Linguistics for Teachers of English
Carol Russell, Kansas State University
Copyright Year: 2018
ISBN 13: 9781944548179
Publisher: New Prairie Press
Conditions of Use
The book provides a clear and easy-to-read introduction to some key areas of linguistics, including the history of English, growth of the lexicon, some sociolinguistic factors, competence vs performance, dialects, and accents. However, many... read more
The book provides a clear and easy-to-read introduction to some key areas of linguistics, including the history of English, growth of the lexicon, some sociolinguistic factors, competence vs performance, dialects, and accents. However, many subdisciplines of linguistics, such as syntax, morphology, phonetics/phonology, semantics, and pragmatics, are barely touched on. Even the topics that are included are presented in a relatively shallow way, so at times the book feels more like an outline of information to cover more in-depth in class rather than a complete textbook.
I have no arguments with the accuracy of major information in the text, but at times the lack of detail may be misleading. For instance, on page 50, the text claims that an included chart shows results for “G-Dropping”, but there is no caption for the chart, nor is there an explanation for how to read it. Logically, a student could read the chart as showing that middle class females G-dropped almost 100% of the time, while lower working class individuals G-dropped less than 5% of the time. However, the text makes the opposite claim (that the working class G-drops more, which is what the research actually found). A clear caption for the chart or a citation to the original research would help clarify when lack of detail may appear inaccurate.
Content is relatively up-to-date, though it could potentially use some revision in the sections discussing AAVE and ASL. The book is organized and formatted so that it should be easy to update with newer information. For me, a larger problem with relevance is that the text does not make an effort to establish a connection with the content for the reader. In other words, why do Teachers of English need to know about the chosen topics, like the history of English? Establishing the relevance of the content from the very beginning would help students understand why they are learning these things.
The writing is clear and easy to read, with terms defined as needed. Undergraduate students should have very little trouble reading and understanding the book.
The book appears to be consistent in terms of terminology and framework overall, but is not always consistent with the field in general. For instance, one area where consistency could be improved would be to use IPA for the vowel sound chart on page 27, and then again in discussion of dialects in the final section.
The book is divided into 4 units: History, Language as Communication, Dialects, and Language in the Classroom. Each Unit is further divided into smaller sections that could be read as individual pieces. The prose included is generally organized into short paragraphs, with liberal use of bullet points and topic headings.
Overall, the organization of this text makes sense. Topics are presented logically, and there is an overall flow. In some places, however, reorganization would be beneficial. For instance, on page 32, in the discussion of prescriptivism, clipping is mentioned, but the discussion and definition of clipping is not presented until several pages later. In addition, while the discussion of prescriptivism seems self-contained on page 32, the author returns to the “6 guys” of prescriptivism on page 35, after the conclusion of the section on the Growth of the Lexicon. Because there is no discussion of how prescriptivism affects the growth of the lexicon, so the return to the “6 guys” makes the section appear disjointed.
The text is easy to navigate, with no problems that I noticed with the presentation of images or charts. I really liked the inclusion of video clips, but I was reading from a downloaded copy and many of the links would not connect for me. There were also “Click here to learn more” notes in several places, but none of these would open for me. It would have been nice to have the actual link there so that I could copy and paste it into my browser (and so that students with similar issues can still access the relevant media).
The book is relatively free of grammatical errors, with the exception of frequent sentence fragments.
I feel that this aspect could use some work, not because the text is offensive, but because it could be more inclusive and be extended to additional speech communities. In the discussion of AAVE, what is it that teachers need to know and remember? In the discussion of ASL and the Deaf community, is it really correct to say that most Deaf students will have ASL as their native language (research indicates that many Deaf children do not learn ASL at home)? The broad generalizations of dialects ignore some key distinctions, and I don’t remember any mention of Latinx communities and language, or of second language speakers and communities (except in relation to accent).
There were many things that I liked about this book, including the organization, clarity of the writing, and the attractive layout with many graphics and pictures. For beginning undergraduate students who want a general overview of the history of English and a brief look at some sociolinguistics, this may be a good choice because it would be accessible and interesting. However, I am looking to replace a book for a Linguistics for Language Teachers class that is cross-listed for graduate and undergraduate students, and this book would not be sufficient for that purpose. Extensive supplementation would be necessary, as would proper citations of primary research that students could read.
Based on the description ("The primary goals of this text are to acquaint prospective teachers of English with certain aspects of the history, structure, and use of the English Language."), I was expecting a more comprehensive treatment of the... read more
Based on the description ("The primary goals of this text are to acquaint prospective teachers of English with certain aspects of the history, structure, and use of the English Language."), I was expecting a more comprehensive treatment of the history, structure and ideology of English that might be used as a stand-alone text. Instead, the book is a short (84 page) handbook that I would have to be supplemented with other readings (some of the questions in the text for students to answer imply that). There is relatively little on the structure of English, per se, or on phonetics/phonology.
There were some gems, like the discussion of 1066 and of Old English generally but also some things I would question: small things like the spelling of Olde English (most scholars and texts talk about Old English) and I would question the treatment of the Great Vowel Shift (which is usually dated from 1400-1700 not the and is misdescribed as (p 19) as 1350-1550 and as "A period in EmE where most long vowels become short and vice versa." (p 29 and 83). Also non-standard is the definition of language as "Communication using the voice," which excludes ASL. Every other text I know of treats sign languages as language. Phonology is oversimplified as "The sounds in a language."
This is a strength of the book; the organization and content are relatively evergreen. One aspect that should be reconsidered is a more comprehensive and up-to-date discussion of dialects to include more on social dialects and to differentiate the Mountain south from the Gulf South.
The prose is accessible and clear though much of the text is images and charts. It is very undergrad-friendly but less of a stand-alone book than I would like.
This is also a strength of the book. The table on p 27 introduces symbols for sounds that don't seem to be discussed elsewhere.
The modules work well though in some places more needs to be said. The discussion of Pragmatics on p. 42 is titled A Little More About Pragmatics followed by two bullet points (• What is said previously helps to determine meaning, • Knowledge of all speakers’ meaning within the spoken word).
Generally this works well. The is a little bobble around p 35 where prescriptivism jumps back in after a discussion of word formation.
The interface works well overall, good use of links to video and other documents, lots of bullet point material, and some rather nice charts early on.
No grammatical errors per se but there are places where there are incomplete sentences and other gaps. For example "prescriptivism" in the glossary is "The school of thought that language." On p. 31 we find the fragment "Although we credit many words from Scandinavian influences (remember they gave us place names and pronouns!)" and on p 70 "Teaching in general and teaching a deaf student."
There is a good discussion of African-American Vernacular English (that could be expanded to talk about the Ann Arbor case from 1979, code switching and allude to current issues of language an race) but no mention of Hispanic varieties of English. Also, I think the discussion of the Deaf community needs to be rethought.
This seems very much like a work in progress, so I would encourage the author to continue to refine and expand it and to include a note to the teacher with some guidance on how to use the book with other supplementary materials.
This book first provides an overview of the history of the English language (pp. 1-38) divided into three sections: Olde English, Middle English, and Modern English. This unit offers maps, visual timelines, hyperlinks, and a fun way to look at the... read more
This book first provides an overview of the history of the English language (pp. 1-38) divided into three sections: Olde English, Middle English, and Modern English. This unit offers maps, visual timelines, hyperlinks, and a fun way to look at the battle of 1066, with pictures representing “the cast”. The second unit, “Language as Communication” (pp. 39-51) focuses on communication styles and the language acquisition process with an abundance of videos enabling the reader/listener to understand the concepts. Follows a unit on American English dialects (pp. 52-69) that is also interactive. An interesting section of this unit, called “Dialects in the Classroom” (p. 62) invites readers (future teachers) to question their attitudes and beliefs about the dialects students may bring to the classroom. The last unit is dedicated to “Language in the Classroom” (pp. 70-81), with an important section on ASL (p.74) and how to accommodate students with hearing difficulties. A section about second language learners and bilingual students could have been added in the language acquisition section, or in the unit dedicated to language in the classroom. A glossary has been provided at the end of the book and provides definitions in simple terms.
The definition of an accent as the way only a non-native speaker of English is going to pronounce words may be a bit simplistic.
The content is up-to-date. In the section about dialects, the extract from “Do you Speak American” from 1976 may need to be updated for a younger audience.
The book is organized in units divided into clear short sections mixing text, images, and hyperlinks. The text is easy to read and the author has added fun headings to captivate the audience. Technical jargon is kept to a minimum. Quick review sections are added at the end of each unit, and a glossary can be consulted at the end of the book.
The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
Units can be broken down into smaller sections. They can easily supplement lessons on the history of English, language acquisition, phonology, morphology, American Sign Language, etc.
The book is organized in a clear manner, starting with the history of English, language as communication, dialects, and English in the classroom. Each unit is broken down into subsections presenting the reader with information (text, images, videos), questions to reflect upon, exercises, and a quick review of main terms and ideas.
The book is interactive and offers the reader the opportunity to watch videos and access supplemental material. Some links did not work in the pdf or e-book form.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
I teach an “Introduction to Linguistics” course for future teachers and I am looking to replace the book I am currently using. While “Linguistics for Teachers of English” has a nice design and includes a variety of resources, it is not inclusive of a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds, just like most linguistics books I have been considering adopting. Most textbooks forget to mention Hispanics and LatinX, and the cultural and linguistic diversity they bring to the areas where they live. The description of the book mentions how language and culture are related, and it would be appropriate to include a growing segment of the American population in this book to allow a variety of students, and future teachers, to see they are part of the linguistic landscape of this country.
Linguistics for Teachers of English covers a wide range of background information about the history, study and knowledge of linguistics, ranging from a broad yet simple explanation of the evolution of the English language, from Old to Modern... read more
Linguistics for Teachers of English covers a wide range of background information about the history, study and knowledge of linguistics, ranging from a broad yet simple explanation of the evolution of the English language, from Old to Modern English, including easy-to-grasp graphics, timelines, important historical moments, such as Roman rule, publication of Beowulf, and the influence of French and Shakespeare to name a few. The author also augments the content of these items in a fun, lighthearted way, such as adding a video of a reading of a poem from Middle English to highlight vowel shift, allowing the reader to experience the sound of the change to modern English. The author then outlines foundational concepts in linguistics such as communication and dialects, including discussion of controversial history of adopting certain dialects more than others and a broad explanation of various regional dialects in parts of the US. Finally, she includes a short history of the use of language in the classroom, the use of sign language, and follows with a comprehensive glossary. This text is more broad than deep; a reader can get a general understanding of history of language and linguistics from this text.
This text contains lots of dates (Norman invasion, 1066) which seem to be largely factual. One area may be considered biased, such as the explanation of meaning in the use of "be" in African American vernacular, which may be out of date, could be updated or has been more recently reviewed.
Looked at as a brief history of everything linguistics, this text is extremely useful to those who haven't taken requisite courses on vowel shift, the phenomenon of borrowing on the English lexicon, and the history of prescriptivism in grammar . In this way, this text is highly relevant for those new to the field. Some content, especially on the description of lexical adoption, such as the chart on the use of "soda" vs "pop" may already be out of date, but could be easily updated by inserting new data or charts.
Each unit is written in simple language and easily explains difficult concepts such as vowel shift with current, easily understood examples. Rather than long and descriptive paragraphs, the writer makes use of bullet points, lists, graphs, video links, and charts, which are clear in this context. Technological terms are explained in an accessible, simple way. Several charts have links that may not work in one downloaded version.
Each unit is clearly explained, and ends with a series of questions which can be used for self-study, reference, or class discussion.
The book is easily divisible and could be used separately or in tandem.
This book is simple to follow for the novice linguist or English teacher, and is logical and easy to follow.
In the text, there are links that may not work, but this is addressed by the author in the overview.
The book is free from errors.
The discussion on dialects is presented in a way that informs the reader of the various types of dialects that could be found in Standard American English, and addresses the issue in broad terms while accounting for the possibility that these dialects may be considered more or less stereotypical depending on the reader.
This text is strongly suggested for those who want to have a basic understanding of English language history and linguistics.
Table of Contents
- Language as Communication
- Language in the Classroom
About the Book
The primary goals of this text are to acquaint prospective teachers of English with certain aspects of the history, structure, and use of the English Language. Through considering the nature of the English language; how language and culture are interconnected as well as how it is acquired and how and why it changes, readers will come to a fuller understanding of sociolinguistics. This text discusses the nature of language, as well as how it is acquired; how and why languages change, and how the English language in particular has changed (and continues to change); why different varieties of English have developed, and why they continue to be used; how linguists have attempted to account for the (ir)regularities of English; how language and culture are related; and how linguistics can be used as a tool in the classroom. This text presents important topics for English teachers to know: the relationship between “standard” and “nonstandard” dialects, how and why language varies, how we can make informed decisions about what is “right” and “wrong” in language use, and generally how a sound knowledge of how language works can inform and benefit the pedagogical strategies needed to develop as a teacher. Ultimately, I want readers to think about language in ways not thought of before: objectively, passionately, critically, analytically, and logically. This allows readers to move beyond memorization of facts to original thought (which is sort of like the difference between knowing how to add and subtract, and being able to balance a checkbook).
About the Contributors
Carol Russell, Kansas State University