Monthly Lectures 2017

Date Title Speaker (Affiliation)
Apr 8 The Linguistic and Philological Analysis of Post-apocalyptic "English" Joshua T. Katz (Princeton University)
Mar 11 The language of parole: Sex offenders' discourse strategy use during indeterminate sentence review board hearings Cheryl Comeau-Kirschner (Borough of Manhattan Community College)
Feb 11 Translanguaging, Performance, and the Art of Negotiation Heather Robinson (York College, CUNY)

Apr 8, 2017

The Linguistic and Philological Analysis of Post-apocalyptic "English"

Joshua T. Katz (Princeton University)

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

Two of the most interesting literary experiments from a linguist's point of view are Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker (1980/1998) and Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake (2014). The former is set a couple of thousand years in the future, once a nuclear war has thrust England back (or forward) to the Iron Age; the latter is set in more or less the same part of the world in 1066 and its immediate aftermath, once the Normans have laid waste to the English way of life. What makes these works special is their language. The characters in Hoban's novel, including the twelve-year-old eponymous narrator, speak in "Riddleyspeak," an imagined form of fifth-millennium English that is the result of internal developments within a now-isolated speech community. The characters in Kingsnorth's novel, including its narrator, a village grandee by the name of Buccmaster, speak in "Anglisc," an imagined form of eleventh-century English that twenty-first century readers who are not scholars can process and understand, quite unlike actual Old English. In effect, Hoban has invented (a) premodern postmodern Future-English and Kingsnorth (a) postmodern premodern Once-English. My talk will analyze these two varieties of "English" synchronically and diachronically, compare them to other non-standard forms of the language that appear in modern fiction, and consider the broader historical context of the works in which they made their debut.




Mar 11, 2017

The language of parole: Sex offenders' discourse strategy use during indeterminate sentence review board hearings

Cheryl Comeau-Kirschner (Borough of Manhattan Community College)

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

Discourse analysis of 19 video-recorded Indeterminate Sentence Review Board hearings in the state of Washington Department of Corrections revealed that sex offenders used 45 distinct linguistic strategies. We found that discourse strategy use among offenders who were subsequently paroled differed from those offenders who were subsequently not paroled. Offenders who were subsequently paroled used apology, withholding information, and topic management strategies; in contrast, offenders who were not subsequently paroled used minimization, denial, rejecting the Parole Board's concern, courtesies, repair, self-repair, other repair, and use of "I mean" as turn-grabbing and forewarning strategies.




Feb 11, 2017

Translanguaging, Performance, and the Art of Negotiation

Heather Robinson (York College, CUNY)

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

In this talk, I explore some ways in which students perform multilingual, multidialectal linguistic identities in a creative writing project for a World Englishes course, which I have taught several times at York College. These students occupy different stances through which they construct translingual writing voices that may or may not be authentic representations of the writers' own linguistic affiliations (Leung, Harris & Rampton, "The Idealised Native Speaker."). For these short stories, students were asked to create a "new language" in which they combine their languages and/or varieties of English in a single discourse, and then to reflect on their translanguaging strategies in the second half of the paper. The presentation will focus on four student texts. The first is written in African-American Vernacular English - a variety of English that the student explicitly excludes from her current linguistic identity. The second student writes in a hybrid of Urdu and English, explaining that she uses this meshing of codes to provide an insight into Pakistani culture, even though code-meshing feels artificial to her as a trilingual speaker. The third student writes an academic paper in Jamaican English, meshing registers rather than codes in this exhibition of vernacular language used for academic purposes. The fourth student is a bilingual English-Spanish speaker, whose work shows how the representation of syntactic variation is at the heart of successful and "deep" code-meshing, so highlighting her own experiences with speaking her two languages in New York City. These four examples of student writing, I will argue, broaden our understanding of what translanguaging can be, and foreground the performative aspects of translanguaging that instructors can overlook when we authorize only authentic expressions of students' multi-linguistic "selves." Rather, I propose, our pedagogy does better when it create spaces where multi-lingual, multidialectal students explicitly construct, negotiate and perform linguistic and academic identities, rather than creating space only for "authentic," exoticized identities.




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