Most of the
tasks in this Website are linked to a particular topic
are other tasks which cover a wider range of skills and which are provided
here as a means of broadening your experience of language. Some are very
simple, some require research or field work. All will develop your skills
in analysing language.
to people speaking in natural situations and jot down any features of
accent, dialect or personal idiosyncrasies which stand out to you eg
mam'll play war
wi' yous lot when she gets hyem"
This utterance was overhead in Newcastle as an older woman saw some young
children playing in mud outside their house. "play war" = get
angry, "yous lot" is a form of Geordie 2nd person plural + emphasiser,
"hyem" = home and is related to the Scandinavian "hem"
also meaning home. "Mam" is common in Newcastle rather than
"mum" which seems rather home counties and middle class.
to a dictionary - where possible refer to several dictionaries and note
Use the Oxford English Dictionary on CD-ROM, Chambers 20th Century, The
Shorter Oxford, The Heinemann English Dictionary.
slogans, pop group names, song titles, product names...
and make a brief but clear semantic and/or syntactic analysis of each
enemies shake hands on pieces of peace.
This headline (Guardian 26.7.94) about Israel and Jordan signing a joint
peace declaration relies for its impact upon apparent contradiction
"Friendly enemies" near homophones "piece(s), peace"
and a pun "pieces of peace"
The two leaders appear friendly while some sections of their countries
appear still to be enemies. The agreement to restore telephone lines,
border crossings and air corridors are referred to in the article as
"pieces of peace".
samples of different
registers and become familiar with them by parodying them and imitating
them. Explain the characteristics of each style you collect eg:
whose companionship is a source of continual strength, and to Mom, whom
I love dearly.
This sentence appears as the Dedication at the front of a book explaining
the computer program "Photoshop". Dedications usually begin
"to" and may mention a friend, workmate, wife or family member.
Frequently they explain why that person has been selected for the dedication.
Equally frequently they are a source of cringe-making embarrassment
for the rest of us. Love and friendship are hard to describe in a few
words in the front of a computer manual... "Mom" suggests
USA to English readers.
Other examples: "To the pupils I have taught, still teach, and
will teach, whom I have learnt to like more as I have learnt to manage
them better." (Michael Marland, The Craft of The Classroom)
If you have the skills - and the time - you could mock
up examples of different registers as they appear when printed. There
are many sites online that offer photoshop
Collect & Comment on ...
Identify the source or the speaker and the context. Try to decide why
it is a cliché, how long it has been so and if it is particular
to a certain group of people eg:
spoken by a winner in The Crystal Maze TV programme. Common at one time
in sportsmen replying to the journalist's cliche "How does it feel?"
the speech of a
friend, relative or workmate, noting the characteristics of that person's
Note pronunciation, choice of vocabulary, clichés, tone of voice,
intonation ... What different registers does your subject use? Be discreet
in your study and be prepared to reveal your findings to that person if
required. If it's unsuitable or embarrassing for them you probably shouldn't
be listening in the first place!
to people whose first language is not English. Note non-standard forms,
explain why it is non-standard and where possible find out whether the
source of the error is by transference from the speaker's own language
am liking it here in England"
spoken by a German speaker who had been "over-taught" the
present continuous form of the verb and applied it to a verb which does
not take this form.
spend some time helping these speakers. It will be free teaching for
them and excellent learning for you. There is no better way to learn
the structure of your own language than by teaching it to someone else.
am", "you are"; "aren't you" - but not "amn't