Weeks 5-10 Reflections (Robb)

11 Nov

Week 10:

On the last day of class, we studied world English and a McDonald’s poster from the company’s advertising in Sweden. It actually featured mostly English with more advanced words in Swedish. I was confounded as to why McDonald’s would mix two languages and exclude Sweden’s population that only speaks one of two languages, even after I considered that McDonald’s wanted to advertise itself as a bilingual company. After thinking about it more, I realized that this bilingualism might hold very special appeal in European countries. This point seems especially true, because our class watched a striking TED talk on how the world is obsessed with learning English. The portion of Sweden’s population that only speaks one of two languages is probably also quite low, another reason why the advertisement is effective.

Week 9:

I was intrigued by Sailaja’s article on “Indian English,” or English as spoken in India, an English variation I had never considered before. She gave a great many examples, although she admitted that studies of Indian English tend to merely list variations and contain little empirical evidence.

I wonder why scholars study an “Indian English,” which does seem challenging to pin down, and whether it would be better to identify this dialect with another name, perhaps one along the lines of “Hindi-influenced English.” From this perspective, it might be easier to study “Hindi-influenced English,” “Bengali-influenced English,” – and so on – as different dialects. Sailaja seems able to identify many general trends of (hopefully) all Indian English, but perhaps further study in her field would be better focused on native speakers by language.

Week 8:

Lindquist’s article from this week’s reading treads through its claims carefully. The author defends against potential flaws in the data used and admits other issues that affect the same data. For example, he points out the issue that the number of written letters, or correspondences, from one person to another has declined with the rise of email.

Lindquist’s article also helped me realize that “personal letters are an excellent data source for sociolinguistic research on earlier periods, since they are usually closer to the spoken language than are printed texts.” He does remind us of one limitation: only literate individuals write letters. This point made me think about how certain words used primarily by the substantial illiterate population of pre-Renaissance England may have never made it into written sources. Slang and colloquialisms, which we might typically avoid in emails and letters today, probably form a significant part of the vocabulary of Middle English. Although the illiterate population contributed little to science, culture, and the like, they still form an essential part of history as a whole.

Week 7:

I appreciate the opening of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,

These lines appeal to me because their reference to two minds, rather than a man and a woman, seems to advocate for love, regardless of gender. Indeed, we learned that many of the sonnets are dedicated to a young man, or a “fair youth,” and many of the sonnets use masculine pronouns while referring to Shakespeare’s potential lover. LGBT Studies taught me that same-sex marriage was a very far-fetched concept even in the mid-20th century, when the LGBT community merely wanted to remain safe. Although some scholars interpret Shakespeare’s sonnets as platonic, I believe the other interpretation and I am surprised that Shakespeare dedicated this much writing to same-sex love five centuries before same-sex marriage became a feasible idea.

Week 6:

Even though I am familiar with Shakespeare’s prolific coining of new words, I was surprised to learn the extent of his neologisms. According to this week’s reading by Busse and Busse (2012), various scholars measured his vocabulary and came up with figures ranging from 17,750 words (Schmidt and Sarazin) to 29,066 words (Spevack). Busse and Busse also mention that the Shakespeare Database lists 4,512 word forms that all first appeared in Shakespeare’s work. Most importantly, they point out that these new words are not necessarily neologisms by Shakespeare.

We learned that one reason scholars study Shakespeare so extensively is because his work forms a large portion of all the available work from this time period of extensive change in English at the dawn of the 17th century.

With the above point about scarce information in mind, I would make a very rough amateur estimate that approximately 40% of the 4,512 word forms that first appear in Shakespeare’s work were created by Shakespeare himself. This figure comes out to 1,805 word forms, still an impressive amount. Averaging the three academic estimates (17,750, 20,000, and 29,066) cited in Busse and Busse’s work, I would guess that Shakespeare’s vocabulary consists of 22,727 words. These numbers might give us a good idea of the extent of Shakespeare’s creativity.

Week 5:

Interestingly (and to be honest), while I was reading the Summoner’s portrait in our excerpt from The Canterbury Tales, I imagined him as a different kind of conjurer, or practitioner of witchcraft. Chaucer’s descriptions of the Summoner actually supported this idea: the summoner loved (…) drinking of strong wine as red as blood.

Then would he talk and shout as madman would. <- Stereotypical witch behavior.
And when a deal of wine he’d poured within,
Then would. he utter no word save Latin. <- I thought of these as incantations.
Some phrases had he learned, say two or three,
Which he had garnered out of some decree;
No wonder, for he’d heard it all the day;
And all you know right well that even a jay
Can call out “Wat” as well as can the pope. <- He’s a poor magician. Matches what we’ve read so far.

More potentially misleading descriptions:

Who had a fiery-red, cherubic face, <- More stereotypical “satanic” witch depictions.
For eczema he had; his eyes were narrow
As hot he was, and lecherous, as a sparrow; <- He is a loathsome being who dabbles in dark magic.
With black and scabby brows and scanty beard; <- Matches the above.
He had a face that little children feared. <- Again, matches the above.
There was no mercury, sulphur, or litharge, <- These are chemicals we could imagine witches using.
No borax, ceruse, tartar, could discharge,
Nor ointment that could cleanse enough, or bite,
To free him of his boils and pimples white,
Nor of the bosses resting on his cheeks. <- Even more stereotypical witch depictions.

If one doesn’t know the Latin phrase below, it’s easy to continue believing the wrong thing.

But when, for aught else, into him you’d grope,
‘Twas found he’d spent his whole philosophy;
Just “Questio quid juris” would he cry.” <- This is Latin for “Which law applies?”

Fortunately, some quick online research saved me. It helped me realize the summoner was a simply a corrupt servant of the law who “summoned” people to court. This fact completely changes the perspective of his portrait and possibly his story, if the reader is not studying outside of the story. I wonder if transcribing / translation errors have affected other studies of Old and Middle English – mistranslations certainly exist in other areas.


Week 6 & 10 reflections (Kathryn)

10 Nov

Week 6:

Reading about paleography was eye-opening because it’s something that we take for granted today. It’s hard to image not being able to read and write or that most of the population couldn’t read and write. Most of our lives now are spent reading – especially for me, I love reading books – so it’s almost impossible to conceptualize. Books are also commonplace and easy to manufacture today, where the process of making manuscripts used to require much more work – creating the vellum and then hand-writing every page. Another thing I learned was how much the alphabet has changed and that there were different scripts used by different classes of society. The practice transcription that we did in class was somewhat difficult, but some of the other scripts were impossible to read without a lot of practice. They looked more like cursive and used differently-styled characters.

Week 10:

I enjoyed the other presentations this week as well. Robb’s presentation about language survival was a little bit scary – I remember seeing the map and how many languages are endangered, and that’s tragic. In later discussions, we watched a video that said that the globalization of English won’t cause other languages to become extinct, but I disagree. We’ve already seen that happen. It might not be English itself, but it’s the social attitudes about the power and use of English that’s important. If people maintain a cultural identity that is connected with a language, that language has a better chance of survival. But with urbanization and globalization, people will use English instead of their native language, or raise their children speaking primarily English because they think that English is better. This has happened in some places already, and it’s sad to me whenever anyone thinks that one language is “better” than another due to social constructs.

Week 9 reflections (Kathryn)

4 Nov

I enjoyed the presentations in class and getting to learn more about Spanglish, regional dialects, and constructed languages. Everyone gave good presentations and obviously did a lot of research on their subject, and I enjoyed seeing different presentation styles and perspectives.

I read the assigned article on Indian English for Tuesday’s (cancelled) class as well. The article was interesting because it talked about how English spoken by Indians has certain characteristics that are widespread among Indian English speakers and that differ from English speakers in other countries (e.g. the US, England, Australia, etc.). One thing that bothered me about the article was that it seems like it was trying to condense too much information. There are hundreds of different languages spoken in India and most people speak multiple languages, so it seems to me that the dialect of Indian English spoken would depend greatly on the speaker’s primary and secondary languages and on the dominant languages in the region where the speaker went to school. However, the article noted some interesting phonological, morphological, syntactical, and lexical characteristics of Indian English that are caused by native languages and are different from other world Englishes.

Youtube video “ASL versus SEE” (JAYNE)

3 Nov

I found this a cool you tube titled “ASL versus SEE”, it is about how SEE (Signing Exactly English) and ASL (American Sign Language) is different. Many people assume that SEE is a real langauge for deaf people. It is not an exactly language, it is like a visual model of English itself. ASL is an entire different level of the language, it have strong visual aspects such as handshapes, locations, facial expressions, and body gestures. It is critical for us to understand which is representing English in a visual model aka SEE. SEE and ASL are very different. ASL do have tiny part c by English but not so much. the ASL alphabet is influenced by English but only in a sense of spelling names, places, some words that do not have assigned sign language.


“ASL versus SEE” accessed on November 2nd 2012 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ31fPD3MpM&gt;

Reflections 5-9 (Jayne)

2 Nov

Five week:

I really enjoyed this week because we get to focus on Canterbury tales.. I learned so much about Canterbury, to be honest I never know about Canterbury tales until this class. I was like why I never knew this because it do affect English in a big way. It was a way for people at that era to play around with English and make the word sounds pretty. I did work on the Sailor narrative. It was tough doing a translation on the Sailor because I have to figure out what it means behind the literal more like metaphor…I really enjoyed translating it into my language American Sign Language. In written form, it look okayish but in my language it look so beautiful.. perhaps it was my perception of what it should mean but I dont know what the writer’s intention to convey the means of the sailor story. Just to be honest with you, I really enjoyed doing the translation on the Sailor section trying to vision what it look like in the past.


Sixth week:

I was struggling to learn how to translate the old transcript of old english to modern enlgish. I have to admit, I do not understand it at all. I just try it again and again and again until I get it right. I think that I need to work on that section until I fully understand it because I am afraid that it will be involved in the final exam. That week, I was not sure if I should continue taking this class because I am struggling with other classes as well. The evolution of English was very different from what I expected in the beginning of the quarter. But I am beginning to understand the importance of studying the history of English language and how it evolve over time. It is critical of us to understand why the English constantly change over time because in order to be successful in this world we need to change along with the English.
Seventh week:

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,

I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,

I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,

I seem stark mute but inwardly to prate.
I am and not,

I freeze and yet am burned.

Since from myself another self I turned.

when I read that poem, it touched my heart. I feel very connection with that person who wrote this poem. Then Mrs.Aim declared that it was Queen Elizabeth I who wrote that poem, I discovered strong sense of respect for Elizabeth I. Since I was a little girl, I always look up to the Rosie the Riveter.. the symbol of the strong women of WWII, Now because of this class, I discovered another woman that I can look up to. I can understand what Elizabeth I was going through yet I could not understand because I am not in the same position that she was in. The poem helped me to understand the significant of her history and how she decided to not marry any man to protect her status in order to be able to do anything she want to do. She helped me to appreciate this era that I was born into.

Eighth week:

It was fun doing the exercise of corpus of historical American English… I learned something new… 400 million of words created since 1810 until 2009. 400 million words?! wow! I am amazed with how English evolved over time. English does have this huge capacity to absorb so much words into itself. However it made me to wonder how it happened? the answer to my question was America is itself potluck of many cultures and many languages blended into one language. Such as spanish, chinese, many other languages are being contributed to the growing of the English language because in the America, so many people are from different cultures and do have their own languages, English is like a compromise made between so many languages. because of English, America managed to be the one country united by many people who have their own culture beliefs. It is amazing to learn something new about the English itself however sometimes I feel so frustrated with English because it is so blended with many languages to point where it is very difficult for someone foreign to learn English.

Ninth week:
I really enjoyed today presentations! I learned so much from Danica’s and Lauren’s presentation. I learned so much about Spanglish concept that I never really thought about. But now I finally realized how much Spanglish do affect my home state (California)… I kept seeing the billboards of Spain words on it advertising about something and it helped me to understand how much another language affected the language of English… Currently I am learning Italian so it helped me to understand some of Spanish language, in some way it made me feel good about myself because I am pushing myself to learn something out of my comfort zone. As for danica’s presentation, I love her presentation so much!!!!! It made me to think more about my project and how the regions affect the “dialect” of ASL (American Sign Language) … It helped me to get the wheels going in my head. 🙂


ASL Alphabet and how does English help ASL?

1 Nov


I found this adorable youtube video about a song for ASL Alphabet. It is a good example of how English became a little part of ASL by contributing the foundation of Alphabet. Many people would agrue that English is not big influence on the ASL but I do disagree. English do have a tiny part in ASL history. ASL is very different from English however all languages is bound to be influenced by other languages no matter what.

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMQHd1UBkeI&gt; this is the link for watching the song of ASL alphabet.


“ABC song/ASL alphabet-American Version” accessed on November 1, 2012 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMQHd1UBkeI&gt;

ASL VS PSE (Jayne)

1 Nov

I found this great article about comparing ASL (American Sign Language) to PSE (Pigeon Sign English) ASL is a full language with its own grammar structure while PSE do follow the English order Sign language. It is sticky trying to compare ASL to English because both are very different in many ways such as grammar, structure, and visually. PSE tend to be most used in the workplace where deaf and nondeaf individuals have to work together and PSE is like a compromise between ASL and English to help lowering the barrier of the communication between two DIFFERENT languages.


“ASL vs PSE”, November 1, 2012 <http://www.signinghispraises.net/vs.html&gt;