Mc Lellan Icelt Melaka 10nov09

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A poresentation made at the ICELT conference, Melaka, Malaysia, November 2009 about idiomatic phrases in Asian varieties of English and in academic texts.

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Mc Lellan Icelt Melaka 10nov09

  1. 1. ‘ Tom, Dick and Harry’, or ‘Ali, Ah Kong and Muthu’? Whose idioms in Asian lingua franca English? + implications for teaching EAP ICELT 2009 Conference, Melaka 10th – 11th November, 2009 Dr James McLellan [email_address] November 13, 2009
  2. 2. Outline of paper <ul><li>Background: ELF, ALFE, EI(A)L & other acronyms </li></ul><ul><li>Idioms and idiomaticity (uni- or multilateral?) </li></ul><ul><li>3. Presence or absence of figurative expressions in public speeches: f indings from small corpus of ASEAN & SEAMEO speeches and reference corpus of New Zealand speeches </li></ul><ul><li>4. Discussion: idioms, SEA Englishes and ALFE; implications for teaching EAP </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  3. 3. ALFE and other acronyms <ul><li>ALFE: Asian / ASEAN Lingua Franca English </li></ul><ul><li>ELF: English as a Lingua Franca </li></ul><ul><li>(Seidlhofer, 2005 – still no. 1 in the list of most frequently-read </li></ul><ul><li>ELTJ articles) </li></ul><ul><li>EIL: English as an International Language </li></ul><ul><li>EIAL: English as an International Auxiliary Language </li></ul><ul><li>( Smith, L.E., 1983 ) </li></ul><ul><li>SUEs: Successful users of English (avoiding the </li></ul><ul><li>NS/NNS distinction; Prodromou, 2008 ) </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  4. 4. Some academic research article titles in Applied Linguistics (incl. idioms, intertextuality) <ul><li>“ Lexical thickets and electronic gateways : making text accessible by novice writers” (Milton, 1999) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Is it a wood, or are they trees ?” (Johnson, 2002) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Final frontiers in Applied Linguistics” (Crystal, 2003) </li></ul><ul><li>“ The agonism and the ecstacy : conflict and argument in Applied Linguistics” (Badger, 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>“ The devil in the kaleidoscope : can Europe speak with a single voice in many languages?” (Tosi, 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Bumping into creative idiomaticity” (Prodromou, 2007a) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Kettles of fish : or, does unilateral idiomaticity exist?” (Prodromou, 2007c). </li></ul><ul><li>“ EIL / ELF: cup half-full or half-empty ?” (Maley, 2008) </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  5. 5. What happens at international gatherings? <ul><li>e.g. meetings of SEAMEO, ASEAN and their various committees and subcommittees, where English is the working language and (unofficial?) lingua franca. </li></ul><ul><li>Is Malaysian English intelligible to Thais? Is Philippine English intelligible to Indonesians, Vietnamese English to Filipinos, Indonesian English to Cambodians etc. ? </li></ul><ul><li>World Englishes vs. ELF / ALFE paradigms – </li></ul><ul><li>conflicting, or complimentary? </li></ul><ul><li>(Jenkins, 2007, pp. 17-18, claims they are </li></ul><ul><li>complimentary) </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  6. 6. Major research question <ul><li>What happens in terms of the use of figurative idiomatic language in ALFE contexts? </li></ul><ul><li>i.e. Do figurative idiomatic expressions derive </li></ul><ul><li>from SEA national cultures, </li></ul><ul><li>from USA / UK / AUS / NZ cultures, … </li></ul><ul><li>or are they not used? </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  7. 7. Figurative, idiomatic language - 1 <ul><li>Variously defined: </li></ul><ul><li>Chunks </li></ul><ul><li>Multi-word units </li></ul><ul><li>OED (cited by Prodromou, 2008, p. 49) def. of idiomaticity: </li></ul><ul><li>“ A peculiarity of phraseology approved by usage and often having a signification other than its grammatical or logical one” </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  8. 8. Figurative, idiomatic language - 2 <ul><li>Often highly culture-bound, e.g. </li></ul><ul><li>USA – ‘ whole new ball game ’; </li></ul><ul><li>‘ out of left field ’, ‘ ballpark figure ’ </li></ul><ul><li>UK / Aus – ‘ play a straight bat ’, ‘ sticky wicket ’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ just not cricket ’ (= untranslatable. Yano, 2009) </li></ul><ul><li>NZ – ‘ hospital pass ’, ‘ drop the ball ’ </li></ul><ul><li>Malaysia – (calques) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ frog under the coconut shell ’< ‘ katak dibawah tempurung ’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ enemy in the blanket ’ < ‘ musuh dalam selimut ’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ blacklisted ’ > ‘ disenaraihitamkan ’ </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  9. 9. Examples of ‘unilateral idiomaticity’ (which may cause intelligibility problems?) <ul><li>Expressions used by senior academic staff of a New Zealand University in presentations to a visiting Malaysian delegation: </li></ul><ul><li>“ We will put our skates on …” </li></ul><ul><li>“ (This university) punches well above its weight ” </li></ul><ul><li>(x2, different presenters, also used in uni. marketing ) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Australians were green-eyed …” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Go the gamut ” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Tarred by the same brush ” </li></ul><ul><li>----------------- </li></ul><ul><li>Canadian PhD supervisor to Malaysian PhD student: </li></ul><ul><li>“ I can’t read your draft chapter right now, I’m snowed under with work” </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  10. 10. SE Asian Englishes <ul><li>Tendency to modify syntactically or lexically restricted figurative expressions, as noted by Tongue (1979, pp. 88-89): </li></ul><ul><li>the donkey ’s work in hot soup </li></ul><ul><li>stop pulling my leg s neck- to -neck </li></ul><ul><li>up to my nose in work </li></ul><ul><li>Every Ali, Ah Kong and Muthu (Tom,Dick and Harry) </li></ul><ul><li>+ </li></ul><ul><li>“ We will make them eat back their words” </li></ul><ul><li>(Malaysian PM, Bulletin Utama, TV1, 1 Nov. 09) </li></ul><ul><li>= creative , reclaiming ownership of English </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  11. 11. Pedagogical applications: EAP writing <ul><li>Traditionally, international students are advised to avoid clich é d figurative expressions – (‘ Every coin has two sides ’) </li></ul><ul><li>seen as stylistically inappropriate in the academic domain </li></ul><ul><li>(or else the issue is avoided altogether in EAP writing coursebooks). </li></ul>
  12. 12. Gregg (1986), commenting on Mohan and Lo (1985) <ul><li>“ [My Chinese students] did not share our disparagement of traditional formulaic language – the essential furniture of the learned person’s writing to them, the abhorred cliché to us.” </li></ul><ul><li>(p. 357) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Gairns & Redman, 1986, p. 36 <ul><li>“ Certain native speakers might ‘ get the ball rolling ’, but few foreign learners could carry off this idiom without sounding faintly ridiculous”. </li></ul><ul><li>=> figurative language is for ‘us’, not for ‘them’ </li></ul>
  14. 14. Method <ul><li>Corpus of ≤ 30 transcripts of speeches, collected from websites, 33,000 words </li></ul><ul><li>Delivered by heads of government, senior ASEAN and SEAMEO officials </li></ul><ul><li>Searched (mostly manually) for examples of figurative expressions </li></ul><ul><li>Frequency and distribution checked </li></ul><ul><li>Compared with reference corpus of speeches from New Zealand business meetings, representing an intra -national inner-circle variety of English, </li></ul><ul><li>Then with a third (smaller – 23,000 words) corpus of NZ speeches addressed to Southeast Asian audiences </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  15. 15. ALFE Corpus findings: Total = 121 tokens <ul><li>Ratio 1: 270 words </li></ul><ul><li>Most frequent lemmas, phrases: </li></ul><ul><li>12 in 6 speeches : Seamless </li></ul><ul><li>5 in 4 : Tap / untapped </li></ul><ul><li>5 in 4 : Leverage(d) (v.) </li></ul><ul><li>5 in 2 : Bottom line </li></ul><ul><li>4 in 3 : Forge (v.) </li></ul><ul><li>4 in 3 : Fast track </li></ul><ul><li>3 in 3 : Harness (v.) </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  16. 16. Concordance for ‘seamless’, ALFE corpus <ul><li>technology, human resource and a &quot; seamless &quot; market should be a driving </li></ul><ul><li>strong hindrances to the creation of the seamless production base, and single </li></ul><ul><li>can play a pivotal role and provide a seamless link for transportation </li></ul><ul><li>between countries, resulting in a seamless movement of goods from </li></ul><ul><li>to provide Sun with a comprehensive, seamless global logistics solution </li></ul><ul><li>logistics companies to facilitate the seamless distribution of their goods and </li></ul><ul><li>the case for the seamless ASEAN market that </li></ul><ul><li>up various bases into a seamless market </li></ul><ul><li>positioning of the region as a seamless market and </li></ul><ul><li>be best summed up in two key words, ' seamless ' and 'value'. The region will be </li></ul><ul><li>and 'value', The region will be ' seamless ' when borders between </li></ul><ul><li>formalities, barriers to a seamless flow of goods </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  17. 17. Others (2 or 3 occurrences), e.g. <ul><li>to chart roadmaps </li></ul><ul><li>up the technology ladder </li></ul><ul><li>the indispensible “glue” binding these countries </li></ul><ul><li>movers and shakers </li></ul><ul><li>open-arms welcome </li></ul><ul><li>reaping these dividends </li></ul><ul><li>ASEAN to thrive as a hub for Asia </li></ul><ul><li>ASEAN is a concert of Southeast Asian nations </li></ul><ul><li>multipronged approaches towards integration </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  18. 18. Reference corpus 1: New Zealand English <ul><li>Corpus of the same size (c. 33,000 words) </li></ul><ul><li>NZ business and political speeches </li></ul><ul><li>Intra- , not international </li></ul><ul><li>Phase 5 in Schneider’s (2003) model </li></ul><ul><li>Total = 157 tokens </li></ul><ul><li>Ratio of 1: 216 words </li></ul><ul><li>Greater frequency of extended figurative use </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  19. 19. NZ Corpus findings: Total = 157 tokens <ul><li>Ratio 1: 216 words </li></ul><ul><li>Most frequent lemmas, phrases: </li></ul><ul><li>8 in 1 speech : Bottom line </li></ul><ul><li>5 in 4 speeches: Tap / untapped </li></ul><ul><li>5 in 3 : The big(ger) picture </li></ul><ul><li>2 in 2 : Hard-nosed </li></ul><ul><li>2 in 2 : Over-arching </li></ul><ul><li>2 in 1 : Canary in the coalmine </li></ul><ul><li>2 in 1 : (fly-by-night) cowboys </li></ul><ul><li>2 in 1 : Number 8 wire </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  20. 20. + more frequent extended idioms in speeches in the NZ intranational corpus <ul><li>e.g. </li></ul><ul><li>We don’t want to be that inn keeper who will take advantage of an over-booked town to charge exorbitant rates. </li></ul><ul><li>The question is when do you fix the roof? When the sun is shining or when it’s raining? Well when the sun’s shining we go to the beach. </li></ul><ul><li>The opposing team has been much like a synchronised swimming team – polished in delivery but the nose peg masks a slightly tainted smell . </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  21. 21. Reference corpus 2: New Zealand speeches at ASEAN gatherings <ul><li>Smaller corpus (11 speeches, 23,116 words) </li></ul><ul><li>Total = 189 tokens </li></ul><ul><li>Ratio of 1: 122 words = highest of the 3 corpora </li></ul><ul><li>Fewer examples of extended idioms than in the NZ intranational corpus </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  22. 22. NZ>ASEAN Corpus findings: Total = 189 tokens <ul><li>Most frequent lemmas, phrases: </li></ul><ul><li>6 in 1 speech : Glass ceiling </li></ul><ul><li>4 in 2 speeches : Weather the storm </li></ul><ul><li>3 in 2 speeches : Forge </li></ul><ul><li>3 in 1 speech : First past the post </li></ul><ul><li>2 in 2 speeches : Tap(ped) </li></ul><ul><li>2 in 2 speeches : Level playing field </li></ul><ul><li>2 in 2 speeches : Span(ning) </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  23. 23. Limitations (hedges) <ul><li>Critiques of the whole notion of ELF / ALFE as a distinct variety of English (e.g. Prodromou, 2007b, 2008; Maley, 2008): </li></ul><ul><li>Are ELF / ALFE just researchers’ artifacts or constructs? </li></ul><ul><li>Is ALFE yet another attempt to deny Asians access to more powerful L1 varieties, following in the tradition of Basic English (Richards & Gibson, 1945) and Nuclear English (Quirk, 1978)? </li></ul><ul><li>Further research needed </li></ul><ul><li>- into intelligibility of the idioms used in ALFE contexts </li></ul><ul><li>- into aspects of accommodation and negotiation for meaning in choices made by speakers (or their speechwriters) </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  24. 24. Discussion / Conclusions - I <ul><li>Relatively few idiomatic expressions in ALFE corpus, compared to the int ra national NZE corpus, but highest frequency in the NZ>SEA speeches </li></ul><ul><li>None are culture-specific in the ALFE corpus </li></ul><ul><li>Most are internationally intelligible, although some may be problematic </li></ul><ul><li>Many are ‘clich é s’, and/or ‘management speak’ </li></ul><ul><li>In the context of formal speeches (as in academic discourse?), use of figurative expressions may not be considered appropriate </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  25. 25. Discussion / Conclusions - II <ul><li>So, is the restricted use of figurative idiomatic expressions a feature of ALFE? ….. </li></ul><ul><li>Are ALFE, ELF (and Academic English) all interrelated in terms of their use or avoidance of idiomatic expressions? </li></ul><ul><li>Ongoing research into phonological and syntactic features of ALFE (and ELF in general) needs to be supplemented by study of lexical and discoursal patterns in ALFE and Academic English texts. </li></ul><ul><li>Is idiomatic competence just ‘ sour grapes ’? </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO
  26. 26. Discussion / Conclusions - III <ul><li>Isn’t ALFE just the same as learner English or interlanguage? </li></ul><ul><li>No, but maybe akin to Academic English </li></ul><ul><li>(Liu, 2003; Grant, 2007, p. 181) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Even low-frequency figuratives could be important…so teaching students the skills to interpret the figurative… will help them become more independent learners” </li></ul><ul><li>+ Idiom teaching materials need to be “based on frequency and range of occurrence in authentic language” ????? </li></ul>
  27. 27. Or are we barking up the wrong tree?..... (Grant & Bauer, 2004) <ul><li>. </li></ul>November 13, 2009 © THE UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO • TE WHARE WANANGA O WAIKATO Sekian. Terima Kasih! ( Reference list available on request )

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