Monthly Lectures 2015

Date Title Speaker (Affiliation)
Dec 12 Reading in College: From Fluent Decoders to Strategic Readers Gay Brookes (Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY)
Nov 14 What the Signs say: Gentrification, Gender, and the whitening of Brooklyn Shonna Trinch (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)
Oct 10 Teaching Second Language Learners: Addressing Areas of Controversy and Non-Uniformity Martin R. Gitterman (Lehman College and The Graduate Center, CUNY)
May 9 Caribbean Americans and African Americans negotiating Black Ethnic spaces through language Renée Blake (New York University)
Mar 14 Indo-European and Homer's 'delicate feasting of dogs, of all birds' (Iliad 1.5) Edwin D. Floyd (University of Pittsburgh)
Feb 7 Aramaic Documents from Ancient Bactria: Connections to the West- and the East - and the Future Peter T. Daniels (Independent Scholar)

Dec 12, 2015

Reading in College: From Fluent Decoders to Strategic Readers

Gay Brookes (Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Richard Harris Terrace, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

What does it mean to read well? To read fluently? What does reading do to the brain? What does reading do beyond giving answers? In this technological world, is it important for college students to read books? What role does vocabulary play? What about second language readers? What can you do to "teach" your students to be better readers? It behooves us as college instructors to become aware of our own and our students' reading process and how we can strengthen the ability (theirs and ours) to carry on a conversation with text.

This talk will attempt to answer some of the questions we, as teachers, may have about reading. We most likely take reading for granted. We assume that students can read adequately to do our assignments: conduct research to write a paper or finish a short story to carry on a discussion. And if they don't, it must be they don't want to. Perhaps the student just needs to see a tutor; or we need to explain the important concepts in class. Students, too, assume they can read well enough. They don't fear it as they do writing. When it gets tough, they find ways to cope, or they take a D instead of a B. We need to help them work at reading well.





Nov 14, 2015

What the Signs say: Gentrification, Gender, and the whitening of Brooklyn

Shonna Trinch (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

Brooklyn is undergoing an incredibly rapid and intense process of gentrification or "the production of space for progressively more affluent users" (Hackworth 2002:815). And while it is not always the case for gentrification, it is more often than not in the United States that "more affluent users" tend to be white and more highly educated than the people who were there before them. This transformation presents a unique opportunity to understand how this once non-distinctive "outer" borough of New York City has become a global phenomenon reframed as a Brooklyn with distinction. While most studies of gentrification focus on housing prices, investment, city planning, zoning and massive redevelopment, we examine storefront signs, or the obvious, but overlooked, public texts that have the social power to communicate, constitute and reflect urban change.

Using theory and methods from linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics, my co-author, Edward Snajdr and I suggest how storefront signs signal both the new and old social orders in Brooklyn. Ethnographic mapping and photo-ethnography reveal that most non-corporate Brooklyn signage follows one of two patterns: Old School Vernacular or New Brooklyn Signs. By comparing and contrasting the different features of each, we suggest that storefront signs are registers of place which make language into material that aids in changing the social context of the same physical space and the meanings humans attach to the land itself. As agents and markers of change, both types of signs tend to include language ideologies and the cultural organizing principals of race, class, religion, nationality, languages other than English and ethnicity to index inclusion and exclusion of Others. And by reading the signs in the context of our ethnography of urban evolution, we see how gendered signs suggest that women are critical and perhaps even perceived as threatening agents of change in Brooklyn.





Oct 10, 2015

Teaching Second Language Learners: Addressing Areas of Controversy and Non-Uniformity

Martin R. Gitterman (Lehman College and The Graduate Center, CUNY)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

There exist different viewpoints regarding an appropriate methodology for teaching a second language. Consequently, any examination of programs across educational institutions, as well as classrooms within a given institution, is bound to reflect this diversity of belief. In some cases different practices are an outgrowth of strongly held underlying beliefs; in other cases observed differences in practice and policy simply represent non-uniformity, with no evidence of strongly held underlying beliefs linked to a given practice or policy. This presentation will assess practices and policies of both types, arguing for a particular course of action in each case. Each of the positions advocated will constitute a concrete recommendation to educators. Among the areas to be covered in this presentation are awareness of structure and rules, affective factors, language shift and bilingual education.





Oct 10, 2015

Teaching Second Language Learners: Addressing Areas of Controversy and Non-Uniformity

Martin R. Gitterman (Lehman College and The Graduate Center, CUNY)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

There exist different viewpoints regarding an appropriate methodology for teaching a second language. Consequently, any examination of programs across educational institutions, as well as classrooms within a given institution, is bound to reflect this diversity of belief. In some cases different practices are an outgrowth of strongly held underlying beliefs; in other cases observed differences in practice and policy simply represent non-uniformity, with no evidence of strongly held underlying beliefs linked to a given practice or policy. This presentation will assess practices and policies of both types, arguing for a particular course of action in each case. Each of the positions advocated will constitute a concrete recommendation to educators. Among the areas to be covered in this presentation are awareness of structure and rules, affective factors, language shift and bilingual education.





May 9, 2015

Caribbean Americans and African Americans negotiating Black Ethnic spaces through language

Renée Blake (New York University)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

By studying the sociolinguistic behavior of other Black ethnics (e.g., African Americans and non-African Americans) in the U.S., we can illuminate the ways in which individuals from these communities use and manipulate language, consciously and unconsciously, as a resource to mark their multiple identifications, some of which overlap and some of which are distinct. This talk focusses on the English spoken by children of Black West Indian immigrants to New York City and their African American counterparts. Labov's (1972) seminal sociolinguistic work on the speech of African Americans in New York City, Language in the Inner City, laid the foundation for a comprehensive model of African American Language as a dialect in its own right. But today, New York City is a very different place, and its Black community has changed accordingly.

After the passing of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, New York City immigrants and their children hailed from all over the world. Today, the ever-increasing numbers of second generation West Indian Americans affects the ethnic landscape and raises the question of what is African American Language in New York City today?

The results of the research discussed point to a similar linguistic repertoire for both groups of Black New Yorkers, with subtleties evident at the quantitative level. While both groups are quite /r/-ful, Caribbean American-identified Blacks have higher rates of /r/-fulness than African American-identified Blacks. Moreover, while both groups show the tensing and raising of /ɔ/ typically associated with New York City, there are differences in the length of the off-glide. Finally, while the realization of /oʊ/ is closer to a New York realization than the Caribbean Creole English varieties, off-glide differences exist between the two groups. An interview with an individual in Caribbean student group organized as a community of practice suggests even finer complexities in the sociolinguistic similarities and differences among Black New Yorkers.





March 14, 2015

Indo-European and Homer's 'delicate feasting of dogs, of all birds' (Iliad 1.5)

Edwin D. Floyd (University of Pittsburgh)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

A question that I frequently face, when introduced as "specializing in Homer", is "What is the best translation?" The assumption seems to be that a Homerist's main function is to choose between translations - and that has long annoyed me, as relegating any really scholarly engagement with Homer to some secondary status.

Approaching the problem head-on, my talk considers more than 70 English versions of Iliad 1.1-7, along with more than 30 French ones. (Those numbers may seem excessive, but they are literally correct.) My main focus is whether one reads pasi "all" or daita "feast" in line 5. The reading "all", although generally considered more authentic, nevertheless seems pretty colorless; in fact, more than half of my translators seem to wish it weren't there, since they do not directly translate either pasi or daita. Conversely, Lattimore, in the translation included in the title of my lecture, includes both "feasting" and "all".

Traditional scholarly wisdom holds that only one of the two Greek words could be Homer's original text. Actually, though, Lattimore's approach (also adopted, more recently, by Muirden and Powell) is not so wishy-washy: both texts are somehow "Homeric". Daita resonates with the funeral feast for Hector (24.802), and pasi is crucially associated with an Indo-European phrase for heavenly rivers, diipeteos, found at Il. 17.263-265. Moreover, about a dozen translations, by mentioning "birds of the air" or "oiseaux du ciel" or the like at 1.5, adumbrate some connection, apparently missed by previous scholarly commentary, of 1.5 with 17.263-265. I did not expect such a result; however, as Lombardo (citing Ezra Pound) suggests in the preface to his own Iliad translation, the translator may usefully complement the scholar's understanding of a Greek text.





February 7, 2015

Aramaic Documents from Ancient Bactria: Connections to the West- and the East - and the Future

Peter T. Daniels (Independent Scholar)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N452, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

In 2012, Aramaic Documents from Ancient Bactria in the Khalili Collection were published by the late Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shaked. These comprise 30 items on leather - many excellently preserved - and 18 wooden tally sticks, all inscribed with ink. They date to the middle of the 4th century BCE, spanning the end of the Achaemenid empire and the rule of Alexander. Their provenance is unknown; the editors believe they came from Balkh, Afghanistan = ancient Bactra, the capital of the satrapy of Bactria - near the farthest eastern extremity of the Empire. What is most striking about the assemblage is their uncanny resemblance to the documents known since the 1950s as the "Driver letters," a sheaf of correspondence, also on leather, also in Aramaic, discovered presumably somewhere in Egypt, from Arsames, the satrap of Babylonia, of the late 5th century BCE (just under a century earlier than the Bactrian material). The grammar is almost identical, and the script is so similar that the eminent epigrapher Naveh has nothing to say about it.

It is this very identicalness that is of especial interest in the context of the papyrology of the ancient world. These documents show for the first time that there was a uniformity in the diplomatics of chancery practice throughout the empire - not just in the west where Aramaic was in general use - that presages the striking uniformity in orthographic practice among the scribes of the variety of Iranian languages that gradually succeeded Aramaic in writings and inscriptions in Sassanian and Parthian times: there was precedent for what must have been a very close-knit intellectual community across West and Central Asia.

But even more interesting, these documents take us nearly to the exact time and place of the invention of the Kharoṣṭhi script of northwest India - of Gandhara - so that the dearth of epigraphic Aramaic script that might have modeled for the pandits who first wrote an Indic language is made up for by proof that paleographic Aramaic was available. At present we have no Kharoṣṭhi manuscripts dating as early as the Bactria documents, but the demonstrated unity makes it licit to accept that the contemporary epigraphic forms of Aramaic script known from the west can be taken as the models for the earliest known Kharoṣṭhi inscriptions. This was posited by Georg Bühler at the end of the 19th century, but has hitherto always had to be considered no more than a plausible suggestion.





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