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1 Literacy and Linguistics Dick Hudson UCLan November 2012.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Literacy and Linguistics Dick Hudson UCLan November 2012."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Literacy and Linguistics Dick Hudson UCLan November 2012

2 2 Plan 1.Literacy – a crisis for both L1 and L2 2.Linguistics 3.The elements of literacy 1.Transcription spelling 2.Composition grammar, vocabulary, punctuation 4.The way forward

3 3 1. Literacy: the Daily Mail One adult in five is illiterate by SARAH HARRIS, Daily Mail (19 Nov 2012) One in five British adults struggles to read and write, official research has revealed. They are 'functionally illiterate', which means that they have the reading age of the average 11-year-old or worse. The appalling figures, revealed by Education Secretary Estelle Morris yesterday, are a legacy of the 1970s and 1980s when there was a lack of emphasis on the three Rs in schools.

4 4 More in The Daily Mail By Leon Watson, Mail Online (29 March 2012) Britain has up to eight million adults who are functionally illiterate, … they struggle to read a medicine label or use a chequebook. … costing the UK economy £81billion a year … the highest cost in Europe - twice Germany's, three times France's the UK was ranked third worst for reading and writing '… illiteracy is a disease that we are aiming to eradicate'

5 5 Even HE has its literacy crisis

6 6 Meanwhile, languages languish

7 7 2012 FL A-levels

8 8 The bigger picture: 1935-1991 Higher School Certificate A-level (after O- level) 1951 GCSE replaces O-level and CSE 1988 F G Sp

9 9 Since 1992, downhill all the way 30K 15K

10 10 So what? Language education is in crisis. Language skills are inadequate –and may be declining? The crisis affects traditional L1 literacy but also FL and maybe the two are connected?

11 11 So what is literacy? Skills: –'transcription' – handwriting, spelling –'composition' – grammar, etc. etc. etc. Knowledge About Language (KAL) –for understanding tools –for growth

12 12 What is mature literacy? Enough KAL for adult needs Enough language for adult needs Enough languages for adult needs. –How many is that? –Which languages? –Need to learn L2, L3, … as adult.

13 13 2. Linguistics The study of language –especially, language structure It has a long history –Babylon 2,000 BC –India 500 BC –Greece 300 BC Always concerned with literacy.

14 14 Linguistics to the rescue? Uniting L1 English and Foreign Languages –'Language Awareness' Intellectual framework for discussion –e.g. growth, not error-avoidance Detailed models and descriptions –e.g. speech versus writing Links to cognitive science –e.g. how do we learn?

15 15 Linguistics as we know it? Yes, but with more work on … writing –the system –how it differs from speech school-age development explicit and implicit learning –including pedagogy

16 16 3. The elements of literacy a.Transcription skills in writing/reading –spelling b.Composition skills –grammar –vocabulary –punctuation In L1 English and FLs

17 17 How linguistics may help Transcription skills Composition skills Both writing and reading Both L1 and FL

18 18 a. Transcription skills: spelling Phonological awareness Phoneme-grapheme correspondences research-based list effects of accent effects of subsystem Germanic vs Latin vs Greek for L1 English and Foreign Languages

19 19 Spelling and morphology Morphological awareness –e.g. box vs socks Effects of morphology on spelling –NB morphology conflicts with 'phonics' –e.g. morph + ology –contrast: more + over

20 20 Linguists as engineers Spelling reform? –probably not feasible Letter names –What do we call ? –Why /bi:/ but / ɛ f/? –And = ? –What a mess! –Surely we can do better than that?

21 21 b. Composition skills: grammar Schools should help grammars to grow –e.g. the house in which he lives –The more books I read, the less I can remember But how? –explicit teaching –with metalanguage –with expert teachers

22 22 How linguistics can help School grammar is in crisis –It died between 1900 and 1970 –So today's teachers didn't learn it at school Linguists can help by: –training teachers –writing classroom material –agreeing analyses and terminology for schools

23 23 b. Composition skills: vocabulary

24 24 But what about school age?

25 25 Size matters

26 26 In pictures = 7,300 days = 14 words per day but it must slow down …

27 27 Literacy What part does literacy play in this growth? –How can schools encourage growth? What effect does vocabulary growth have on literacy? –How many words does literacy need? Every word entry also becomes richer. –How does richness grow?

28 28 And in FL?

29 29 Growth in FL vocabulary?

30 30 How does the UK compare?

31 31 b. Composition skills: punctuation Linguists should research punctuation –What is a sentence? –When do we use a comma? –How do we punctuate bullet points? Linguists should produce –training material –reference material

32 32 Linguists as engineers Punctuation practice is a mess. Punctuate these: –Are you ready# because it's time to leave# –He said# "I love you#"# –I have two questions# Where are we going? When will we be back? Linguists could do better than this!!

33 33 4. The way forward More research by linguists on literacy. More engagement by linguists with schools –More acceptance of linguistics by schools. More cooperation between English and FL teachers. –Maybe the two crises are related?

34 34 Thank you This slideshow can be downloaded at

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