miércoles, 25 de enero de 2017

Blog posts I would like to write

Time goes by and my guilt for not doing any writing over here increases exponentially, especially as my mind is always relating every single piece of my reading to my former teaching.

I thought I might just sketch below a few thoughts that in the future, (time- and imposter-syndrome-permitting), will become full-fledged blog posts.

  • Teaching phonetics to EFL teaching trainees vs (?) teaching phonetics to future linguists. This post is already sketched, but yet not ready. It compares the type of training (goals, biblio, assessment) we provided in Buenos Aires (and more specifically, in the places where I worked) versus the training students get here in their BA in Linguistics. 

  • Teaching intonation to non-native speakers of English: genre-specific training is the key. Ever since Abercrombie (1965) we have heard that descriptions of intonation are better suited to "spoken prose" than to what happens in interaction. I believe that many of the descriptions in intonation manuals (those that are not based on introspection and made up examples...not pointing my finger at any but you know which ones I mean) work very well with the production of "monologic" (a contested notion for us, discourse people) texts, such as lectures, and stories. Some descriptions might even work well with some institutional encounters, where some patterns may be a bit more stable (though not always, I always sit next to the counter at coffee shops to see how baristas take the orders!), but conversation needs its own model. And that is very difficult to establish, at least, prescriptively*. So perhaps the textual/discoursal function of tone works pretty well against real life, but transactional and interactional descriptions of tone need a lot of corpus analysis yet. I still think that even though intonation does not have a "meaning" in itself, many of the generalisations we make are all right to be on the "safe side" for our EF learners, but if we want to transcend this and be able to describe what is going on in real interaction, we need more analytical and theoretical tools (and if you give me four years, I might come up with something...after my thesis, of course!).

  • Obliqueness, stylisation and intonation teaching. As I mentioned in one of my "chirpy remarks", obliqueness (Brazil et al, 1980) is something that happens in many languages, and may not be a result of L1 transfer when L2 learners produce it. It has got to do with the approach to the task, and I could argue that "direct orientation" is also an ability that could be taught and learned, even in L1. Stylisation, on the other hand, is really very common, and following Ladd (1978), the whole notion of obliqueness could be seen as a continuum that includes stylised versions of other tones, such as the rise and the fall-rise.

I know these remarks may look very obscure, but there is "matter in my madness", I swear. All I can say is that years of trying to test intonation hypotheses and methods with my students have not been in vain, I got nice evidence for many of my claims, and I hope to be able to lay them out to you over here in the future. And of course, I've got a million other questions and new theoretical quandaries that I expect to be able to sort out some time in...the next....20 years?

See you around!

*Just in case: I am not arguing we should be prescriptive, I am just assuming that intonation teaching in ELT and teacher training (if done at all) is pretty prescriptive.

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