Language for Interacting With Others

Reflections on pp.109-124 of chapter 4 (Language for Interacting With Others) in Beverly Derewianka’s book A New Grammar Companion (2015)

This chapter covers the interpersonal function of language; “how language is used to foster social interaction, to create and maintain relationships, to develop and project a personal identity, to express opinions and engage with the views of others.” (p.109). Our roles, position and therefore language changes depending on the relationship that we pronounce ourselves in.

The language for interacting with others is dependent on the pattern of interaction. The pattern is affected about the roles we have with whom we’re talking with. The speech functions in verbal language are divided into four: questions, statements, commands and offers.  When asking questions, we are asking for information , enquiring about something or probing something. A question that asks for a yes or no answer, will naturally limit the interaction and is also called a closed-question, to avoid this, it is better to asked wh- questions (Who?, When?, Where? or Why?), as they require or provoke more lengthy answers. Statements are used to provide information and make remarks (p.112). Commands are used to get things done; either requesting information or asking for goods or services, they vary from instructions, to invitations, suggestions and advice. Finally offers are given when interacting to provide the service or good asked for. “Offers can take a number of different grammatical forms – or they might jus take the form of a physical response, such as passing someone a toll that has been requested. E.g. Here you are. or Do you want some cake?” (p.113). Thus, besides the offers, the key elements in the structure of speech functions are the subject of the verb and the auxiliary part of the verb group (p.114). Derewianka gives examples of the structures of the different speech functions:

The structure of statements

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 01.01.03

(p.114)

The structure of questionsScreen Shot 2017-05-30 at 01.01.12

(p.114)

The structure of commandsscreen-shot-2017-05-30-at-01-01-27.png

(p. 116)

Our speech roles are also very affected by our usages of pronouns, and the terms of address we use as a resource to establish and maintain the relations in terms of power, status and so forth (p. 118). Whether you address someone as Mr./Mrs. or a nickname changes the power dynamic and interpersonal relationship within the language.

Another way to stimulate interaction is to talk about feelings and app onions to express attitudes, if nothing else, this will usually get the reader or listener to wake up and feel the need to interact or respond. Derewianka divides the different kinds of emotions into 3 categories:

  • Matters of the heart
  • Pursuing goals
  • Social wellbeing

We can use both nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs to describe our emotions.

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 01.15.39.png

(p.123)

Emotions are also used to express opinions about something and the quality thereof. This can be regarding their composition e.g., elegant, complex, or not well developed, their social value e.g., significant or valid, and the reaction they provoke in us e.g., terrifying or fascinating! (Using exclamation marks is also a function to express in which way we want something to be received as they signify certainty, excitement or seriousness). Expressions of attitudes can, of course, be both explicit or implicit, depending on our language use and purpose of the message or emotions involved.

Literature:

Derewianka, B. (2015): A New Grammar Companion – For Teachers. Reprint. PETAA

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Writing Genres in English

Reflections on excerpts (genres; 1-5 & ads; 22-28) of Susanne Christensens books City of Dreams (2010) and Ads (2011) from the Close-Up series

This reflection will differ from the previous ones, it is not a cheat sheet nor a resumé of the texts, but rather a review combined with discussion of Christensen’s texts. This is not just a pun since the texts are about writing genres, but a sincere interest in the topic of genres and teacher resources. During my internship I experienced, English teachers (including myself) often take for granted, that the students have been taught how to write certain genres in their Danish (or other L1) classes – as I met students in the 7th grade, that had no idea what the difference was between fiction and nonfiction, or how to write a short story or a review.

The excerpt of Christensen’s books covers essays, diary entries, formal & informal letters, film reviews, news articles and work-sheets for writing your own advertisement, how to write a letter, how to write an essay, how to write a diary entry, how to write a short story, how to write a news article, and how to write a poem.

I am initially fond of things that seem concrete and to-the-point, thus I’m happy to see that each section only takes up one page each, creating a sort of encyclopaedia feel from the get-go – leaving me with no fear of getting lost in the text. Each section has its own title, a brief definition, followed by a guidelines and then a written example or photo – very pleasing to the eye and the mind – though making me wonder why this is written for teachers and not directly to students, as it is very direct and easy to understand. I did stumble over the fact (and the page), that there was guidelines of how to write a diary entry, thinking that a diary is the last place you need to regulate to someone else’s expectations or limitations for that matter. But I found it, in that specific section, that Christisen merely states “what people often do” and uses phrases like “you can do (…) but it is not compulsory”. A less but exciting fear about seeing the guidelines of how to write a poem, was immediately put to sleep, as the first sentence states “It is very hard to define what a poem is. Poems can have countless forms. They can be short or as long as a book. They can rhyme but dont’t have to.” Besides from those two no-longer-existing scares, I cannot stress enough how annoyed I get when adults don’t know how to write a formal letter (read: email), a job application or especially – in group work – AN ACADEMIC REPORT! There is obviously a need for both young and old learners to become more exposed to our structural and linguistic rules of certain genres. The human brain is wired for patterns, rules, and logic – and as it so happens to be with most of the things we learn, as soon as we get it, we start understanding why and how it’s useful. Information and knowledge makes previously unknown topics interesting to us.

A pleasant “read” and a useful tool.

Literature:

Christensen, S. (2010): City of Dreams – Teacher Resources. Gyldendal
Christensen, S. (2011): Ads – Teacher Resources. Gyldendal

Adjusting Strength and Focus

Reflections on Language for Interacting With Others (Chapter 4) from Adjusting strength and focus (pp.125-142) by Beverly Derewianka

963d41137bc27b0aed13d5f3ac35b6a6.jpg

This part of chapter 4 evolves around adjusting the strength or focus of meaning and/or feelings. First of, we will look at intensifiers. An intensifier increase or decrease the force of a message by using:

  • Adverbs
    “I’m somewhat hungry”
    “You look extremely tired”
  • Adjectives
    “You are a complete fool.”
  • Nouns
    “What a stink!”
  • Verbs
    “I adore you.”

(p.125)

These words can either change intensity e.g., I am quite angry > I’m very angry > I’m extremely angry. Or change the force of the vocabulary item itself e.g. (From mild>medium>high)  I’m anxious > I’m nervous > I’m petrified. The force of a message can also be made less or more powerful by repeating, listing, quantifying or by changing/adding in terms of extend.

The chapter is also concerned with opening up spaces in the language, this is to avoid bare assertions and straightforward statements when interacting with others. We can do this by engaging the listener or reader in various ways:

  • inviting them to consider other perspectives
  • introducing other voices into the discourse
  • opening up (our closing down) spaces for negotiation
  • entertaining other possibilities

(p.127)

To introduce other perspectives and voices into the discourse, is to explicitly refer to what something else has to say about this topic. This attribution ranges from very vague to very specific:

  • Some say…
  • Derewianka states, that…
  • According to research…
  • The experiment showed…
  • He found that…

 

Modality – Probability

Modal auxiliaries are used to temper statements, as described in Cheat Sheet #1.  However, this function can also be expressed by modal adjuncts rather than the modal auxiliary (p.132): E.g. (High modality > Mid modality > Low modality) “Certainly > in all probability > maybe” or “Undoubtedly > apparently > allegedly”. Additionally, modality can be expressed through other grammatical resources:

  • Nouns
    • Possibility, probability, obligation, necessary, requirement
  • Adjectives
    • Possible, probable, obligatory, necessary, required, determined

(p.133)

Furthermore there are other words, that introduce a sense of indefiniteness, such as: Seems, appears and apparently.

Modality – Usuality

Absolute statements; Always / Never

Tempered: Usually, sometimes, usually

As an English language learner becomes aware of modality’s role, they can work more easily with the tenor of the context, because the use of modality depends on the context, meaning, that the usage of modality resources, can help empathise focus and meaning of the message.

 

Contracting the interaction space

These are some of my favourite and most hated words and phrases, as I am both a lover and I fighter – I guess – I’ve spent a great deal of time on aligning and arguing my statements… And despite the categorisation beneath, the tone of which the phrases are expressed, determines their validity or sarcasm.

Aligning:

  • As you would be aware…
  • We could agree that…
  • Of course…
  • Obviously…
  • Naturally…

Influencing:

  • The facts o the matter are…
  • We can only conclude that
  • It is absolutely clear to me…
  • My firm belief is…

Countering:

  • Contrary to popular opinion…
  • Alternatively, we might consider…

Mounting an argument:

  • While we might agree that…
  • Although there is an argument for…
  • Even though we might concede that…
  • However, it must be recognised that…
  • On the other hand…
  • To no-one’s surprise, he lost the match…
  • Amazingly he got away with it….

 

Literature:

Derewianka, B. (2015): A New Grammar Companion – For Teachers. Reprint. PETAA

Cheat Sheet #2

Reflections on Step-by-Step With Functional Grammar by Fiona Kettle-Muspratt, in the same style as the previous Cheat Sheet (#1), but this time focussed on processes, participants, circumstances, describers and qualifiers

The field of expressing language has ideational meaning. To figure out what is going on, functional grammar usually divides parts field  participants, processes and circumstances into colours (See beneath). In order to figure out which is which, the same three probe questions can be asked:

  • To find the participant(s):
    • “Who or what?”
  • To find the process(es):
    • “What is happening?”
  • To find the circumstance(s):
    • “Where, when, how, why?”

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 16.31.34

(Figure, p. 11)

 

The Participants

  • Noun group
  • The people or entities involved
  • The participants can be:
    • Sensing (feeling) or experiencing something
    • The one acting in the sentence
    • Can be the receiver of an action (impacted or affected by)
    • Saying something
  • Participants are linked by processes realised by verbs

 

The Processes

  • Verbal group
  • Halliday identified 6 process types (2004) :
    • Material – processes of doing (work, arrest, erupt, climb, elect…) 
    • Relational – processes of being and having (be, have, stand …) 
    • Mental – processes of sensing and feeling (feel, think, wish, believe …) 
    • Verbal – processes of saying (say, tell, report, write, command, deny…) 
    • Behavioural – processes of human behaviour (sleep, cough, look, listen…) 
    • Existential – processes which are signalled by there, such as there is/there are

 

The Circumstances

  • Adverbial group
  • Any further details in the clause? Circumstances answers:
    • When
    • Why
    • Where
    • How

 

Kettle-Muspratt present this worksheet/grid concept, that can be extended to expose the students to the range of functional groups in the nominal group.

Here are some examples:

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 17.04.01.png

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 17.10.41.png

(pp.7-8)

 

Literature:

Halliday, M.A.K. & Matthiessen, C.M.I.M.. (2004): Introduction to Functional Grammar  (3rd Edition). London: Arnold.

Kettle-Muspratt, F. (2009): Step-by-step With Functional Grammar.

Cheat sheet #1

Reflections on Language for Expressing Ideas (chapter 2) in Beverly Derewianka’s book A New Grammar Companion (2015) and Bruntt & Bryanne’s text Interlanguage Analysis (2013)

This reflection aims to investigate and present the abbreviation used when talking about grammar teaching along with the actual meaning and usages of the different types. My biggest constraint towards becoming a language teacher is, that I never really became familiar with the word groups, nor the meaning of words like sub-clause, post modifier or suffix. THUS I finally decided to get my head around it, thus creating this text (reflection) as a ‘cheat sheet’ for myself to consult in the future.

Word Groups and Abbreviations:

•NG: Nominal/noun group

•VG: Verbal/verb group

•adjG: Adjectival/adjective group

•advG: Adverbial/adverb group

•prepG: Prepositional group

•S: Subject

•Aux: Auxiliary verb (used in forming the tenses, moods, and voices of other verbs. The primary auxiliary verbs in English are bedo, and have, but there are also modal auxiliaries, explained beneath) Auxiliary verbs (aux) + participle (p) (-ed) e.g.: Has (aux) walked (p), Have (aux) walked (p), Had (aux) hoped (p). Auxiliary verb + -ing participle e.g.: Is (aux) studying (p), Were (aux) + discussing (p), Was (aux) teaching (p) (Irregular particles can cause difficulties for English learners)

•Conj: Conjunctions (used to join a word, phrase or clause. The main conjunctions are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.)

•SC: Subject Complement (typically as nominal sub-clause)

•C: Circumstantial (e.g. circumstantial sub-clauses; sub-ordinating conjunctions; if, because, as, although, where, while, until, since, when, in order to)

•PoM: Post-modifier (PoM inside an NG or AdjG as a relative sub-clause/pronoun e.g., who, which, whosethatwherewhen, why and how)

•PrM: Pre-modifier (a word, especially an adjective or a noun, that is placed before a noun and describes it or restricts its meaning in some way e.g., a loud noise)

•DO: Direct object (a noun, noun phrase or pronoun that refers to a person or thing that is directly affected by the action of a verb)

•IO: Indirect object (a noun, noun phrase or pronoun in a sentence, used after some verbs, that refers to the person or thing that an action is done to or for)

Verbs

The simple present tense is the base form of the word +-s (or -es)-ending for he, she and it. Two of the most common verbs of the English language; be and have, are irregular in the present tense.

The simple past tense is typically formed by adding -ed to the base form. Many verbs, however, are irregular in the past tense. Examples:

Base form:                        Irregular simple past tense:
go                                        went
buy                                     bought
have                                   had

Many of the commonly used verbs are irregular in the past tense, Thus why past tense irregularities cause major problems for English learners.

 

Modal Verbs

Modal verbs (or modal auxiliaries) are auxiliary verbs that expresses necessity or possibility. I.e. Modal verbs  are auxiliaries that function to indicate the degree of certain surroundings or activities e.g. Might (modal auxiliary) enrol (base form), Must (modal auxiliary) read (base form). Modal verbs examples:

• must (permission or future possibility)

• shall (offer or suggestion)

• will (willingness, certain prediction or promise)

• should (advice or uncertain prediction)

• would (request, invitation or making arrangements)

• can (ability or request)

• could (past ability, suggestion or future possibility)

• may (necessity or obligation)

• ought to (what’s right and correct)

• might (present or future possibility)

Other auxiliaries
These are not strictly modals, but perform a similar function:

  • you need to pay
  • they have to leave
  • we had better hurry
  • we didn’t dare speak

Future time

Another auxiliary is “will”, which is generally used to indicate an action in the future as in these sentences from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings (example from Derewianka):

  • He will destroy Gondor.
  • I’ll go with Sam.
  • Elvish forlorn trees will grow there.

We often use multi-word verb groups, sometimes these are small words like prepositions and adverbs, that are added after the verb. E.g.  Wake up, sit down, get out, put up with, settle down, get away with, give up on, catch on, turn up, give in. This type of verb group is typically used in informal spoken contexts (Derewianka, p. 43).

Negatives
Simply add not after the auxiliary. E.g. Could not, had not, is not. Negatives can also be contracted: Haven’t, Don’t, Didn’t, Weren’t, Doesn’t. The simple present and simple fast tense do not have auxiliaries, so we insert an auxiliary; E.g. Did not, does not, do not. The contraction of the negative in the future tense is irregular E.g. She will not eat her dinner becomes she won’t eat her dinner.

Pronouns
A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. There are 8 different types of pronouns:

•Personal (Subject): I, You, He, She, It, We, You and They.

•Object: Me, You, Him, Her, It, Us, You, and Them.

•Adjective: My, Your, His, Her, Its, Our, Your, and Their.

•Possessive: Mine, Yours, His, Hers, Its, Ours, Yours, and Theirs.

•Demonstrative: This, That, These and Those.

•Interrogative Relative: Who, Whom, What, Which, Where and When.

•Indefinite: Someone, Somebody, Everyone, Everybody, Anyone, None, Few Many, etc.

•Reflexive Intensive: Myself, Yourself, Himself, Herself, Itself, Ourselves, Yourselves, and Themselves


Suffixes
A suffix is added to the end of a base word. A suffix changes the meaning of the word.

-er ending (a person who):

•teacher

•singer

•dancer

•babysitter

•biker

•sprinter

-er ending (more):

•bigger

•stronger

•faster

•quicker

•slower

•happier

•nicer

•taller

-ful ending (full of):

•cheerful

•helful

•thankful

•joyful

•fearful

•careful

•graceful

-less ending (without):

•fearless

•helpless

•homeless

•careless

•powerless

•spotless

Prefixes

A prefix is added to the beginning of a base word. A prefix also changes the meaning of the word.

re- ending (again):

•remake

•rebuild

•retake

•reheat

un- ending (not):

•unhappy

•undo

•unlikely

•unequal

pre- ending (before):

•precook

•pre-activity

•prepaid

•pretest

•premade

dis- ending (opposite of/not):

•diasgree

•dislike

•disloyal

•disarm

de- ending (opposite):

•detach

•deflate

•defrost

 

Literature:

Bruntt & Bryanne (2013), Handbook for Language Detectives; Interlanguage analysis. SAMFUNDSLITERATUR, ISBN: 978-87-593-1573-6

Derewianka, B. (2015): A New Grammar Companion – For Teachers. Reprint. PETAA

“Right then, write!”

Reflections on Susanne Jacobsen’s text Right then, write! published in Sproglæreren (april 2011)

Since the simple goals (Fælles Forenklede Mål) was adopted in 2009, it has become a task to all language teacher, not just Danish teachers, to work towards creating fluency and literacy within the students, thus Susanne Jacobsens article, speaks about how the language teachers should relate to this. This reflection will focus on the aspects of English as a subject in the Danish primary schools.

English has become a lingua franca on a global level, where only people with a decent understanding of the English language can orient themselves in the democratic debate within the global arena (p. 25). Thus, English is an indispensable source of knowledge and information and a weighty bildung factor (dannelsesfaktor). Meaning that not only are the students learning the language, but also about the language to understand the subject itself. One of the factors that Jacobsen highlights is scaffolding, as it is significantly important, when working on verbal communication and understanding of the language, which is highly context-dependent. When students are corporately working or they are interacting, the teacher can scaffold by offering the here-and-now vocabulary which is needed by the individual students – both previous to and during the task. Gibbon (2009) from the Australian genre-pedagogy states that the point is that, the gap between action and context-dependent language for some students is insurmountable, unless the scaffolded report is included (p.26). This means that group work, when learning a L2 language, is very important and highly beneficial for the students because they eventually will end up in a situation, where they have to discuss or bargain with group members, thus enabling them to test out their individual interlanguage hypotheses. Group work further fuels the sense of trust, which is an absolute necessary foundation for all language acquisition (Jacobsen og Olsen, 2011). The actual group work itself can then work as a type of scaffolding, that improves their language skills as they have to write later on – which is more complex, as writing often is a non-context dependant task. It is important, that the students learn to read and write nominalisations, i.e., words that are often constructed from verbs, but made into nouns, because it enables them to deal with abstract terms in an appropriate and complex language when writing. Jacobsen suggests sentence-matching games where the student has to compare a everyday language sentence with an abstract sentence with nominalisations, thus this allows students to find and realise, that persons and actions hide behind nominalisations (p.27).

The advanced level of communication in the English language, that the Danish students learn, is what gives the Danish school system points on the global scale (p.27), and Jacobsen adds, that if we don’t teach them this, we let down the students from a lower socio-economic background. It is the teacher’s task to create the contexts, in which the students can produce exactly the language, that fuels learning (Derewianka, 1990).

Literature:

Deriwianka, B, (1990): Rocks in the Head: Children and the Language of Geology, in: Carter, R. (red.): Knowledge about Language and the Curriculum. Hodder & Stoughton.

Jacobsen, S. (2011): Right then, write!. Sproglæreren

Jacobsen, S. & Olsen, M. (2011): Om klasseledelse og tryghed I engelsklærerens optic, in: Schmidt, M. (red): Klasseledelse og fag – at skabe klassekultur gennem fagdidaktiske valg, Dafolo

Functional Grammar – Introduction

Reflections on Introduction (chapter 1; pp. 1-11) from A New Grammar Companion by Beverly Derewianka

Chapter 1 in Derewianka’s book A New Grammar Companion – For Teachers (2015) introduces the book, its form and its chapters. The book can be used in several ways, but especially for those who are interested in either the meaning or the form of English grammar. The meaning behind grammar teaching focusses on the linguistic choices created for certain meanings. Grammar is reviewed as a resources; “(…) an array of possibilities from which we can choose” (p.1).

Functional grammar teaching is a…

  • sociological perspective*
  • language perspective, and a
  • pedagogical perspective

*Sociological perspective as learners can (and should be able to) use language to achieve a range of social purposes such as describing, explaining, arguing and recounting.

When using a functional perspective:

  • Language is a dynamic, complex system of resources for making meaning.
  • Language reflects the culture in which it has evolved. It is not a neutral medium, but expresses certain world views, values, beliefs and attitudes.
  • Our language choices change from situation to situation, depending on the social purpose for which language is being used, the subject matter, who is involved, and whether the language is spoken or written.
  • The emphasis in language study is on how people use authentic language in various contexts in real life to achieve their purposes.
  • The particular focus will be on the language needed for successful participation in school contexts.
  • A knowledge of grammar can help us to critically evaluate our own texts and those of others (eg identifying point of view; examining how language can be manipulated to achieve certain effects and position the reader in different ways; knowing how language can be used to construct various identities or a particular way of viewing the world).

(p.3)

What language does and what it is needed for:

  • For achieving different social purposes
  • For sharing ideas about their experience of the world
  • For making connections between these ideas
  • For interacting with others
  • And for constructing coherent texts in both spoken and written modes.

The language choices made are naturally influenced by the context. The context includes the purpose, field, tenor and mode. The figure beneath shows how a text is typically shaped (how, and why). The social purpose covers genre and characteristics thereof, thus the entire text and all it’s elements (read: context) is shaped by the social purpose of itself.  Building the field influence that linguistic choices one has to express and connect ideas (knowledge), thus if the teacher is asking a learner to deliver a certain type of text, the “field” is where scaffolding ought to be done (if need be) e.g., to equip the learner with a broadened vocabulary (p.6). The tenor concerns the actual roles presented and their relationships with each other e.g., occupation, titles, intimate vs. distant relations. Finally the mode of the context has to do with creating a coherent and cohesive text, which is different from fluent and spontaneous verbal language.

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 16.37.47

The chapter also introduces the levels of language (and their relation to each other), divided into the following:

  • Text
  • Sentence
  • Clause
  • Group/phrase (as a group of words, what function does ‘this phrase’ have in the sentence?)
  • Word

Example of a story divided into the 5 levels of language: (p.11).

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 16.38.55.png

Literature:

Derewianka, B. (2015): A New Grammar Companion – For Teachers. Reprint. PETAA