Saturday, April 26, 2008

Preposition post

Rodney Huddleston pointed out to me that I hadn't included post as a preposition in the Simple English Wiktionary. (I have since added it there and also to the main English Wiktionary.)

Post is one of English's newer prepositions. The OED has it from 1965,
"1965 Listener 16 Sept. 432/3 Der Ferne Klang is post-Wagnerian, and post just about everything else that was happening at the turn of the century.
1974 Daily Tel. 7 Jan. 13/3 Now, post the increase [in the price of oil],..future gold price prospects far outweigh individual share fundamentals."

About 15 minutes of quick and dirty searching through Google books wasn't able to turn up anything earlier. I also had a look through the Time corpus, the BNC, and the BYU Corpus of American English, but found that the part-of-speech tagging was uncharacteristically wrong when it came to post. There are thousands of hits for the preposition post, but I found not a single one that was actually a preposition.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lack of funds may cut ESL classes for 30,000 Ontarians

If the Ontario government is indeed earnest about wanting to "help internationally trained professionals work int heir fields of expertise," why they hell do they fail to fully fund ESL classes?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Part-time college teachers to unionize

Here in Ontario, it has been illegal for part-time college teachers to unionize. A ruling in BC last year made it clear that that would have to change. The Ontario government commissioned the Whittaker report, which recommended bargaining rights for these teachers. OPSEU, the union that represents full-time teachers is now applying to be recognized as the agent for part timers as well. Most college English language teachers in Ontario are part-time employees. More here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Singluar 'they' - legally encouraged in Canada

I do hope that this sounds the death knell for the pointless proscription of singular they. The Canadian Department of Justice actually recommends its use "in a legislative context to eliminate gender-specific language and heavy or awkward repetition of nouns."

(link via Language Log).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Declining standards of language

By Craig Brown
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 12/04/2008

Sir - Listening to people on television being interviewed, I find to my horror that the word "vouchsafed" has been replaced by "said".
AB, Berks

Sir - Further to your previous letter, I have noticed that, when employing the word "said', people on television insist on pronouncing it "sed". Can nothing be done?
CD, Bray

Sir - And the very same people call themselves "peep-ul" rather than pronouncing the word as it should be pronounced, ie "pee-O-ple". Has the world ever been so slovenly?
EF, Barking

Sir - I have noticed that people no longer bother to pronounce "sausage" correctly. I was always brought up to enunciate each vowel separately, and to give it a hard "g". A properly pronounced sentence employing the word in question would go "Please may I have another "s-ah-oo-sagg-e", mother?"
GH, Ham

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

This year's LLL finalists

"Every year, the Extensive Reading Foundation recognizes the best new works of language learner literature in English. From books published in 2007, the ERF judges have selected twelve titles of particular merit—the finalists. The finalists were announced at the IATEFL Conference in Exeter, U.K. on April 8, 2008. From these twelve, the ERF will select one winner in each of four categories taking into account the votes and comments of students and teachers of English worldwide." More here.

The 2008 finalist books are:

Young Learners:
  • Dorothy by Paola Traverso, Earlyreads Level 1 (Black Cat);
  • Escape from the Fire by Richard Brown, Macmillan English Explorers 3 (Macmillan);
  • The Princess and the Pea retold by Sue Arengo, Classic Tales Beginner 1 (Oxford University Press)

Adolescents & Adults Beginners:
  • Grizzly by Sue Murray, Hueber Lektüren Level 1 (Hueber Verlag);
  • Horror Trip on the Pecos River by Paul Davenport, Teen Readers Level 2 (Aschehoug/Alinea);
  • Tim Burton's The Nightmare before Christmas retold by Coleen Degnan-Veness, Penguin Active Reading Level 2 (Pearson Longman)

A & A Intermediate:
  • Billy Elliot retold by Karen Holmes, Penguin Readers Level 3 (Pearson Longman);
  • River of Dreams by Philip Voysey, Hueber Lektüren Level 5 (Hueber Verlag);
  • Stories for Reading Circles retold by Margaret Naudi et al., Bookworms Club Gold Stages 3 & 4 (OUP)

A & A Advanced:
  • Body on the Rocks by Denise Kirby, Hueber Lektüren Level 6 (Hueber Verlag);
  • How's the Weather? Contributing writers: Colleen Sheils, John Chapman, Footprint Reading Library Upper Intermediate (Cengage);
  • Ripley's Game retold by Kathy Burke, Penguin Readers Level 5 (Pearson Longman)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Language Log down

If you've been having trouble accessing Language Log, you're not the only one. [addition: Back up Old LL here, New LL here.] Check out their hit stats below. A few people seem to be getting through, but most of us aren't. Could it be the revenge of the BBC?

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Last summer when my wife was taking courses and I was taking care of the kids, M. & T. and I would go down to Chapters and spend a few hours browsing. It was during one of those trips that a book called Frindle caught my eye. The publisher's blurb was about a boy and a dictionary and a new word. I was hooked.

Somehow, though, we got onto a Roald Dahl kick and Frindle was shelved. It wasn't until last week that I remembered it, and pulled it out.

Nick is a sharp kid who usually has his teacher's number, but when he gets into grade five, he comes up against Mrs. Granger. "Mrs. Granger didn't enjoy the dictionary. She loved the dictionary." And she loved assigning vocabulary study from it. On the first day of class, Nick, thinking he could distract her and avoid the assignment asks, "Mrs. Granger, you have so many dictionaries in this room, and that huge one especially... Where did all those words come from?" As any good teacher will do, Mrs. Granger has Nick find the answer on his own, which leads him to his brilliant plan.

Two days later,

"Nick walked into the Penny Pantry store and asked the lady behind the counter for a frindle.

She squinted at him. "A what?"

A frindle, please. A black one," and Nick smiled at her.

She leaned over close and aimed one ear at him. "You want what?"

"A frindle," and this time Nick pointed at the ballpoint pens behind her one the shelf. "A black one, please."

The lady handed Nick the pen...

Six days later, Janet stood at teh counter of the penny Pantry. Same store, same lady. John had come in the day before, and Pete the day before that, and Chris the day before that, and Dave the day before that. Janet was the fifth kid that Nick had sent there to ask taht woman for a frindle.

And when she asked, the lady reached right for the pens and said, "Blue or black?"

The book is full of stuff like this. It's got it all: word coinage, prescriptivist/descriptivist battles, language change. It's the perfect introduction to linguistics for your average 8-year old (or your precocious 6-year old). And it's a damn good read too. After reading chapter 6 to T. & M. and saying goodnight, I took the book down and finished it myself.

Oh, and Mrs. Granger? She makes you see prescriptivism in a whole new light. Hooray for Dangerous Grangerous!