Now ‘web enhanced': SLA goes social

2 12 2009

The Society for Linguistic Anthropology has made the jump from Web1.0 to Web2.0. The Society’s website, linguisticanthropology.org is now more social, interactive and dynamic. Powered by WordPress, the new SLA website now features a Twitter and RSS feed, a Facebook page and a blog. Kerim Friedman:

we hope to make the blog a central place for online discussion of issues relating to linguistic anthropology. It is hoped that the blog will draw more people to the site, building a vibrant community in the process.

Ensuring the blog keeps rolling, SLA has established the position of  ‘digital content editor’, which Leila Monaghan will fill. And interestingly, the journal page now features ‘web enhanced’ (i.e. multimodal) articles. Forward-thinking bunch, those SLA cats.





Deconstructing Martha Stewart’s style

19 11 2009

Lovely paper by Jennifer Sclafani in the latest issue of the Journal of Sociolinguistics. Sclafani investigates “parodies of a linguistic style that has been attributed to the ideological construct of the ‘Good Woman’ (Eckert 2004), as it is used by lifestyle entrepreneur Martha Stewart” (2009: 615).

Using Lakoff’s list speech elements typical of Woman’s Language (which I am reproducing below, just for the fun of it), Sclafani illustrates how Martha Stewart parodies exploit these features to expose Martha Stewart’s ‘Bad Woman’ alter ego.

1. lexical items related specifically to women’s interests (e.g. dollop, mandolin);
2. hedges (you could, if you like);
3. hypercorrect grammar (British pronunciation of herb with initial /h/ aspirated intervocalic /t/);
4. superpolite forms (double-thanking guests, i.e. ‘thank you, thank you very much’);
5. no joking;
6. speaking in italics (i.e. using emphatic stress);
7. the use of intensive ‘so’ (these are so tasty);
8. empty adjectives (gorgeous, utterly fantastic);
9. wider intonation range; and
10. question intonation in declaratives.

(Sclafani 2009: 617)

Sclafani, Jennifer (2009). Martha Stewart behaving Badly: Parody and the symbolic meaning of style. Journal of Sociolinguistics 13 (5): 613-633.





On prescriptive retaliation: Muphry’s Law

23 10 2009

Muphry’s Law is an adage that states that “if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written”. The name is a deliberate misspelling of “Murphy’s Law”.

[H/T: Best of Wikipedia]

Here is the law in full, as originally laid out by John Bangsund:

(a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written;
(b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book;
(c) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (a) and (b), the greater the fault;
(d) any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent





Wordplay in the country for Amelie

17 10 2009

Most parents develop a time-for-bed-kids routine built around stories, jokes, games and the like. I take my laptop upstairs and play some music for my very musical four year old daughter, Amelie. Last night for instance, I learned that she doesn’t care for Jonathan Jeremiah’s Happiness but sings along to good ol’ Dolly Parton’s Jolene. She’s too young to understand the concept of wordplay, but one day I’ll try to tell her about it, fail miserably and suggest she reads this.

Pop singers like the Beatles and Elvis Costello may have visited wordplay from time to time, but country music lives there. A lot of it involves outright puns, like the Bellamy Brothers’ “If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me?” or Lee Ann Womack’s “Am I the Only Thing That You’ve Done Wrong?” There’s Gary Nicholson’s “Behind Bars,” which is about saloons, and Randy Travis’s “On The Other Hand,” which is about wedding rings. And then there are all those titles that involve wordplay of one sort or another, like Dolly Parton’s “It’s All Wrong, but It’s All Right,” and Johnny Paycheck’s “I’m the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised.”

When I think of songs like these, the singer who comes first to mind is George Jones. I don’t know of he’s done more of them than anybody else — the honors there probably go to Roger Miller or Johnny Paycheck. And a lot of the punning titles that Jones uses are just routine joke songs, like the recent “I Had More Silver Bullets Last Night Than the Lone Ranger” or “She Took My Keys Away, and Now She Won’t Drive me To Drink.” But Jones has also made a specialty of using puns and wordplay in the plaintive ballads that he sings like no one else — “A man can be a drunk sometimes but a drunk can’t be a man,” “At least I’ve learned to stand on my own two knees,” or “With these hundred proof memories, you can’t think and drive.”

For some people of course, this sort of punning just confirms a sense of country music as a linguistic trailer park. Since Tennyson’s time, punning has been deprecated as the basest form of humor, to the point where it’s often regarded as a kind of veiled aggressiveness (…) It’s a fitting device for these ballads, particularly when they’re tackling their favorite theme — the fragility of happiness, love, and family. There’s a joke that sums up the genre very nicely: “What do you get if you play a country song backwards?” — “You get your wife back, you get your dog back, you get your truck back…”

Taken from ‘The way we talk now’ by Geoffrey Nunberg (Houghton Mifflin, 2001)

Amelie riding the train





“How Journalists Think While They Write”

15 10 2009

There is a relative paucity of academic scholarship on news writing across the social sciences. This is remarkable because (i) the news mediascape has changed dramatically over the last five years; and (ii) specialized tools are now (freely) available to study news production. So when an article appears that promises to reveal how “journalists think while they write”, my interest is sparked.

In their Journal of Communication article, Bu Zhong and John E. Newhagen (2009) present a model of news decision making. Using an experimental design, the authors examine how 120 (one-hundred-twenty!) U.S. and Chinese journalists make news decisions while writing a breaking news story from a “fabricated” press release. Zhong and Newhagen argue that their results point to a globalized, shared occupational ideology of objective news reporting. Lovely conclusion, but I don’t see how the authors arrive at this conclusion.

Theoretically, I do not understand why the authors fail to acknowledge the growing body of literature in cognitive psychology on writing process analysis that attempts to model exactly those cognitive processes that Zhong & Newhagen make claims about. Moreover, within journalism studies, the issue of reproductive writing (i.c. writing from press releases – which the Zhong & Bu elicit in their experiment) is en vogue. Nick Davies thinks it is the nail in the coffin of quality journalism, Lewis et al. 2009 provide a political economic account for this phenomenon.

Methodologically, I fail to grasp how the news values of conflict, importance, proximity and drama measure “cognitive information” (p597). And also, the authors seem to suggest that how journalists think can be “found out” by asking them in a post-experiment online survey. That seems a bit optimistic, at best.

Source:

Zhong, Bu and Newhagen, John, E. (2009). How Journalists Think While They Write: A Transcultural Model of News Decision Making. Journal of Communication 59 (3): 587-608. DIO: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2009.01439.x





Sociolinguistics is on the move

14 10 2009

Interesting blog post by Ingrid Piller over at languageonthemove.com. Taking a page from William Merrin‘s position paper, Piller lists five arguments why sociolinguistics needs to be reframed. I am reproducing these arguments here and adding a sixth.

# 1. Multilingualism is normal
# 2. Language is always embodied in communication
# 3. The native speaker is dead
# 4. A language with a name is an idea not a fact
# 5. “All uses of language are equal” – Not!

#6. Process, process, process (and context)

For too long, we’ve studied language forms (T/V, anyone?). Studying language-in-society should be about processes of contextualization. If we take a page from linguistic anthropology, I believe we have some exciting theoretical concepts for doing just that, to name but three: Silverstein’s indexical order, Bauman & Briggs’ entextualization, Bucholtz & Hall’s tactics of intersubjectivity.





Hope for a generation (of sociolinguists)

7 10 2009

I think the world of sociolinguistics and other forms sociocultural scholarship on language. And so I am pleased to learn of languageonthemove.com, “a collaborative space where research on language and communication in multicultural and transnational contexts can be shared, brainstormed, discussed and disseminated.”

The ‘portal’ is managed by Ingrid Piller and Kimie Takahashi and comes with a blog, conference announcements, resources, and an award for aspiring sociolinguists:

Each year we would like to present two young researchers in the field with the chance to “play” with us on Language on the Move. We will feature the awardees’ work prominently on the site and mentor them over the course of one year to take your research (and your research writing!) to “the next level” – whatever that “next level” may be. The mentoring relationship is designed to be informal, related to the dissemination of your work, and to complement and support your existing supervision arrangements but not to infringe upon those in any way. Oh, and we’ll also throw in a book voucher at the end of the year.

Lovely idea. Then again, so is this.








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