Monthly Lectures 2017-2018

Date Title Speaker (Affiliation)
May 5, 2018 Parish names in the English- and French-speaking Caribbean Professor Sheila Embleton (York University)
Mar 3, 2018 The Politics of University Discourse Lubie G. Alatriste (NYC College of Technology, CUNY)
Feb 3, 2018 The China English Project Walter Petrovitz and Herbert Pierson (St. John's University)
Dec 2, 2017 An analysis of Victor Hugo's "Les Raisons du Momotombo" and Ruben Dario's "Los motivos del lobo" applying a Hallidayan framework of "field, tenor, mode" Kathleen O'Connor-Bater (SUNY College at Old Westbury)
Nov 4, 2017 The Politicization of Linguistic Identity: Two post-Cold War case studies John Frederick Bailyn (Stony Brook University)
Oct 7, 2017 Catching up to Saussure with Text Semantics William J. Carrasco (Stella Maris Academy)

May 5, 2018

Parish names in the English- and French-speaking Caribbean

Professor Sheila Embleton (York University)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N490, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

Parish names give us an insight into the historical development of the English-speaking Caribbean islands. On Nevis, one of the first islands to be settled by English-speaking settlers in the first half of the 17th century, parish names were derived from parish churches and the ecclesiastical parishes soon coincided with civil administrative units. In Jamaica, in the second half of the 17th century, most of the early parishes had “Saint” names; however, most of these were named after notable nobility. For instance the parish St. James was named in 1664 after James, at that point Duke of York and Duke of Albany, who had just been granted the American territory between Delaware and Cooneticut (New York and Albany are named after him). He later became King James. Special cases were those islands that had been under French rule and were ceded to Great Britain in the 18th century: Grenada, St. Lucia, and Dominica. Here the Catholic parishes were replaced by Anglican ones (some even with new Anglican churches). These new Anglican parishes coincided for the most part with the land area of the earlier French parishes. Gradually, for instance in Trinidad, where there was also some Spanish influence, one sees the replacing of the term parish with other designations, such as quarter and district. To conclude the talk, there will also be a short reflection on any similarities or differences from other areas that have civil parishes, such as Louisiana, and the French-speaking Caribbean.




Mar 3, 2018

The Politics of University Discourse

Lubie G. Alatriste (NYC College of Technology, CUNY)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N490, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

This talk reports on the results of a study using critical discourse analysis of university handbooks for faculty and students that describes the writing test administered for admissions. The handbooks under study here have been issued fifteen years apart: the first one in 2002 and the last one in 2015. The handbooks were analyzed using the following parameters: intended audience, formality of language, genres utilized, and level of detail. The handbook as a genre was examined based on its elements (or moves): table of contents, general overview, description of assessment, assessment rubric, sample tasks, student-generated samples and general guidance section. It was concluded that macro socio-political changes over the fifteen-year period have had an impact on the way this particular university was conducting its admissions outreach and information dissemination utilizing a handbook genre. The results suggest a correlation between macro and micro socio-political trends in the country and their impact on the way the university creates, announces, conducts and sustains its admissions assessment policies. The role of social actions of these findings, their dissemination and application will be discussed.




Feb 3, 2018

The China English Project

Walter Petrovitz and Herbert Pierson (St. John's University)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N451, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

Initiated in 2012, the China English Project is an ongoing international, multifaceted, and multidisciplinary research program that focusing on:

  • Analysis: the linguistic description of China English
  • Awareness: perceptions of China English in US higher education
  • Application: pedagogical implications of China English

In order to aid this research, a 100,000-word searchable corpus has been compiled based upon the essays of incoming Chinese-speaking graduate students. The analysis of this corpus, using computational linguistics as well as traditional methods, has shed much light not only on the grammar of China English, but also on the degree to which formulaic language is used. In addition, we are seeking to become better aware of faculty attitudes toward China English and also to raise awareness concerning the new linguistic reality on American college campuses with the increasing number of students from China. To this end we have been developing and administering questionnaires eliciting both faculty opinions and pedagogical practices. The results will be applied to the development of guidelines and teaching methodologies that directly enhance both second-language acquisition and academic performance for these learners.




Dec 2, 2017

An analysis of Victor Hugo's "Les Raisons du Momotombo" and Ruben Dario's "Los motivos del lobo" applying a Hallidayan framework of "field, tenor, mode"

Kathleen O'Connor-Bater (SUNY College at Old Westbury)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Room N451, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, USA

In Victor Hugo's epic masterpiece "La Légende des Siècles", he places a poem titled "Les raisons du Momotombo" (1858), which relates the failed attempt of the Spanish priests to baptize the ferocious Nicaraguan volcano, Momotombo, who explains his refusal to accept the sacrament based upon the cruelty he observed that the colonists inflicted upon the natives. In 1913, Rubén Darío, an admirer of Victor Hugo, writes, "Los motivos del lobo", a poem in which the narrator establishes the setting and then introduces a dialog between St. Francis of Assisi and the Wolf from Gubbia in which the Saint hopes to convert the Wolf from wild to tame, only to learn similar conclusions from the Wolf to those offered by Momotombo. While the message of the two poems is largely the same, an analysis of the discursive elements particular to each of them reveals a study in contrast in monologue or dialogue in the poetic genre, which I analyze according to a Hallidayan system of field and tenor in the allegoric mode.




Nov 4, 2017

The Politicization of Linguistic Identity: Two post-Cold War case studies

John Frederick Bailyn (Stony Brook University)

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

Cognitive scientists and generative linguists view language as a naturally occurring phenomenon in the minds of speakers (and signers). Each person's idiolect is a unique combination of the input from his/her environment in childhood, superimposed on a blueprint of a linguistic capability that is characteristic of humans and humans alone. Significant overlap among idiolects determines successful linguistic communicability, what we call "a common language". Such a purely bio-linguistic approach to the question of what constitutes a common language often directly contradicts notions of a common language based on national or ethnic identity, reinforced by standardization or other forms of politicization.

In this talk, I present two case studies of the politicization of linguistic identity, one from the former Yugoslavia and one from the former Soviet Union, both large multilingual, multiethnic societies. In one case, ethno-nationalist conflict has involved the stirring of ill-founded fears of linguistic extinction, and linguistic nationalism has caused a naturally-occurring linguistic dialect of great interest to be ignored and vilified. In the other case, the quest for unique linguistic identity based on national identity has so distorted academic discourse surrounding standardization that naturally occurring linguistic forms have been manipulated by decree, and linguistic history partially rewritten, a kind of linguistic violence that is reminiscent of environmental crimes against other sorts of naturally occurring phenomena. Although this linguistic violence has incurred highly detrimental consequences in terms of the loss of larger cultural heritage, a surprising recent movement among academic and cultural elites has begun to partially rectify the situation.




Oct 7, 2017

Catching up to Saussure with Text Semantics

William J. Carrasco (Stella Maris Academy)

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

Fueled by the discovery of Ferdinand de Saussure's unpublished orangery manuscripts in 1996, the international resurgence of neo-saussurean linguistics over the last 3 decades has given us new ways to study languages as complex and diverse cultural objects. We are now seeing a re-convergence of linguistic perspectives that have been (bizarrely) separated from each other during the 20th century, including: (1) the revival of the historical and comparative linguistic tradition in which Saussure was a key player; (2) the "re-assembling" of the arbitrary division between syntax, semantics and pragmatics; and (3) the integration of rhetorical, hermeneutic and philological perspectives which have been pushed outside the scope of linguistics by the dominant logico-grammatical tradition. At the center of all this is a focus on texts.

Favoring a linguistics of parole, Saussure saw language as a creative textual activity that is inseparable from our social environment. He rejected the traditional dualism that leads us to view languages as instruments of thought or tools for communication. For Saussure, a language is "ever on the move, pressed forward by its imposing machinery of negative categorization, wholly free of materiality, and thus perfectly prepared to assimilate any idea that may join those that have preceded it". In short, a language has no independence outside of its occurrences; it is always to be constructed. This is why he asserts that the identification of linguistic forms depends entirely on the methodology -- or point of view -- that constructs and interprets them. Thus, the purpose of proposing his well-known dualities (i.e., signifier/signified, langue/parole, synchrony/diachrony, etc.) was to offer a variety of perspectives that would enable a comparative description of languages as complex and ever-changing. Today, the continued development and application of saussurean principles in the field of Text Semantics (a.k.a. Interpretative Semantics) is helping us to discover new "observables" in linguistics and cultural sciences in general.




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