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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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Summary Details


Query:   linguistic autobiographies
Author:  Michael Erard
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Sociolinguistics
History of Linguistics

Summary:   I'd like to thank the following people who responded to my inquiry
about their use of linguistic autobiographies (Linguist 13.2866)
in the classroom:

Bethany K. Dumas
Mai Kuha
Lee Campbell
Jean-Marc Dewaele
Harold F. Schiffman
Dom Watt
Leanne Hinton
Rebecca Wheeler
Bill Kretzschmar
Ellen Johnso
Aneta Pavlenko
Maria Carreira

While the linguistic autobiography enjoys a good reputation as a
research tool, it is also widely used in the classroom to open
discussions about the formal properties of language, the relationship
between language and society, language and identity, and language in
US history, as well as a diagnostic tool with which teachers can
rapidly assess rapidly their students' needs and backgrounds.

One interesting question arose: Where does the pedagogical use of the
linguistic autobiography come from? At least one of my respondents
claimed s/he had invented it de novo; another person suspected it had
been invented multiply. While nothing precludes the polygenesis of
this assignment, I was surprised to learn of the linguistic
autobiography's pedigree.

For clearing that up, I would like to thank Virginia McDavid, who
wrote that "to the best of my knowledge, my husband invented and
developed [the linguistic autobiography]." She said that she began
using it herself as early as the late 1950's. "My husband used to
say in connection with the assignment that it had connections with
what Leonard Bloofield said about people's self-knowledge about
language: People don't know what they say or what they think they
ought to say."

LL Issue: 14.78
Date Posted: 10-Jan-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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