Tuesday, June 07, 2005

From little acorns?

So, welcome back after half term, and for those of you busy tooling up for the A2 exams, here's wishing you all the very best luck in the world! And if you're in my class, DO SOME WORK!

I see that while I've been away, the debate about synthetic phonics has been rumbling on. If you've got Child Language Acquisition on your exam paper this month, type this phrase into the search engine on any of the national dailies and it'll reel out a shedload of debate about it. But I'm not putting it here cos you know that stuff just doesn't rock my boat...

No, catching my eye this week is an article in the Boston (USA) area newspaper, the Sentinel and Enterprise, about George Bush's latest favourite word, "suiciders", what you and I might more laboriously call "suicide bombers". Hmmm... so how do you view this lexical item? Is it a language change needed for linguistic efficiency, halving the number of words needed to convey the idea? Is it evidence of language decay, a debasement of a previous, superior form? Is it a creative generation of a new word to jolt us out of our complacency about this terrorist phenomenon? Is it wrong?

How you prefer to answer this question will depend upon which ideas about language change you subscribe to, but you should at least be aware of alternative ways of looking at it. Have a read of the article and identify which attitudes and ideas about language change are implicit in it.

The other interesting angle the article touches upon is whether or not this word is likely to become more widely used than just the current American president. Will the power and prestige of this role mean that Bush's lexical creation is adopted by people who admire and respect him? What impact will the global media have in making the word familiar through their reporting of his every public word? What other factors might cause it to spread?

However, according to the article, the associate editor of one of the main dictionaries in the USA isn't at all over-optimistic about the likelihood of the word spreading. Well, here's a test. Open Google. Type in "suicider" and see how many hits you get. Who's right?... And why?... Is Bush leading language change or following it? What's happening here?...

Check the link and leave your thoughts...

Not a good day for language use


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