’ to start using among your friends, what would impact its successful adoption at this very local level of college peers?

While adoption of new words at the local level (i.e. within a single speech community) is constrained by certain hard & fast morpho-phonological rules, adoption by the population of native speakers at large (e.g. the American English speaking population) is another matter by significant degrees.  While many American English ‘dialects’ create and maintain a host of unique words and phrases within their local speech communities, very few of these find acceptance and standardization in global speech.  Even fewer find inclusion and recognition as acceptable written standards.  What affects the adoption and inclusion of new words at this larger level of the ‘native speaker’ speech community?  What leads some words to be added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary or the oral lexicon of the American public each year?  Consider, in addition to formal linguistic constraints, the sociocultural factors at play.  If you are particularly audacious (yes, this is a challenge… I have thrown down my mighty professorial gauntlet!), you might also try to incorporate the controversial claims of ‘memetics and/or social contagion theory‘ in your response…  =)

Blog Post #2 (Due Jan 29)

Consider the ways in which modularity of language (and the mind) affects the learning of a second language.  What are some of the ways in which modularity might make second language acquisition more difficult?  Consider your own experience as a language learner in your response.

Blog Post #1 (Due Jan 22)

Welcome to the course blog.  Your completion of required readings will be assessed and evaluated via the quality of your participation in classroom discussion as well as your responses to the assigned blog posts regarding these readings and discussions here.  There are no specific length or analytic requirements for the blog posts, but I encourage you to use your own words and ideas to explore the topic and limit yourself to no more than 400 words.  I will evaluate your responses holistically, but principally on the quality of their content.

For your first blog post, please consider and respond to the following:

Given our discussions of the ways in which language can influence thought and perception, discuss one of the potential implications for ‘balanced’ bilinguals — i.e. individuals who speak two languages at native (or near native) levels of fluency.