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5-Academic Language

(1) Academic Language

Student teachers must complete the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT) to receive credit for student teaching earn and their California Teaching Credentials. Review the Teaching Handbook in your discipline, looking specifically for the concept of "Academic Language". You may wish to review academic language resources for the sciences.

  • Define "academic language" for your discipline. List and explain the features of academic language students should master to succeed in the classes you teach.

In formal linguistics, academic writing is similar to other scientific fields. In fact, the writing style is closer to the hard sciences like mathematics, physics, and biology, than it is to the social sciences like political science, history and anthropology. With the exception of a few famous linguists (i.e. Chomsky), linguistic writing is straight forward. Value is placed on succinct, clear, writing without excessive flourish.

It is important for students to learn how to write a research paper in linguistics, which is similar to other fields. The main difference between linguistic papers and papers in other fields is that the results are usually presented in the introduction and not in the discussion as in other fields.

Students need to master a few important tools in order to successfully use formal linguistic academic language:
  • Linguistic technical terms (e.g., phonology, syntax, morphology, diachronic, synchronic, etc.).
  • The international phonetic alphabet (I.P.A.).
  • Knowing how to write phonological expressions and draw syntactical trees are also helpful tool, whatever the theoretical framework being used.
In the linguistic fields of Sociolinguistics and Applied Linguistics it is also important to master:
  • Discourse transcription conventions.

(2) Editing

Research indicates that students edit and revise more when writing on a computer than when writing by hand.

  • Use the footnote feature to identify all of the mistakes you can find in this document without the aid of a grammar checker, and repeat with the aid of a grammar checker.
  • What kinds of errors are generally not detected by the software? Give examples. Would you encourage your students to use a grammar/style checker? If so, explain how it might be best employed. If not, explain why not.

Below is a link to the google doc where I did the editing exercise. 

Grammar Checker

I would recommend using the grammar/spell checker as a supporting tool for editing. Relying on this tool can't come close to what human editing can do (at least yet). For example, the grammar checker did not catch the error "singing the constitution" because this was completely grammatical. Semantically, it made no sense. The appropriate verb is "signing." The grammar checker cannot check for factual errors such as the "contented congress" which, is grammatical but not accurate. The correct modifier of "congress" is "continental"  since it is referring to the historical entity. Grammar checkers also do not do a very good job detecting errors in logic. For example, the statement that Lincoln's mother "died in infancy" is impossible but went undetected because it is technically grammatical. 

(3) Analysis of your textbook

Readability is a measure of the comprehensibility or understandability of written text. There are manymethods and formulas for determining readability and the related reading age. Teachers should be aware of the readability level of their text as well as the reading level of their students.

  • Scan three or more paragraphs from your textbook into a word processor file using OCR software. Perform a document check and readability estimate on the text and include the results in your portfolio. 
  • According to the computer-generated readability estimates, does this text appear to be appropriate for your students? Explain. (Note: In some programs, document analysis appears at the end of a grammar check).

Below is an excerpt from an introductory linguistics textbook scanned in and processed with OCR software. As the summary on the bottom of the document shows, in both my calculation and MSWord's calculation, the reading age is the twelfth grade. Since this is an introductory text, most likely used in a lower division class, the reading age is appropriate. A High School Senior, in theory, should be able to take a course using this textbook during their first semester in college.

Textbook Readability

(4) Equations

Many teachers have the need to incorporate equations into handouts, tests and notes. Equation editors allow you to make equations and then export them as graphics to word processors.

  • Use an equation editor to create two or more complex equations from your discipline. If your discipline does not use many equations, you may select from the following list.

I used the equation editor that can be accessed through MSWord to create phonological rules (which are basically equations) in the formal derivational model. These rules are based on my observations of Chicontepec Nahuatl phonology that I described in my thesis.
phonological equations

(5) Word Relationships

English dictionaries contain more than 250,000 words, while Spanish dictionaries contain approximately 100,000 words, and most other languages have far fewer. English has an extensive vocabulary and many synonyms. This can cause difficulties for English learners. An electronic thesaurus may be used to help students understand the complex relationship within the English lexicon.

Preamble: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

  • Using an example, illustrate how the thesaurus can be used to teach word relationships in the English language.

Below is a word file with a number of logical substitutions:

Preamble Synonyms

The second project, using the thesaurus to teach word relationships, would be a very useful exercise for a unit on Semantics. In a lecture demonstration, I would use a thesaurus to build a meaning web to demonstrate the notion that there are not true synonyms. I would demonstrate how meanings of words overlap but never in all of their associated meanings. Then students would be asked to do one of their own word  webs. I built the word web below using google docs and the computer's built-in thesaurus. The meanings of the word house:

House: Meaning Web

(6) Mastering Content Vocabulary

Although modern English has the largest and most complex lexicon of any language in history, the meanings of many words can be determined if one knows the common prefixes, suffixes and root words. Knowledge of such morphemes is particularly useful for English learners who face the formidable challenge of mastering English vocabulary, with all of its many nuances. According to Richard E. Hodges of the University of Puget Sound ("Improving Spelling and Vocabulary in the Secondary School; 1982, p 30) ,“If you were to examine the 20,000 most used English words, you would find that about 5,000 of them contain prefixes and that 82 percent (about 4,100) of those words use one of only fourteen different prefixes out of all the available prefixes in the language.” Thus, if students master these prefixes, they will know clues to the meanings of thousands of words."

ab- (away from)
be- (on all sides, overly)
de- (reversal, undoing, downward)
dis-, dif- (not, reversal)
ex- (out of, former)
pre- (before)
re- (again, restore)
un- (do the opposite of)
ad- (to, toward)
com-, con-, co- (with, together)
en-, em- (in, into, to cover or contain)
in- (into, not)
pro- (in favor of, before)
sub- (under, beneath)
  • Identify five words that are commonly used in your subject. Identify one or more prefixes, suffixes or roots from each. Use an online dictionary to identify 5 or more other words in the English language that use these morphemes as per the example. When searching, you will need to use standard wildcards: *=multiple characters; ?=single character.
Five or more related words that share this root
tell, pronounce

dictator (one whose word is law)
diction (enunciation)
edict (a formal pronouncement or command.)
dictum (an authoritative, often formal pronouncement),
dictate (to say or read aloud to be recorded or written by another)

  • English has acquired words from many languages as seen in this story. It is helpful to show students these foreign words and cognates so they can better understand the historical relationship between English and other languages and look for cognates when learning new terms. Translate 5 or more words from your discipline into each of four languages using Logos or other translation resources. Identify cognates and explain how you can use them to help students master English. 
  • One way to interest students in the significance of words is to have them study the meaning of their own names. Identify the meaning of five common first names of students in your class.
  • Contribute to the class glossary (select 514 tab)

1. The following word are common in Linguistics: phonology, progressive, infix, prefix, embed.

Word                    Root            Meaning          Related words:
Phonology          phon-           sound              telephone (voice communication device) 
                                                                            phonograph (record player)
                                                                            microphone (a device used to make small voices sound larger)
                                                                            megaphone (a cone shape device that amplify sound)
                                                                            gramophone (record player)
                                                                            cacophony (harsh noise/sounds)

progressive        pro-               before              pronoun ( a word that introduces a noun)
                                                                            program (software instructions)
                                                                            proactive (cause something to happen rather than respond to it)
                                                                            prognosis (likely course of a disease)
                                                                            prohibit (forbid)
infix                    in-                   in/into              infield (baseball: the inner part of the field)
                                                                            inroad (progress; an advance)    
                                                                            infect (affect with a disease-causing organism)
                                                                            inhabit (live in or occupy a place)
                                                                            inherit (receive as an heir at the death of the previous holder)

prefix                pre-                before                precede (come before)
                                                                            preface (an introduction to a book)
                                                                            premise (a previous proposition from which another is inferred)
                                                                            predicate (the part of a sentence or clause containing a verb)
                                                                            premier (first in importance, order, or position)

embed            em-/en-          in, into, cover, contain   
                                                                            embrace (hold in arms)
                                                                            embark (go aboard a ship or boat)
                                                                            embalm (preserve from decay)
                                                                            empathy (to understand and share the feelings of another)
                                                                            emanate (spread out from a point0
                                                                            endow (give or bequeath an income or property)

2. For this exercise I stuck to languages that use a Roman alphabet: 

English Term





























































mga ngipin



























In all of these languages, the terms phonology and syntax are cognates. for all languages except Swahili, the words for grammar are cognates. This is especially helpful for students whose first language is Indo-European, especially Romance or Germanic. Showing students how the words that they recognize may be cognates will help them trust their instincts when reading a new word and learn the new word through the context in which it is used.

3. I will begin with my name: 
    Andres: "Man",  Isabelle: "consecrated to God," Aiden: "Fiery," Sofia: "wisdom," Ava: "A bird"
4. I have linked to the class glossary in 7 below.

(7) Communicating with English Learners and their families

Southern California is home to a very diverse population (see diversity of Los Angeles County), many of whom are immigrants from non-English speaking countries. Translation programs can help break down some of the language barriers between teachers, their students, and the families of these students.

In the first exercise, the old saying that "translation is an art" is made abundantly clear. As the document below shows, Google translate does very well. However, there are a few issues. One issue is that sometimes, the algorithm results in transliteration rather than translation. For example in the last line in the first paragraph the English “You always know after two” just does not work in Spanish as the transliterated “Siempre sabes después de estar dos.” In Spanish the proper construction would be the impersonal “se” so that the better translation would be ““Siempre se sabe...” Then there is the Romance “to be” issue. “Are” is translated as “estar.” Often in automated translation, the choice between “ser” and “estar” is off. In this case the use of a “to be” word is incorrect either way as Spanish “has” years when describing age so “...después de estar dos...” should be “después de tener dos años.” Years, “años,” should also be added. 

Automatic translators also have difficulty with idiomatic language. For example, “settling down to her story” means that Wendy sat down to tell her story. The translator missed the “tell” aspect of the idiom resulting in “de sentarse a su historia” which would read as “sitting down to read a story.” Thus a better translation would be “sentandose a contar su historia.”

Another issue is that the translator can only go so far to track the discourse level agreement that is marked in Spanish which is grammatically unmarked in English. "Are you glad, Twins?" was translated in a singular form rather than the plural form that Spanish would need to have agreement with “twins.” so what was translated as “Estás contento Gemelos?” should have been “Esán contentos Gemelos.”

A final issue I will mention is that the algorithms cannot preduct when translation is not needed. English names such as John and Wendy were not translated, but less recognizable names like the nicknames “Tootles” and “Nibs” were. As such, I changed them back to the un-translated forms. See the document below for more examples of translation errors.

Translation Experiment

I visited a linguistics lab webpage written in Italian.

I used Google's translation service to have it translated into English.

While this was helpful, in this case, the Italian website had a translated page available in English. The grammar in this text was perfect while google translated page had a few issues. So for example, the Italian "cui la strutura e ora titulata" was translated by Google as "now entitled," but the english version had a more appropriate translation: "named after." These issues parallel the issues in the first exercise above where "transliteration often gets in the way of good "translation."

I also contributed to the class glossary. As a linguist, the obvious contribution was the word "sound" which, is highlighted below:

(8) What is the influence of computers on the development of student writing?

Does technology have an influence on the quality and quantity of student writing?

  • Use ERICScholar,and/ or other reputable resources to research the influence of computer technologies on the development of student writing skills. Each student in the class will review three different studies as per the instructor's directions. Share your results with the class using an online survey. Summarize the research in 2 or 3 paragraphs.

In class, I participated in the crowd sourcing research exercise. All students that were present looked for articles on ERIC having to so with the effect of computers on the development of student writing. I was given the 10th, 11th and 12th article to summarize for the search terms "word processing and writing skills. My contribution is below, on the third page of the document we put together as a group:

Word Processing and Writing Skills

Of the three articles I summarized, one actually dealt with the topic we were interested. Taking this article and some of the other articles described by my classmates, it seems that there is a positive affect of word-processing (typing) and writing skills, or at least "language skills." Many of the other articles reflect an overlap in jargon. For this class in the field of Education as well as in the field of Computers, "word processing" refers to typing in a computer environment such a MSWord. Many of the articles reflected the meaning of "word processing" in Linguistics which describes how the human mind processes language from strings of sounds or strings of written input.