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English in Use.
Using English: From Conversation to Canon.

Introduction

To be meaningful, language needs a context. Making sense of what is said and written depends on listeners or readers using more information than is provided by the words they hear or see.

The course teams view is that whenever someone uses English, they represent themselves (knowingly or otherwise) as a certain kind of person to whoever they are communicating with. Issues of gender, class and nationality are obviously relevant here.

Chapter One: Everyday Talk.

1.1 Introduction

By definition, the structure of English is an intrinsic part of the language. While people use the structural resources of English to express ideas, they are also simultaneously using language to express and pursue relationships. The linguist Halliday (1978) suggests that language has a dual function; it communicates ideational meaning in terms of the information and ideas expressed and also interpersonal meaning expressing the degree of friendliness, or status difference between speakers. In addition, language takes meanings from the context in which it is used.

1.2 The Structure and Function of Conversation

Linguists have tended to view informal conversation as rather disorderly, pointing out its inexplicit use of language, random subject matter, general lack of planning and high proportion of errors. However, what is said draws meaning from a vast amount that is left unsaid. Language alone does not make meaning.

Activity 1.1

Comment

See extract 1 on p. 6. Informal talk is of course largely unplanned because it arises spontaneously. In this example, talk certainly contains inexplicit references as well as unplanned and overlapping utterances, which look nothing like whole grammatical sentences. These would count as errors in written English, but they are a completely normal part of spoken language. Talk is dialogic people constantly refer implicitly to what previous speakers have said, anticipate what they might say next and assume a large amount of shared experience.

One function of this kind of small talk before getting down to business is to bind people together (what Malinowski calls phatic communion) and establish an interactional framework for the encounter. Here, the tutor, as the higher status speaker, is the one who asks the personal questions and leads the conversation.

See extract 2 on p.6. This is clearly an exchange between equals, enthusiastic in a shared interest. This conversation is also highly co-operative, following up and building on each others utterances. The point here is not to give one another any new information, rather it is about two friends bringing together their individual experiences into one shared evaluation of the game.

See extract 3 on p.6. Colloquial Singaporean English or Singlish, is usually spoken in informal contexts and in this example its use reflects the intimacy and informality of the relationship between two friends. Like the other speakers in the other extracts, these young women will switch to a more formal variety of English in other contexts.

Closing, face and politeness

In terms of language structure, conversation endings are usually highly repetitive: people repeat their own and each others utterances, and sometimes refer back to topics from earlier in the conversation.

Before parting, speakers express positive evaluations of their time together. It is important to guard against possible loss of face or apparent rejection, and the person initiating the closing often cites an external reason for needing to go. There may also well be reference to a future meeting.

The American sociologist Erving Goffman (1967) calls this kind of verbal consideration face work. The first extract on p.6 illustrates this. Julies remark about feeling tired may be a pre-emptive face-saving move, in case her performance at the tutorial doesnt come up to scratch.

Politeness

Face needs

The British linguists Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson (1987) define politeness in terms of positive and negative face needs.

1) Positive face needs relate to the desire to be liked and admired supplied through greetings, compliments and other direct expressions of approval.

2) Negative face needs relate to the desire not to be imposed on and are fulfilled by accompanying
requests with apologies, hedging expressions and using other indirect forms to avoid a face
threatening act.

We try to satisfy the face needs of others while protecting our own. Particular cultures may stress one
kind of politeness more than others, for instance they see Britain as a negative politeness culture.

Relationship constraints

Politeness involves using appropriate terms of address, and appropriate degrees of directness and formality. Generally speaking, people in lower status position pay more attention to face needs than those in a higher position and women use more polite forms than men.

Social and cultural context

Being linguistically polite also involves sensitivity to the formality of the occasion and to sociolinguistic rules about behaviour; how to accept or refuse an invitation, the appropriate language practices around giving and receiving hospitality, greetings formulae, terms of address, taboo terms and so on. These conventions vary in different English speaking communities.

Of course, misunderstanding may lead to an embarrassing loss of face for at least one of the speakers. But in general, people are remarkably adept at interpreting the inexplicit references, the subtle nuances and the unspoken implications, which abound in conversation.

Turn taking

The turn taking, which is taken so much for granted, is in fact accomplished through the complex management of a range of linguistic and social cues and signals.

Activity 1.2

See extract on p.10. Lines 9-10 and 12-13 show Annas face-threatening comments.

Linguistic knowledge about turn taking in English has been strongly influenced by the work of Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson (1974). They suggest that English speakers conform to basic turn-taking rules, which mean that only one person speaks at a time, and instances of overlap are quickly repaired.

A considerable amount of conversation, they suggest is based on adjacency pairs, where particular kinds of utterance and response tend to occur together. For instance, one of the obvious ways in which Anna and Jess (on p.10) allocate turns is through the use of question and answer. Other adjacency pairs include greeting-greeting, invitation-acceptance/rejection, complaint-denial, request-accedance/denial.
In addition, speakers unconsciously use their grammatical knowledge of English and respond at the end rather than in the middle of a grammatical unit. At the end of each unit is what Sacks et al call a transition relevance place which is where the speaker may pause for a response, or other speakers come in. Breaking in before a TRP, as Anna does in line 12, counts as an interruption.

Conversation analysis focuses on the structure and management of interactions. This approach has however, also been criticised for not giving much attention to:

1) The relative status of the participants, which still influences the management of turns.
2) The cultural knowledge required to recognise what counts as an invitation, request and so on.
3) Intonation and body language.

Structure

There are predictable structures in conversation around turn taking, and openings and closings.

Function

The examples above show the close intertwining of the ideational and the interpersonal functions of language. For example, we have seen that talk used to convey information about health is also managing a tutor-student relationship and chat about a football match is simultaneously consolidating a friendship.

1.3 Context and Meaning

In a broad sense, context can include the following (overlapping) elements, all of which will influence the use and interpretation of particular words and phrases.

1) The physical surroundings
2) The relationship between speakers
3) Their past shared experience, and current conversational goals
4) The social events of which conversation is a part
5) Broader cultural values and expectations

Other words or utterances shape the meaning of a word or utterance, which have gone before. Words evoke nuances and associations from our experience of their use in other contexts. In addition to their dictionary meaning, words gather a collection of contextual associations, which reflect the history of their use within the language.

In order to understand the function and meaning of any conversational exchange, we need to know the values and expectations about language held by those speakers in that particular cultural context.

Terms of address

In some languages the relationship between speakers is encoded grammatically; for example the tu/vous distinction in French. In English however, relationships between speakers is not so immediately obvious. However, one way in which relationships are quite explicitly marked in English is in the terms people use to address each other whether one is on first name terms for example.

Activity 1.4

Comment

Some names we are known by are kinship terms, some signal a particular work role and some are honorific terms (Madam) which mark not just formal respect but also certain genteel politeness conventions. The same term can also mean rather different things in different relationships; for instance her mother, her husband, an older male colleague or the local butcher may call a woman love.

Terms of address are part of politeness and will depend on:
1) Difference in status between the speakers in relation to age, gender, class, and work role.
2) Social distance between speakers: how well they know each other.
3) Formality of situation.
4) Cultural context.

Terms of address also have a particular force of their won which can mark, construct or change some aspect of a relationship. People have commented on estate agents alacrity in adopting rather informal terms of address for their clients, presumably to try and establish a close, trusting relationship as rapidly as possible. Conversely, an irate parent who addresses their child as James rather than Jamie symbolically increases the social distance between them as part of the reprimand.

Terms of address are powerful ways of expressing and asserting relationships.

1.4 Communicative Strategies and Conversation Style

In its broadest definition, style refers to a combination of features relating to meaning and management of conversation: prosody (rhythm and intonation), overlapping, repetition, use of laughter, tolerance of noise and silence, and ways of using anecdotes, asking questions, linking topics and expressing particular emotions (Tannen, 1984).

At the individual level we all may be said to have our own style of talking the way we use stories, for instance, or how much personal information we tend to reveal, or how we express politeness. Aspects of our style can probably be traced to where we have come from, our class, our age and our gender.

How do conversational styles vary?

There can be a remarkable diversity of styles within one social group. Tannen highlights the following differences:

1) Expectations about what is appropriate to talk about, for example, whether topics should be personal.
2) How turn taking is managed, for instance whether pauses and silence are tolerated, and whether interruptions are meant to encourage or stop the other speaker.
3) The degree of directness in questions and whether these are perceived as supportive or off-putting.
4) Use of intonation and voice quality (to signal enthusiasm, the punchline of a story and so on).
5) Willingness to enter ironic routines or story rounds, and expectations about what constitutes a joke or story worth telling.

Questioning strategies, ways of seeking and expressing personal information and the role of pauses or silence crop up again as important aspects of communication style that can have quite far-reaching effects if they are not used in the same way by people trying to talk to each other.

Aboriginal English

Activity 1.4

Reading A: Communicative strategies in Aboriginal English by Diana Eades

Sociocultural context of Aboriginal English

Irrespective of the language spoken, Aboriginal people throughout Australia today belong to overlapping kin-based networks sharing social life, responsibilities and rights and a common history, culture, experience of racism and ethnic consciousness.

Indirectness in Aboriginal English

Seeking Information

Questions are frequently used in AE in certain contexts. Frequently the orientation question takes the form of a statement uttered with rising intonation, e.g. You been to town? Rather than asking directly, the speakers presents known or supposed information for confirmation or denial.

In order to seek substantial information, such as important personal details, a full account of an event, or the explanation of some event or situation, questions are not used. Instead, the person seeking information contributes some of his or her own knowledge followed often by silence, which serves as an invitation (or hint) for another participant to impart information on this topic.

Making and refusing requests

Aboriginal people rarely make direct requests. A typical Aboriginal way of asking for a ride is to ask car owners a question such as You going to town? Even if speakers understand questions such as these as requests for a ride, the ambiguity enables a person to refuse a request in a similar indirect fashion, for example Might be later. In this way, Aboriginal people can negotiate requests and refusals without directly exposing their motives.

Seeking and giving reasons

The questioning of a persons motives or reasons for action is always carried out indirectly through the use of multifunctional linguistic forms. You went to town yesterday? would be used to seek information concerning persons movements but might also provide evidence of the reasons behind some of their actions. It gives people considerable privacy; they are never confronted with an inescapable request for a reason.

Expressing opinions

It is important for Aboriginal people to present opinions cautiously and with a degree of circumspection. The do not express a firm or biased opinion, even if they hold one and tend to understate their own views.

Aboriginal communicative strategies in cross-cultural communication

One way in which they respond to the much more direct communication style of white speakers is through the use of gratuitous concurrence. Aboriginal speakers say yes not necessarily to signal agreements with a statement or proposition, but to facilitate the on-going interaction, or to hasten its conclusion.

This can have serious implications for all cross-cultural situations where direct questioning is used, in particular in police interviews, law courts, interviews, medical consultations etc. Differences in degrees of directness lead to misunderstandings in many settings.

If asked directly whether they agree with a particular issue, Aboriginal speakers may frequently respond with the yes of gratuitous concurrence. For some Aboriginal students therefore, the direct interrogative style used in tutorials is quite unsuccessful in involving them in discussion, and in assessing the extent of their knowledge of a topic. These students are often uncomfortable and annoyed about views expressed by non-Aboriginal students and the forceful manner of their expression, but are unable to respond in the same manner.

Comment

Eades suggests that the lack of personal privacy in the Aboriginal lifestyle is balanced by an indirect verbal style.

Is there a womens style?

If one way of identifying significant aspects of style is to compare different cultural groups, another is to compare different genders.

1.5 Gender Voices

In mixed company women usually talk less than men and are less competitive, more co-operative and work harder to make things run smoothly. They encourage others to talk more and use more face saving politeness strategies. One explanation for this is that women are brought up to occupy a less powerful position in society, and to display deference towards men which they do through being more hesitant and indirect. Robin Lakoff (1975) suggests that women use more tag questions, more direct polite forms, more intensifiers, and what she sees as generally weaker vocabulary (e.g. words like lovely and Oh dear).

Men tend to dominate the topics and the management of mixed gender conversation, interrupting more and giving less feedback and support. An alternative explanation is that men and women speak differently, not because of an asymmetrical power relationship between them, but because they are socialised into different gender subcultures as children through play.

Men and women attach different kinds of meaning to specific speech behaviours, which can lead to significant misunderstandings. Women may use more minimal responses (e.g. mmm, yeh) because for them these mean Carry on. Im listening while for men minimal responses carry the rather stronger meaning of I agree with you.

However, one study of courtroom language showed that high-status expert witnesses did not use Lakoffs female style features, while lower status male witnesses did (OBarr and Atkins, 1980). Gender differences then may be differently expressed in different contexts.

Activity 1.6

Reading B: The role of compliments in female-male interaction by Janet Holmes.

Compliments are positive speech acts, which are used to express friendship and increase rapport between people. Women than use compliments more frequently by men and women are complimented more often than men.

This is consistent with extensive re******, which suggests womens linguistic behaviour can be broadly characterised as affiliative, facilitative and co-operative rather than competitive or control oriented, concerned with connection rather than status.

Topics of compliments

Mostly compliments refer to just a few broad topics: appearance, a good performance, which is the result of skill or effort, possessions, and some aspect of personality or friendliness.

Women tend to receive most compliments on their appearance and they compliment each other most often on aspects of their appearance. Though men rarely compliment each other on appearance, the appearance of American men seems not to be an appropriate topic of compliments from men or from women.

A further interesting feature of the New Zealand data was a distinct male preference for complimenting other men on their possessions rather than women on theirs.

Vocabulary and grammatical patterns

Compliments are remarkably formulaic speech acts. In Wolfsons American data two-thirds of all adjectival compliments in the corpus made use of only five adjectives: nice, good, beautiful, pretty and great. Most of the non-adjectival compliments also depended upon a very few semantically positive verbs with like and love alone accounting for 86% of the American data and 80% of the New Zealand data.

Women used the rhetorical pattern what (a) (ADJ) NP! (e.g. what lovely children!) more often than men, while men used the minimal pattern (INT) ADJ (NP) (e.g. great shoes; nice car) more often than women.

NP= noun phrase
BE= the verb be
INT= intensifier
ADJ= adjective
PRO= pronoun

In another study of American English, Herbert (1990) found that only women used the stronger form I love X (compared to I like X) and that they used it more often to other women. And in students written reviews of each others work, Donna Johnson and Duane Roen (1992) noted that women used significantly more intensifiers (such as really, very, particularly) than men did, and that they intensified their compliments most when writing to other women.

Cross cultural differences in complimenting behaviour

Malaysian students feel Americans pay far too many compliments and, judging by their own norms assume that American compliments are often insincere. Women from cultures where compliments are rare, experience them as embarrassing. They often respond inappropriately to compliments by disagreeing or rejecting them. On the other hand, they may not offer enough compliments.

There is abundant anecdotal evidence, for instance, of embarrassment experienced by Maori people in New Zealand by what they perceive as compliments from Pakeha people, which go over the top. The relative strength of what Geoffrey Leech (1983) calls the Modesty Maxim may differ quite markedly between groups.

The linguistic features of compliments are easy to acquire. Learning how to use compliments appropriately is not so easy however. Each speech community has norms of use. These norms interact with the gender of speakers and addressees, so that knowing who to compliment, how, and when a sophisticated aspect of sociolinguistic competence.

Comment

Holmes suggests that compliments express solidarity. In situations where speakers have different cultural expectations about complimenting behaviour, their different patterns of cross-sex use may increase the possibility for miscommunication and offence.

When women are talking together on their own instead of one person talks at a time rule, conversations between these women were structured around the collaborative production of utterances and the joint sharing of the conversational floor.

See extract on p.20. K and C collaborate to produce utterances and share in the ****** for appropriate words. Turns are thus jointly produced, and Coates suggests the floor can also be shared by those adding back-channel support (yes, mhm, yeah).

Women in these groups did not stop talking when they were overlapped, nor did they seem to find the overlaps intrusive. Rather overlaps were part of the solidarity, like the collaborative production of utterances and the co-operative sharing of the floor.

Re******ers have suggested that there is a particular womens speaking style in English which involves more hesitations, indirectness, qualifiers, polite forms and tag questions.

1.5 Stories, Accounts and Identity

A large amount of informal talk in English seems to take the form of narrative. Bruner suggests that conversational story-telling is the major way in which we account for our actions and the events we experience and that our sensitivity to narrative provides the major link between our own sense of self and our sense of others in the social world around us.

Storytelling and voices

Stories told in conversations can range from the briefest of anecdotes to long detailed accounts of experiences or incidents and from the mundane to the extraordinary. An important element of every story is the way in which narrators convey (or try out) their own evaluation of the events and people involved. This evaluation is the point of the story why the narrator has chosen to tell it and it also conveys social and moral values, which are an important part of the narrators personal identity.

Activity 1.7

Comment

Narrators step outside the story at particular points to bring in important additional information, or to justify their actions.

Many conversational narratives use reported speech, particularly when it gets to the key part of the action. But we hardly ever report someone elses exact words; we paraphrase and reframe them to make a specific point and to show ourselves in a particular kind of light (Volosinov and Tannen).

The structure of conversational narrative using Labovs 1972 categories

1) Abstract: what is the story about?
2) Orientation: who, when, what, where? This section is often more grammatically complicated than when the action gets going because the teller wants to sketch out what was happening before, or alongside, the main narrative events.
3) Complicating action: then what happened? This is the main action part of the story and often includes plenty of reported speech.
4) Evaluation: so what? The narrator may step outside the story at a particular point to bring in additional information, to make evaluative points, or to use sound effects and gestures.
5) Result: what finally happened? This resolves the story.
6) Coda. An additional remark or observation usually bridges the gap between story time and real time, bringing the teller and listener back to the present.

In conversation stories are often told collaboratively.

Bakhtin (1981) suggests that this direct taking on of other peoples voices (in addition to reporting them) is a common feature of all spoken language, that we are forever using words and phrases from other peoples mouths. He argues that whenever we take on a voice, we also take on an evaluative stance. In fact, our taking on of voices and their attitudes is part of the ideological becoming of a human being (Bakhtin 1982).

Codeswitching

Speakers who have a number of dialects of English in their language repertoire or who speak English and other languages, may switch between their language varieties (termed codeswitching) to create voices for different characters in their conversational stories.

See extract on p.25. Andrew here uses animated voices not just to replay an event but to convey a particular evaluation of his own and the ******ers actions.

Codeswitching in conversation is also tied up with the transmission of complex messages about identity and allegiance. One unusual study illustrating this is Roger Hewitts account of white working-class teenagers in south London. Many black adolescents, particularly boys, speak more Jamaican Creole than they did when they were younger and it has come to represent a prestigious symbol of group solidarity. Hewitt also found that white users also increased their use of Creole in adolescence.

For white boys, Creole signifies toughness, street credibility and adolescent solidarity but they have to negotiate carefully when they use it. In taking on the voices of their black friends, Hewitt suggests, the white adolescents cut through the barrier between the local black and white communities, to establish a solidarity based on age rather than race.

Conflicting Identities?

Part of what we are doing through talk, then, is the exploring and taking on of social beliefs and values, which become part of how we view the world and who we are. The identities invoked by speakers are associated with different interpretative repertoires; different collections of ways of accounting for events, tied to particular use of language and images.

For instance, we might use ideas around the notion of a good parent to explain why we need to leave work early one day, but employ a good professional repertoire to account for not being able to attend a function at our childs school on another occasion.

Reading C: Fear of fat; interpretative repertoires and ideological dilemmas by Margaret Wetherall.

When trying to make sense of a social or political issue, people move between different ideological perspectives and this variability is closely tied to the ways in which personal identity is constructed.

The everyday talk I consider comes from a study of young British women discussing eating, dieting and body image.

See extract on p.37. When reading interview tran******s like these, two features generally become clear. First, people are inconsistent: they set up one version of events and then, as the communication situation changes, this version alters. Secondly, however, this variation often occurs between relatively internally consistent, bounded discursive themes. It is these themes which we call interpretative repertoires.

The girls are stressing the desirability of being seen as an individual separate from society. Indeed the devalued subject position in this ******* was to admit to being influenced by others. In these parts of the interviews the young women were at pains to distance themselves from the identity of fashion victim.

See extracts on p.37. Extract 1 indicates a discursive theme evident across the interviews. In this context, to be thin is to be enviable; to be fat is to be problematic. This type of discourse which attributes positive characteristics to being thin and negative traits to being fat presents an alternative interpretative repertoire, an alternative way of making sense to the just the media repertoire noted above.

We now have two possible versions for formulating a sense of identity. The young women could set up an account which endorsed and displayed their credentials as individuals, as people who are not swayed by social influences or they could speak about themselves and others in ways which endorsed the value of thinness and the problem of fat. Most of the interviewed did both.

This movement between versions as people talk and communicate is typical of everyday talk. A further type of talk or repertoire can be seen in Extract 2. The subject position here is the weak and wicked woman who gives in to temptation. The morality is driven by logic, which suggests that bodies must be disciplined.

The final major theme or repertoire in the young womens talk is based on the importance of the natural self and natural behaviour. These women dieted not for fashion but because, they said, it was healthier to be thinner. We can see here how the needs of the body have been redefined once more these needs (for less food than we think we require) are to be listened to rather than struggled against.

Ideological dilemmas

One very obvious ideological dilemma for young women is set up between the subject position of the thin women in the personological repertoire of fatness and thinness (see extract 1) and the subject position of the strong individual against society in the individualistic repertoire. These two identities can be seen as being in debate. The dilemma is this if you view the issue of body shape and eating through the repertoire of individualism then it becomes a betrayal of individual autonomy and a sign of weakness to give in to social pressure. How can you account then, for wanting to be thin?

The dilemma tended to be resolved, when it emerged in the interviews, through the repertoire of natural bodily processes or the image of natural appetites. It is healthy living, rather than fashion, which comes to dictate thinness.

A similar type of dilemma sustains the confessional repertoire evident in extract 2. It is an excellent thing to be thin and it is an excellent thing to be autonomous. How, then, can one make sense of failure defined in this talk as overeating or being fat? Typically the young women blamed themselves as weak and wicked women. Failure was presented as a failure of will, of personality. Hence the admissions of guilt. Fat becomes constituted as a personal attribute, for which one is accountable, not a social judgement.

Comment

Wetherall explores some of the conflicting messages about fatness which confront teenage girls in Britain and shows how they try and resolve these in relation to their own emerging identity.

The apparent inconsistency in the way the girls talk about fatness is a normal feature of everyday talk. He girls see fatness as a personal failure and believe that they can only be their own person if they are thin. Thus ideologies make particular values appear natural and are internalised as part of individual identity. Being 'defiantly fat' is a possible position within the individualistic repertoire but would be continually undermined by the other three repertoires on which the girls are drawing.

1.5 Conclusion

Talk is a central part of our lives. Not only do people speak differently according to the context, but also the forms they use may have different significance and meaning depending on where and when they are used.

An important aspect of relating experience is negotiating how this should be evaluated, and the way we convey or try out evaluations in stories and accounts is an important part of developing our own beliefs and values about this world.


Chapter 2

The main different between speech and written English are :
Or
Explain why it is common that spoken language tells a story in verbs ,while written language tells it in nouns.

Vocabulary : it has been suggested that written English contain more vocabulary than spoken language and more polysyllabic words which are lexical borrowing from Latin or any other language and from origin Anglo-Saxon where in spoken it is verse versa .
Lexical density : written English has more Grammatical items (words that knit text together ) and are from closed system of language ( u don't invent them ) and less lexical items that carry the ******* which are from open system of nouns verbs , adjectives an d so on which can be added in order to respond for new ideas and technology.
Nominalization : Is the business of replacing a process (invest) by a thing (investment ) is called nominalization and is said to be particular characteristic of formal written texts. The use of nominalization often means that information about the process is lost like who did what to whom .
Grammatical intricacy (p44)
Modality : Model forms express the speaker's attitudes, towards him or herself , listeners or subject matters and are much more common in spoken language ,with its direct, face to face interaction purposes ,than in the more "distant" medium of formal writing.

Discourse refers to particular patterns of language use tied to social practice .

Most the pages were giving examples and stories about how the English is used in different societies and how these Indian lived in England act and the women who lived in south Africa , the question could asks us to give stories and examples and explanation of how English is used in some social issues and within one group or family .

The differences in letter-writing between two orthography in the1803 and the nineteenth one could be :

Orthography :

1. In 1803 , capital letters are used for most of the nouns
2. different form of abbreviation were used in 1803
3. The form of ampersand and the long s where a word contains two consecutive ( s's ) are no longer used in contemporary English .
Letter-writing conventions
1. Abbreviations and ampersands were acceptable and are used in 1803 version .
2. there are different ways of opening and closing the letter
3. the 1803 letter has a personal tone and uses I as opposed to more impersonal we of the 1995 letter .
Grammatical style :
1. The more tentative ,negotiation tone of the 1803 letter comes from its greater use of modal verbs : for example could and should and hedging expressions such as you will be so good .
2. Although the earlier letter does include nominalizations , it is less lexically dense than the 1995 version .
The pages next talk about the changes of language and the "plain English movement " along with the government English and what changes have been done .
Reading C about the computer mediate communication as I believe is very important .and must be read with its comment on p61. some facts about It are :
CMC has specific similarities and specific differences compared with speech and writing . First , CMC has a similar vocabulary range to writing . as indicated by the type/token results . Secondly , there are similarities between the subjective or interpersonal references in CMC and in those of speech , as indicated by the pronoun usage result. Lastly , CMC is dissimilar to both of speech and writing in terms of its representation of knowledge , as indicated by the modal auxiliary .such founding are very general and there are verities in language use within CMC depending on the purposes of the communication.
The small discussion at the top of p62 .

Chapter Three: English at Work.

3.1 Introduction

A tool for the job

L.S Vygotsky (1978) describes language as the most important cultural tool that humans possess. The idea of language as a tool is useful as it focuses attention on the purposes and effects of using a language. People achieve things through talk as much as through physical action.

The structure of language events

See extract on pp.84-85. Roger Shuy has studied many secretly recorded, clandestine conversations and has offered the following analysis of the structure of an archetypal bribe transaction.

1) Problem: A problem is presented which usually amounts to a request for help. During this phase the first party usually also checks on the others authority and capacity to deliver.

2) Proposal: Rewards are discussed and promises made. This phase may be used to build some kind of intimacy with common acquaintances being mentioned, anecdotes told and so on.

3) Completion: This is classically symbolised by the handshake and expressions like We have a deal.

4) Extension: Optional phase with future possibilities being introduced.

Entry into each of the phases depends on the successful completion of the previous one.

So, in cases where someone has been accused of bribery, a careful analysis of events may reveal that the accused did not collude in the construction of a model event and that the crucial stage of completion may never have materialised.

Talk in its work setting

Doing a certain kind of work is likely to involve the creation of distinctive patterns and ******* of discourse in the English language. The distinctive features may not be apparent to the participants but they can be revealed by an analysis, which is based on an understanding of how the English language operates as a system and how it is used.

Sometimes the distinctive, work related features of the language are most obviously those of vocabulary or jargon but sometimes, as in the case of bribery, the work related quality of language may be more distinctively represented in the structure of an interaction.

3.2 English among co-workers

One product of the work of lawyers and journalists for example, is spoken or written English. It may be less obvious that language also plays an important role in getting the job done for other kinds of occupation.

Activity 3.2

Reading A: Constructing the virtual building: language on a building site by Peter Medway.

Building is a physical process, so why should language come into it? One reason must be the need to co-ordinate the efforts of a large and shifting group of participants. Division of labour creates a need for language. Also, if the building process is not straightforward there is a need too, for consultation and deliberation as well as instruction and information.

On the one hand, talk and writing during construction are highly task-oriented (what Halliday terms the ideational function of language). However, the participants are also always building, maintaining and enacting relationships (which Halliday terms the interpersonal function of language).

As we would expect, the needs of particular contexts, such as a building site, require a repertoire of specific encodings for the things and processes of that world.

We know that drawings fulfil many of the communicative needs of architects and builders but some vital things, only language can do. Speaking, in the sense of performing speech acts such as requesting, asserting, ordering, promising, denying, and proposing is precisely what drawings cannot do.

In a great deal of the communication in building construction, gesture works symbiotically with language, giving meaning to words.

It is also important to remember intertextuality, which is the way in which one piece if discourse implicitly or explicitly refers to another, often deriving part of its meaning from that reference. Intertextuality is of central importance in workplace discourse. It ties all the separate written and spoken communications into a single mutli-stranded web of discourse.

In the extract on p.110, Joes swearing obviously serves an expressive need, but it has other dimensions. Language rarely does only one thing. It is important to remember that a building site is also a macho environment where language may be a way of declaring masculinity.

Comment

The business of constructing a building is achieved to a great extent through language. The whole process is one of explanation, interpretation, and negotiation as the architect attempts to construct a virtual building in advance of the real one.

Englishes for trading

In some parts of the world, English has for many years been used as a trading language, a lingua franca between people who have different mother tongues. In being adapted to this use, a lingua franca may evolve into a new language variety with a simplified grammar and limited vocabulary. Elements of the grammar of one or more of the local mother tongues may be incorporated into the new variety, which is then technically known as a pidgin. Pidgins sometimes eventually become the main language of some communities. If this process results in children learning the pidgin as a mother tongue then the new language becomes a Creole. A good example of this is Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea.

Once a pidgin is established, the redefined meanings of words will become common knowledge to all involved, and pose no problem to the mutual understanding required for trade. However, difficulties of comprehension may arise for other reasons. Helen Marriott (1995) re******ed intercultural business negotiations transactions which involve people from significantly different cultural backgrounds. She suggests that the different expectations held and interpretations made about conversation reflect other less obvious differences in cultural backgrounds and experiences.

In the international business world of today other cultural factors besides national origin might be important for shaping speakers ways of talking business in English and for shaping their interpretation of events.

Trade through written English

English of a specialised and limited kind is still commonly used in the pursuit of certain international trades in the world today.

English as the special language of work

English is unusual in that is its, for so many people, a language which is not their mother tongue but which they have to use at work. If for some people, English is a language associated with the more official or formal aspects of working life, then for those people, the choice of English in any particular conversation may have a special social significance.

Status and gender at work

Status differences between co-workers are commonly acted out in their conversations. The boss determines the switch from English to Spanish in the extract on p.94 so that his higher status in the office is acted out in his control over the choice of language.

Of course, the boss and secretary here are also male and female. Janet Maybin suggests that men tend to exert most overt influence over the choice of topics and may also control codeswitching.

Woods decided to measure the relative extent to which speakers (female or male, high or low status) took substantial turns at speaking. She calls this floor apportionment. She also observed how the various speakers gained the floor, for example, by interrupting or carrying on speaking beyond the end of what is called a transition relevance place (TRP). A TRP is a place in a conversation where a speaker can be considered to have reached the meaningful end of what he or she is saying.

Results showed that gender tends to exert the greatest influence on floor apportionment. While the occupational status did influence the way both women and men organised conversation (generally higher status speakers spent more time holding the floor), nevertheless, even when women held the high status occupational positions male subordinates still organised the interaction in a way that allowed them to dominate the floor. For instance by interrupting more often, speaking through more TRPs and giving less assent to women participants.

Woods re****** suggests that gender can be a very important factor in shaping the conversations that take place at work more powerful, she suggests, than job status.

Jobs and Jargons

Even people who speak English as their first language will often use a specialised variety of it, at least in terms of vocabulary when they are at work.

Activity 3.4 House talk

Of course, the use of jargon often does create problems. Its use by professionals when communicating with a lay person can result in noncomprehension and frustration on the lay persons part. Walter Nash (1993) points out the jargon words and phrases often become incorporated into the mainstream of English language use.

Communities of discourse

Janet Maybin in chapter 1 makes two important points. First, the meanings of words are shaped by the contexts in which the are used and secondly, the communicative success of almost all conversations depends heavily on speakers and listeners having some shared cultural knowledge and understanding.

These points are very relevant to understanding how English is used as a working language, especially if we also make use of the concept of a discourse community. As Swales (1990) explains, the basic idea is that there are types of community in which people do not necessarily live close together or even ever see each other face to face. Discourse here means the ways in which language, spoken or written, is used in the social practices of such a community. Yet they use spoken or written language among themselves, to pursue some common goals in ways that distinguish them from other groups.

Discourse communities may be hard to define. For example, although Joe in reading A is a member of the professional community of architects, the reading shows that he is also a member of a wider construction industry community of discourse, in which some technical language, interests and goals are also shared.

Emotive aspects of professional discourses

Many written working Englishes are, by intention, unemotional and dry in their ******* and style. The processes of reporting a scientific experiment, surveying a building or conducting a financial transaction are meant to be guided by rationality rather than emotion and this is reflected in the usual absence of references to the personal feelings of those doing the work. In such formal writing the agency of the writer is often rendered invisible by the use of passive verb forms so a survey was carried out rather than I carried out a survey. This also emphasises the supposedly detached and impersonal nature of the process.

However, the use of professional discourses can also be important for creating and maintaining the professional and personal identities and relationships of those involved. Moreover, not all working Englishes are formal and emotions may need to be expressed at work.

In some professional communities the emotional involvement and impact of members engagement with their professional lives may be enacted through the use of professional slang.

Activity 3.6

Reading B: Bear Hugs and Bo Dereks on Wall Street by Kathleen Odean.

Like many occupational groups, brokers and traders have an extensive body of slang. The stock market has a long and rich tradition of creating snappy words and apt images.

While slang experts have neglected the stock market, they have given disproportionate attention to the language of the military and of criminals, including prison slang. All these groups share several common characteristics in that they are made up primarily of men who spend a lot of time together in close quarters. Fluctuating conditions are unusually conducive to slang inventions.

Because establishing a congenial atmosphere is essential in telephone sales, brokers like to open their conversation with jokes, anecdotes and colourful slang terms. At the same time, the esoteric language serves to mystify and impress ******ers and other outsiders, who would like to be closer to this realm of money.

Nicknames function as shorthand when they can be said more quickly or clearly than stock symbols, most of which consist of only three letters. Speed matters during brisk trading. The theme running through the slang, whether violent or sexual, is dominance. The image Wall Streeters want to project is one of being in control, winning the war, or conquering the female, doubtless because they have so little control over the main force in their world the market.

The publics attitude towards Wall Street is one not just of distrust but of hostility. The public bitterly resents it when the stock market harms the general economy. For their part, the brokers have traditionally used slang to vent hostility against ******ers behind their back.

Money itself has a dark side, as stock market slang and general slang reveal. It is associated with dirt as in filthy rich and losing money is expressed in terms of getting cleaner.

Designing a Discourse

Most professional discourses have not been self-consciously designed for their purpose, but have evolved. One example from the late 19th/early 20th century is the women working in the cotton mills. Because of the very high noise level in the mills, the women workers could only communicate at a distance across their looms by speaking with exaggerated mouth movements which allowed a 'listener' to lip-read what the speaker was saying. This style of speech is known as mee-mawing.

In situations where speakers cannot see one another, they have to rely on imperfect telecommunication channels to do their work. Good examples are the English used internationally by air traffic controllers, Seaspeak used by mariners and Policespeak.

3.3 Working with the Public

One obvious but nevertheless critical aspect of many communications between professionals and lay people is the extent to which the professional is willing and able to talk about relevant topics in a way that is clear to the uninitiated outsider. The issue here is not simply a matter of professionals remembering to avoid the use of jargon. The lack of common understanding between a professional and client may not be confined to technical matters, but may be related to other differences in the cultural and linguistic experiences of the people involved. Roberts and Sayers (1988) have directly addressed this issue.

Like Marriott, they found that problems sometimes arose because the speakers did not have the same shared understanding of the ground rules for carrying out this specialised kind of conversation.

Keeping the gate: how judgements are made in interethnic encounters.

In cases where interviewers have recognised second language difficulties, they tend to assume that any of the candidates talk, which they did not understand, was therefore meaningless. Instead of clarifying such utterances, the interviewers choose to ignore them.

Roberts and Sayers suggest that problems of understanding in interviews are as likely to be caused by the ways that interviewers react to an interviewees lack of fluency in English, as by the lack of fluency itself.

An interviewer usually has control over the ******* and structure of the talk so that interviewer's can choose to ignore or pursue topics in ways that interviewees would not dare. Issues of power and control can also be important for understanding the structure and outcomes of any language event.

Power and control in professional-client relationships

In a telephone sales encounter control of the conversation may shift, at various times, between the participants. In some other kinds of encounter, the relative status and authority of the participants may be such that control remains much more consistently in one persons hands. One common and much re******ed kind of language event is the interaction between a doctor and a patient.

Patients rarely begin encounters with doctors with direct requests for information. Perhaps out of deference to the perceived status and authority of the medical profession, patients usually allow the doctor to organise and control the encounter. Maynard suggests a model for this encounter:

1) Clinicians opinion-query, or perspective-display invitation.
2) Recipients reply or assessment.
3) Clinicians report and assessment.

This model represents a generic conversational strategy (used by other experts as well as doctors) for giving ones own assessment of a situation in a cautious manner, by initially soliciting the viewpoint of another interested party. The strategy is useful because it offers the doctor the possibility of exploring the patients own understanding of the condition, confirming the patients own perspective (which may draw on earlier consultations) and then reformulating the patients explanation of events.

Activity 3.7

Reading C: Professionals and clients: form-filling and the control of talk by Jo Longman.

Background to the interview

The interview in question involved a counsellor who was a young woman and a client who was a man in his thirties. English was their first and main language, and the interview took place within a British national vocational training scheme called Employment training. This scheme was designed to facilitate the return of long-term unemployed people to the workforce. For clients entering the scheme, the first substantial contact was an interview with a counsellor whose job it was to:

1) Elicit the clients preferences for kinds of work
2) Identity the clients relevant vocational strengths and weaknesses, special needs and so on
3) Propose suitable training

This interview has a number if features which are typical:

1) Talk is the central vehicle for getting the business of the interview done.
2) The participants have different internal status within the interaction i.e. one is a professional and the other a member of the public.
3) The participants have different external status in this case the fact that the professional is employed and the client is unemployed
4) The participants follow certain conventions of English language use, which distinguish the event from many other kinds of conversation.

See extract on pp.117-118. Three concepts are useful for analysing how the relationship between the counsellor and the client is defined, constructed and maintained through the use of spoken language; filtering, reformulation and accountability.

Filtering

One of the major themes throughout the whole interview is the client expressing doubts about his ability and level of experience. However, nearly all the information about his lack of knowledge and uncertainty is filtered out by the counsellor in that it does not find its way into the written record of the interview.

Reformulation

Throughout the interview, the language the client uses is hesitant and uncertain. The counsellors written version makes him sound better organised than how he represents himself during the interview. So, as well as filtering out information about the clients uncertainty, the counsellor recasts or reformulates the clients statements, re-coding the information he provides in a way that makes it more suitable for the form. This means choosing words that are more definite, positive, formal or technical than the words spoken by the client.

Reformulation is symbolic of the relative power that the counsellor has over the final words that are written down as the material outcome of the interview.

Accountability

Reformulation of clients words by counsellors is a very common occurrence in these interviews, and highlights the importance of the completed form for the professional accountability of the counsellor.
Counsellors know that the form may reach professional audiences and that these audiences will judge them, as may the client, by the quality. Counsellors are also accountable to their clients and every client will be expected to agree and sign the form at the end of the interview.

Conclusions

Throughout these kinds of interview, the way in which spoken and written language is used reflects a tension for the counsellor between achieving the institutional language business of the interview while at the same time keeping the interview process client centred so that the clients concerns are addressed, all within very constrained time limits.

This analysis also highlights the relationship between spoken and written language in these interviews the interviews are neither spoken events or written events but events in which the two modes are intertwined. This intertwining of oral and literate modes is a common feature in the use of English and many other languages today.

Comment

It may seem on first consideration that any distortion of what was actually said must be wrong, so that for example police officers who transform statements from suspects spoken words into their own might be considered to be fabricating evidence. However, although in most English-speaking countries formal interviews with suspects are tape recorded and transcribed, police officers who are taking statements are not commonly required literally to transcribe what they are told. Rather they are expected to use what the suspects said to prepare on their behalf a written statement.

Similarly, an explicit part of the role of counsellor is to act as a kind of public relations agent for the clients, helping them to present themselves in the best possible light to trainers and potential employers through the form. One could argue that the counsellors would be failing in their responsibilities to their clients if they did not filter and reformulate clients statements in preparing the forms.

Some interesting and perfectly justifiable acts of reformulation and filtering are carried out in the legal profession in the preparation of last will and testament ********s, contracts etc.

3.4 Conclusion

So, as a tool for many occupations, the English language takes on a range of distinctive forms. Language used at work performs not only the ideational function of representing ideas, events etc, but also the interpersonal function of developing and maintaining working relationships.

The discourses of professional communities may have characteristics, which reflect the professional aims and goals, the social settings in which communication takes place and the specialised nature of the knowledge shared by members.

As in the rest of life, work-related language events embody issues of power, control and accountability. Understanding the use of English at work must include a consideration of these and other social and cultural factors.
Chapter Four: Rhetoric in English.

4.1 Introduction

The English language can be used to persuade, convince and elicit support; to convince others of the merit of an argument or an opinion, or to establish the credibility of a reported event. Such uses of a language are commonly called rhetorical uses. Classical Graeco-Roman studies of oratory formed the original basis for the study of rhetoric in English.

What is rhetoric?

The Collins Shorter Dictionary provides four definitions of rhetoric:

1) The study of the technique of using language effectively.
2) The art of using speech to persuade, influence, or please; oratory.
3) Excessive ornamentation and contrivance in spoken or written discourse; bombast.
4) Speech or discourse that pretends to be significant but lacks true meaning; mere rhetoric.

The last two definitions seem to imply that it is a superficially clever but ultimately shallow type of speaking where the use of words is concerned more with effect and style than with ******* and meaning. This negative view of rhetoric however, is perhaps a particularly British phenomenon. For nearly 2000 years however, people throughout the world have viewed rhetoric and the study of rhetoric positively.

In classical ancient Greek civilisation, there were three types of rhetoric:

1) Judicial rhetoric, or the use of language to argue legal cases.
2) Deliberative rhetoric which was used to persuade an audience to take a certain course of action or to adopt a set of beliefs.
3) Demonstrative rhetoric, which occurred in more formal public ceremonies.

The principles of Greek rhetoric were taken up and developed by Roman orators. Many of the analytical and presentational skills that were taught as part of classical rhetoric are still used today by public speakers and lay people alike.

In this chapter I draw mainly on one of the most recently developed approaches to the study of rhetoric, that of conversation analysis, which uses as its data, talk recorded in actual social events.

Cicero (106-43BC) was a Roman orator who formulated sets of recommendations as to the most effective ways of representing arguments in judicial settings.

4.2 Classical Graeco-Roman Oratory

In ancient Greek society judicial rhetoric was important as it was expected that all citizens would be able to represent themselves in legal debate. Consequently, ordinary citizens needed to be able to develop skills of rhetoric and argument.

Cicero argued that legal presentations of this type should have six parts:

1) The exordium; should prepare the audience and make them receptive to the speaker or client.
2) The narration should provide a brief, clear account of the case and may include some attacks on
an opposing argument.
3) The partition is a de******ion of what is to be proved.
4) The confirmation is the basic argument for the points that the speaker wishes to prove.
5) The refutation as the term suggests, involves undermining an opponents argument.
6) The conclusion should consist of
a) Summing up the speakers argument
b) Inciting indignation against the opponent
c) Ensuring the speaker or client is perceived sympathetically.

The main points we can draw from Ciceros analysis are:

1) That rhetorical speech designed for use in specific contexts (such as the law courts on ancient Greece) may have some common, distinctive structural features.
2) That it may be possible to identify some specific, effective techniques for convincing and persuading.

However, this kind of traditional rhetorical analysis has a serious limitation, it does not show us what effects these techniques achieve or how successful they are in achieving a speakers goals.

4.3 Political rhetoric

Political speeches are designed to hold the attention of the members of the audience and gain their approval. An audience can display approval or disapproval by cheering, booing and heckling but the most common kind of display is clapping the hands. It seems reasonable to assume that such applause, which appears during a speech, is a display of the audiences approval of a specific point or sentiment expressed by the speaker. However, re****** by Max Atkinson (1984) suggests that the way in which a point is presented may also influence the likelihood of applause.

Atkinson was relying on applause as a kind of barometer of the effectiveness of speeches. He derived a way of taking account of three crucial features of applause: the varying intensity, the precise moment when it starts and stops, and the length of the applause.

Atkinson began to study his data to see if those parts of speeches that seemed to precede applause had any common features. He identified various rhetorical formats that seemed to be effective at soliciting such applause.

Three-part lists

A three-part list is simply a point made via the use of three specific components. An example is Thatchers denunciation of Soviet Marxism on p.125 in which she claims it is bankrupt ideologically, politically and morally.

Atkinson also observed that politicians tend to produce specific intonational shifts as they present the three parts of their lists. The speaker raises his intonation on the first part of the list, maintains it for the second part and then drops it on the third part.

One of the main reasons why three-part lists are so successful in soliciting audience applause is that their structure allows speakers to amplify and strengthen more general points.

Contrasts

Pointing out the deficiencies of other groups is an effective way by which speakers can implicitly affirm the value of their own party or approach. But of course, politicians can positively evaluate their own position in a much more explicit way, while at the same time still criticising another position or set of policies. This can be done through contrast devices, in which one argument or approach is compared to another, so that the speakers favoured position is seen to be superior.

Non-verbal aspects of political rhetoric

Atkinson also examined non-verbal components of political rhetoric gestures, intonational features and so on, which are an intrinsic part of such speech making.
Activity 4.1

Reading A: Extract from Our Masters Voices by JM Atkinson.

The general importance of intonation and associated variations in volume and rhythmic stress is underlined by the fact that it is sometimes possible to anticipate where an audience will applaud in the course of speeches made in language we do not understand. Orators can communicate to their audiences that a change of mood or tempo is taking place.

From quite an early stage in the extract on p.145, the audience is positively bombarded with a variety of different signals, all of which point in the same direction. This week is projected as the place for an audience response by the fact that it comes at the end of an applaudable message, which began with a noticeable increase in volume, gestural activity and rhythmic emphasis. It is also the third item in a lost, and is marked as the final one both by falling intonation on the last beat, and by the most sweeping stabbing gesture so far.

By contrast, speakers who rely on ******s are much more restricted when it comes to using non-verbal signals. This is because gestures look very unnatural when not co-ordinated with talk that is spontaneous or off the cuff.

The importance of being seen to be able to speak confidently without continually referring to a text is such that some politicians have made practice of learning their ******s by heart before giving speeches. More recently, technology has come to their aid by making it possible for them to read their ******s from transparent teleprompter screens.

However, this is not to say that ******-bound speakers are prevented from using any non-verbal signals at all.

Comment

Heritage and Greatbatch found that the most effective technique for producing applause was the contrast structure, which was responsible for nearly 25% of all applause. The three-part list was the third most effective and was responsible for 6.5% of applause. The second most effective device was what they called a combination in which devices such as lists and contrasts were interwoven.

Atkinson has commented that audiences seem predisposed to clap at the end of three part lists. However, he also suggests that speaking while the audience is clapping may have some strategic presentational benefits, in that the speaker is able to convey the impression of a politician concerned more with the issues at hand, than with achieving public acclaim.

Heritage and Greatbatchs basic finding was that political messages which are packaged in one or more of these limited range of rhetorical formats are more likely to be applauded than messages which are not so packaged.

Activity 4.2

Comment

Heritage and Greatbatch tried to assess the relative importance of political sentiments and the way in which they are packaged and presented. To do this, they looked at political debates where it was obvious that the majority of the audience supported a specific position.

They found that sentiments that echoed the beliefs of the majority tended to be applauded regardless of the kind of rhetorical format. But the intensity and extent of applause for popular sentiments were enhanced greatly if they were packaged rhetorically. And there was a high incidence of rhetorical formats in those anti-majority messages, which were applauded. So it seems that the use of these kinds of devices increases the likelihood if support for alternative or anti-consensus ideas; and approval for popular ideas is enhanced when they are expressed in three-part lists, contrasts and so on.

Why are these devices so effective?

When we are part of a group, we feel pressure to act as a whole. Consequently, individuals who make up the audiences for political speeches face a tricky dilemma: how do they know when to applaud? How can they ensure that they wont start clapping when no one else does? In short, how can they organise a collective response?

It is this problem that is solved so effectively by lists and contrasts. Used a mass gatherings, they are audience management devices. They provide the audience with a cue. So lists and contrasts are successful at eliciting applause because they project their own completion: as they are being built, they signal when they are going to end.

That is how lists project the ends of specific points in a speech, but how do contrast devices do it? The most effective contrast devices tend to have both parts built and presented in the same ways, for example, some words or phrases may even be used in both parts. Quite often, the second part of a contrast is almost a mirror image of the first part.

This is useful for audiences. Their awareness that certain words and phrases are being repeated will alert them to the fact that a contrast is being set up: they can recognise that what is being said now echoes the structure of what was just said before. But more importantly, because the second parts of contrasts tend to mirror the first parts, and because they have already heard the first part, members of the audience can predict exactly when the second part of the contrast will end.

If the second part doesnt mirror the first then the audience may not be able to anticipate when the point being made is complete.

Rhetoric in Indian English

Activity 4.3

Reading B: The Light Has Gone Out: Indian traditions in English rhetoric by Sen et al.

Since India is a multilingual country, most of the broadcasts to the nation are in Hindi and English. While studying this speech, we have discovered that spontaneous impromptu speeches are very different from prepared ones. In impromptu speeches we find features of oral speech.

The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on 30th January 1948 was a national catastrophe. The brutal murder of the Father of the Nation, barely a few months after independence, sent shock waves throughout the country and plunged millions of Indians into gloom and mourning. In this hour of crisis, Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India and a trusted lieutenant of Gandhi, addressed the nation on the radio.

The influence of Indian rhetorical traditions

A salient feature of this speech (see pp.153-155) is that the expression of grief is accomplished without the use of the word grief or any of its synonyms, because the feeling is too deep to be directly expressed.

This manner of dealing with grief indirectly is in accord with one of the principles of Indian aesthetics, dhvani, the use of poetic or dramatic words to suggest or evoke a feeling that is too deep, intense and universal to be spoken.

The speech also embodies several principles of effective communication that can be traced back to the Artha Sastra, a series of books dealing with politics thought to have been written in the 4th century BC. In this, Kautiliya refers to two further principles, relevance and empathy with the audience. Despite the fact that this is a spontaneous speech, it is a good example of the arrangement of subject matter and connection as described by Kautiliya. These can be seen in the sequence of topics in the speech:

Assassination-funeral-homage

The speech also illustrates other principles suggested by Kautiliya. One of these is completeness. Although it is an impromptu speech, Nehru has chose his words very carefully. We cant strike out any part, claiming it is irrelevant, or deficient. It seems complete in all respects.

Sweetness can also be found in his choice of words, word order, sentence structure, elegant variation and purposeful repetition. The speech also shows great dignity. Nehru has not uttered a single word that could be termed socially offensive. He maintains the dignity of his state and office, as Prime Minister and talks about the funeral arrangements in a very calm manner.

The speech is relevant to the needs of the moment because in the hour of grief through his love for his country, Nehru is making an appeal to his people to remain calm. The style is lucid, expressed in simple language so that this request reaches the masses. And finally, anticipating and sharing their love for Bapu, he can empathise with the audience. His use of the term Bapu itself is an illustration of this.

Comment

Sen et al point to the essentially oral character of Nehrus speech, with its effective use of cohesive devices such as the use of and and purposeful repetition. They also suggest that Nehru, like other Indian political speakers, drew on established Indian rhetorical practices such as the factors of effective communication established by Kautiliya. Although Sen et al do not draw attention to them, you may have noticed that Nehrus speech contains a three part list (We must face this poison lines 34-6) and a contrast (But that does not mean we should be weak lines 47-9).

The ubiquity of three-part lists and contrast pairs

Three-part lists and contrast pairs occur in public speeches other than political ones, where speakers are trying to be persuasive or build a strong case for their claims. Pinch and Clark (1986) found that one of the most common rhetorical devices used by market traders was to contrast the value of the goods being sold with the actual selling price at which they were being offered.

Further, three-part lists are not confined to spoken forms of rhetoric (see p.133). Similarly, they are not only found in speeches addressed to mass audiences; they are a common phenomenon in ordinary conversation.

See extracts on p.134. These extracts are important because they tell us something important about three-part lists. Note that in each case the third part is not actually another item. Instead, it is a general term. By using general phrases such as like that, these speakers seem to be displaying their tacit understanding that lists should have three parts. But the rhetorical power of such lists is not simply that of effectively eliciting applause, because we have seen that they are used in some situations where applause would be inappropriate.

There is a sense of completeness or roundness about these devices, which gives them an air of persuasiveness. The persuasive character of three-part lists in particular has not been lost on the advertising industry.

Perhaps there is a deeply embedded cultural significance about organising activity into three parts: the Christian faith has the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost), jokes routinely have three characters of three distinct components, and many fairy tales have three central episodes.

4.4 Religious Rhetoric

During the 1950s and 1960s many thousands of people migrated to Britain from the Caribbean and it has been estimated that approximately 70% of these were regular church-goers. Consequently, forms of Pentecostalism, which were popular in Jamaica, began to take root in the UK.

Sutcliffe and Tomlin suggest that some of the ways in which this ******* is communicated reflect traditional African religious ceremonies. They focused on the three features of Pentecostal services: preaching, testimony and prayer.

Pentecostal preachers performances depend on verbal eloquence and spontaneous creativity in the use of the English language and preachers rely on divine guidance and performative skills.

Sutcliffe and Tomlin note, for example, that a feature of this preaching style is the use of proverbs which are used to illuminate and emphasise specific points in the sermon. The use of proverbial expressions in church services invokes features of more traditional African forms of speaking.

Proverbs, parables and ****phors for lifes events may well be common in many African societies, but it is questionable as to whether this is the only, or main reason why they are commonly found in Pentecostal church rhetoric. The use of parables and journey ****phors is a common feature of Christian pulpit rhetoric in general and can be traced back to their frequent appearance in the text of the New Testament.

Activity 4.4

Another common feature of the Pentecostal church services is usually referred to as the call and response; the way the congregation will echo the words of the preacher of even add words of their own. The members of the audience are not passive recipients of the preachers sermon but are actively engaged in its performance. This does seem to be a distinctive feature of public performance rhetoric in many parts of the Afro-American world.

Keith and Whittenberger-Keiths study of the speeches of Martin Luther King illustrate this. They found that there were two basic categories of responses. First and most common, there are affirmations, such as Yeah and Amen. A second and less common form of response they call commentaries, such as I like it. Both types of response provide positive evaluations of the speech. However, whereas affirmations tend to mark the audiences approval of a line of argument, commentaries tend to occur in response to specific devices.

This re****** suggests that there are three kinds of device in MLKs speeches which operate as inexplicit calls for an audience response. First, there are devices which are embedded in segments of the text of Kings speech such as three-part lists and contrasts. The second set of devices includes those which structure larger passages of the text. For instance, King often repeats specific phrases to produce call and responses. The phrase I have a dream is an example.

The repetition of these kinds of phrases establishes a form of instant tradition in the course of the speech which the audience members quickly come to recognise as a cue for a response. Keith and Whittenberger-Keith use the word musical to describe the final set of devices to initiate audience response. This refers to specific rhythmic or tonal patterns in the way King delivers his speech.

Of course, political and evangelical speakers do not always have a physically present audience to provide feedback on their performances, to applaud at the end of lists, or to join in call and response sequences. They may be performing on one of the mass media.

Activity 4.5

Reading C: Televangelical language: a media speech genre by John Thompson.

TV evangelists may or may not be formal ministers of a Christian church, but all present programmes whose apparent aim is to convert viewers to, or sustain viewers belief in their version of Christianity. Other aims are apparent; they often solicit case donations to their church or movements from viewers and they may also try to sell their published works.

The basic point is that on television, but also on radio, in the cinema and in the pages of newspapers and magazines, a large repertoire of distinguishing modes of delivery exist, so that, almost independently of what is actually being said, the hearer/reader is able to tell what kind of discourse what genre of spoken language he or she is dealing with.

A distinctive register, which signals this is religious, could be useful for the TV viewer. Moreover, presenting viewers with a genre they can recognise may not necessarily undermine the evangelical programmes communicative, persuasive functions. Viewers may be orientated, comforted and reassured by this recognition.

See extract on pp.157-158. Lengthy continuous speech is itself not normal television and other aspects of Stanleys presentation make it immediately recognisable as religious. The voice s urgent, with a gestural vocabulary to match (e.g. quick, extravagant movements of the hands). It can also incorporate a quaver of emotion.

Having focused on some distinctive features of evangelical talk, we might also note that, especially in continuous monologues of the kind above, evangelists often use techniques such as three-part lists and contrasts of the kind noted in the performances of other persuasive public speakers such as politicians. Thus in the above example, we can see Stanley remind us that we have a) emotional needs b) material needs and c) physical needs.

See extract on p.159. Copeland also uses the rhetorical technique of the three-part list; the interruption of the repenting sinner prevents this list being marred by the addition of a fourth part. He also offers stark contrasts as between the sinners view of the future and Gods reassurance. Note too the use of the rhetorical technique of repetition in the use of the phrase the whole world.

The divine is apart, up there, distant: this is the Christian tradition. If Copeland and Stanley and the televangelists generally, appear to some viewers as tasteless, it is no doubt because their register is an intimate one. They speak of, and to God, in a distinctive style certainly, but the 'awayness' of the divine is subordinated to the nearness of the viewers/listener which the televangelist is devoted to establishing. After all, there is a real, physical distance between broadcaster and viewer to be overcome, whatever status we, as unbelievers or as believers, accord the ****physical distance between the human and the divine. The televangelists may be speaking of God, but the are speaking to men and women watching a smallish image of them at home.

Conclusion

Despite some obvious diversity in personal style and programme format, the rhetoric of various televangelists has some common though not universal, features. Televangelists use a register which is typified by emotional, intimate appeals to the viewer by the speaker through direct, intimate address, and often through fairly lengthy monologues, but which also incorporates formal references to, and quotes from, the Bible. They can often be seen to use some rhetorical techniques also favoured by other kinds of public speakers. But one particular distinguishing feature is that they often make rapid transitions to and from formal biblical declamations, or from hymns, into more casual everyday styles of speech.

In stylising themselves so unmistakably, the televangelists accept a place in the overall system of television which allows viewers to categorise them and thus feel at home with television as usual.

What begins to emerge is a distinctive tension between familiarity with the divine as an ongoing, everyday part of the life of the believer, and the more traditional sense of distance from the divine, which is what distinguishes faith from secularity in the first place.

Comment

Thompson argues that the distinctive genres of the television talk are recognised as such by TV audiences. Moreover, he suggests that they may be attracted and reassured by the familiarity of genres.

4.5 reporting extraordinary experiences

The kinds of discourse we have looked at tend to occur when there is some doubt that the recipients of the discourse actually need to be persuaded. For example, the audience of a politicians speech will almost certainly support the party represented by the politician. And the congregation in a church service does not need to be persuaded of the importance of worship. On such occasions, the aim may be to encourage or reinforce loyalty, rather than to change peoples beliefs. However, there are occasions when the people we are speaking to may be less than sympathetic to our claims.

On these occasions, the ability to produce a convincing, plausible account is a more pressing issue. And in these cases there are a variety of rhetorical techniques that people use to establish the credibility of the claims they are making.

Jefferson made a study of reports of events such as shootings, hijackings, accidents and so on made by witnesses who were quite ordinary people. Witnesses to these extraordinary events often employ a format she identifies as At first I thought.but then I realised.

Jefferson notes that speakers typically begin by describing their initial assessment of what was going on an assessment which, crucially, turns out to be wrong. However, she also points to the fact that the incorrect first thoughts are often themselves quite unusual. She argues that however extraordinary these formulations are, they are not so extraordinary when compared to what was actually happening. She argues that what speakers are doing with the first part of the At first I though device is to present, as their normal first assumption, an innocuous reading of the state of affairs on which they are reporting. Through their first thought formulations they display that they did not immediately assume that anything untoward was happening.

Describing paranormal experiences

There is an even greater need to appear normal when reporting paranormal experiences because they present an implicit challenge to scientific declarations about the world and, undermine common-sense knowledge of what sorts of things are possible. People who claim such experiences place themselves in an inauspicious position.

Janet Maybin points out that using other peoples voices in our accounts allows us to convey particular evaluative perspectives. In that sense, reported speech can be an interactional resource: it is in fact also a rhetorical too. In accounts of paranormal experiences, speakers often use reported speech.

To produce a credible account of a paranormal experience, it is important to be seen as a credible witness. It is necessary therefore to demonstrate that ones reasoning and assumptions about the world are quite normal.

See extract on pp. 140-141. The speakers use of the question however did you get in displays her normal first assumptions about the nature of the intruder, that is was a human being who would have had to overcome locks and bolts which secure doors and windows. In this, reported speech allows the speaker to demonstrate her identity as an ordinary person. Finally, the reported utterance also provides information about the appearance of the figure. So, for the speaker to assume it was a human being, it must have been particularly vivid, lifelike and three-dimensional. This one short segment of reported speech allows the speakers to accomplish a range if subtle inferential tasks.

4.6 Conclusion

So, political speakers to emphasise the main point of their messages and to elicit and manage audience responses commonly and effectively use the rhetorical devices of the three-part list and contrast pairs. I went on to show that these devices are not limited to political rhetoric, or even to spoken language, but are found in other kinds of verbal performance and persuasive text. The rhetorical use of English reflects a variety of cultural traditions.

Even in more informal, intimate conversations speakers use rhetorical techniques to be persuasive: even apparently simple de******ions of events can be designed to have a persuasive rhetorical force.
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Block 4:English as Art
Using English: From Conversation to Canon.

Chapter One: What makes English into Art?

5.1 Introduction

Comment

What counts as art is influenced by conceptions of literature, which often means printed fiction but it is clear that language often combines with other media to produce artistic effects. Even technical ********s and everyday talk can be contextualised within artistic performances.

The factors determining whether a text is art may not be as distinct as one might expect. Art is a term, which has many different and sometimes contentious interpretations.

5.2 Language Art in Written English Texts

Focusing on language

In this section we draw on a form of linguistic analysis known as stylistics to try and pinpoint a number of language features commonly found in artistic uses of English. One key idea used by stylisticians is the notion that literary language is different from everyday language because it draws attention to some property of the language itself, and highlights or foregrounds it. This foregrounding surprises the reader into a fresh perception and appreciation of the subject mater. Foregrounding can be achieved by focusing on sounds, grammar or meanings.

Rhyme, Rhythm and Repetition

One fairly obvious example of foregrounding is the way in which literary language, especially poetry, uses regular controlled patterns of rhythm, rhyme and repetition.

Activity 5.2 Rhyme, Rhythm and Repetition

See Tyger Tyger poem on p.164.

Comment

1) In this poem every line has four stressed syllables alternating with three or four unstressed syllables a rhythm associated in English with songs or ballads as in the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill went up the hill.
2) This, together with the repetitive string of questions, gives the lines an unusually obvious beat, like the beating of a drum or in this case, the beating of an anvil, or the powerful tread of a dangerous animal.
3) This emphasis on rhythm enhances the sensory appeal of the poem by imitating the hammer on the anvil or the sound of the animals foot on the ground.
4) The beat is also emphasised by the sounds of the words themselves with their frequent plosive /d/, /t/ or /p/, all suggestive of sounds made by hammering.
5) In each stanza the rhyme pattern is aabb. The symmetry of this scheme reflects the fearful symmetry in the design of the tiger.
6) Rhymed or repeated words increase their emphasis and develop in the reader a sense of expectation or inevitability.
7) The last stanza and the first are identical except for one word and this break in the pattern provides the sense of closure and of a powerful design being fulfilled.
8) Rhyme, rhythm and repetition also contribute to the imagery of the poem: the fire, the blacksmith and the darkness.
9) The formalists saw these different, specialised uses of language working together to create a self-contained and complete work of art. The meaning was believed to be contained within the text, so that the social or historical context in which it was written, or facts about the authors like, or the readers experience, were all irrelevant.
10) This belief that a work of language art is complete in itself with a definitive meaning waiting to be discovered, also underpins what has been the dominant 20th century British-US approach to literary criticism, known as practical criticism.

Rhyme and alliteration

Rhyme is a kind of phonetic echo.

1) In English verse the most common rhyme is the end rhyme: units at the end of metrical lines have identical sketches of sounds from the vowel to the end of the word (usually stressed), with the initial sound varied as in sight/night
2) Rhyme usually depends on phonemes rather than spelling as ewe rhymes with too.
3) However, sometimes eye rhymes are used which are based on sight rather than sound as in bough/cough.
4) Rhymes within a metrical line are called internal rhymes.
5) Since the 19th century, poets have also used half rhymes in which the final consonants are repeated as in bend/sand.
6) Alliteration is widely used in poetic language, as is assonance, which is based on the repetition of vowel sounds in adjacent words as in far/star.

Like rhythm, alliteration and assonance give poetry its musical effect and contribute to the overall mood and meaning.

Breaking the rules of English

Foregrounding also occurs when particular language rules are played with or broken. Every language has rules for combining sounds and words and linguists have pointed out syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations between words.

1) First a language has rules for the way words are syntactically combines in phrases or sentences. English is a determiner adjective noun language.
2) Secondly words have paradigmatic relations with other words which could grammatically replace them. For instance in the line Did he smile his work to see? he has a syntactic relationship to smile while work has a paradigmatic relationship with creation, product or other words of the same word-class which could replace it.
3) These syntagmatic and paradigmatic rules are often exploited or broken in literary language. In fact, rules governing the sound system (phonology), the writing system (graphology), word structure (morphology), grammar and paragraphing can all be broken.

See extract from The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner on p.166.

Here, the character of Benjy constantly uses a transitive verb (one that expects to be followed by an object) with no object, for example he hit. The power of this text lies in the way it reveals a limited and unrefined mind through language which recreates the freshness and vividness of a human perception unrestricted by learned cultural and social structures.

In another example of authors breaking the rules of English ee cummings refuses to use upper-case letters, even in his name. He also changes word classes, adds morphological endings to words that do not normally have them and plays with negation.

See the extract on p.167.

Activity 5.3 Breaking writing conventions

Comment

See extracts on bottom of p.167.
In Bleak House by Charles Dickens, Dickens highlights the importance of particular qualities of the fig (and the legal system), by breaking syntactic rules to catch and focus the readers attention right at the beginning of the novel.

Similarly, Salman Rushdie in Midnight Children breaks the rules by starting a paragraph with And, which contravenes traditional written conventions but is in keeping with the highly colloquial and rather chaotic opening of the novel. This chaos is echoed when Rushdie breaks the graphological convention of putting commas between the listed items in the last sentence. The reader is surprised into recognising the lack of separateness of these items, they are as Rushdie says, densely intertwined and intermingled.

****phor and collocation

Another aspect of literary language is the way in which it plays with and subverts relationships of meaning through ****phors, similes and puns.

The burning of the tigers eyes in the Blake poem on p.164 and the fog and the British legal system in Dickens novel are ****phors used to highlight particular qualities through direct comparison, sometimes in a surprising way. ****phors exploit the networks of meaning invoked by particular words and are common in poetry.

Simile and ****phor

1) Simile refers to a device that makes a comparison explicit as in x was like y.
2) The effect of ****phor is similar to that of the simile, but the comparison is not made explicit as in the fog in Bleak House.

See extract from Litany by Ann Duffy on p.168.

In this poem, Duffy is relying on the readers knowledge of the collocations of the word crackle to make sense of her unusual choice of verb. When we hear or read a word a whole range of possible associations may be invoked, drawn from our experience of its use in other contexts. The artist juxtaposes particular words or phrases to highlight unusual and striking associations of meaning.

The extraction from a large collection of texts of all the instances where a particular word appears is called a concordance. Concordancing can throw up some surprising results; for instance some apparently neutral words can be shown to have consistently negative, or consistently positive connotations. Sinclair (1987) describes how the phrase set in almost always refers to a negative set of affairs.

Analysts claim that concordances can explain some of the more subtle nuances that particular words or phrases may have for us.

Activity 5.4

Comment

Louw points out that in more than two-thirds of the concordance he carried out, the phrase days are is followed by words like past, over and gone. This kind of analysis challenges both the idea that a literary work should be treated as a self contained piece of art and the belief that literary analysis should focus on how literary language is different from that in other texts. Louw shows that our unconscious understanding of the associations of particular words and phrases in a poem is built up through our previous experience of them.

In addition, writers sometimes play on different meanings of the same word, and this is called punning. For example, the two meanings of Caddie in Faulkners novel tells us that although Benjy is simple he is capable of forming strong human attachments. The word Lamb in Blakes poem refers to a gentle animal but is also a common ****phor for Christ.

Punning highlights particular relationships between two different sets of meaning for dramatic effect.

Iconicity

Writers can also manipulate meaning by highlighting the manner in which a word relates to the object or process it is representing. For most words, this relationship is purely symbolic, but there are two other kinds of relationship, which a sign can have with the object or event it is representing.

1) Firstly, the relationship may be indexical where there is some direct cause and effect. For example, smoke is a sign of fire and, in the English language an accent or dialect is representative of where the speaker comes from geographically.
2) Secondly, the relationship may be iconic and this is particularly important in literary language, where the sounds and shapes of words imitate particular objects or processes.
a) One of the most obvious examples of iconicity in literary language is onomatopoeia where the sound of a word echoes the action it is describing, as in hiss, plop.
b) Iconicity can also be achieved through the manipulation of grammatical rules.

See extract on p.172.

Here, Wordsworth places the subject and the verb very late. As these are the two obligatory clause elements in English, this contravenes a general rule of English sentences, in which commonly the main verb appears early in the sentence with any lengthy and complicated phrases occurring after the verb. When it fails to occur, there is a feeling of frustration and expectation or (as in this case) a breathless, headlong rush towards the verb.

Iconicity

Iconic describes a word; phrase of other symbol, which has some non-arbitrary relationship with the thing it, represents. So, while the words male toilets are arbitrary (symbolic), the sign in the margin on p.173 is iconic because it looks like a man.

5.3 Narrative and Dialogue

Narrative is basically a story of events, which the narrator considers important. Narratives are found in newspapers and histories (non-fiction) and in epic poems, ballads, comic strips, novels and short stories (fiction). They can be oral or written, enacted on stage, or envisioned in film and mime.

Plot and detail

The formalists distinguished between

1) The series of events on which a narrative is based (the fabula). And the way in which those events are turned into a story (the sjuzhet).

2) The relationships between these two levels can be more or less complex. The fabula, the basic chronology of events is like a skeleton, given a body and life by the way the sjuzhet is used to explore the relationships between the characters and the intricacies of plot.

Another aspect of foregrounding in prose writing is the very explicit or concrete nature of de******ive language use, in contrast to the generally inexplicit nature of English in everyday speech.

Activity 5.5

Comment

As Robert Abel points out regarding the extract from Ambrose Bierces short story Owl Creek Bridge: One purpose of explicitness is authenticating detail to draw us into the story to help dissolve the barriers between the world he is creating and our own awareness that it is only a story. The precision of this detail makes the scene quite vivid. The streams turbulence reflects the psychology of the situation. His state of mind is also in turmoil. The second purpose of these details is to make it possible to believe what happens in the rest of the story. Such a little stream, we dont need to be told, but can already sense, could, with a little bit of luck, carry a condemned man to safety. The carefully selected details, therefore, give us not only a sense of time and place, but prepare us nicely to accept and believe what happens next in the story. So, there is nothing really innocent or haphazard about these details they establish secretly what is possible in this fictional world and authenticate the reading experience, which follows.

Constructing dialogues

Authors make explicit decisions about the kinds of details that they are going to foreground in their de******ions. They also have to make decisions about the ways in which they represent natural speech, in their characters dialogue. They usually conform to a number of conventions that distinguish dialogue from real speech. These include using the minimum number of overlaps and interruptions, very few hesitations and almost no self-corrections. Speakers in novels or plays often use complete sentences.

However, although written dialogue is often tidied up writers can also exploit our knowledge of the apparent inconsistencies and non-sequiturs in ordinary conversation in a fairly direct way (see extract on p.175 for an example).

Activity 5.6

Comment

In prose writing, stretches of dialogue are usually framed. There are particular narrative or aesthetic reasons for the points at which the author chooses to begin and end the dialogue, relating for instance to character, plot or communicating information to the reader.

In the examples so far, there has been a fairly clear boundary between the authors voice and those of the characters. Sometimes, however, we are particularly aware of the authors voice behind the character, putting words into their mouth for particular ironic effect. For example, when Uriah Heep in David Copperfield keeps telling David how humbles he is, the reader suspects, because of what Dickens has hinted about Uriah, that this is in fact quite the opposite from the truth. Conversely, we can also sometimes hear the voice of a character within the authorial voice. This happens, for instance, in stream of consciousness novels, where the narration is ostensibly in the third person, but reflects the thought processes of particular characters.

Virginia Woolfs novels are renowned for consisting of different perspectives, usually reflecting the thoughts of the major characters in turn. The author does not intervene, but tells the story through the emotions and reactions of the characters themselves (see extract on p.177). The result is that there are differences of vocabulary and syntax that approximate the style of whichever character is currently the narrator.

The use of English vernaculars

The use of strongly vernacular language would seem to go against the idea that literary language represents the best or most prestigious forms of English. However, there are some famous examples of dialect in characters speech, for example in Hard Times by Charles Dickens and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The Singaporean writer Catherine Lim for example, uses vernacular Singaporean English in her stories to convey a realism that also addresses the issue of linguistic oppression.

Poets have also made the decision to write in their own variety of English as a way of making a point about the validity of different varieties within literature (see extracts on p.178).

Paula Burnett argues that it is only in the 20th centurythat poets in the literary, Standard English tradition have begun to explore ways of working the rich ore of dialect on literary contexts.

Activity 5.7

Reading A: In the vernacular by Rib Davis.

In Lady Chatterleys Lover (see extract on p.185), it was not the Derby speech of Mellors, which offended his upper-class lovers sister: it was the fact that he was clearly using it out of choice. Here was a working-class man, but one with education choosing to use that vernacular when he was capable of using Standard English. It was an insult to the womans language, to her class and this to her, and at the same time was an infuriating statement of his control of the situation.

The use of vernacular language then, is clearly tied to issues of class, identity and control.

Representing regional speech

There are a wide variety of English accents and dialects as well as slang, which may or may not be regionally defined. Yet despite what is spoken by most people in different places, the written language of most writing is Standard English. However, some authors have attempted to represent the speech of their characters in ways which reflect particular aspects of accent, dialect and idiom.

The choices that the writer makes and the apparent reasoning behind those choices, as well as the results, reflect not only upon those individual writers and their work but also on the societies from which they have emerged.

See extracts on p.186.

1) In Trainspotting there is no distinction between the language of narration and the language of dialogue. The invented spelling conveys the sound of spoken language and in the process the very particular identity of this group of people, which include the narrator.
2) In The Color Purple, the characters of Celies own pronunciation cannot be deuced: there is no modified spelling as she is writing letters rather than conveying the sound of speech. But her grammar is nonstandard, reflecting her black working-class background in the southern states of America.
3) In Under the Greenwood Tree there is a third person narrator representing standard English but a number of the characters speak in a dialect which the author attempts to write as it sounds.

Speech and characterisation

There are therefore a number of different ways to represent nonstandard accents and dialect in fictional writing. As well as giving regional authenticity to a character, uses of vernacular can convey particular messages about the kind of person that character is.

In Waving for example, almost the whole story is presented in Standard English, but the character of Duncan has a very gently noted vernacular speech, which seems to add to his naivety. Indeed, a certain naivety or simplicity seems to be one of the stock character aspects which writers emphasise through the use of written vernacular. Others include roughness, earthiness, a certain naturalness or lack of education, an unintended capacity of amuse and exoticism.

Some authors give a character what is called an eye-dialect where a word is written as nonstandard, when its pronunciation is actually the same as the spoken standard, for example, wot and what. Wot is then a symbol, rather than an accurate representation of nonstandardness, and is often used by authors for less intelligent, less socially prestigious characters. Conversely, Dickens uses flawless Standard English for Oliver in Oliver Twist. His standard speech conveys an impression of his innate respectability and incorruptible goodness.

Invented vernaculars

Other writers have invented a new vernacular, as part of a futuristic world. In Russell Hobans Riddley Walker, English has undergone a frightening transformation. It has degenerated and become corrupted in its vocabulary, grammar, spelling and meaning. Sometimes we can guess the meanings of Hobans words without difficulty but the significance of others we can only gather after a number of uses. This is not an easy world to enter, but, like other linguistic worlds, once we are in it and have gained a little confidence then the overcoming of further difficulties only makes us feel more a part of the whole experience. This is a story about a disintegrating society and the language both tells us about this disintegration and represents it in the forms of the words and phrases.
From representation to reconstruction

The boundary between an authors representation of authentic dialects, and their use of invented vernaculars may not be as clear as one may think. Huckleberry Finn is one of the most influential models of nonstandard usage in English literature (see extract on p.189). Although it has always been assumed that Huck spoke poor white nonstandard American, Fishkin (1993) presents a convincing case that the model for his language was in fact a black boy whom Twain met in the early 1870s.

What the example illustrates then, is the power of the vernacular in fiction to add a special kind of authenticity to the characters, the setting and the story which may not directly map on to the real world being depicted. In these examples, the authors representation of speech reflects not only the features of a particular variety of spoken English, but also specific authorial purposes to do with plot and character development as well as imaginative authenticity. Authors use vernacular to represent a particular kind of character, or a particular kind of setting and this reflects both their own attitudes and values towards different varieties of spoken English and also those values of the society from which they have sprung.

Comment

Davis shows that the choice to use a nonstandard variety of English, and the way in which the author represents it on paper, is never innocent. Writers purposes vary enormously; for instance they may use an eye-dialect to mark a character as the kind of person who would use nonstandard English (with all the social connotations that conveys). Hoban invented a vernacular variety to symbolise iconically the degeneration of society. It could be that use of the vernacular is a new kind of foregrounding, in presenting language which looks strange in the context of established literary conventions.

The stylistic landscape

It is now possible to compare authors works with databases of texts ranging from the literary to the functional, as a genuine basis of comparison.

Computer studies have shown that many of these topographical features of the textual landscape can only be viewed as the re******er rises above the details of a text in order to gain a birds-eye view. For instance, it has often been assumed that the small words, which knit phrases and sentences together, are not particularly significant in achieving artistic effects. They are often regarded as a kind of inert medium, against which artistic uses of English are highlighted. But the assumption that these are of no consequence to writers style has been challenged by John Burrows (1987) who carried out a computer analysis of the frequency and pattern of occurrence of these small words in Jane Austens novels.

He found there to be a distinct contrast between two of the main characters in Northanger Abbey, in terms of the number of times per thousand words they use the, of, I and not. These kinds of differences contribute to each characters idiolect, or individual speech style. Burrows argues that the effects of these differences must colour every speech the characters make, and leave some impression in the mind of the reader.

5.4 Authors, Audience and Context

Traditional approaches to literary criticism have tended to treat a novel, play or poem as a self-contained work of art with fixed meanings. More recently however, there has been a growing interest in how the context and process involved in creating language art, and the contexts, in which it is read, listened to, or viewed, affect meaning and interpretation.

Context and meaning

The world is not reflected in talk, but refracted as speakers or writers shape an account according to their own perspective, values and motives. It could be argued that literary language, in its simulation of language or other discourses adds additional refractive layers. In this sense, all texts, including literary ones are ideological; they present the reader with a particular view of the subject matter, which is usually the authors view.
The basis for the perception that all texts are ideological is that language is now usually seen as being shaped by its context, both linguistic and sociopolitical. No text is produced which is not in some way affected by texts both written and spoken, literary and nonliterary, that have gone before it. This is based on Bakhtins idea that every utterance has some kind of dialogic relationship with other utterances which have preceded it (see chapter 1). Intertextuality in literature refers to the way in which a text may invoke other texts through the use of particular words, phrases or ideas so the reader or listeners knowledge of that other text comes into play in their interpretation of what the current author is saying.

Activity 5.8

Comment

The context of any text is the context of its production. We would probably agree that their background (education, family, wealth) and their social context (country, period, history, tradition) influence writers. However, many literary and linguistic theorists have also pointed out the importance of the context in which a text is received. Individual students will vary in their reactions to any text, depending on their own particular histories and political beliefs. The meaning of any text then, is a kind of negotiation between producers and receivers, both of whom are to some extent constructed by their own cultural positioning.

The reading of texts is also historically conditioned, as particular periods attach value to different styles of writing. For example, the work of 17th century English poet John Donne went out of fashion in the 18th century because the expectation of correct or polite usage in literature was not met in his more rugged expression.

Particular cultures also place value on different kinds of English language art. In Ireland, for example, the tradition of oral storytelling survives despite the high literacy of the population.

The African tradition of oral songs and rhymes was exported to the Caribbean and America with the slaves, and on the plantations the ability to improvise satirical lyrics ridiculing the slave-owners was highly prized. This tradition has influenced more recent phenomena such as dub poetry; a highly rhythmical improvised verse form where performers are admired for their ability to invent witty and often politically astute verses to the accompaniment of instrumental music.

Activity 5.9

Reading B: Feminist theatre: performance language as art form and communicative gesture by Lizbeth Goodman.

What is feminist theatre?

Because theatre is performed, it is a public medium. Because it is performed live its impact on individual people is immediate. Thus, feminist theatre can be seen as a dialogue between performers and audiences, about issues of gender and power.

See extracts on pp. 191-196.

Performances like the first two, which begin with womens autobiography, incorporating personal experience and direct communication with the audience, have been common in British and American theatres since the rise of the womens liberation movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During this time, explicitly feminist performers and directors employed consciousness-raising techniques in the theatre.

Evaluating feminist theatre as a form of communication

Some common features of feminist theatre include:

1) Feminist theatre, as a political form, tends to address the audience directly.
2) It tends to assume a female gaze in its audience, and an interest in issues of relevance to women.
3) It often makes a point of focusing the audiences attention on the function of language within the piece.
4) It questions the nature of language and of the status of any text.
5) With its collaborative techniques and emphasis on process rather than text as a product, it challenges the notion of the great individual author, so central to the English literary canon.

Comment

All three pieces question the boundary between actors and audience, both in addressing the audience directly, and in urging them, through the plays messages, to some sort of political action. Most radically, these pieces raise questions about the boundary between text and context (what counts as a text?). These play's foreground and interrogate aspects of language practices and their contexts, in both art and everyday life, by highlighting and breaking conventional boundaries.

5.5 Conclusion

Activity 5.10

The artistic uses of English achieve their effect by creating meanings on a number of different levels simultaneously, for example, through collocation, iconicity, ****phor and irony. A further layer of meaning may be added through invoking intertextual references, or through the combination of language with visual effects, body language and movement. We cant explain art, or a particular style, with reference to any one of these levels on its own. It is the complex combination of manipulating the properties of language and context at different levels that turns English into art. Readers and viewers, who bring a whole range of new contextual information to bear in their appreciation of the text and its meaning, then interpret this.


Chapter Six: Language Play in English

6.1 Introduction

Play with language is a common feature of adult discourse and we come across it regularly in comedy, song, graffiti, newspapers and advertisements.

Even when there is no immediate task to fulfil, and where relationships are clearly and firmly established, talking and writing continue. We use language to fill up the spaces between necessary activity: for recreation, relaxation and pleasure. Casual conversation is an example.

A similar use of language can be found in literature, one of the most highly valued of all discourse types, the paradigm case of language art. As with casual conversation, it is possible partly to explain the function of literature by saying that it conveys information. But these explanations do not seem sufficient. From a practical point of view, literary language is superfluous.

Both literature and conversation can be described as space-filling discourses, ways of using English or other languages that we indulge in when there I nothing more pressing to do. Strangely, however, such discourses are very highly valued.

Literary language is often described as creative. It generates imaginative fictional worlds, expresses original insights and manipulates language to create patterns and new usages.

Art and literature are terms of positive evaluation rather than merely mechanical criteria, which can be applied without the subjective (and therefore disputable) intervention of individual judgements. The term literature is normally used to refer to poetry, novels, short stories, and drama, but not every instance of these genres is necessarily literature.

It follows, therefore, that just as one could not bar poetry in general from being art simply by drawing attention to a few bad poems, then similarly, for other genres, it must be the best rather than the worst examples which are considered.

6.2 On page and stage: comedy, poetry and song.

Activity 6.1

See extract on pp.199-200

Comment

A Martian anthropologist visiting Earth might be forgiven for confusing a poetry reading and a stand-up comedy performance. They have many features in common. An audience assembles to listen to an individual who stands isolated on stage and speaks words, which he or she has composed. Of course there are also striking differences. In the poetry reading the words may be declaimed rhythmically; in the comedy act they may resemble an extended conversational turn. Reactions can be different too.

Another event with marked similarities to a poetry reading is a performance by a singer-songwriter. Perhaps the greatest difference is in reception. The attitude and the composition of audiences for poetry and song are very different.

Poetry is not always serious (Canterbury Tales) or always for the socially privileged. Nor is it necessarily isolated from musical accompaniment.

Activity 6.2

See extract on pp.201-202

Comment

A feature distinguishing poem and song however, is the widespread dissociation of a poem's value from any actual performance. Though it may be performed, a poem may also be treated as a written text (we refer to a poetry reading, not a poetry speaking). Improvisation and adaptation which would be praised in a comedian, might well disturb a poetry audience, for in poetry the exact wording is regarded as important, and is fixed and consequently protected by being in print. A poem may build into its text certain sound effects that depend upon it being read aloud. There are also poems, however, that deploy visual effects (such as layout, unusual punctuation or capitalisation) which can only be appreciated when the poem is read.

More and more, the accolade good poetry describes good written text. A good comedy routine, on the other hand, is inseparable from the skill of the delivery of an individual performer. A comedian will use timing, intonation, laughter and posture to create humour and it is the losses of such features, which can make the written text of a comedy, seem so dead. In this respect the comedy act is closer to verbal art in an oral culture where language without writing to freeze and decontextualise it is inextricably involved with a particular speaker, hearer, situation and delivery.

Activity 6.3

Comment

As a form of language art, song falls somewhere between poetry with its fixed written texts and an oral performance art such as comedy stand-up with its variable routines. A song may come into existence through performance and never be written down. Similarly, representation of the text of a song may also be modified by the way the words are sung, or by the way they are accompanied.

Activity 6.4

Reading A: Songs in Singlish by Marie Tan

See reading on pp.228-229.

Comment

Lee uses feature of Singlish pronunciation and vocabulary to represent aspects of Singaporean culture. Much of the humour of his songs appears to depend on this insider knowledge. As playful uses of English, Lees songs are relatively inaccessible to English speakers outside Singapore. Lee is able to represent his Singlish lyrics through modified spellings a technique used by many other writers with an interest in oral vernacular traditions.

As words can be written and music scored, a song can be abstracted from both singer and situation. There are songs, which are valued independently of singer and singing. These are more like poetry: texts with potential for performance. On the other hand there are songs where signer and performance seem essential to their value and the words alone seem quite lame.

Literary art is distinguished from comparable discourses such as popular songs and comedy by being seen primarily as written text, having virtues independent of its realisation. Plays are written to be performed. As with comedy and song, value may arise from elements added in performance rather than something intrinsic to the text itself.

Nevertheless drama on the school syllabus is a book and a trip to see a performance is an optional extra. As the case of drama illustrates, the textual nature of literature is sometimes a convention rather than an intrinsic feature. Drama is treated as writing, but it does not have to be.

6.3 A singular song

The advent of rock and roll in the mid 1960s initiated the spread of English as a world language and brought it into the lives of young people the world over.

In some very early performances singers such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Chen downplayed both musical accompaniment and visual presentation, thus foregrounding the potential literariness of their lyrics. The result was that the fashion of the time was to reflect upon and discuss the song as a text. Records could be taken home and replayed as often as desired, stacked on shelves and handled in many ways like books.

Significantly, many songwriters of this period published poems, prose and short stories as well as their songs.

On either side of this phase (the 1950s and the 1970s onwards) in western pop music, it was the performance that was foregrounded and words were made secondary. There is a parallel here to the way some poem cannot be read aloud.

With this emphasis on song as sound, text could often seem unimportant, at times even dispensing with conventional language and meaning altogether (see extract on p.206).

From the 1970s onwards, changes and advances in technology brought performance to the fore, although this time with an emphasis on the visual and the growing importance of the pop video. This encouraged the presentation of songs as multifaceted mixtures of dance, film, drama, music and singing. In addition, the prevalence of the visual combined with a relaxation on censorship led to an emphasis on erotic movement and dress.

Despite the considerable differences then, both the early rock bands and the superstar ensembles of the 1980s and 1990s, share an emphasis on song as performance in which words are only a part of a larger whole. In both these cases song is far removed from poetry.

See extract on p. 207.

Meaning in this song I achieved through a combination of words, music and performance. It is not that the words lack complexity but they are not foregrounded: they work in conjunction with, rather than independently of, their non-verbal context, and their meanings are enriched by it. In these respects their qualities are more song-like, and less literary, than their more poetic cousins. In this dependence of words on context, they have something in common with graffiti. This is perhaps surprising for graffiti must be written and songs must be sung.

6.4 Graffiti

Activity 6.5

Comment

1) Their language or subject matter does not reliably identify graffiti as such but rather by their physical situation and realisation.
2) Their low status sometimes derives from the authors we assume to have written them.

Because they can damage and disfigure, graffiti are regarded as antisocial and illegal. Many are objectionable in subject matter, banal and clumsily expressed. Yet there is no discourse type, which offers such an opportunity for the disinterested, individual voice. Here is language anonymous, unsolicited, unrewarded, uninfluenced by reactions repercussions or payment. While modern society denigrates graffiti, one could imagine another age in which it might be accorded extreme reverence, as the most disinterested expression of individual feeling.

Graffiti are even more closely tied to literacy than the written literary genres of the novel and short story. The word graffiti is intimately connected to the act of writing. Yet whereas, in general, writing allows the abstraction of a message from a particular situation, for graffiti the place and circumstances of production are definitive. Graffiti are necessarily written illicitly on a surface in a communal or public place and are thus typically short, rushed, careless and hand-written rather than printed. Taken away from their situation, and reproduced in print although the linguistic form and the meaning remain the same, they lose their edge and in a sense, cease to be graffiti.

Blume (1985) concludes that the degree to which the chosen surface is enclosed or open correlates with subject matter. She observes that the most enclosed spaces yield the highest numbers of graffiti concerning sex, and are addressed by a single individual wither to no one in particular or to another single interlocutor, while the most public places yield graffiti about politics or religion addressed to society in general by the (self-appointed) representative of an interest group within it.

Activity 6.6

Reading B: Social Issues on Walls: Graffiti in university lavatories by O.G Nwoye.

Wall writings were used early in human history to record and preserve the activities of humankind. Apart from advertising and other such purposes, wall writing is no longer a recognised method of preserving records by mainstream society. Nevertheless, groups prohibited from, or denied, avenues of public expression seek other outlets with graffiti on walls of public places as a favoured option.

In third world countries in particular, students can constitute the most articulate opposition to bad governments and oppressive regimes. Denied the means of expressing their views on matters that they feel they should be involved in, they resort to graffiti

Graffiti thrive in lavatories because they afford the authors relative privacy in which to express their views without fear. This study was carried out at the University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.

Analysis

The subject matter of the graffiti can be divided into the following broad topics: politics, socio-economic issues and others.

See extracts on p.231.

The style of these graffiti is that of the banner headline as used in newspapers. The terseness of the contributions gives the graffiti a poetic feature.

Repetition as a strategy toward the pragmatic goal of persuasion (Johnstone, 1983) is employed here to give support to a proposition.

Abbreviations are common. Their frequency in graffiti may be explained by the need to economise space and because they are a response to previous usages. It seems to be the case that if an item has been referred to in an abbreviated form by a previous contributor, subsequent contributors tend to adopt and use that form.

The use of graphics (drawing) for emphasis and effect is another rhetorical device employed here.

Conclusion

The samples of graffiti analysed show that graffiti, far from being mere vandalism, as many people like to regard them, are, in fact, expressive modes adopted by subgroups that have been denied other avenues of self-expression.

Comment

Nwoye observes that in situations where expression of political opinion is banned or may lead to persecution, it is often political graffiti, which are written in the safety of enclosed spaces.

Many graffiti are the expression of a single wish, opinion or thought by a single individual, sometimes quite specific in reference.

In the collections of graffiti by Rees (1980), the average length of each item is between seven and eight words. None are less than two words but few are more than eighteen words long.

It might be argued that it is only simplistic ideas that can be expressed in so few words. Surprisingly, some of the best graffiti achieve their impact not by intensifying or enriching an individual voice, but by deploying two contradictory voices at once. Glory to God in the High St is a case in point. Here, through the inspired deletion of a single letter from the Christmas angels message to the shepherds, the writer invokes simultaneously, and juxtaposes, both this original text and the new one derived from it. This satirises the distortion of the original Christmas angels message by the commercialism of its contemporary celebration, for the High St is a current metonym for the buying and selling of goods.

Some graffiti are also capable of extremely rich, compressed expression. This is the case with Mr Work and Mrs Home as a de******ion of the traditional nuclear family.

The generation of multiple meanings, rich connotations and associative resonances through very few words is implicitly applauded as a virtue in academic criticisms of literature by such critical movements as New Criticism and stylistics. Yet because we are encouraged and trained to perceive multiple meanings in poetry, we can often overlook them in lower discourse types such as graffiti.

Activity 6.7

The commonest evocation of two contradictory voices is created through a particular sub genre of graffiti: additions to public notices and to other graffiti.

On occasions, addition to graffiti may themselves provoke further additions.

Activity 6.8

Another class of graffiti combines iconic and symbolic meaning as in Dyslexia rules KO, or in a twist to this, they create contradictions between what they say and what they do as in Everybody writes on the wall but me. Many of the effects in graffiti are only evident in writing, creating puns by using phrases that are homophones (words that sound alike) but not homographs (words that look alike), as in Write on, Woolf and frayed knot.

Although graffiti are by definition written rather than spoken, they often seem to use writing in a way which perpetuates a rebellious oral tradition challenging the authority of the establishment by humorously and deliberately abusing the rules of writing. Whereas the writing system tends to reduce all dialects to one standard written form, graffiti often orthologically represent nonstandard forms.

6.5 Pin-ups and Puns Down: The popular press

Language play in newspaper headlines has become fashionable in many countries, for example:

SENSE AND CENSORSHIP

Tabloid newspapers have a small page format, and are usually less serious in their style than the larger broadsheet papers. Most attention to the tabloids, whether critical or supportive, has centred upon the information they convey and the opinions they express. On both counts their approach is striking. It is the nature of tabloid journalism to be insular in its approach both by focusing upon national concerns and by depending upon quite narrow cultural knowledge.

Activity 6.9

In The Sun, the majority of articles concern sex scandals, the private lives of the famous or trivial and bizarre events. Political opinions are strongly, briefly and simplistically expressed.

The tabloid approach to news with its alleged distortion of facts, apparent insensitivity towards people in the news, simplification of complex issues and incessant hectoring political campaigning, seems incompatible with either popular or academic notions of art. The tabloid press is, on many issues manifestly conservative and mainstream. It is seen as a voice to the people, rather than of the people: an institution imposed upon them rather than an expression of their own thoughts and values.

So what is it that makes tabloid newspapers so popular? Bizarre crimes are interesting plus there is also the possibility that it is the attitude to events as much as the events themselves that appeals to people. However, it may be the way both news and opinion are represented in language.

It is frequently asserted without much discussion that their language is simple. Yet the issue of what makes language simple is itself anything but simple. We may be referring to the size and type of vocabulary, to the formal structural complexity of sentences, to the kind of background knowledge required, or to accessibility for a particular type of reader.

In the serious British newspaper The Independent, for example, lead stories are at least three times longer, with twice as many sentences per paragraph. Although the size of vocabulary in the tabloids may not be large in comparison, making sense of deliberately cryptic headlines demands considerable cultural knowledge and awareness of colloquial and dialect uses, together with interpretative skill.

As with many poetic texts, the skilful compression of information in these headlines is witnessed by the fact that a paraphrase demands many more words than the original. Indeed one could argue that the formal simplicity and brevity of tabloid prose indicate greater rather than lesser linguistic skill, for such prose demands considerable powers of compression and is disciplined by the need to conform rigorously to house style. In many ways it is easier to write in the style of The Independent than the style of The Sun. The most obvious complexity of tabloid language not reflected by statistical measures is its constant punning.

This persistent language play is something, which the tabloids share with comedy, song, advertisements and literature. The broadsheets may be better news but they are not candidates for consideration as language art; conversely, tabloids may be awful news but it may be their playfulness with language, which attracts so many millions of regular readers.

Inspired by opposition to the political viewpoint and social stance of the tabloids, most academic attention to tabloid language has centred upon the way it can be used to manipulate opinion by weaving together fact and opinion.

Activity 6.10

Comment

While in general there is a tendency for language play to be reserved for less consequential events and avoided in the reporting of more weighty matters, there is also a sense in which the degree of language play creates rather than reflects the levity or seriousness of the item.

See examples on p.218. In these cases punning indicates a refusal to become involved in the serious implications of the event. These issues are particularly well illustrated by The page 3 girl. Each picture is accompanied by a short paragraph in which punning is intense. Punning here is not even remotely an incidental ornamentation of something with an independent purpose. It is an end in itself.

Activity 6.11

6.6 The Slip of the Pun

Puns are a prominent feature of the other discourse types we have considered as in Im a frayed knot. In the contemporary science-dominated western world, punning is kept at arm's length and are regarded as childish trivia, unsuitable for serious subjects or discourses, and in a sense all puns, even good ones, are bad puns. While other forms of word play (rhyme, alliteration, ****phor, irony) receive respectful and serious attention in literary criticism. It is therefore not surprising that when puns are in the company of opinions or attitudes of which we disapprove, it is easy to link meaning and form together.

Although since the 18th century puns have often been treated by critics as slips of taste or even of the pen, there has never been a time when the best writers have avoided them. In modern times they have resurfaced with a vengeance.

The orthodox view in linguistics, reflecting both popular wisdom and the standard outlook of a rationalist scientistic worldview, is that language serves to represent the world. This enables language to perform in a fairly orderly way, its main functions of conveying information the ideational function and the establishing of social relationships the interpersonal function (Halliday, 1973).

In punning we allow language itself to take charge and to guide our thoughts. The potential of puns to derail the socially sanctioned uses and nature of language may account for the atmosphere of unruliness, disrespect and boisterous insolence, which they seem to create. In most contemporary English-speaking societies, puns are more often the expression of insubordination by the less powerful than a feature of the declaration of oracles or Gods. Tabloid newspapers and graffiti writers certainly seem to take advantage of this effect, by using puns to taunt and disparage those they oppose.

We have looked at language in four disparate space-filling discourses and discovered in all of them a disposition to use language in original and playful ways. The code is exploited to expose contradictions, create multiple meanings and generate unconventional messages.

The fact that these discourses are commodities is also important. We have to pay for comedy, song and news. Graffiti of course are different. They turn up uninvited all over the place and they are free. But for this they are despised and removed.

6.7 Advertisements

Advertisement is different again: uninvited, ubiquitous, often intrusive but, unlike graffiti, quite legal. We are hardly ever out of sight of an advertising text.

Expenditure on advertising is astronomic and the care and craft expended on its production are correspondingly distinguished. Walter Redfern suggests:

Advertising is all about association: associating a particular product with a particular firm and with an idea of quality; and so word and thought associations (echoes, jingles, and puns) obviously come into useful play.

Advertisements do not only make use of puns. They also use language to create rhymes, rhythms, sound effects, parallelisms, ****phors, neologisms, intertextual echoes, emotive resonances and entire fictional worlds. Advertisements manipulate all levels of language, from pronunciation and letter shapes through morphology and grammar to discourse structure, combining the levels both in dynamic interaction with each other and with music, photographs, cartoon and film.

Two fairly constant features of advertisements are their brevity and their dependence upon other discourse types or activities. They occupy either a short time or a limited space. As with graffiti and tabloid headlines, limited space and competition for reluctant attention have encouraged skills in linguistic compression. Yet despite this focus on text, advertisements are also performances.

Even in advertisements, which appear to be purely verbal, it is very often the shape and colour and positioning of letters which matter rather than the abstract linguistic structures to which these letters give rise.

As advertisements strive to succeed by differing from each other and only succeed in so far as they are different no successful advertisements can be, by definition, typical.

Advertisements often exploit or make use of existing discourse types. There are many, which are stories, jokes, cartoons, and even soap operas.

Activity 6.12

Comment

Clearly both the manufacturers who finance advertisements and the agencies which create them wish to attract our attention, impress the existence of their product upon us and associate it on our minds with something positive and pleasurable. They are driven therefore by consumer response.

Driven by a large and heavily financed brigade of psychological re******ers, constantly monitoring audience responses, the advertising industry has increasingly filled this space with what it perceives people to enjoy: play with the codes of communication themselves.

In society we tend to denigrate play to the status of an activity for children, or for times when we have nothing better to do. Yet its constant appearance in very different discourse types suggests a more important role. We depend upon language for everything that we know about the world and society.

6.8 Conclusion

Despite their obvious differences of form, function, prestige and social origin, the five discourse types here (comedy, song, graffiti, tabloid journalism and advertisements) have a lot in common. In particular they are all characterised by language play as an end in itself and by their dependence on performance, context and physical realisation. My own conclusion is that maintaining a strong distinction between the forms of art and play is inappropriate and unnecessary.



WHAT IS A CANON?
Canon can either mean a broad literary intellectual heritage, including a wide range of fact and fiction, or can focus more narrowly on the poetry, fiction and drama such as the poems of Spenser and the plays of Shakespeare.
Why is the canon so important?
It is obviously the backbone of English literature, but its significance extends far beyond the field of literature studies to language generally, and to ideas about culture and national identity. Canonical texts have always been important for definitions of what counts as STANDARD ENGLISH. For example, when Samuel Johnson was compiling his first English dictionary in the 18th century, he based it on books which he believed illustrated authoritative uses and meanings in the language.
The canon acts as an authority for both language and culture identity.

THE TRADITIONAL ENGLISH LITERATURE CANON:
The term 'literature' came into currency around the 14th century, when it meant 'learned writing'. It was only in the late 18th century that its meaning began to shift towards the more specialized modern concept of imaginative and creative writing. Although a growing literature in English existed, it was not considered a subject for serious study. The idea of a specifically English literature as a serious subject emerged in the 19th century, in the wake of a growing national consciousness and profound social change.

English literature became established as a school subject and later in the 1920s and 1930s. it achieved recognition in Britain at university level. Victorian ideas about the uplifting effects of literature and its social importance were taken up and reshaped in the 1930s by a group of Cambridge critics, including F.R. Leavis.
Leavis argued that only a small cultural minority were capable of making authentic judgments about literature, and that this group had a particular responsibility both to the English language and to the nation. Leavis and his associates developed a critical method of 'close reading' and PRACTICAL CRITISISM which involved a careful scrutinizing of individual texts to analyse their use of language and uncover their authentic meaning. Practical criticism became an influential form of literary criticism in the 1930s and 1940s.

PRACTICAL CRITISIM : treats literary texts as independent, self-contained objects, with a fixed meaning waiting to be discovered by the skilful reader. What is important are the words on the page and the way in which they contribute to the coherence of the text theme.

WOMEN AND THE CANON:
In many ways women in the past simply did not have the opportunity to produce canonical texts, particularly in the areas of poetry or drama. In Britain poetry has been connected to the Greek and Roman classics and were taught to boys at public school and university, where girls were not admitted until the end of the 19th century. The writing of novels, which did not depend on a classical education was the one area where women did begin to make headway, but even here women often had to use male pseudonyms in order to be published; for example, Mary Evans as George Eliot.
Even today, some feminist writers argue that most literary criticism is shaped and dominated by a specifically male world view.
Pam Morris suggests that this male dominance of the canon has been recently challenged by feminists in two main ways: first through re-readings , and secondly by the increasing circulation and promotion of women's writing, past and contemporary.

POSTCOLONIAL WRITERS:
I am going to focus on the challenge presented to the traditional canon from colonial and postcolonial writers-novelists from India, Nigeria, and the Caribbean.
In order to express the Caribbean experience, to use English in a way that grows out of Caribbean history, Brathwaite, the poet describes a variety of English he calls 'nation language'. This draws on African syntax, replaces the rhythm of the pentameter with the dactyls of the calypso and is performed in what he calls 'total expression'.
In India, despite British rulers' attempts to replace Indian culture and literature with English literature. The Indian novel: a new genre, has drawn on two Indian narrative forms to blend with the western novel: the purana and traditional folk tales.

An Alien Canon:
Brathwaite's dissatisfaction with the forms and styles within the traditional English canon are echoed by African writers. For instance Nkosi, a South African writer and critic, complains that T.S Eliot's cold, abstract pessimism seems a particularly inappropriate model for the expression of the vigorous optimistic humanism of African experience.

In the 19th century many British people believed that it was Britain's responsibility to provide education in India, and a fierce debate raged between those who believed this should be based on Indian culture (orientalists) and those who argued for the European tradition (anglicists). The powerful British missionary societies were pressing for a specifically Christian curriculum; on the other hand Indian people had been resistant to the mission schools' efforts to convert them, and complaints from local rulers had resulted in the official banning of the societies proselytizing activities.
African, Indian and Malaysian intellectuals who received an English literary education were at the forefront of the struggle for independence. English was able to provide a common language for people from different local language backgrounds and it also provided a way of communicating with the outside world.

New Readings and Writings:
Different histories in India, Africa and the Caribbean have produced different readings of the English literature canon and new kinds of writings. These are now developing and diversifying as a second generation of postcolonial writers are increasingly using English as a world, as well as a colonial, language. The experience and work of these new writers challenge the way the traditional canon has been constructed and used, the authority of particular writings and genres within it, and the narrow cultural scope of the stories it contains.

THEORY AND THE CANON:
The acquisition of independence by former British colonies, the civil rights movements in the USA, the rise of feminism, changes in the British class system, and the rapid development of popular commercial art and the mass media all called into question traditional views of the world and traditional cultural authority.
Poststructuralist theorists argue that communication is not just in one direction from speaker to listener, or writer to reader, but that there is constant feedback and negotiation in how meanings are constructed.
Texts address a particular audience or audiences- they encode a particular kind of 'inscribed reader'- but it is always possible for readers to read against this and produce their own alternative readings.
Poststructuralist theory sees readers as having complex dialogues with texts rather than simply receiving their meanings. Similarly, poststructuralist critics argue that authors write texts in relation to various dialogues, internal or external, which they are having with other texts and speakers, as part of particular institutionalized practices.

CANONS, CULTURAL LITERACY AND POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IN THE USA:
In the USA, the development of a literary canon has interesting links and parallels with the British experience.
How did a canon of literature develop in the USA? As in Britain, literature study originally meant study of the Greek and Roman classics.
With the break-up of the powerful rural slave-owning classes after the American Civil War and the growth of industrial capitalism over the course of the 19th century, an increasing number of lower-class young men began to enter colleges and universities where learning literature became part of acquiring the culture of the higher class which they wanted to enter. Into the 20th century, the humanities canon included a mixture of Greek and Roman literature, and English and European classics by authors who had been dead for at least a century.
During the 1930s an influential group of critics began to emerge in the USA who would, like the leavisites in Britain, establish the study of literature in English as a respectable academic subject. The 'new critics', as they became known, announced their purpose of combating the vulgar culture of industrial northern America and reinstating the true values of great literature and the lost golden age of the old America south. Over the next 20 years they developed and established a literature canon through criticism.

Back To The 'Great Books'?
Since 1980 in the USA there has been a strong lobby for a return to curricula based on the 'great books' and a reaction against multilingual provision for immigrant people, particularly in education. The 'official English' movement is lobbying for an amendment to the US Constitution which would make English the country's official language, and pressure groups have been working at state level to reduce bilingual support in education and other public services.
Conservative educationalists complain that the new multicultural curricula engage students' minds, and no setting up of explicit standards of truth and excellence.
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26-01-2008, 12:29 PM   #3
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Block 4:English as Art
Using English: From Conversation to Canon.

Chapter One: What makes English into Art?

5.1 Introduction

Comment

What counts as art is influenced by conceptions of literature, which often means printed fiction but it is clear that language often combines with other media to produce artistic effects. Even technical ********s and everyday talk can be contextualised within artistic performances.

The factors determining whether a text is art may not be as distinct as one might expect. Art is a term, which has many different and sometimes contentious interpretations.

5.2 Language Art in Written English Texts

Focusing on language

In this section we draw on a form of linguistic analysis known as stylistics to try and pinpoint a number of language features commonly found in artistic uses of English. One key idea used by stylisticians is the notion that literary language is different from everyday language because it draws attention to some property of the language itself, and highlights or foregrounds it. This foregrounding surprises the reader into a fresh perception and appreciation of the subject mater. Foregrounding can be achieved by focusing on sounds, grammar or meanings.

Rhyme, Rhythm and Repetition

One fairly obvious example of foregrounding is the way in which literary language, especially poetry, uses regular controlled patterns of rhythm, rhyme and repetition.

Activity 5.2 Rhyme, Rhythm and Repetition

See Tyger Tyger poem on p.164.

Comment

1) In this poem every line has four stressed syllables alternating with three or four unstressed syllables a rhythm associated in English with songs or ballads as in the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill went up the hill.
2) This, together with the repetitive string of questions, gives the lines an unusually obvious beat, like the beating of a drum or in this case, the beating of an anvil, or the powerful tread of a dangerous animal.
3) This emphasis on rhythm enhances the sensory appeal of the poem by imitating the hammer on the anvil or the sound of the animals foot on the ground.
4) The beat is also emphasised by the sounds of the words themselves with their frequent plosive /d/, /t/ or /p/, all suggestive of sounds made by hammering.
5) In each stanza the rhyme pattern is aabb. The symmetry of this scheme reflects the fearful symmetry in the design of the tiger.
6) Rhymed or repeated words increase their emphasis and develop in the reader a sense of expectation or inevitability.
7) The last stanza and the first are identical except for one word and this break in the pattern provides the sense of closure and of a powerful design being fulfilled.
8) Rhyme, rhythm and repetition also contribute to the imagery of the poem: the fire, the blacksmith and the darkness.
9) The formalists saw these different, specialised uses of language working together to create a self-contained and complete work of art. The meaning was believed to be contained within the text, so that the social or historical context in which it was written, or facts about the authors like, or the readers experience, were all irrelevant.
10) This belief that a work of language art is complete in itself with a definitive meaning waiting to be discovered, also underpins what has been the dominant 20th century British-US approach to literary criticism, known as practical criticism.

Rhyme and alliteration

Rhyme is a kind of phonetic echo.

1) In English verse the most common rhyme is the end rhyme: units at the end of metrical lines have identical sketches of sounds from the vowel to the end of the word (usually stressed), with the initial sound varied as in sight/night
2) Rhyme usually depends on phonemes rather than spelling as ewe rhymes with too.
3) However, sometimes eye rhymes are used which are based on sight rather than sound as in bough/cough.
4) Rhymes within a metrical line are called internal rhymes.
5) Since the 19th century, poets have also used half rhymes in which the final consonants are repeated as in bend/sand.
6) Alliteration is widely used in poetic language, as is assonance, which is based on the repetition of vowel sounds in adjacent words as in far/star.

Like rhythm, alliteration and assonance give poetry its musical effect and contribute to the overall mood and meaning.

Breaking the rules of English

Foregrounding also occurs when particular language rules are played with or broken. Every language has rules for combining sounds and words and linguists have pointed out syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations between words.

1) First a language has rules for the way words are syntactically combines in phrases or sentences. English is a determiner adjective noun language.
2) Secondly words have paradigmatic relations with other words which could grammatically replace them. For instance in the line Did he smile his work to see? he has a syntactic relationship to smile while work has a paradigmatic relationship with creation, product or other words of the same word-class which could replace it.
3) These syntagmatic and paradigmatic rules are often exploited or broken in literary language. In fact, rules governing the sound system (phonology), the writing system (graphology), word structure (morphology), grammar and paragraphing can all be broken.

See extract from The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner on p.166.

Here, the character of Benjy constantly uses a transitive verb (one that expects to be followed by an object) with no object, for example he hit. The power of this text lies in the way it reveals a limited and unrefined mind through language which recreates the freshness and vividness of a human perception unrestricted by learned cultural and social structures.

In another example of authors breaking the rules of English ee cummings refuses to use upper-case letters, even in his name. He also changes word classes, adds morphological endings to words that do not normally have them and plays with negation.

See the extract on p.167.

Activity 5.3 Breaking writing conventions

Comment

See extracts on bottom of p.167.
In Bleak House by Charles Dickens, Dickens highlights the importance of particular qualities of the fig (and the legal system), by breaking syntactic rules to catch and focus the readers attention right at the beginning of the novel.

Similarly, Salman Rushdie in Midnight Children breaks the rules by starting a paragraph with And, which contravenes traditional written conventions but is in keeping with the highly colloquial and rather chaotic opening of the novel. This chaos is echoed when Rushdie breaks the graphological convention of putting commas between the listed items in the last sentence. The reader is surprised into recognising the lack of separateness of these items, they are as Rushdie says, densely intertwined and intermingled.

****phor and collocation

Another aspect of literary language is the way in which it plays with and subverts relationships of meaning through ****phors, similes and puns.

The burning of the tigers eyes in the Blake poem on p.164 and the fog and the British legal system in Dickens novel are ****phors used to highlight particular qualities through direct comparison, sometimes in a surprising way. ****phors exploit the networks of meaning invoked by particular words and are common in poetry.

Simile and ****phor

1) Simile refers to a device that makes a comparison explicit as in x was like y.
2) The effect of ****phor is similar to that of the simile, but the comparison is not made explicit as in the fog in Bleak House.

See extract from Litany by Ann Duffy on p.168.

In this poem, Duffy is relying on the readers knowledge of the collocations of the word crackle to make sense of her unusual choice of verb. When we hear or read a word a whole range of possible associations may be invoked, drawn from our experience of its use in other contexts. The artist juxtaposes particular words or phrases to highlight unusual and striking associations of meaning.

The extraction from a large collection of texts of all the instances where a particular word appears is called a concordance. Concordancing can throw up some surprising results; for instance some apparently neutral words can be shown to have consistently negative, or consistently positive connotations. Sinclair (1987) describes how the phrase set in almost always refers to a negative set of affairs.

Analysts claim that concordances can explain some of the more subtle nuances that particular words or phrases may have for us.

Activity 5.4

Comment

Louw points out that in more than two-thirds of the concordance he carried out, the phrase days are is followed by words like past, over and gone. This kind of analysis challenges both the idea that a literary work should be treated as a self contained piece of art and the belief that literary analysis should focus on how literary language is different from that in other texts. Louw shows that our unconscious understanding of the associations of particular words and phrases in a poem is built up through our previous experience of them.

In addition, writers sometimes play on different meanings of the same word, and this is called punning. For example, the two meanings of Caddie in Faulkners novel tells us that although Benjy is simple he is capable of forming strong human attachments. The word Lamb in Blakes poem refers to a gentle animal but is also a common ****phor for Christ.

Punning highlights particular relationships between two different sets of meaning for dramatic effect.

Iconicity

Writers can also manipulate meaning by highlighting the manner in which a word relates to the object or process it is representing. For most words, this relationship is purely symbolic, but there are two other kinds of relationship, which a sign can have with the object or event it is representing.

1) Firstly, the relationship may be indexical where there is some direct cause and effect. For example, smoke is a sign of fire and, in the English language an accent or dialect is representative of where the speaker comes from geographically.
2) Secondly, the relationship may be iconic and this is particularly important in literary language, where the sounds and shapes of words imitate particular objects or processes.
a) One of the most obvious examples of iconicity in literary language is onomatopoeia where the sound of a word echoes the action it is describing, as in hiss, plop.
b) Iconicity can also be achieved through the manipulation of grammatical rules.

See extract on p.172.

Here, Wordsworth places the subject and the verb very late. As these are the two obligatory clause elements in English, this contravenes a general rule of English sentences, in which commonly the main verb appears early in the sentence with any lengthy and complicated phrases occurring after the verb. When it fails to occur, there is a feeling of frustration and expectation or (as in this case) a breathless, headlong rush towards the verb.

Iconicity

Iconic describes a word; phrase of other symbol, which has some non-arbitrary relationship with the thing it, represents. So, while the words male toilets are arbitrary (symbolic), the sign in the margin on p.173 is iconic because it looks like a man.

5.3 Narrative and Dialogue

Narrative is basically a story of events, which the narrator considers important. Narratives are found in newspapers and histories (non-fiction) and in epic poems, ballads, comic strips, novels and short stories (fiction). They can be oral or written, enacted on stage, or envisioned in film and mime.

Plot and detail

The formalists distinguished between

1) The series of events on which a narrative is based (the fabula). And the way in which those events are turned into a story (the sjuzhet).

2) The relationships between these two levels can be more or less complex. The fabula, the basic chronology of events is like a skeleton, given a body and life by the way the sjuzhet is used to explore the relationships between the characters and the intricacies of plot.

Another aspect of foregrounding in prose writing is the very explicit or concrete nature of de******ive language use, in contrast to the generally inexplicit nature of English in everyday speech.

Activity 5.5

Comment

As Robert Abel points out regarding the extract from Ambrose Bierces short story Owl Creek Bridge: One purpose of explicitness is authenticating detail to draw us into the story to help dissolve the barriers between the world he is creating and our own awareness that it is only a story. The precision of this detail makes the scene quite vivid. The streams turbulence reflects the psychology of the situation. His state of mind is also in turmoil. The second purpose of these details is to make it possible to believe what happens in the rest of the story. Such a little stream, we dont need to be told, but can already sense, could, with a little bit of luck, carry a condemned man to safety. The carefully selected details, therefore, give us not only a sense of time and place, but prepare us nicely to accept and believe what happens next in the story. So, there is nothing really innocent or haphazard about these details they establish secretly what is possible in this fictional world and authenticate the reading experience, which follows.

Constructing dialogues

Authors make explicit decisions about the kinds of details that they are going to foreground in their de******ions. They also have to make decisions about the ways in which they represent natural speech, in their characters dialogue. They usually conform to a number of conventions that distinguish dialogue from real speech. These include using the minimum number of overlaps and interruptions, very few hesitations and almost no self-corrections. Speakers in novels or plays often use complete sentences.

However, although written dialogue is often tidied up writers can also exploit our knowledge of the apparent inconsistencies and non-sequiturs in ordinary conversation in a fairly direct way (see extract on p.175 for an example).

Activity 5.6

Comment

In prose writing, stretches of dialogue are usually framed. There are particular narrative or aesthetic reasons for the points at which the author chooses to begin and end the dialogue, relating for instance to character, plot or communicating information to the reader.

In the examples so far, there has been a fairly clear boundary between the authors voice and those of the characters. Sometimes, however, we are particularly aware of the authors voice behind the character, putting words into their mouth for particular ironic effect. For example, when Uriah Heep in David Copperfield keeps telling David how humbles he is, the reader suspects, because of what Dickens has hinted about Uriah, that this is in fact quite the opposite from the truth. Conversely, we can also sometimes hear the voice of a character within the authorial voice. This happens, for instance, in stream of consciousness novels, where the narration is ostensibly in the third person, but reflects the thought processes of particular characters.

Virginia Woolfs novels are renowned for consisting of different perspectives, usually reflecting the thoughts of the major characters in turn. The author does not intervene, but tells the story through the emotions and reactions of the characters themselves (see extract on p.177). The result is that there are differences of vocabulary and syntax that approximate the style of whichever character is currently the narrator.

The use of English vernaculars

The use of strongly vernacular language would seem to go against the idea that literary language represents the best or most prestigious forms of English. However, there are some famous examples of dialect in characters speech, for example in Hard Times by Charles Dickens and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The Singaporean writer Catherine Lim for example, uses vernacular Singaporean English in her stories to convey a realism that also addresses the issue of linguistic oppression.

Poets have also made the decision to write in their own variety of English as a way of making a point about the validity of different varieties within literature (see extracts on p.178).

Paula Burnett argues that it is only in the 20th centurythat poets in the literary, Standard English tradition have begun to explore ways of working the rich ore of dialect on literary contexts.

Activity 5.7

Reading A: In the vernacular by Rib Davis.

In Lady Chatterleys Lover (see extract on p.185), it was not the Derby speech of Mellors, which offended his upper-class lovers sister: it was the fact that he was clearly using it out of choice. Here was a working-class man, but one with education choosing to use that vernacular when he was capable of using Standard English. It was an insult to the womans language, to her class and this to her, and at the same time was an infuriating statement of his control of the situation.

The use of vernacular language then, is clearly tied to issues of class, identity and control.

Representing regional speech

There are a wide variety of English accents and dialects as well as slang, which may or may not be regionally defined. Yet despite what is spoken by most people in different places, the written language of most writing is Standard English. However, some authors have attempted to represent the speech of their characters in ways which reflect particular aspects of accent, dialect and idiom.

The choices that the writer makes and the apparent reasoning behind those choices, as well as the results, reflect not only upon those individual writers and their work but also on the societies from which they have emerged.

See extracts on p.186.

1) In Trainspotting there is no distinction between the language of narration and the language of dialogue. The invented spelling conveys the sound of spoken language and in the process the very particular identity of this group of people, which include the narrator.
2) In The Color Purple, the characters of Celies own pronunciation cannot be deuced: there is no modified spelling as she is writing letters rather than conveying the sound of speech. But her grammar is nonstandard, reflecting her black working-class background in the southern states of America.
3) In Under the Greenwood Tree there is a third person narrator representing standard English but a number of the characters speak in a dialect which the author attempts to write as it sounds.

Speech and characterisation

There are therefore a number of different ways to represent nonstandard accents and dialect in fictional writing. As well as giving regional authenticity to a character, uses of vernacular can convey particular messages about the kind of person that character is.

In Waving for example, almost the whole story is presented in Standard English, but the character of Duncan has a very gently noted vernacular speech, which seems to add to his naivety. Indeed, a certain naivety or simplicity seems to be one of the stock character aspects which writers emphasise through the use of written vernacular. Others include roughness, earthiness, a certain naturalness or lack of education, an unintended capacity of amuse and exoticism.

Some authors give a character what is called an eye-dialect where a word is written as nonstandard, when its pronunciation is actually the same as the spoken standard, for example, wot and what. Wot is then a symbol, rather than an accurate representation of nonstandardness, and is often used by authors for less intelligent, less socially prestigious characters. Conversely, Dickens uses flawless Standard English for Oliver in Oliver Twist. His standard speech conveys an impression of his innate respectability and incorruptible goodness.

Invented vernaculars

Other writers have invented a new vernacular, as part of a futuristic world. In Russell Hobans Riddley Walker, English has undergone a frightening transformation. It has degenerated and become corrupted in its vocabulary, grammar, spelling and meaning. Sometimes we can guess the meanings of Hobans words without difficulty but the significance of others we can only gather after a number of uses. This is not an easy world to enter, but, like other linguistic worlds, once we are in it and have gained a little confidence then the overcoming of further difficulties only makes us feel more a part of the whole experience. This is a story about a disintegrating society and the language both tells us about this disintegration and represents it in the forms of the words and phrases.
From representation to reconstruction

The boundary between an authors representation of authentic dialects, and their use of invented vernaculars may not be as clear as one may think. Huckleberry Finn is one of the most influential models of nonstandard usage in English literature (see extract on p.189). Although it has always been assumed that Huck spoke poor white nonstandard American, Fishkin (1993) presents a convincing case that the model for his language was in fact a black boy whom Twain met in the early 1870s.

What the example illustrates then, is the power of the vernacular in fiction to add a special kind of authenticity to the characters, the setting and the story which may not directly map on to the real world being depicted. In these examples, the authors representation of speech reflects not only the features of a particular variety of spoken English, but also specific authorial purposes to do with plot and character development as well as imaginative authenticity. Authors use vernacular to represent a particular kind of character, or a particular kind of setting and this reflects both their own attitudes and values towards different varieties of spoken English and also those values of the society from which they have sprung.

Comment

Davis shows that the choice to use a nonstandard variety of English, and the way in which the author represents it on paper, is never innocent. Writers purposes vary enormously; for instance they may use an eye-dialect to mark a character as the kind of person who would use nonstandard English (with all the social connotations that conveys). Hoban invented a vernacular variety to symbolise iconically the degeneration of society. It could be that use of the vernacular is a new kind of foregrounding, in presenting language which looks strange in the context of established literary conventions.

The stylistic landscape

It is now possible to compare authors works with databases of texts ranging from the literary to the functional, as a genuine basis of comparison.

Computer studies have shown that many of these topographical features of the textual landscape can only be viewed as the re******er rises above the details of a text in order to gain a birds-eye view. For instance, it has often been assumed that the small words, which knit phrases and sentences together, are not particularly significant in achieving artistic effects. They are often regarded as a kind of inert medium, against which artistic uses of English are highlighted. But the assumption that these are of no consequence to writers style has been challenged by John Burrows (1987) who carried out a computer analysis of the frequency and pattern of occurrence of these small words in Jane Austens novels.

He found there to be a distinct contrast between two of the main characters in Northanger Abbey, in terms of the number of times per thousand words they use the, of, I and not. These kinds of differences contribute to each characters idiolect, or individual speech style. Burrows argues that the effects of these differences must colour every speech the characters make, and leave some impression in the mind of the reader.

5.4 Authors, Audience and Context

Traditional approaches to literary criticism have tended to treat a novel, play or poem as a self-contained work of art with fixed meanings. More recently however, there has been a growing interest in how the context and process involved in creating language art, and the contexts, in which it is read, listened to, or viewed, affect meaning and interpretation.

Context and meaning

The world is not reflected in talk, but refracted as speakers or writers shape an account according to their own perspective, values and motives. It could be argued that literary language, in its simulation of language or other discourses adds additional refractive layers. In this sense, all texts, including literary ones are ideological; they present the reader with a particular view of the subject matter, which is usually the authors view.
The basis for the perception that all texts are ideological is that language is now usually seen as being shaped by its context, both linguistic and sociopolitical. No text is produced which is not in some way affected by texts both written and spoken, literary and nonliterary, that have gone before it. This is based on Bakhtins idea that every utterance has some kind of dialogic relationship with other utterances which have preceded it (see chapter 1). Intertextuality in literature refers to the way in which a text may invoke other texts through the use of particular words, phrases or ideas so the reader or listeners knowledge of that other text comes into play in their interpretation of what the current author is saying.

Activity 5.8

Comment

The context of any text is the context of its production. We would probably agree that their background (education, family, wealth) and their social context (country, period, history, tradition) influence writers. However, many literary and linguistic theorists have also pointed out the importance of the context in which a text is received. Individual students will vary in their reactions to any text, depending on their own particular histories and political beliefs. The meaning of any text then, is a kind of negotiation between producers and receivers, both of whom are to some extent constructed by their own cultural positioning.

The reading of texts is also historically conditioned, as particular periods attach value to different styles of writing. For example, the work of 17th century English poet John Donne went out of fashion in the 18th century because the expectation of correct or polite usage in literature was not met in his more rugged expression.

Particular cultures also place value on different kinds of English language art. In Ireland, for example, the tradition of oral storytelling survives despite the high literacy of the population.

The African tradition of oral songs and rhymes was exported to the Caribbean and America with the slaves, and on the plantations the ability to improvise satirical lyrics ridiculing the slave-owners was highly prized. This tradition has influenced more recent phenomena such as dub poetry; a highly rhythmical improvised verse form where performers are admired for their ability to invent witty and often politically astute verses to the accompaniment of instrumental music.

Activity 5.9

Reading B: Feminist theatre: performance language as art form and communicative gesture by Lizbeth Goodman.

What is feminist theatre?

Because theatre is performed, it is a public medium. Because it is performed live its impact on individual people is immediate. Thus, feminist theatre can be seen as a dialogue between performers and audiences, about issues of gender and power.

See extracts on pp. 191-196.

Performances like the first two, which begin with womens autobiography, incorporating personal experience and direct communication with the audience, have been common in British and American theatres since the rise of the womens liberation movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During this time, explicitly feminist performers and directors employed consciousness-raising techniques in the theatre.

Evaluating feminist theatre as a form of communication

Some common features of feminist theatre include:

1) Feminist theatre, as a political form, tends to address the audience directly.
2) It tends to assume a female gaze in its audience, and an interest in issues of relevance to women.
3) It often makes a point of focusing the audiences attention on the function of language within the piece.
4) It questions the nature of language and of the status of any text.
5) With its collaborative techniques and emphasis on process rather than text as a product, it challenges the notion of the great individual author, so central to the English literary canon.

Comment

All three pieces question the boundary between actors and audience, both in addressing the audience directly, and in urging them, through the plays messages, to some sort of political action. Most radically, these pieces raise questions about the boundary between text and context (what counts as a text?). These play's foreground and interrogate aspects of language practices and their contexts, in both art and everyday life, by highlighting and breaking conventional boundaries.

5.5 Conclusion

Activity 5.10

The artistic uses of English achieve their effect by creating meanings on a number of different levels simultaneously, for example, through collocation, iconicity, ****phor and irony. A further layer of meaning may be added through invoking intertextual references, or through the combination of language with visual effects, body language and movement. We cant explain art, or a particular style, with reference to any one of these levels on its own. It is the complex combination of manipulating the properties of language and context at different levels that turns English into art. Readers and viewers, who bring a whole range of new contextual information to bear in their appreciation of the text and its meaning, then interpret this.


Chapter Six: Language Play in English

6.1 Introduction

Play with language is a common feature of adult discourse and we come across it regularly in comedy, song, graffiti, newspapers and advertisements.

Even when there is no immediate task to fulfil, and where relationships are clearly and firmly established, talking and writing continue. We use language to fill up the spaces between necessary activity: for recreation, relaxation and pleasure. Casual conversation is an example.

A similar use of language can be found in literature, one of the most highly valued of all discourse types, the paradigm case of language art. As with casual conversation, it is possible partly to explain the function of literature by saying that it conveys information. But these explanations do not seem sufficient. From a practical point of view, literary language is superfluous.

Both literature and conversation can be described as space-filling discourses, ways of using English or other languages that we indulge in when there I nothing more pressing to do. Strangely, however, such discourses are very highly valued.

Literary language is often described as creative. It generates imaginative fictional worlds, expresses original insights and manipulates language to create patterns and new usages.

Art and literature are terms of positive evaluation rather than merely mechanical criteria, which can be applied without the subjective (and therefore disputable) intervention of individual judgements. The term literature is normally used to refer to poetry, novels, short stories, and drama, but not every instance of these genres is necessarily literature.

It follows, therefore, that just as one could not bar poetry in general from being art simply by drawing attention to a few bad poems, then similarly, for other genres, it must be the best rather than the worst examples which are considered.

6.2 On page and stage: comedy, poetry and song.

Activity 6.1

See extract on pp.199-200

Comment

A Martian anthropologist visiting Earth might be forgiven for confusing a poetry reading and a stand-up comedy performance. They have many features in common. An audience assembles to listen to an individual who stands isolated on stage and speaks words, which he or she has composed. Of course there are also striking differences. In the poetry reading the words may be declaimed rhythmically; in the comedy act they may resemble an extended conversational turn. Reactions can be different too.

Another event with marked similarities to a poetry reading is a performance by a singer-songwriter. Perhaps the greatest difference is in reception. The attitude and the composition of audiences for poetry and song are very different.

Poetry is not always serious (Canterbury Tales) or always for the socially privileged. Nor is it necessarily isolated from musical accompaniment.

Activity 6.2

See extract on pp.201-202

Comment

A feature distinguishing poem and song however, is the widespread dissociation of a poem's value from any actual performance. Though it may be performed, a poem may also be treated as a written text (we refer to a poetry reading, not a poetry speaking). Improvisation and adaptation which would be praised in a comedian, might well disturb a poetry audience, for in poetry the exact wording is regarded as important, and is fixed and consequently protected by being in print. A poem may build into its text certain sound effects that depend upon it being read aloud. There are also poems, however, that deploy visual effects (such as layout, unusual punctuation or capitalisation) which can only be appreciated when the poem is read.

More and more, the accolade good poetry describes good written text. A good comedy routine, on the other hand, is inseparable from the skill of the delivery of an individual performer. A comedian will use timing, intonation, laughter and posture to create humour and it is the losses of such features, which can make the written text of a comedy, seem so dead. In this respect the comedy act is closer to verbal art in an oral culture where language without writing to freeze and decontextualise it is inextricably involved with a particular speaker, hearer, situation and delivery.

Activity 6.3

Comment

As a form of language art, song falls somewhere between poetry with its fixed written texts and an oral performance art such as comedy stand-up with its variable routines. A song may come into existence through performance and never be written down. Similarly, representation of the text of a song may also be modified by the way the words are sung, or by the way they are accompanied.

Activity 6.4

Reading A: Songs in Singlish by Marie Tan

See reading on pp.228-229.

Comment

Lee uses feature of Singlish pronunciation and vocabulary to represent aspects of Singaporean culture. Much of the humour of his songs appears to depend on this insider knowledge. As playful uses of English, Lees songs are relatively inaccessible to English speakers outside Singapore. Lee is able to represent his Singlish lyrics through modified spellings a technique used by many other writers with an interest in oral vernacular traditions.

As words can be written and music scored, a song can be abstracted from both singer and situation. There are songs, which are valued independently of singer and singing. These are more like poetry: texts with potential for performance. On the other hand there are songs where signer and performance seem essential to their value and the words alone seem quite lame.

Literary art is distinguished from comparable discourses such as popular songs and comedy by being seen primarily as written text, having virtues independent of its realisation. Plays are written to be performed. As with comedy and song, value may arise from elements added in performance rather than something intrinsic to the text itself.

Nevertheless drama on the school syllabus is a book and a trip to see a performance is an optional extra. As the case of drama illustrates, the textual nature of literature is sometimes a convention rather than an intrinsic feature. Drama is treated as writing, but it does not have to be.

6.3 A singular song

The advent of rock and roll in the mid 1960s initiated the spread of English as a world language and brought it into the lives of young people the world over.

In some very early performances singers such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Chen downplayed both musical accompaniment and visual presentation, thus foregrounding the potential literariness of their lyrics. The result was that the fashion of the time was to reflect upon and discuss the song as a text. Records could be taken home and replayed as often as desired, stacked on shelves and handled in many ways like books.

Significantly, many songwriters of this period published poems, prose and short stories as well as their songs.

On either side of this phase (the 1950s and the 1970s onwards) in western pop music, it was the performance that was foregrounded and words were made secondary. There is a parallel here to the way some poem cannot be read aloud.

With this emphasis on song as sound, text could often seem unimportant, at times even dispensing with conventional language and meaning altogether (see extract on p.206).

From the 1970s onwards, changes and advances in technology brought performance to the fore, although this time with an emphasis on the visual and the growing importance of the pop video. This encouraged the presentation of songs as multifaceted mixtures of dance, film, drama, music and singing. In addition, the prevalence of the visual combined with a relaxation on censorship led to an emphasis on erotic movement and dress.

Despite the considerable differences then, both the early rock bands and the superstar ensembles of the 1980s and 1990s, share an emphasis on song as performance in which words are only a part of a larger whole. In both these cases song is far removed from poetry.

See extract on p. 207.

Meaning in this song I achieved through a combination of words, music and performance. It is not that the words lack complexity but they are not foregrounded: they work in conjunction with, rather than independently of, their non-verbal context, and their meanings are enriched by it. In these respects their qualities are more song-like, and less literary, than their more poetic cousins. In this dependence of words on context, they have something in common with graffiti. This is perhaps surprising for graffiti must be written and songs must be sung.

6.4 Graffiti

Activity 6.5

Comment

1) Their language or subject matter does not reliably identify graffiti as such but rather by their physical situation and realisation.
2) Their low status sometimes derives from the authors we assume to have written them.

Because they can damage and disfigure, graffiti are regarded as antisocial and illegal. Many are objectionable in subject matter, banal and clumsily expressed. Yet there is no discourse type, which offers such an opportunity for the disinterested, individual voice. Here is language anonymous, unsolicited, unrewarded, uninfluenced by reactions repercussions or payment. While modern society denigrates graffiti, one could imagine another age in which it might be accorded extreme reverence, as the most disinterested expression of individual feeling.

Graffiti are even more closely tied to literacy than the written literary genres of the novel and short story. The word graffiti is intimately connected to the act of writing. Yet whereas, in general, writing allows the abstraction of a message from a particular situation, for graffiti the place and circumstances of production are definitive. Graffiti are necessarily written illicitly on a surface in a communal or public place and are thus typically short, rushed, careless and hand-written rather than printed. Taken away from their situation, and reproduced in print although the linguistic form and the meaning remain the same, they lose their edge and in a sense, cease to be graffiti.

Blume (1985) concludes that the degree to which the chosen surface is enclosed or open correlates with subject matter. She observes that the most enclosed spaces yield the highest numbers of graffiti concerning sex, and are addressed by a single individual wither to no one in particular or to another single interlocutor, while the most public places yield graffiti about politics or religion addressed to society in general by the (self-appointed) representative of an interest group within it.

Activity 6.6

Reading B: Social Issues on Walls: Graffiti in university lavatories by O.G Nwoye.

Wall writings were used early in human history to record and preserve the activities of humankind. Apart from advertising and other such purposes, wall writing is no longer a recognised method of preserving records by mainstream society. Nevertheless, groups prohibited from, or denied, avenues of public expression seek other outlets with graffiti on walls of public places as a favoured option.

In third world countries in particular, students can constitute the most articulate opposition to bad governments and oppressive regimes. Denied the means of expressing their views on matters that they feel they should be involved in, they resort to graffiti

Graffiti thrive in lavatories because they afford the authors relative privacy in which to express their views without fear. This study was carried out at the University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.

Analysis

The subject matter of the graffiti can be divided into the following broad topics: politics, socio-economic issues and others.

See extracts on p.231.

The style of these graffiti is that of the banner headline as used in newspapers. The terseness of the contributions gives the graffiti a poetic feature.

Repetition as a strategy toward the pragmatic goal of persuasion (Johnstone, 1983) is employed here to give support to a proposition.

Abbreviations are common. Their frequency in graffiti may be explained by the need to economise space and because they are a response to previous usages. It seems to be the case that if an item has been referred to in an abbreviated form by a previous contributor, subsequent contributors tend to adopt and use that form.

The use of graphics (drawing) for emphasis and effect is another rhetorical device employed here.

Conclusion

The samples of graffiti analysed show that graffiti, far from being mere vandalism, as many people like to regard them, are, in fact, expressive modes adopted by subgroups that have been denied other avenues of self-expression.

Comment

Nwoye observes that in situations where expression of political opinion is banned or may lead to persecution, it is often political graffiti, which are written in the safety of enclosed spaces.

Many graffiti are the expression of a single wish, opinion or thought by a single individual, sometimes quite specific in reference.

In the collections of graffiti by Rees (1980), the average length of each item is between seven and eight words. None are less than two words but few are more than eighteen words long.

It might be argued that it is only simplistic ideas that can be expressed in so few words. Surprisingly, some of the best graffiti achieve their impact not by intensifying or enriching an individual voice, but by deploying two contradictory voices at once. Glory to God in the High St is a case in point. Here, through the inspired deletion of a single letter from the Christmas angels message to the shepherds, the writer invokes simultaneously, and juxtaposes, both this original text and the new one derived from it. This satirises the distortion of the original Christmas angels message by the commercialism of its contemporary celebration, for the High St is a current metonym for the buying and selling of goods.

Some graffiti are also capable of extremely rich, compressed expression. This is the case with Mr Work and Mrs Home as a de******ion of the traditional nuclear family.

The generation of multiple meanings, rich connotations and associative resonances through very few words is implicitly applauded as a virtue in academic criticisms of literature by such critical movements as New Criticism and stylistics. Yet because we are encouraged and trained to perceive multiple meanings in poetry, we can often overlook them in lower discourse types such as graffiti.

Activity 6.7

The commonest evocation of two contradictory voices is created through a particular sub genre of graffiti: additions to public notices and to other graffiti.

On occasions, addition to graffiti may themselves provoke further additions.

Activity 6.8

Another class of graffiti combines iconic and symbolic meaning as in Dyslexia rules KO, or in a twist to this, they create contradictions between what they say and what they do as in Everybody writes on the wall but me. Many of the effects in graffiti are only evident in writing, creating puns by using phrases that are homophones (words that sound alike) but not homographs (words that look alike), as in Write on, Woolf and frayed knot.

Although graffiti are by definition written rather than spoken, they often seem to use writing in a way which perpetuates a rebellious oral tradition challenging the authority of the establishment by humorously and deliberately abusing the rules of writing. Whereas the writing system tends to reduce all dialects to one standard written form, graffiti often orthologically represent nonstandard forms.

6.5 Pin-ups and Puns Down: The popular press

Language play in newspaper headlines has become fashionable in many countries, for example:

SENSE AND CENSORSHIP

Tabloid newspapers have a small page format, and are usually less serious in their style than the larger broadsheet papers. Most attention to the tabloids, whether critical or supportive, has centred upon the information they convey and the opinions they express. On both counts their approach is striking. It is the nature of tabloid journalism to be insular in its approach both by focusing upon national concerns and by depending upon quite narrow cultural knowledge.

Activity 6.9

In The Sun, the majority of articles concern sex scandals, the private lives of the famous or trivial and bizarre events. Political opinions are strongly, briefly and simplistically expressed.

The tabloid approach to news with its alleged distortion of facts, apparent insensitivity towards people in the news, simplification of complex issues and incessant hectoring political campaigning, seems incompatible with either popular or academic notions of art. The tabloid press is, on many issues manifestly conservative and mainstream. It is seen as a voice to the people, rather than of the people: an institution imposed upon them rather than an expression of their own thoughts and values.

So what is it that makes tabloid newspapers so popular? Bizarre crimes are interesting plus there is also the possibility that it is the attitude to events as much as the events themselves that appeals to people. However, it may be the way both news and opinion are represented in language.

It is frequently asserted without much discussion that their language is simple. Yet the issue of what makes language simple is itself anything but simple. We may be referring to the size and type of vocabulary, to the formal structural complexity of sentences, to the kind of background knowledge required, or to accessibility for a particular type of reader.

In the serious British newspaper The Independent, for example, lead stories are at least three times longer, with twice as many sentences per paragraph. Although the size of vocabulary in the tabloids may not be large in comparison, making sense of deliberately cryptic headlines demands considerable cultural knowledge and awareness of colloquial and dialect uses, together with interpretative skill.

As with many poetic texts, the skilful compression of information in these headlines is witnessed by the fact that a paraphrase demands many more words than the original. Indeed one could argue that the formal simplicity and brevity of tabloid prose indicate greater rather than lesser linguistic skill, for such prose demands considerable powers of compression and is disciplined by the need to conform rigorously to house style. In many ways it is easier to write in the style of The Independent than the style of The Sun. The most obvious complexity of tabloid language not reflected by statistical measures is its constant punning.

This persistent language play is something, which the tabloids share with comedy, song, advertisements and literature. The broadsheets may be better news but they are not candidates for consideration as language art; conversely, tabloids may be awful news but it may be their playfulness with language, which attracts so many millions of regular readers.

Inspired by opposition to the political viewpoint and social stance of the tabloids, most academic attention to tabloid language has centred upon the way it can be used to manipulate opinion by weaving together fact and opinion.

Activity 6.10

Comment

While in general there is a tendency for language play to be reserved for less consequential events and avoided in the reporting of more weighty matters, there is also a sense in which the degree of language play creates rather than reflects the levity or seriousness of the item.

See examples on p.218. In these cases punning indicates a refusal to become involved in the serious implications of the event. These issues are particularly well illustrated by The page 3 girl. Each picture is accompanied by a short paragraph in which punning is intense. Punning here is not even remotely an incidental ornamentation of something with an independent purpose. It is an end in itself.

Activity 6.11

6.6 The Slip of the Pun

Puns are a prominent feature of the other discourse types we have considered as in Im a frayed knot. In the contemporary science-dominated western world, punning is kept at arm's length and are regarded as childish trivia, unsuitable for serious subjects or discourses, and in a sense all puns, even good ones, are bad puns. While other forms of word play (rhyme, alliteration, ****phor, irony) receive respectful and serious attention in literary criticism. It is therefore not surprising that when puns are in the company of opinions or attitudes of which we disapprove, it is easy to link meaning and form together.

Although since the 18th century puns have often been treated by critics as slips of taste or even of the pen, there has never been a time when the best writers have avoided them. In modern times they have resurfaced with a vengeance.

The orthodox view in linguistics, reflecting both popular wisdom and the standard outlook of a rationalist scientistic worldview, is that language serves to represent the world. This enables language to perform in a fairly orderly way, its main functions of conveying information the ideational function and the establishing of social relationships the interpersonal function (Halliday, 1973).

In punning we allow language itself to take charge and to guide our thoughts. The potential of puns to derail the socially sanctioned uses and nature of language may account for the atmosphere of unruliness, disrespect and boisterous insolence, which they seem to create. In most contemporary English-speaking societies, puns are more often the expression of insubordination by the less powerful than a feature of the declaration of oracles or Gods. Tabloid newspapers and graffiti writers certainly seem to take advantage of this effect, by using puns to taunt and disparage those they oppose.

We have looked at language in four disparate space-filling discourses and discovered in all of them a disposition to use language in original and playful ways. The code is exploited to expose contradictions, create multiple meanings and generate unconventional messages.

The fact that these discourses are commodities is also important. We have to pay for comedy, song and news. Graffiti of course are different. They turn up uninvited all over the place and they are free. But for this they are despised and removed.

6.7 Advertisements

Advertisement is different again: uninvited, ubiquitous, often intrusive but, unlike graffiti, quite legal. We are hardly ever out of sight of an advertising text.

Expenditure on advertising is astronomic and the care and craft expended on its production are correspondingly distinguished. Walter Redfern suggests:

Advertising is all about association: associating a particular product with a particular firm and with an idea of quality; and so word and thought associations (echoes, jingles, and puns) obviously come into useful play.

Advertisements do not only make use of puns. They also use language to create rhymes, rhythms, sound effects, parallelisms, ****phors, neologisms, intertextual echoes, emotive resonances and entire fictional worlds. Advertisements manipulate all levels of language, from pronunciation and letter shapes through morphology and grammar to discourse structure, combining the levels both in dynamic interaction with each other and with music, photographs, cartoon and film.

Two fairly constant features of advertisements are their brevity and their dependence upon other discourse types or activities. They occupy either a short time or a limited space. As with graffiti and tabloid headlines, limited space and competition for reluctant attention have encouraged skills in linguistic compression. Yet despite this focus on text, advertisements are also performances.

Even in advertisements, which appear to be purely verbal, it is very often the shape and colour and positioning of letters which matter rather than the abstract linguistic structures to which these letters give rise.

As advertisements strive to succeed by differing from each other and only succeed in so far as they are different no successful advertisements can be, by definition, typical.

Advertisements often exploit or make use of existing discourse types. There are many, which are stories, jokes, cartoons, and even soap operas.

Activity 6.12

Comment

Clearly both the manufacturers who finance advertisements and the agencies which create them wish to attract our attention, impress the existence of their product upon us and associate it on our minds with something positive and pleasurable. They are driven therefore by consumer response.

Driven by a large and heavily financed brigade of psychological re******ers, constantly monitoring audience responses, the advertising industry has increasingly filled this space with what it perceives people to enjoy: play with the codes of communication themselves.

In society we tend to denigrate play to the status of an activity for children, or for times when we have nothing better to do. Yet its constant appearance in very different discourse types suggests a more important role. We depend upon language for everything that we know about the world and society.

6.8 Conclusion

Despite their obvious differences of form, function, prestige and social origin, the five discourse types here (comedy, song, graffiti, tabloid journalism and advertisements) have a lot in common. In particular they are all characterised by language play as an end in itself and by their dependence on performance, context and physical realisation. My own conclusion is that maintaining a strong distinction between the forms of art and play is inappropriate and unnecessary.



WHAT IS A CANON?
Canon can either mean a broad literary intellectual heritage, including a wide range of fact and fiction, or can focus more narrowly on the poetry, fiction and drama such as the poems of Spenser and the plays of Shakespeare.
Why is the canon so important?
It is obviously the backbone of English literature, but its significance extends far beyond the field of literature studies to language generally, and to ideas about culture and national identity. Canonical texts have always been important for definitions of what counts as STANDARD ENGLISH. For example, when Samuel Johnson was compiling his first English dictionary in the 18th century, he based it on books which he believed illustrated authoritative uses and meanings in the language.
The canon acts as an authority for both language and culture identity.

THE TRADITIONAL ENGLISH LITERATURE CANON:
The term 'literature' came into currency around the 14th century, when it meant 'learned writing'. It was only in the late 18th century that its meaning began to shift towards the more specialized modern concept of imaginative and creative writing. Although a growing literature in English existed, it was not considered a subject for serious study. The idea of a specifically English literature as a serious subject emerged in the 19th century, in the wake of a growing national consciousness and profound social change.

English literature became established as a school subject and later in the 1920s and 1930s. it achieved recognition in Britain at university level. Victorian ideas about the uplifting effects of literature and its social importance were taken up and reshaped in the 1930s by a group of Cambridge critics, including F.R. Leavis.
Leavis argued that only a small cultural minority were capable of making authentic judgments about literature, and that this group had a particular responsibility both to the English language and to the nation. Leavis and his associates developed a critical method of 'close reading' and PRACTICAL CRITISISM which involved a careful scrutinizing of individual texts to analyse their use of language and uncover their authentic meaning. Practical criticism became an influential form of literary criticism in the 1930s and 1940s.

PRACTICAL CRITISIM : treats literary texts as independent, self-contained objects, with a fixed meaning waiting to be discovered by the skilful reader. What is important are the words on the page and the way in which they contribute to the coherence of the text theme.

WOMEN AND THE CANON:
In many ways women in the past simply did not have the opportunity to produce canonical texts, particularly in the areas of poetry or drama. In Britain poetry has been connected to the Greek and Roman classics and were taught to boys at public school and university, where girls were not admitted until the end of the 19th century. The writing of novels, which did not depend on a classical education was the one area where women did begin to make headway, but even here women often had to use male pseudonyms in order to be published; for example, Mary Evans as George Eliot.
Even today, some feminist writers argue that most literary criticism is shaped and dominated by a specifically male world view.
Pam Morris suggests that this male dominance of the canon has been recently challenged by feminists in two main ways: first through re-readings , and secondly by the increasing circulation and promotion of women's writing, past and contemporary.

POSTCOLONIAL WRITERS:
I am going to focus on the challenge presented to the traditional canon from colonial and postcolonial writers-novelists from India, Nigeria, and the Caribbean.
In order to express the Caribbean experience, to use English in a way that grows out of Caribbean history, Brathwaite, the poet describes a variety of English he calls 'nation language'. This draws on African syntax, replaces the rhythm of the pentameter with the dactyls of the calypso and is performed in what he calls 'total expression'.
In India, despite British rulers' attempts to replace Indian culture and literature with English literature. The Indian novel: a new genre, has drawn on two Indian narrative forms to blend with the western novel: the purana and traditional folk tales.

An Alien Canon:
Brathwaite's dissatisfaction with the forms and styles within the traditional English canon are echoed by African writers. For instance Nkosi, a South African writer and critic, complains that T.S Eliot's cold, abstract pessimism seems a particularly inappropriate model for the expression of the vigorous optimistic humanism of African experience.

In the 19th century many British people believed that it was Britain's responsibility to provide education in India, and a fierce debate raged between those who believed this should be based on Indian culture (orientalists) and those who argued for the European tradition (anglicists). The powerful British missionary societies were pressing for a specifically Christian curriculum; on the other hand Indian people had been resistant to the mission schools' efforts to convert them, and complaints from local rulers had resulted in the official banning of the societies proselytizing activities.
African, Indian and Malaysian intellectuals who received an English literary education were at the forefront of the struggle for independence. English was able to provide a common language for people from different local language backgrounds and it also provided a way of communicating with the outside world.

New Readings and Writings:
Different histories in India, Africa and the Caribbean have produced different readings of the English literature canon and new kinds of writings. These are now developing and diversifying as a second generation of postcolonial writers are increasingly using English as a world, as well as a colonial, language. The experience and work of these new writers challenge the way the traditional canon has been constructed and used, the authority of particular writings and genres within it, and the narrow cultural scope of the stories it contains.

THEORY AND THE CANON:
The acquisition of independence by former British colonies, the civil rights movements in the USA, the rise of feminism, changes in the British class system, and the rapid development of popular commercial art and the mass media all called into question traditional views of the world and traditional cultural authority.
Poststructuralist theorists argue that communication is not just in one direction from speaker to listener, or writer to reader, but that there is constant feedback and negotiation in how meanings are constructed.
Texts address a particular audience or audiences- they encode a particular kind of 'inscribed reader'- but it is always possible for readers to read against this and produce their own alternative readings.
Poststructuralist theory sees readers as having complex dialogues with texts rather than simply receiving their meanings. Similarly, poststructuralist critics argue that authors write texts in relation to various dialogues, internal or external, which they are having with other texts and speakers, as part of particular institutionalized practices.

CANONS, CULTURAL LITERACY AND POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IN THE USA:
In the USA, the development of a literary canon has interesting links and parallels with the British experience.
How did a canon of literature develop in the USA? As in Britain, literature study originally meant study of the Greek and Roman classics.
With the break-up of the powerful rural slave-owning classes after the American Civil War and the growth of industrial capitalism over the course of the 19th century, an increasing number of lower-class young men began to enter colleges and universities where learning literature became part of acquiring the culture of the higher class which they wanted to enter. Into the 20th century, the humanities canon included a mixture of Greek and Roman literature, and English and European classics by authors who had been dead for at least a century.
During the 1930s an influential group of critics began to emerge in the USA who would, like the leavisites in Britain, establish the study of literature in English as a respectable academic subject. The 'new critics', as they became known, announced their purpose of combating the vulgar culture of industrial northern America and reinstating the true values of great literature and the lost golden age of the old America south. Over the next 20 years they developed and established a literature canon through criticism.

Back To The 'Great Books'?
Since 1980 in the USA there has been a strong lobby for a return to curricula based on the 'great books' and a reaction against multilingual provision for immigrant people, particularly in education. The 'official English' movement is lobbying for an amendment to the US Constitution which would make English the country's official language, and pressure groups have been working at state level to reduce bilingual support in education and other public services.
Conservative educationalists complain that the new multicultural curricula engage students' minds, and no setting up of explicit standards of truth and excellence.
roosh   
26-01-2008, 11:57 PM   #4
 

 











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