Literacy and Linguistics
Dick Hudson
UCLan November 2012
1
Plan
1. Literacy – a crisis for both L1 and L2
2. Linguistics
3. The elements of literacy
1. Transcription
•
spelling
2. Composition
•
grammar, vocabulary, punctuation
4. The way forward
2
1. Literacy: the Daily Mail
• One adult in five is illiterate
• by SARAH HARRIS, Daily Mail (19 Nov 2012)
• One in five British adults struggles to read and write,
official research has revealed.
• They are 'functionally illiterate', which means that they
have the reading age of the average 11-year-old or worse.
• The appalling figures, revealed by Education Secretary
Estelle Morris yesterday, are a legacy of the 1970s and
1980s when there was a lack of emphasis on the three Rs
in schools.
3
More in The Daily Mail
• By Leon Watson, Mail Online (29 March 2012)
• Britain has up to eight million adults who are
functionally illiterate, … they struggle to read a
medicine label or use a chequebook.
• … costing the UK economy £81billion a year …
• the highest cost in Europe - twice Germany's,
three times France's
• the UK was ranked third worst for reading and
writing
• '… illiteracy is a disease that we are aiming to
eradicate'
4
Even HE has its literacy crisis
5
Meanwhile, languages languish
6
2012 FL A-levels
7
The bigger picture: 1935-1991
Higher
School
Certificate
A-level
(after Olevel)
1951
GCSE
replaces
O-level
and CSE
1988
F
G
Sp
8
Since 1992, downhill all the way
30K
15K
9
So what?
• Language education is in crisis.
• Language skills are inadequate
– and may be declining?
• The crisis affects traditional L1 literacy
• but also FL
• and maybe the two are connected?
10
So what is literacy?
• Skills:
– 'transcription' – handwriting, spelling
– 'composition' – grammar, etc. etc. etc.
• Knowledge About Language (KAL)
– for understanding tools
– for growth
11
What is mature literacy?
• Enough KAL for adult needs
• Enough language for adult needs
• Enough languages for adult needs.
– How many is that?
– Which languages?
– Need to learn L2, L3, … as adult.
12
2. Linguistics
• The study of language
– especially, language structure
• It has a long history
– Babylon 2,000 BC
– India 500 BC
– Greece 300 BC
• Always concerned with literacy.
13
Linguistics to the rescue?
• Uniting L1 English and Foreign Languages
– 'Language Awareness'
• Intellectual framework for discussion
– e.g. growth, not error-avoidance
• Detailed models and descriptions
– e.g. speech versus writing
• Links to cognitive science
– e.g. how do we learn?
14
Linguistics as we know it?
• Yes, but with more work on …
• writing
– the system
– how it differs from speech
• school-age development
• explicit and implicit learning
– including pedagogy
15
3. The elements of literacy
a. Transcription skills in writing/reading
–
spelling
b. Composition skills
–
–
–
•
grammar
vocabulary
punctuation
In L1 English and FLs
16
How linguistics may help
•
•
•
•
Transcription skills
Composition skills
Both writing and reading
Both L1 and FL
17
a. Transcription skills: spelling
•
•
Phonological awareness
Phoneme-grapheme correspondences
•
•
•
research-based list
effects of accent
effects of subsystem
•
•
Germanic vs Latin vs Greek
for L1 English and Foreign Languages
18
Spelling and morphology
• Morphological awareness
– e.g. box vs socks
• Effects of morphology on spelling
– NB morphology conflicts with 'phonics'
– e.g. morph + ology
– contrast: more + over
19
Linguists as engineers
• Spelling reform?
– probably not feasible
• Letter names
–
–
–
–
–
What do we call <a>?
Why /bi:/ but /ɛf/?
And <w> = ?
What a mess!
Surely we can do better than that?
20
b. Composition skills: grammar
• Schools should help grammars to grow
– e.g. the house in which he lives
– The more books I read, the less I can remember
• But how?
– explicit teaching
– with metalanguage
– with expert teachers
21
How linguistics can help
• School grammar is in crisis
– It died between 1900 and 1970
– So today's teachers didn't learn it at school
• Linguists can help by:
– training teachers
– writing classroom material
– agreeing analyses and terminology for schools
22
b. Composition skills: vocabulary
23
But what about school age?
24
Size matters
25
but it must
slow down …
In pictures
= 14 words
per day
= 7,300
days
26
Literacy
• What part does literacy play in this growth?
– How can schools encourage growth?
• What effect does vocabulary growth have
on literacy?
– How many words does literacy need?
• Every word entry also becomes richer.
– How does richness grow?
27
And in FL?
28
Growth in FL vocabulary?
29
How does the UK compare?
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b. Composition skills: punctuation
• Linguists should research punctuation
– What is a sentence?
– When do we use a comma?
– How do we punctuate bullet points?
• Linguists should produce
– training material
– reference material
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Linguists as engineers
• Punctuation practice is a mess.
• Punctuate these:
– Are you ready# because it's time to leave#
– He said# "I love you#"#
– I have two questions# Where are we going?
When will we be back?
• Linguists could do better than this!!
32
4. The way forward
• More research by linguists on literacy.
• More engagement by linguists with schools
– More acceptance of linguistics by schools.
• More cooperation between English and FL
teachers.
– Maybe the two crises are related?
33
Thank you
• This slideshow can be downloaded at
www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/talks.htm
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Linguistics and literacy - UCL Division of Psychology and Language