Friday, 28 September 2007

Um, well, ah, if you actually, er, listen

Now this is a fascinating thing which someone emailed me with:

It's a very interesting finding, especially because it's the opposite of what you'd expect they would have found. It also makes me feel much less bad about the number of fillers I use when teaching.

It's been well known for a while that fillers are very important in Child Language Acquisition - because using them is one of the tools which allow children to extend turns and begin to take a fuller role in conversation, as well as filling the syntactic gaps in their knowledge. But it's quite astounding that our brains process and retain information which is, er, broken up by fillers more.

This is, by the way, something that might make a very good investigation topic, if you also looked at the ways in which we use fillers to support syntax, or to correct syntax, etc etc. The original research paper may or may not be found at this link, but it's an interesting and related paper even if it's not the one to which Philip Henssher is referring:

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Goodbye to good-bye (Hymn to the Hyphen)

Well, first of all it turns out that the hyphen is dead. Prescriptivists among you may want to shed a tear as the new ed of the Oxford Shorter Dictionary is dropping a load of them because, basically, we're all too lazy to be bothered with them. Some words are losing the hyphen and becoming compounds (eg 'bumblebee' rather than 'bumble bee') and some are becoming noun phrases (eg 'ice cream' rather than 'ice-cream'). Do not expect any English teacher to take that as a reasonable excuse any time soon. There are other dictionaries.,,2172733,00.html

However, it is a bit of a trend, as this article from The Times four years ago shows:

So why is this happening? Well, as usual we could probably blame e-language. We're typing, we're going speedily, we can't be bothered to move up an extra line to reach the hyphen on the top row. And it's way down the menu on predictive text. Also possibly search engines have got more sophisticated so they recognise the word whether or not it has the hyphen included. And then it asks 'did you mean...' and really annoys you.

And it could just be regular language change - we all know levels of punctuation have gone up and down according to fashion, just like hemlines. Perhaps, en masse we've all just decided to go for the easier option, without the hyphen.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Smiley Birthday to you

Gosh this feels like a long time since I posted. Which it is. Well, if anyone is still out there, then here is a tiny link relevant to Language and Technology:
which is in fact, just a nice thing to know. :-)

You will all, of course, be thinking to yourselves by now that Language Change has also taken place in the smiley arena and reduced the original design to :) for ease of typing and speed. Is this a mark of degenerating standards, or does it merely show that e-language, like all language tends to change towards the easier and the more useful for speakers. Except when it doesn't.