Linguistics for Teachers of English
Carol Russell, Kansas State University
Copyright Year: 2018
ISBN 13: 9781944548179
Publisher: New Prairie Press
Conditions of Use
The text covers the four indicated subject areas (the history of English, language as communication, dialects, and language in the classroom), but some of the coverage is superficial and leaves out relevant, foundational material. For the history... read more
The text covers the four indicated subject areas (the history of English, language as communication, dialects, and language in the classroom), but some of the coverage is superficial and leaves out relevant, foundational material. For the history of English, it is very difficult to explain and understand sound changes in English or the Great Vowel Shift without at least basic knowledge of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the English vowel triangle. The symbols used in the text are not well defined and are not used in the field of linguistics. On p. 8, there are pictures to illustrate the terms “dale,” “thwaite,” and “by” for place names, but there aren’t any examples. Similarly, there are no examples of loan words on p. 25, and there are no examples of syntactic or morphological changes in English other than changes in the pronominal system.
There are links to the “Do You Speak American?” video series with follow-up questions, but there is a lot of content in the videos that could be referenced later. It would be worth mentioning the 1979 Ann Arbor case in the section on AAVE and making reference to the origins and history of AAVE. There is a classroom “game” used to teach children to codeswitch, which could be referenced in the section on teaching SAE and bi-dialectalism (p. 63).
The section Language as Communication includes information on first language acquisition, but nothing on second language acquisition, which is highly relevant to English teachers. The section on dialects does not include anything on Chicano/Hispanic English or non-native Englishes. There are only two bullet points about pragmatics. There is a glossary, but some of the definitions are incomplete or inaccurate. (More on this below.) Finally, the author doesn’t provide citations in the text (for instance, where did the data on G dropping on p. 50 come from?), nor is there a bibliography where readers could find additional information or do further research.
Most of the content is accurate, although the Great Vowel Shift is usually dated from 1400-1700, not 1350-1550. Definitions of competence vs. performance aren’t exactly wrong, but they are narrow and do not correspond to definitions in other contemporary linguistics textbooks.
There are also several definitions in the glossary that are not entirely accurate: the definition of “accent” is too narrow, as it refers only to non-native speakers; the definition of “language” is also too narrow, as it excludes signed languages; “language acquisition” doesn’t include second language acquisition in the definition; loanwords can enter a language at any time, not only during the Middle English period; “mother tongue” usually refers to one’s first or home language; and the definition given for “phonology” is really the definition of “phonetics.” The definition of “prescriptivism” seems to have been cut off (“the school of thought that language”).
The reference to “Baba Wawa” is already very dated. The “Do You Speak American?” series is quite old, but it’s still a good resource. Examples from AAVE and male vs. female communications styles will likely need updating sooner rather than later. The text should also address recent changes in third person pronoun use to include singular use of they/them. The text is arranged in such a way that such updates should be relatively easy to make.
The text is written in prose that should be very easy (perhaps even too easy) for college undergraduates. However, there are several places where information or context is lacking. For example, the acronym SEE (Signed Exact English) isn’t spelled out. The author identifies descriptivism and prescriptivism but doesn’t explain that linguistics as a discipline is descriptive rather than prescriptive (although this is explained in the introductory video). There are interesting activities and questions for discussion scattered throughout the text, but there isn’t always enough information or material included in the text for students to adequately respond without introducing supplementary materials. (For example, translating from Old English to Modern English, considering whether languages are diverging or converging, or whether English should be the official language of the US.)
There is internal consistency in terms of terminology. However, as mentioned above, the author occasionally defines and uses terms in ways that are not consistent with the way they are used in the field of linguistics.
The text is easily divisible into smaller sections that could be assigned in different orders and at different times within a course. There are plenty of headings and subheadings that guide the reader and make it easy to find information.
The text is clearly organized. It is mostly good in terms of flow except at the beginning. There is a link to a video that provides an introduction to linguistics. This is immediately followed by the history of English, which doesn’t obviously fall within the 3 central branches of linguistics that are identified in the video.
All of the links to external videos and websites worked well for me, although the video of the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales read in Middle English is no longer available (or at least it wasn’t available at the time of this review). It would be much easier to navigate if the links opened in a new window. When you return to the textbook after viewing other content, it takes you back to the beginning again.
The text contains a few sentence fragments, comma splices, and incomplete sentences (specifically in the glossary). There is also at least one spelling error: “Endo-European” rather than “Indo-European” on p. 2.
I appreciate the inclusion of AAVE and the very helpful information on ASL. Beyond that, there isn’t much in the way of cultural or racial diversity. There is nothing on Chicano English, immigrants, or second language speakers, which would be highly relevant to English teachers. Some of the presentation is insensitive or at least lacking in important nuance. For example, the characterizations of regional dialects in the US are superficial and only reinforce stereotypes. Furthermore, there are no citations or references to support the generalized descriptions. The map on p. 64 shows population percentages of African Americans in the US by state, but the heading refers to “nationalities.” The grouping of the deaf with “the feral” and “the abused” is highly inappropriate. The section on male/female communication styles asks students to state whether they agree or disagree with a series of statements, yet some of the information has been documented by research and isn’t really a matter of opinion. Asking if students agree or disagree could be a good warm-up activity, but it should then be followed by actual research findings. The video “A Tale of Two Brains” on p. 45 is highly inappropriate and presents gender differences in stereotypical and offensive ways. (Mark Gungor is a pastor and motivational speaker without any background in linguistics or neuroscience, so why include him?)
I appreciate the author’s work in creating a linguistics textbook for teachers of English. The layout is very attractive and it is clear and easy to follow. Sections of the book could be used as supplemental material, but I found it inadequate as a stand-alone text for a class. Important and relevant information is lacking, and some of the presentation is superficial. There are sections of the book that read more like an outline or early draft rather than a fully formed textbook. I am also troubled by the lack of citations or bibliography.
The book covers quite a lot of ground regarding what a teacher of English should know about linguistics. It starts with an overview of the history of English, then moves into word formation, dialects, language acquisition, sign language, and... read more
The book covers quite a lot of ground regarding what a teacher of English should know about linguistics. It starts with an overview of the history of English, then moves into word formation, dialects, language acquisition, sign language, and language in the classroom, among other topics. It does not address all the varieties of English that an English teacher might encounter, but it certainly shows how teachers should be open to diversity. Also, while it does not go into these topics in the depth of most introductory linguistics textbooks, it presents them in an appealing and engaging way that would encourage readers to pursue these topics further. Though I could not find an index or a way to search the text, there is a glossary that explains some, though not all, of the terms in the book. For example, ASL or SEE are not spelled out in the text or in the glossary. Nevertheless, the practical tips for teaching Deaf students are excellent, and this is the first time I have seen this material in a linguistics textbook.
The content, to the best of my knowledge is accurate, error-free, and unbiased.
Linguistics for English teachers is a highly relevant topic given that most teachers are not introduced to linguistics until college, and the material in this textbook is basic and standard to the field of linguistics. Varieties of English are addressed, and the section on the rise of prescriptivism is particularly useful for English teachers. One necessary update, however, should be a section added on pronouns in the schools, now that many schools require teachers to use the pronouns that their students wish others to use.
The style of writing is particularly engaging, written with humor and just the right amount of technical terminology mixed with informality. The glossary at the end provides added clarity for those who need it, though most terms can be explored in other ways.
The text and terminology are very consistent. The graphics are helpful in understanding the content, and the inserted videos enhance the content.
Each of the sections can be read independently, though I think that beginning with the history of English is the best way to start, and I especially appreciate how each section gets to some very salient points very quickly.
The overall structure of the book is very logical Though I don't usually begin my classes with the history of English, I see that this makes sense so that teachers can better understand the changing nature of language.
The videos are good and relevant to the content; closing them, however, either shuts you out of the book or returns you to the beginning of the book, a minor annoyance.
I am a stickler for usage and mechanical accuracy, particularly in books for English teachers, and, yes, I found some errors in this one, though they do not affect the overall readability. (Example: p. 66 "*always in it’s inflected form")
There could be more inclusivity of other dialects in the section on language variation, particularly that of Spanish speakers. The section on AAVE has an exercise which is unclear (p. 68 Exercises for AAVE) where there are sentences written ostensibly in AAVE but without directions as to what is to be done with them. Also, as stated earlier, gender inclusivity should be addressed, particularly as it relates to pronoun use, insofar as that is becoming an increasingly important topic for younger people.
I may consider using this book in my course "Structure of English" , a linguistics course for English majors, since it is comprehensive, direct, and engaging. It hits all the right notes and can be easily supplemented with additional online materials.
Not all ideas of the subject were covered. The textbook is supposed to cover all forms of English but didn't include any examples of global Englishes. And while it did include AAVE, no other vernaculars were included (e.g. Chicano English). What... read more
Not all ideas of the subject were covered. The textbook is supposed to cover all forms of English but didn't include any examples of global Englishes. And while it did include AAVE, no other vernaculars were included (e.g. Chicano English). What was included in the book was generally comprehensible though.
The definition of 'accent' on page 42 and in the glossary is not clear to me. The definition provided: "the sound of words spoken by a person who is not a native speaker of the language" is confusing because for example, a New Yorker has an accent to a midwesterner but it doesn't mean they aren't native speakers of English.
Some definitions in the glossary are either vague or somewhat inaccurate. Example: for the definition of dialect, it states "the sound of words spoken by a native speaker of any language". The definition should at least include the fact that dialects can determine geographical and social differences since that is the main idea of a dialect.
There are a lot of pages that would need to be updated after a short period of time (since language is constantly changing). The pages that come to mind are the coke/pop/soda map (changes will occur as generations die out) and the AAVE page (the slang examples will be out of date within a year as new slang becomes more popular). This is natural with any language though- it's difficult to avoid. One thing the author could have done is include dates of when the data was collected and acknowledge that examples will change.
The text, content and points of the book are made clearly. The only jargon used are in the examples and are explained too. To the best of my knowledge, this textbook can be understood by a variety of audiences.
The textbook does seem to be consistent in terms of the terminology given as well as the framework. There aren't chapters per se, but the textbook is consistent with first discussing the history of English and then moving on to specific examples of English types.
Even though the text does not have specific chapters, I can imagine that an instructor can easily use sections of the book to discuss in a classroom setting. For example, the first two weeks can be dedicated to the history of English, the second week about modes of communication (like body language), etc.
The topics that are presented in the text make logical sense. Starting the textbook with historical background helps the reader understand the English language, for example. Going on to discuss the stages of language acquisition is also a good organizational choice. In general, I like that the reader chooses broad topics of English and then continues to narrow it down to more specific English topics such as dialects.
When you click on a video and then click out of it to return to the textbook, it takes you to the very beginning of the textbook rather than where you left out. It makes navigation difficult and time consuming. All other aspects of interface were fine (clear images/charts).
No grammatical issues found.
It is insensitive not to include all the many forms of English from around the world. The United States is not the only country to speak English, but the textbook only focuses on the English in the U.S. I am glad that they chose to include AAVE at least. In terms of imagery, most images are of White people. For example, the stages of acquisition section only includes White babies and children.
The embedded video on page 45 regarding men and women's brains is pretty offensive. The comedian implies that the way women think is ridiculous. In general, I do not think that video is necessary; the list given on how women and men speak differently is sufficient.
“Linguistics for Teachers of English” is a short textbook which covers a subset of key topics that would be critical for a general introduction to linguistics for teachers: the history of English (Unit 1), language as communication (Unit 2),... read more
“Linguistics for Teachers of English” is a short textbook which covers a subset of key topics that would be critical for a general introduction to linguistics for teachers: the history of English (Unit 1), language as communication (Unit 2), dialects (Unit 3), and language in the classroom (Unit 4). The unit on the history of English is by far the most comprehensive, covering nearly half of the pages in this short book. It provides a good introduction to the history of the language using a variety of attractive, helpful visuals (though some of the details of the timelines may need attention – see below). There are useful examples of influence from specific linguistic sources (including Latin and Scandinavian languages, though the influence of French after 1066 could be further elaborated). Important historical documents and events are introduced, including the Ruthwell Cross, Caedman’s Hymn, the Normal Invasion, the Bubonic Plague, the Great Vowel Shift, Caxton’s printing press, and the early prescriptivists during the Age of Reason (introducing the idea of standardization). The unit on language as communication introduces the idea that language is specific to humans, though it does not go into any detail in explaining the differences between communication and language. This unit also introduces the importance of context for influencing communication and variations in styles of communication, including male vs. female communication styles, major stages in first language acquisition, the distinction between competence and performance, and the fact that social class influences language use and variation.The unit on dialects introduces the idea of Standard American English and newscaster English (though this is called “The Voice from Nowhere” – I term I haven’t encountered elsewhere in my 7 years of teaching introductory linguistics), and reasons for dialectal variation. There are also one-page overviews of three of three regional US dialects: Northern/New England, Upper Midwest/Great Lakes, and General South, and a video example of Appalachian English. This unit also addresses different attitudes toward dialects in the classroom, though in a very attitude-neutral way, without guiding teachers towards acceptance of non-standard varieties, and introduces AAVE with a variety of linguistic examples (though some of these could be updated, see below, and more consideration of the social aspects of dialects, issues of identity, prestige, etc. could usefully be added to make this section more complete. Finally, the unit on language in the classroom re-introduces the idea of a standard variety and presents a number of 20th century writers who debated the preeminence of spoken vs. written language. Sign language is also introduced, along with a useful distinction of the terms ‘deaf’ and ‘Deaf’ and some key behaviors and suggestions for teaching students who are deaf. Importantly, however, critical and foundational components of linguistics are missing almost entirely from the book, including phonetics, phonology, morphology (beyond considering a handful of ways that new words are added to English, such as compounding, blending, and clipping), syntax, and semantics. In addition, there is essentially no consideration of the issue of second language learning, which is almost certainly one of the most relevant aspects of linguistics for English teachers. There is a detailed and useful Table of Contents. There is a glossary with simple explanations (though this has limitations; see ‘Accuracy’ below), but no index. One major piece that is missing is reference to other sources, particularly primary literature and other books students may want to consider.
In general, the book is largely accurate in a technical sense, although the content coverage is quite shallow (broad rather than deep) through much of the book and there is a noticeable lack of clear definitions of some technical terms (see the section on ‘Clarity’, below, for more details). However, there are a small number of important claims the book makes that are not accurate, and/or misleading, and which I believe are problematic for a general introduction to linguistics targeting English teachers. For example, in the unit on language and communication, language as defined as being only verbal, and person who are deaf are grouped with “the feral” and “the abused” as exceptions; such a misrepresentation of the status of signed languages as different from full languages is problematic and is something that should be corrected, not perpetuated, in such a text. Later, in the unit on language in the classroom, persons who are deaf are said to usually use ASL as their native language, which frequently may not actually be the case (and may mislead teachers and give the misguided expectations). The unit on language and communication also makes very general and simple claims about male versus female styles of communication, including a link to a video of a comedy routine drawing on common stereotypes, without considering this important issue in a more nuanced and empirically-based way. There is an interesting introduction to AAVE, consisting mostly of linguistic examples, but these examples are also a bit limited and stereotyped, and could usefully be updated and elaborated. Some of the timeline details in the history of English also differ from the more widely used date ranges, for example, this book gives the Great Vowel Shift as occurring in 1350-1550 AD, whereas the dates are more typically given as 1400 and 1700. In addition, some of the glossary entries are problematic. For example, the entry for “accent” indicates that accents only apply to non-native speakers; the entry for “Caxton’s Press (Literacy)” connects Caxton’s press to expanding literacy but does not define or explain the press; the entry for “mother tongue” says that this is “the way to identify the main branch of a language”, a meaning I’ve never seen, and ignores the sense of ‘first language’ that is usually meant with this term; the entry for “phonology” says that this is “the sounds in a language” (which would be a better definition for phonetics than phonology), and the entry for “Prescriptivism (The 6 Guys)” is incomplete.
Most topics that are presented in the text are given in a way that is relatively time-neutral – in other words, they are not particularly out of date and are unlikely to go out of date quickly or easily. However, some of the topics, such as male vs. female communication styles and features of AAVE (mentioned above), would benefit from being updated with examples and explanations that better reflect current empirical understandings (and more nuance, encouraging students to think beyond stereotypes rather than staying within them or even validating them). Some of the examples are generally dated, such as the use of Barbara Walter’s nickname “Baba Wawa” from SNL in the 1970s, linking to the full documentary “Do You Speak American?”, and a focus on Signing Exact English alongside ASL. However, the structure of the text is quite open, meaning that such updates seem like they would be relatively easy to do; the text is not visually dense and there are few or no internal references to specific page numbers, so content could likely be added and changed with little problem.
Overall the text of this book is written in simple, easy to understand language that should be easily accessible to undergraduate students (or even non-native speakers). However, the level of detail and the presence of clear definitions and explanations are wanting in the main text and some of them are problematic in the glossary (see details above), minimizing the usefulness of the text as a stand-alone resource (more on this below) and likely limiting its appropriateness for post-baccalaureate students. For example, pragmatics is introduced briefly in the unit on language and communication, but consists of only two bullet points without any further definition or elaboration. The definitions of competence vs. performance are not incorrect, but lack detail and connection to this important issue in the theories of linguistics. Social class is introduced as a factor that may influence language use, but with very little actual detail and using a study that may be difficult to understand (examining ‘g-dropping’, rather than the typical example of Labov’s department store study), and with a chart that is difficult to understand. Newscaster English is introduced, but called “The Voice from Nowhere” and there are some unclear or dated headings, such as “Baba Wawa” and a question that is meant to lead students to identify the news anchor Barbara Walters (but she is never actually identified – no answer key may lead to frustration for some questions and activities). ‘Prestige’ is used as a term, but never actually defined, whereas ‘register’ is briefly defined, but in a way that does not fully align with how the term is used in the field more generally. Prescriptivism is loosely defined, but Descriptivism isn’t really (though the term is used in Unit 4). Also in Unit 4, Signing Exact English (SEE) is introduced alongside ASL, but is never clearly defined or distinguished from ASL (and the limitations involved with using SEE are not considered).
The text is largely internally consistent. The style and format (both visually and in terms of content and organization) are attractive and used consistently throughout the book. The terms that are defined also appear to be used in a consistent way throughout the text, though their actual definitions need some work in places for consistency with the field more broadly (see above). In addition, some conventions that are used are not representative of the broader field; for example, there is a pronunciation guide given in the section on Middle English, but it is not connected to the International Phonetic Alphabet (which might be useful to introduce both in this section and also to use in the section on dialects). The relative size of the units is quite variable, however; as mentioned earlier, the section on the history of English takes up nearly half the book, with the other sections (especially the one on language and communication) are noticeably shorter.
For the most part the text is modular within itself. There are four main units, each of which is subdivided into smaller sections on various topics with clear headings to separate them; few topics extend beyond 2-3 pages so they could be easily divided into smaller reading assignments. There are essentially no long, unorganized blocks of text; most paragraphs are short and portions of the text are even given in bullet-point format, with clear headings throughout. There are only minimal references to earlier sections of the text in later sections. Some overlapping issues, such as the topic of standardization/standard varieties and prescriptivism, are addressed in multiple sections, but in a way that is not highly inter-dependent, and thus not problematic for modularity (and in fact have the potential for creating a coherent theme throughout the text, though more advantage could be taken of this possibility). However, I believe it would be difficult to use the text on its own for a course without substantial supplementary materials. There are a variety of discussion questions, activities, and end-of-unit review sections that have the potential to be very useful, but which assume more knowledge than what is presented in the text itself or otherwise might encourage students to rely on assumptions and stereotypes rather than new knowledge. For example, there is a section for practice “translating” from Old English to Modern English, but there is not enough detail in the text to reasonably do this without at least some reference to other sources. Later, there is an activity for “translating” from AAVE to Standard American English, but there is no answer key or further guidance on this activity. After the first discussion of standardization and prescriptivism, there are a set of points to consider in discussion, but some of these points are under-developed and unclear, such as “Phonology – sounds (dialects?)”. The section on dialects asks students to engage with the question of whether languages are converging or diverging, but there is little information in the text itself to help students grapple with this issue. Later, in the review questions, students are asked to consider the issue of whether English should be the official language for the US, but again the text does not actually deal with this topic itself. There is also a reference to a DVD, but exactly what material this is referring to is unclear.
In terms of the four units, the progression from history to language as communication to dialects to language in the classroom is adequate and not problematic. It might make more sense to begin a course on linguistics for English teachers with defining language vs. communication (presented in Unit 2 of this text), but given the modularity of the text (see above) a teacher could easily assign sections for reading that go “out of order” with little problem.
There were no issues with navigation of the book or distortion of the images or charts. In fact, the book looks quite visually appealing and has a consistent format throughout. One of the highlights of a digital, OER textbook is the ability to link to other resources; this book took advantage of these affordances in a reasonable way with many embedded links for videos and “Click to Learn More” links. The iBook version of the book worked with few issues; only one of the links was broken. However, an active internet connection is needed to access these, and they are also not accessible from the .pdf version of the book. These may be serious limitations for some users of the textbook.
There are a number of sentence fragments used throughout the main text and some incomplete sentences (i.e., missing information) in the glossary. However, there are no grammatical errors aside from these.
The text makes sure to directly address important issues such as dialectal variation, Standard American English, and prescriptivism. However, as discussed above, these topics could also be usefully elaborated. The sections on non-standard varieties (e.g., AAVE) and minority language groups (e.g., ASL) are largely not insensitive, but do lack nuance and updated detail in how they are considered – this is an area of improvement that is needed. However, other important cultural groups, such as the Latinx community and second language speakers and immigrants in general, are not considered – these would be a very valuable addition to the book, given the target audience of English teachers. I also would have loved the writer to really take advantage of the opportunity to push English teachers toward greater acceptance of linguistic and cultural diversity – something I felt was somewhat lacking.
The simplicity and visual organization are attractive features of this book, but overall I found it too incomplete to be of use as a single text for a course. Much more information is needed to adequately cover the topics that are included, and many important aspects of linguistics are missing (including the main subfields of phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics, as well as any real discussion of second language learners). The issues of standardization, language standards, and prescriptivism appear throughout the book and provide the possibility of a useful, thought-provoking thread tying together the parts of the text, but this is not really taken advantage of, and there is little meta-commentary to help students understand how the topics covered in the book are relevant to them as teachers of English. Many of the visuals (especially in the first unit) are very useful, but the relevance of the linked material is unclear and/or limited in a number of places.
The book provides a clear and easy-to-read introduction to some key areas of linguistics, including the history of English, growth of the lexicon, some sociolinguistic factors, competence vs performance, dialects, and accents. However, many... read more
The book provides a clear and easy-to-read introduction to some key areas of linguistics, including the history of English, growth of the lexicon, some sociolinguistic factors, competence vs performance, dialects, and accents. However, many subdisciplines of linguistics, such as syntax, morphology, phonetics/phonology, semantics, and pragmatics, are barely touched on. Even the topics that are included are presented in a relatively shallow way, so at times the book feels more like an outline of information to cover more in-depth in class rather than a complete textbook.
I have no arguments with the accuracy of major information in the text, but at times the lack of detail may be misleading. For instance, on page 50, the text claims that an included chart shows results for “G-Dropping”, but there is no caption for the chart, nor is there an explanation for how to read it. Logically, a student could read the chart as showing that middle class females G-dropped almost 100% of the time, while lower working class individuals G-dropped less than 5% of the time. However, the text makes the opposite claim (that the working class G-drops more, which is what the research actually found). A clear caption for the chart or a citation to the original research would help clarify when lack of detail may appear inaccurate.
Content is relatively up-to-date, though it could potentially use some revision in the sections discussing AAVE and ASL. The book is organized and formatted so that it should be easy to update with newer information. For me, a larger problem with relevance is that the text does not make an effort to establish a connection with the content for the reader. In other words, why do Teachers of English need to know about the chosen topics, like the history of English? Establishing the relevance of the content from the very beginning would help students understand why they are learning these things.
The writing is clear and easy to read, with terms defined as needed. Undergraduate students should have very little trouble reading and understanding the book.
The book appears to be consistent in terms of terminology and framework overall, but is not always consistent with the field in general. For instance, one area where consistency could be improved would be to use IPA for the vowel sound chart on page 27, and then again in discussion of dialects in the final section.
The book is divided into 4 units: History, Language as Communication, Dialects, and Language in the Classroom. Each Unit is further divided into smaller sections that could be read as individual pieces. The prose included is generally organized into short paragraphs, with liberal use of bullet points and topic headings.
Overall, the organization of this text makes sense. Topics are presented logically, and there is an overall flow. In some places, however, reorganization would be beneficial. For instance, on page 32, in the discussion of prescriptivism, clipping is mentioned, but the discussion and definition of clipping is not presented until several pages later. In addition, while the discussion of prescriptivism seems self-contained on page 32, the author returns to the “6 guys” of prescriptivism on page 35, after the conclusion of the section on the Growth of the Lexicon. Because there is no discussion of how prescriptivism affects the growth of the lexicon, so the return to the “6 guys” makes the section appear disjointed.
The text is easy to navigate, with no problems that I noticed with the presentation of images or charts. I really liked the inclusion of video clips, but I was reading from a downloaded copy and many of the links would not connect for me. There were also “Click here to learn more” notes in several places, but none of these would open for me. It would have been nice to have the actual link there so that I could copy and paste it into my browser (and so that students with similar issues can still access the relevant media).
The book is relatively free of grammatical errors, with the exception of frequent sentence fragments.
I feel that this aspect could use some work, not because the text is offensive, but because it could be more inclusive and be extended to additional speech communities. In the discussion of AAVE, what is it that teachers need to know and remember? In the discussion of ASL and the Deaf community, is it really correct to say that most Deaf students will have ASL as their native language (research indicates that many Deaf children do not learn ASL at home)? The broad generalizations of dialects ignore some key distinctions, and I don’t remember any mention of Latinx communities and language, or of second language speakers and communities (except in relation to accent).
There were many things that I liked about this book, including the organization, clarity of the writing, and the attractive layout with many graphics and pictures. For beginning undergraduate students who want a general overview of the history of English and a brief look at some sociolinguistics, this may be a good choice because it would be accessible and interesting. However, I am looking to replace a book for a Linguistics for Language Teachers class that is cross-listed for graduate and undergraduate students, and this book would not be sufficient for that purpose. Extensive supplementation would be necessary, as would proper citations of primary research that students could read.
Based on the description ("The primary goals of this text are to acquaint prospective teachers of English with certain aspects of the history, structure, and use of the English Language."), I was expecting a more comprehensive treatment of the... read more
Based on the description ("The primary goals of this text are to acquaint prospective teachers of English with certain aspects of the history, structure, and use of the English Language."), I was expecting a more comprehensive treatment of the history, structure and ideology of English that might be used as a stand-alone text. Instead, the book is a short (84 page) handbook that I would have to be supplemented with other readings (some of the questions in the text for students to answer imply that). There is relatively little on the structure of English, per se, or on phonetics/phonology.
There were some gems, like the discussion of 1066 and of Old English generally but also some things I would question: small things like the spelling of Olde English (most scholars and texts talk about Old English) and I would question the treatment of the Great Vowel Shift (which is usually dated from 1400-1700 not the and is misdescribed as (p 19) as 1350-1550 and as "A period in EmE where most long vowels become short and vice versa." (p 29 and 83). Also non-standard is the definition of language as "Communication using the voice," which excludes ASL. Every other text I know of treats sign languages as language. Phonology is oversimplified as "The sounds in a language."
This is a strength of the book; the organization and content are relatively evergreen. One aspect that should be reconsidered is a more comprehensive and up-to-date discussion of dialects to include more on social dialects and to differentiate the Mountain south from the Gulf South.
The prose is accessible and clear though much of the text is images and charts. It is very undergrad-friendly but less of a stand-alone book than I would like.
This is also a strength of the book. The table on p 27 introduces symbols for sounds that don't seem to be discussed elsewhere.
The modules work well though in some places more needs to be said. The discussion of Pragmatics on p. 42 is titled A Little More About Pragmatics followed by two bullet points (• What is said previously helps to determine meaning, • Knowledge of all speakers’ meaning within the spoken word).
Generally this works well. The is a little bobble around p 35 where prescriptivism jumps back in after a discussion of word formation.
The interface works well overall, good use of links to video and other documents, lots of bullet point material, and some rather nice charts early on.
No grammatical errors per se but there are places where there are incomplete sentences and other gaps. For example "prescriptivism" in the glossary is "The school of thought that language." On p. 31 we find the fragment "Although we credit many words from Scandinavian influences (remember they gave us place names and pronouns!)" and on p 70 "Teaching in general and teaching a deaf student."
There is a good discussion of African-American Vernacular English (that could be expanded to talk about the Ann Arbor case from 1979, code switching and allude to current issues of language an race) but no mention of Hispanic varieties of English. Also, I think the discussion of the Deaf community needs to be rethought.
This seems very much like a work in progress, so I would encourage the author to continue to refine and expand it and to include a note to the teacher with some guidance on how to use the book with other supplementary materials.
This book first provides an overview of the history of the English language (pp. 1-38) divided into three sections: Olde English, Middle English, and Modern English. This unit offers maps, visual timelines, hyperlinks, and a fun way to look at the... read more
This book first provides an overview of the history of the English language (pp. 1-38) divided into three sections: Olde English, Middle English, and Modern English. This unit offers maps, visual timelines, hyperlinks, and a fun way to look at the battle of 1066, with pictures representing “the cast”. The second unit, “Language as Communication” (pp. 39-51) focuses on communication styles and the language acquisition process with an abundance of videos enabling the reader/listener to understand the concepts. Follows a unit on American English dialects (pp. 52-69) that is also interactive. An interesting section of this unit, called “Dialects in the Classroom” (p. 62) invites readers (future teachers) to question their attitudes and beliefs about the dialects students may bring to the classroom. The last unit is dedicated to “Language in the Classroom” (pp. 70-81), with an important section on ASL (p.74) and how to accommodate students with hearing difficulties. A section about second language learners and bilingual students could have been added in the language acquisition section, or in the unit dedicated to language in the classroom. A glossary has been provided at the end of the book and provides definitions in simple terms.
The definition of an accent as the way only a non-native speaker of English is going to pronounce words may be a bit simplistic.
The content is up-to-date. In the section about dialects, the extract from “Do you Speak American” from 1976 may need to be updated for a younger audience.
The book is organized in units divided into clear short sections mixing text, images, and hyperlinks. The text is easy to read and the author has added fun headings to captivate the audience. Technical jargon is kept to a minimum. Quick review sections are added at the end of each unit, and a glossary can be consulted at the end of the book.
The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
Units can be broken down into smaller sections. They can easily supplement lessons on the history of English, language acquisition, phonology, morphology, American Sign Language, etc.
The book is organized in a clear manner, starting with the history of English, language as communication, dialects, and English in the classroom. Each unit is broken down into subsections presenting the reader with information (text, images, videos), questions to reflect upon, exercises, and a quick review of main terms and ideas.
The book is interactive and offers the reader the opportunity to watch videos and access supplemental material. Some links did not work in the pdf or e-book form.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
I teach an “Introduction to Linguistics” course for future teachers and I am looking to replace the book I am currently using. While “Linguistics for Teachers of English” has a nice design and includes a variety of resources, it is not inclusive of a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds, just like most linguistics books I have been considering adopting. Most textbooks forget to mention Hispanics and LatinX, and the cultural and linguistic diversity they bring to the areas where they live. The description of the book mentions how language and culture are related, and it would be appropriate to include a growing segment of the American population in this book to allow a variety of students, and future teachers, to see they are part of the linguistic landscape of this country.
Linguistics for Teachers of English covers a wide range of background information about the history, study and knowledge of linguistics, ranging from a broad yet simple explanation of the evolution of the English language, from Old to Modern... read more
Linguistics for Teachers of English covers a wide range of background information about the history, study and knowledge of linguistics, ranging from a broad yet simple explanation of the evolution of the English language, from Old to Modern English, including easy-to-grasp graphics, timelines, important historical moments, such as Roman rule, publication of Beowulf, and the influence of French and Shakespeare to name a few. The author also augments the content of these items in a fun, lighthearted way, such as adding a video of a reading of a poem from Middle English to highlight vowel shift, allowing the reader to experience the sound of the change to modern English. The author then outlines foundational concepts in linguistics such as communication and dialects, including discussion of controversial history of adopting certain dialects more than others and a broad explanation of various regional dialects in parts of the US. Finally, she includes a short history of the use of language in the classroom, the use of sign language, and follows with a comprehensive glossary. This text is more broad than deep; a reader can get a general understanding of history of language and linguistics from this text.
This text contains lots of dates (Norman invasion, 1066) which seem to be largely factual. One area may be considered biased, such as the explanation of meaning in the use of "be" in African American vernacular, which may be out of date, could be updated or has been more recently reviewed.
Looked at as a brief history of everything linguistics, this text is extremely useful to those who haven't taken requisite courses on vowel shift, the phenomenon of borrowing on the English lexicon, and the history of prescriptivism in grammar . In this way, this text is highly relevant for those new to the field. Some content, especially on the description of lexical adoption, such as the chart on the use of "soda" vs "pop" may already be out of date, but could be easily updated by inserting new data or charts.
Each unit is written in simple language and easily explains difficult concepts such as vowel shift with current, easily understood examples. Rather than long and descriptive paragraphs, the writer makes use of bullet points, lists, graphs, video links, and charts, which are clear in this context. Technological terms are explained in an accessible, simple way. Several charts have links that may not work in one downloaded version.
Each unit is clearly explained, and ends with a series of questions which can be used for self-study, reference, or class discussion.
The book is easily divisible and could be used separately or in tandem.
This book is simple to follow for the novice linguist or English teacher, and is logical and easy to follow.
In the text, there are links that may not work, but this is addressed by the author in the overview.
The book is free from errors.
The discussion on dialects is presented in a way that informs the reader of the various types of dialects that could be found in Standard American English, and addresses the issue in broad terms while accounting for the possibility that these dialects may be considered more or less stereotypical depending on the reader.
This text is strongly suggested for those who want to have a basic understanding of English language history and linguistics.
Table of Contents
- Language as Communication
- Language in the Classroom
About the Book
The primary goals of this text are to acquaint prospective teachers of English with certain aspects of the history, structure, and use of the English Language. Through considering the nature of the English language; how language and culture are interconnected as well as how it is acquired and how and why it changes, readers will come to a fuller understanding of sociolinguistics. This text discusses the nature of language, as well as how it is acquired; how and why languages change, and how the English language in particular has changed (and continues to change); why different varieties of English have developed, and why they continue to be used; how linguists have attempted to account for the (ir)regularities of English; how language and culture are related; and how linguistics can be used as a tool in the classroom. This text presents important topics for English teachers to know: the relationship between “standard” and “nonstandard” dialects, how and why language varies, how we can make informed decisions about what is “right” and “wrong” in language use, and generally how a sound knowledge of how language works can inform and benefit the pedagogical strategies needed to develop as a teacher. Ultimately, I want readers to think about language in ways not thought of before: objectively, passionately, critically, analytically, and logically. This allows readers to move beyond memorization of facts to original thought (which is sort of like the difference between knowing how to add and subtract, and being able to balance a checkbook).
About the Contributors
Carol Russell, Kansas State University