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Modern Languages and LinguisticsPart of Humanities

'Reconceptualising grammar for a pedagogy of Global Englishes.' Seminar

17:00 - 18:30
29 April 2015
Lecture Theatre C Avenue Campus University of Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please telephone Ying Wang on +44 23 8059 3975 or email .

Event details

In this talk I address the need to reconceptualise grammar for learning, teaching, and assessment in the light of new understandings of the nature of Global Englishes and of language as a cognitive phenomenon. ELF research is revealing how non-native users of English deploy, negotiate, and modify their lexico-grammatical resources to communicate effectively and perform identities. Much of the evidence has come from cross-sectional corpora, analysing the interactions of multiple speakers across independent usage events. But there is little research which adequately addresses the problem of how the Englishes presented and modelled in classrooms can optimally facilitate learners’ development of their own ‘portable’ lexico-grammatical repertoires. Usage-based approaches to grammar conceptualise language in ways which are consistent with this goal, yet the crucial connection between learning through usage and conceptualisations of grammar for instructional purposes has been neglected. Constructionist accounts characterise grammar in psychologically plausible ways, yet still tend to adopt monolithic orientations towards English and other named languages. In this talk I argue that data from longitudinal corpora of individual non-native users of English are needed in order to develop characterisations of the lexico-grammatical resources they bring to, and take from, usage events. I describe a tiny fragment of grammar from one non-native English user, involving the can you/could you construction alternation in email requests, to illustrate the reconceptualisation of grammar that is required if we are to provide teachers with a more realistic ontology of English forms within a pedagogy of Global Englishes. All welcome.

Speaker information

Dr Christopher J Hall, York St John University. After completing my PhD in linguistics at USC in Los Angeles in 1987, I moved south to Mexico, where I lived and worked for 20 years. I spent most of my time there teaching in (and directing) the MA in Applied Linguistics at the University of the Americas Puebla (UDLAP), on the other side of the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes from Mexico City. At UDLAP I also served as Head of the Department of Languages and Coordinator of Research and Postgraduate Studies for the School of Humanities. In 2007 I joined York St John University, returning to the country (and county) of my birth. Here, I do teaching, research, and scholarship in areas of applied and general linguistics which touch on multiple Englishes in individual minds and/or in social groups. Most of my research, writing, and teaching has been motivated by a desire to understand how the mental and social realities of language fit together, and a conviction that only by fully acknowledging both realities can we hope to do effective general and applied linguistics. My first book, Morphology and Mind, sought to unite formal and functional explanations for universal patterns of word structure by stressing the intimate connection between language acquisition, use, and historical change. In An Introduction to Language and Linguistics. Breaking the Language Spell, I presented a unifying account of the dual social and mental nature of human language. In Mapping Applied Linguistics. A Guide for Students and Practitioners, my co-authors and I surveyed the field within a framework which stresses how language problems can only be solved by taking seriously the social and cognitive realities of individual language users and groups of users in their local contexts. My empirical research has always been focused on the word level, especially in learners and/or speakers of more than one language. In a series of studies I conducted during my time overseas, I developed and tested a model of the initial development of the multilingual mental lexicon (the Parasitic Model). Since my return to the UK I’ve been exploring the implications of my findings within a combined socio-cognitive framework which recognises that English can not be conceived as just the monolithic capital of native speakers using the norms of literate social elites. In line with this 'plurilithic' view of English, I have: looked at lexical variation in users of English as a Lingua Franca; critiqued linguists'/applied linguists' ontologies of English; and explored ways of raising English teachers' awareness of the nature of the subject they teach.

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