Linguistics for Teachers of English
Carol Russell, Kansas State University
Copyright Year: 2018
ISBN 13: 9781944548179
Publisher: New Prairie Press
Conditions of Use
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