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Penn versus Halliday

Posted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 12:39 pm
by fluffyhamster
No, not B.J.Penn of the UFC (that would be a short bout!), but the Penn Treebank lined up against Systemic-Functional Grammar: ... /04-27.pdf

Just thought this might be of potential interest. 8)

Posted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:33 am
by Sally Olsen
Thanks Fluffy. Very interesting.

Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 8:14 am
by woodcutter
I'm always partial to some language related fuss and feathers. "UFC"! "Lined up against"! "Bring on the gladiators" I thought.

However the article concerns how the ever difficult to grasp Systemic Functional Grammar is making use (or should make use) of a tree-gathering corpus linguistic tool, if my brain is still functioning a-right after my patchy perusal.

I do wish someone would sometime make impressive use of SFG concepts in the mundane grammar debates people often have online and make me comprehend why people rely on it.

By the way, has anyone read "The linguistic wars"? That sounds like a good 'un.

Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 11:34 am
by fluffyhamster
I saw Harris' book once in a shop on Charing Cross Road, but unfortunately I didn't have quite enough on me at the time to buy it. Which reminds me, I could probably get it for less now on Amazon...

Anyway, it's certainly a very interesting-looking book, and available for limited preview on Google Book Search. :wink: :)

Posted: Mon Aug 24, 2009 1:05 am
by fluffyhamster
I was reading bits of Unger's Ideogram again today, and noticed he mentions a book called Theory Groups and the Study of Language in North America: A Social History by Stephen Murray in the same breath as Harris' work. Apparently Harris is chattier, but the Murray a better academic survey of the various schools of linguistics, in Unger's opinion. IIRC both books were published in about the same year. ... frontcover

The word 'disembodied' in Unger's subtitle (Chinese Characters and the Myth of Disembodied Meaning) gives a clue as to where his general theoretical allegiances lie or are now at least leaning - towards the "embodied", "Cognitive-with-a-true-big-C" stuff of linguists like Lakoff, and Langacker.

Corpus computer programming.

Posted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 10:28 am
by Heath
Yeah, that article isn't a "Penn versus Halliday". It's about how, in Sydney, they put together a computer programme using Penn's 'tree' that can analyse a corpus, with a focus on SFL.

Should be titled "Penn + Halliday (= computer corpus tool for SFL study)"

Tough reading too. You have to be a genius in both Linguistics and Computer Programming to do anything other than carefully wade your way through the article. I almost gave up on several occasions.

Posted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 11:40 am
by fluffyhamster
Hiya Heath, and welcome to the forums! Sorry if I exercised a bit to much "poetic licence" or whatever in the thread title, but as a wannabe hack journo, to me 'versus' would pull in the punters a lot more than 'and'. :D As for the article itself, to be honest, I don't think it is too technical for the average regular AL forum reader-poster.8) :)

Regular AL forum reader.

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 3:16 am
by Heath
Being new on this site, I guess I'm just not that familiar with the regulars here...

Perhaps I can ask you a bit about the typical kinds of discussions that do go on here (sorry to break from the Penn/Halliday topic, but it would be really helpful if I could get an idea of who this forum's best for).

From my first skim through a few posts, though, I got the impression that this was the forum for normal day-to-day teachers who wanted to chat about Applied Linguistics. For example, the recent PPP topic was replied to with a large number of comments that suggested, to me, that no-one really was that familiar with PPP (ie. one person suggesting no alternative, etc). So first impression = regular AL forum readers are new teachers who are wondering if AL can provide them with some advice on how to teach better.

When I saw a topic on SFL, I thought it might be something related to recent research into linguistics or SLA that could be directly relevant or useful for teachers. Turned out it was more appropriate reading for actual applied linguists, not teachers (nb. I can see it's connection with teaching, but it will be the results of the studies by SFL linguists using the Penn Treebank that will be of relevance to teachers, not the groundwork in the development of the programme itself).

So, now I'm not sure, who would you suggest this forum is best for? Of the following, which is more accurate?
1) New EFL/ESL teachers interested in what AL has to offer them.
2) Experienced EFL/ESL teachers interested in AL.
3) Uni students studying AL.
4) Linguists and people doing actual studies/research in AL.

I'm a teacher and teacher trainer. My post-graduate studies were in TESOL, not Applied Linguistics. I have a deep interest in all aspects of EFL/ESL and have done a fair amount of reading and self-study in various areas of linguistics insofar as it is directly related to language teaching. My only actual research, though, has been classroom based research in relation to approaches to teaching and learning language.

My original expectation of the PPP topic was that it would be discussions along the lines of "it is (not) useful for teachers to select grammatical structures to introduce to learners because, AL research suggests..."

Am I likely to be able to keep up with some of the stuff here? If not, any recommended readings more directly AL related to help me catch up?

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 1:48 am
by fluffyhamster
Hi again Heath.

Over the five or so years that I've been a regular poster here, the discussion seems to have moved through the following main topic-categories (with each generally becoming progressively less discussed as the next one "took over"):

1) grammar and general usage questions (usually from or regarding non-native students or NN speakers - Shuntang/Xui being an infamous example! But then, 'present perfect' is a bit tricky!)
2) the Lewisian (Michael Lewis-championed) concept of remoteness, and modality generally
3) natural versus arguably non-natural discourse-methodology, and a search of sorts for the "best" method (a representative paper to me would be Richards' on answers to yes/no questions, in his The Context of Language Teaching)
4) the status of non-native varieties of English, "World English(es)"
5) some final defending of descriptivism against prescriptivist arguments, in relation to the odd supposedly contested point of usage

Unfortunately the fourth category especially was pushed rather a bit too hard by somebody with an apparently ultra-liberal, PC-bonkers agenda, which led to a fair amount of flaming and probably helped hasten the decline of the forum no small end (although I suspect that general economic woes, and then of course this recession/depression especially, haven't helped much), but there are some who would say that that guy kept the place going with his endless posts asking for grammatical acceptability or appropriateness judgements on all manner of arcane "linguistics proper" questions e.g. do "people generally" (which is what people on this forum more or less are) say or find it acceptable to say 'The foetus aborted' (no, obviously not!*), even if in the process many non-natives at least were likely driven away or found people were too exhausted to respond to any further questions. (Which is all of course very different from posting a link to a pdf that others are perfectly free to read or not read, depending on their interests, how interesting the pdf strikes them, with no actual requirement to get back to the original poster with any sort of comment at all).

Anyway, the general point is that this has never really been a place where methodology itself has been explicitly discussed much (though there have of course been occassional forays into developments such as lexical approaches, corpus linguistics, task-based learning, "linguistics in the news" etc etc etc, and the other forums, such as Activities and Games, Adult Education, Pronunciation, Elementary Ed and Secondary etc, all get their fair share of queries and responses), and that IMHO is probably how it should be, especially given that there are quite a few books available on the subject, ranging from introductions like Harmer (which IIRC contains an 'ESA' pedagogy/paradigm to replace PPP), surveys like Richards and Rodgers (take a look at page 47 via Google Books, assuming it's still available there), histories of ELT such as Howatt's, more polemical works such as Willis & Willis' Challenge and Change in Language Teaching (which contains Scrivener's 'ARC' paradigm, and Lewis' 'OHE') or Lewis' The Lexical Approach, to increasingly more theoretical works such as Skehan's 'Cognitive Approach', works on SLA proper by the likes of Long, etc etc. I've probably said enough times by now how methodology seems to me quite empty, and should follow on from the language (whatever slices we have made - of which there could be more, depending on one's ambitiousness, or even fewer but of prime and truly representative quality, than there is in most decidedly average/"approved" classrooms), rather than always preceding it almost.

It is actually pretty difficult to tell people what they should do at a materials and methodology level without seeming to do their work for them, so most people (unless they happen to have something which would seem to closely match somebody else's apparent needs) confine themselves in their suggestions to the level of "Approach" (i.e. "language", more or less, and often "grammar"), and it is probably this "higher" level that teachers (the less able ones, apparently) need to address and think about if they are ever to spur themselves on to do much of the "drudgery" (learning about grammar, finding good exemplars to contextualize those still-generalities etc). But I appreciate that some may find more inspiration in methodology (potentially aligned to quite "complex" SLA theories) than in say the lexis and discourse (i.e. ultimately empirical, "empiricist") route that I have followed, stemming ultimately from Michael Lewis' initial signposts. (To get an idea of how my interests have widened - and I think they have - you'd unfortunately have to browse through a listing of all my posts!).

So I would certainly have to say that just because people on that other thread did not provide alternatives to PPP did not mean that they didn't know about such alternatives, or even much about PPP itself. I have seen enough in ITT and thereafter, and read enough examples of it (often presented in almost approving terms, no less!) in TT books, to know that it brings me at least out in a right old rash! Anyway, I hope that this response here (which I'll link to on the 'Well do we like PPP or not?' thread) provides more than enough justification for my (and perhaps the other posters') views. I suppose there remains the question of why I for one am not a rabid "task master" quite yet, but then I'll admit that there isn't always quite the time (and money) to keep up with every new development (especially when there are seeming developments within or upon developments: ... 2408#22408 ; ... C&pg=PA119 etc). The main issue "off the top of my head" and with my limited reading of TBL(T - Long's TBLT seems to get lumped in with TBL, or simply ignored, in most mainstream accounts of ELT methodology) would seem to be whether students complete whatever task however painfully, or learn the language (associated with how others do such tasks) first.

As for SFL, as it seems concerned with quite a high or deep level of textual analysis, it probably doesn't get much of a look-in in most EFL contexts, which are usually more concerned with conversation or at the most not-quite-authentic and/or not too-demanding texts (even though some students may be studying EAP in preparation for study in an English-speaking country - I guess they just depend at most on Coxhead's AWL or something to get them through), so it is really up to the enterprising teacher to adapt SFG for these "lower" levels, which is what some have been trying to do (see Geordie's posts, for one).

So, now I'm not sure, who would you suggest this forum is best for? Of the following, which is more accurate?
1) New EFL/ESL teachers interested in what AL has to offer them.
2) Experienced EFL/ESL teachers interested in AL.
3) Uni students studying AL.
4) Linguists and people doing actual studies/research in AL.
I don't think it would be a cop-out, given the length already of this reply, to say that all those types (and more: for example, non-native speakers, albeit of an appreciably high level such as Metamorfose) could benefit from the AL forum, or at least the forums (plural) as whole - and don't forget that I am also a teacher still! There is something here for everybody, and I reckon that the more language and linguistics-oriented flavour of the AL forum has provided some much-needed sustenance and a counterbalance to more immediately practical ideas (a quote I'm fond of, drawn from Lewis though perhaps not his own words, is that "There is nothing as practical as a good theory" - which links back to my point above about Approach-level thinking providing the greenlight to opening the mind's floodgates to a rush of cohesive and assured ideas rather than a trickle of timid, unconnected and disjointed doubts).

My original expectation of the PPP topic was that it would be discussions along the lines of "it is (not) useful for teachers to select grammatical structures to introduce to learners because, AL research suggests..."
> Search Richards & Rodgers on Google Books for 'discredited' and take a look at page 249 in the results. (And I guess one could also read, who was it, Pit Corder with profit still).

Still, classrooms as a whole persist in being pretty false places discoursally despite all the advances in DA and CA, let alone SLA!

Am I likely to be able to keep up with some of the stuff here? If not, any recommended readings more directly AL related to help me catch up?
Like I say, I'm not a linguist (certainly not a fan of the "dominant" Chomskyan thinking/belief system), and some stuff that could be of interest and even useful (assuming you haven't already read 'em) has been directly or indirectly alluded to above (e.g. Lewis' books, such as The English Verb and The Lexical Approach), but I'll just throw out a few more things that I for one have found to be useful (arranged in a roughly "bare facts" to more theory-heavy/?burdened order):

-A good learner dictionary (there's a sticky reviews thread at the top of the Bilingual Education forum) - probably the OALD7 is the best for students, whilst the LDoCE5 offers the most to native teachers

-Perhaps also a descriptive A-Z (alphabetically-arranged, "quick access") usage guide such as COBUILD's, or the Chambers (as opposed to Merriam-Webster's, which although excellent, from an ELT/EFLer's perspective devotes a bit too much space to debunking prescriptive, shibbolethic rot). And let's not forget Swan's PEU, and perhaps Leech's A-Z of English Grammar and Usage

-Discussions of lexis, such as in Lewis' The Lexical Approach (although I would read this primarily as a polemic against the shortcomings of the supposed (i.e. incomplete) "communicative" revolution in LT - so this book should perhaps be included further below, in connection with (the potential limitations of) grammar), Carter & McCarthy's Vocabulary and Language Teaching (notable in particular for its paper by Sinclair & Renouf on lexical syllabuses ; see also (Willis' The Lexical Syllabus, kindly available online for free now that it's out of print)), Schmitt & McCarthy's Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy, Schmitt's Vocabulary in Language Teaching (probably the best single-author book on the subject), and finally Nation's Teaching Vocabulary in Another Language (although he has written more since then)

-The COBUILD English Grammar (a very clear functionally-oriented grammar that one needs little to no knowledge of grammar, SFG etc to use and appreciate), and Grammar Patterns: ... 63652.html
>> (another out-of-print classic work made available for free online, but unfortunately now lacking its original printed introductory and index sections)

-Reasonably sophisticated and comprehensive pedagogical grammars that attempt to explain how discourse factors affect choice of form, such as The Grammar Book by Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman (forget some of their activity suggestions though, which could be bettered). And perhaps a few good solid books on the analysis of natural, especially spoken discourse (conversation), such as Tsui's English Conversation, or Thornbury & Slade's Conversation: From Description to Pedagogy; and how about thought-provoking, less top-down/IC, more bottom-up incrementally "linear" approaches to grammar such as Brazil's A Grammar of Speech

-Treatments of specific areas e.g. Lewis' The English Verb, or Leech's Meaning and the English Verb, or Palmer's The English Verb (roughly increasing complexity)

-A good grammar dictionary to help one navigate between differing frameworks' terms. Chalker & Weiner's The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar is excellent and very affordable (and what's more - don't be fooled by the title! - provides excellent coverage of many terms from phonetics, morphology, and general linguistics and language studies): ... 0174#40174

-Books that discuss 'grammar' in the context of ELT, such as Bygate et al's English and the Language Teacher, and Odlin's Perspectives on Pedagogical Grammar (former is easier going than the latter)

-Discussions of norms in English: see Seidlhofer's Controversies in Applied Linguistics' first two chapters, on World Englishes and Corpus Linguistics, as well as J.Jenkins' The Phonology of English as an International Language

-Modern ostensibly descriptive grammars that try to take account of linguistic research, such as Huddleston & Pullum's CGEL, for which there is A Student's Introduction (to English Grammar), and how about R.Jacobs' English Syntax: A Grammar for English Language Professionals (incorporates some of Chomsky's more recent stuff in a manner halfway relevant to actual LT, which is something that most "introductions" to Generative linguistics fail quite miserably at!)

-Teaching-oriented treatments of SFG such as G.Lock's Functional English Grammar (although other less LT-oriented books on SFL/SFG, such as Bloor & Bloor's, or Geoff Thompson's, are sometimes more thorough in introducing the various SF terms and concepts, and therefore "easier" (in the short term at least...though in the long term...?))

-Guides to AL, which can be very much teaching-oriented (e.g. The Cambridge Guide to TESOL) versus more theoretical and linguisticy in nature (e.g. The Handbook of AL from Blackwell: ... frontcover . They do a whole range of more or less relevant titles in this series, two of which are mentioned below)

-More "linguisticy" books such as Crystal's Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics, Blackwell Publishing's The Handbook of Linguistics and The Handbook of English Linguistics, Sampson's The Language Instinct Debate, Empirical Linguistics and Corpus Linguistics: Reading in a Widening Discipline, Tomasello's The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition, Croft & Cruise's Cognitive Linguistics, Taylor's Cognitive Grammar, Mairal & Gil's Linguistic Universals, and finally works on Van Valin's RRG (Role and Reference Grammar) such as his and LaPolla's Syntax.

All of the above books, with the exception unfortunately of the COBUILD Grammar Patterns volumes, and the Bygate et al, are still in print and should therefore be pretty easy to obtain.

Then, there are quite a few interesting books mentioned on the 'Brian Browser's book-filled trousers' thread (please feel free to add stuff!).

Finally, a search for 'SLA' here on Dave's will uncover 50 or so threads, quite a few of which are well worth reading (the more valuable ones should be obvious from their titles).

*Do you have me, a judoka, asking if "people generally" shout one of 'Koka!', 'Yuko!', 'Wazari!' or 'Ippon!' whenever anybody in the immediate vicinity falls over? No, it would make no sense, unless somebody else present were also a judoka, and capable of understanding the jargon (and thus getting the joke, in this context)!

Great, thanks.

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 2:38 am
by Heath
Ah, great, thanks Fluffyhamster.

From the books you've commented on, this forum sounds fine. I'm better read up, and practised, in the SLA side of things than the AL side of things, and have made good use of ideas (both theoretical and practical) from texts by Lewis, Willis & Willis, Richards & Rodgers, Carter and McCarthy, etc.

The last few you mentioned sound like the kinds of things I'm interested in looking more carefully at (eg. "The Handbook of AL", Lock's "Functional English Grammar", and that one by Sampson - key words for me being 'empirical' and 'corpus').

Thanks again.

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 5:03 am
by fluffyhamster
You're welcome, Heath! :)

Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 8:56 pm
by fluffyhamster