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1 Why education needs linguistics, and linguistics needs education Richard Hudson Budapest March 2012.

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1 1 Why education needs linguistics, and linguistics needs education Richard Hudson Budapest March 2012

2 2 Summary Language is central to education –So education needs to understand language –So education needs linguistics Education influences language –So linguistics needs to understand this influence –So linguistics needs educational research –But linguistics also needs language education

3 3 Language is central to education As instrument of education –for telling –for discussing –for controlling As content of education –education teaches the language of education –including its meanings and their relations

4 4 Questions for linguists: language as instrument How do we use language for communicating? –e.g. This is a rectangle, isn't it? How do we use language for learning? –e.g. I wonder if this is a rectangle. How do we use language for controlling? –e.g. Would you mind sitting down, please?

5 5 Questions for linguists: language as content How is the language of education special? –special sub-languages (e.g. rectangle, evaluate) –special languages (e.g. Viereck) –special medium: writing –special meanings: rectangles, equations, nouns Almost all of education is language education –So linguistics is central to education.

6 6 What linguistics can offer ideas –How does language work? –How can we study it? models –How is language organised? descriptions –What details do we find in language X?

7 7 Some ideas Descriptivism –We can and should describe language as it is. Variation –Any language varies with time, place, etc. Form and function are different –word-class against syntactic function – sentence-type against pragmatic function

8 8 Some models Sounds and letters are different –e.g. not: 'the th sound' –but: the sound [θ] and the letters Words and meanings are different –e.g. not: 'the fox is a monosyllable' –but: FOX is a monosyllable –the fox is a mammal

9 9 Some more models Syntax and punctuation are different –e.g. not: A sentence is bounded by punctuation. –but: A sentence is defined by syntax, and marked by punctuation. Lexemes and word-forms are different –e.g. not: Cat and cats are same/different word –but: Cat and cats are different word-forms but the same lexeme.

10 10 A simple model of language meaning sentence-structure word-structure pronunciation alphabetical writing GRAMMAR LEXICON

11 11 Descriptions Descriptive frameworks –e.g. the International Phonetic Alphabet Books –Grammars –Dictionaries –Textbooks

12 12 So what? Linguistics is important for education –Every teacher should know some linguistics –Some teachers should know a lot of linguistics –Teachers should deepen their linguistics while teaching But linguistics is also a research subject

13 13 The ideal education cycle infant adult researcher school teacher Year 1-13 university research know- ledge know- ledge know- ledge

14 14 But in reality … In the UK, most teachers know very little linguistics –Maybe because research stopped in ? –Nothing in school –Nothing in university –Very little in teacher-training Probably far less than in Hungary?

15 15 Moreover, linguists don't care In the UK/USA, many linguists don't see education as a potential 'consumer' of research. "You're a human being, and your time as a human being should be socially useful. It doesn't mean that your choices about helping other people have to be within the context of your professional training as a linguist. Maybe that training just doesn't help you to be useful to other people. In fact, it doesn't." (Chomsky 1991)

16 16 So why does education matter? Why is education important to us linguists? Because we need to understand the impact of education on language. –Does education have any impact? And we need students and researchers who have been well educated. –Should linguistics be 'adults-only'?

17 17 The impact of education on language? None –'Explicit instruction has no effect' Popular in L1 teaching –Education is generally ignored in language acquisition research Negative –'Prestige English is not a natural language' Sobin 1999

18 18 Education does have an impact …, an advantaged student … learns about twice as many words as a disadvantaged student. … This translates into a wide range of vocabulary size by age five or six, at which time an English-speaking child will have learned about 2,500–5,000 words. An average student learns some 3,000 words per year (Wikipedia: Vocabulary)

19 19 Vocabulary growth Before school: 1,000 words per year During school: 3,000 words per year Why the difference? –because education teaches vocabulary –and writing –and thinking skills –and grammar, etc.

20 20 Subordinate clauses per 100 words

21 21 The paradox Linguists like to describe 'natural language' –but they use themselves as subjects –and they are highly educated –so their own language isn't typical or 'natural'. But maybe no language is 'natural' –because everyone thinks about their language –and manipulates it.

22 22 Educating the next generation… … of linguists –and of citizens –who need linguistics. How? –educate the teachers –challenge the children.

23 23 The Linguistics Olympiad

24 24 The UK Linguistics Olympiad Started ,000 competitors this year –Aged –three levels: Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced Round 1 in schools –Residential round 2, selecting for IOL

25 25 Foundation level:Abma Mwamni sileng.He drinks water. Nutsu mwatbo mwamni sileng.The child keeps drinking water. Nutsu mwegau.The child grows. mwamni, sileng = drinks/drinking or water nutsu = the child mwatbo = keepsmwegau = grows

26 26 Advanced: Tangkhul Structure of problem: –9 sentences in Tangkhul –9 sentences in English that translate them. –but in a different order! Challenge: –Work out which E sentences translate which T sentences –and which E words translate which T words!

27 27 For instance Tangkhul: –(a) a masikserra. –(b) āni masikngarokei –(c) āthum masikngarokngāilā English: –(1) Do they want to pinch each other? –(2) Do you(sg) see it? –(3) Have you(pl) all come?

28 28 International Linguistics Olympiad

29 29 So what again? So linguistics could play the same role in education as mathematics –in understanding language the main tool of education –in developing analytical thinking skills But linguistics doesn't even exist in most schools

30 30 Thank you This talk can be downloaded from For the UK Linguistics Olympiad:

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