LINGUIST List 12.174

Tue Jan 23 2001

Review: Andrews, Linguistics for L2 Teachers

Editor for this issue: Terence Langendoen <terrylinguistlist.org>


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  1. Malcolm Finney, Review of Larry Andrews: Linguistics for L2 Teachers

Message 1: Review of Larry Andrews: Linguistics for L2 Teachers

Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001 12:16:25 -0800
From: Malcolm Finney <mfinneycsulb.edu>
Subject: Review of Larry Andrews: Linguistics for L2 Teachers

Larry Andrews (2001): Linguistics for L2 Teachers, Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, xvii, 146 pp. ISBN 0-8058-3818-X

Reviewed by: Malcolm A. Finney, California State University Long
Beach

This text, according to the author, is written primarily for
ESL/Bilingual Education teachers who would like to learn more about the
English language, its properties, features, and conventions, and the
variety of purposes for which it is used. Many schools are staffed by
teachers who learned English as L2 who may be ill equipped to teach
ESL/Bilingual classes. The author promotes the text as a crash
professional development/training course for nonnative teachers planning
to get into ESL teaching. It should also be pointed out that the text
mainly reflects the author's personal view of American English.

Chapter 1(Some Basic Features of Language and Communication) introduces
the objectives of the texts. The author makes it clear that the text is
not about teaching methods or strategies that could be applied in the
language classroom, contrary to what one would anticipate from the
title. The book is primarily a descriptive account of different forms in
English written mainly from a sociolinguistic perspective.

This introductory chapter briefly addresses some theories attempting to
explain to origin of speech including the following:

The Bow-Wow theory: Earliest speech imitated onomatopoeic words.
The Pooh-Pooh theory: Initial words were derived from sounds used to
express human emotions such as pain and anger.
The Ding-Dong theory: Initial words emerged as a result of stimuli in
the environment.
The Yo-He-Ho theory: Initial words emerged from grunts, groans, and
grasps.

These theories however have severe limitations and should be taken with
a pinch of salt.

This chapter further introduces features of communication
(interactional, transactional, intentional, inferential) and properties
of language (displacement, arbitrariness, productivity, discreteness,
tool for cultural transmission).

Chapter 2 (Words and Dictionaries) focuses on word origins and meanings.
It describes different word-formation processes such as Coinage,
Derivation, Borrowing, Compounding, Blending, Clipping, Acronym,
Conversion, and Backformation. This section would be of particular
interest to readers interested in word etymology. It may also be useful
in vocabulary development.

The author stresses the importance of learning and using words within
the context of a particular culture and cites some examples of different
interpretations of the same word in different dialects and registers of
English.

A somewhat disjointed section, though important in its on right, is a
guide to ENL (English as a New Language) users to help them make
efficient and effective use of the dictionary.

In Chapter 3 (English Use and Usage), the author distinguishes the
different types and definitions of grammar, outlining the strengths and
inadequacies of each definition. These include grammar from a linguistic
perspective (with phonology, syntax, and semantics as major components),
descriptive grammar, prescriptive grammar, and pedagogical grammar.

The chapter further distinguishes language usage (grammatical
competence) from language use (communicative competence). It also
addresses the issue of error correction and cautions teachers some
apparent errors may actually be a dialectal variation. The advice is to
keep error correction at a minimum. The chapter identifies when and
which errors to correct but does not offer suggestions as to how such
errors may be corrected.

Language variety is another theme of this chapter and the author advises
against making value judgment. Some varieties of English including
Standard American English are introduced with examples, and the author
points out that different forms may be appropriate in different
contexts.

Chapter 4 (Social Conventions and English Usage) introduces social
conventions and rules of conversation and discourse. Topics covered
include conventional and business telephone conventions; discourse
routines; adjacency and utterance pairs; speech acts; and the
cooperative principle and its four associated maxims (Quantity,
Relation, Manner, Quality). This is a principle proposed to facilitate
communication. The text cites instances in which this principle may be
violated.

I found this chapter to be particularly relevant to (potential) ESL
teachers who plan to adopt the communicative approach to language
teaching since if focuses on the different and appropriate uses of
conversational English.

Chapter 5 (American English Variations) revisits the issue of language
varieties and identifies the factors that may trigger language
variation. It introduces and defines linguistic features such as
idiolects, dialects, and registers. The chapter further discusses
properties Standard American English (SAE) and African American
Vernacular English (AAVE). The author subscribes to the view that AAVE
is not a dialect of SAE and that it rather developed from West African
languages. The chapter outlines some features of AAVE that link it to
West African languages.

This chapter addresses issues that ESL teachers may also find very
useful. It presents lexical, phonological, and grammatical variations
among different dialects of English in the U.S. and Britain. It further
mentions attitudes (mostly negative) towards regional, social, and
cultural dialects of English.

Chapter 6 (Meaning and Signification), the final chapter, addresses the
semantics of words. It gives examples to illustrate that meaning is not
constant but relative: Interpretation of the same word is different
depending on the culture in which it is used. This is discussed within
the context of semantic categories including synonyms and euphemisms.


The book is mainly a descriptive account of some features of different
varieties of American English. It is written in mainly non-technical
language and is easy to read. Terms are clearly defined and lots of
examples are provided. To enhance focus and facilitate comprehension,
each chapter is introduced by a pre-reading activity containing
questions and pointers that draws readers' attention to the important
issues discussed in the chapter. Each chapter also concludes with post
reading activity designed to stimulate thought and discussion on issues
presented in the chapter.

The title of the text may however lead potential readers to have
expectations about the text that may not be realized. My initial
assumption was that the text would introduce theories of linguistics and
possible application of such theories in an L2 classroom. This was
however not the intention of the author. The opening chapter
acknowledged that the text was not about methods or strategies to be
applied in the classroom but was rather designed to make the reader an
authority on American English.

This book would be an asset to someone interested in developing
communicative competence in American English. It addresses a number of
issues but not at great depth, which would make it difficult for it to
be used as a primary course text.


Malcolm Finney is an Assistant Professor at California State University,
Long Beach. His primary research interests are similarities and
differences between the processes of first and second language
acquisition, and implications for second language instruction. He also
does some research work on pidgin and Creole linguistics.
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