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Lingofile Blog

Lingofile is here to appeal to your passion for language. Professor Kate Burridge posts musings about language - please join the discussion below.
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EAL Worksheets

 This is the catalogue of free worksheets (with sample answers) from the Boobook Education EAL discussion list. To join the EAL discussion list click here. 
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Lingofile Worksheets

Worksheets for immediate use in the classroom. Ideal for students' language journals, it's all part of our commitment to the study of English Language.
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Wording Worksheets

 These language and argument worksheets are ideal for Year 10, 11 and 12 students
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Now is the winter of our disco tent

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This link was sent to me recently and got me thinking about language errors — in particular the rather confusing array of labels we have for different slips of the ear or brain (so not slops of the tingue, like my embarrassing ‘Piddle Dutch’ in place of ‘Middle Dutch’ during a lecture!).

Read more: Now is the winter of our disco tent

Nouny noun phrases

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As you well know, noun phrases are built around nouns. Straightforward enough — trouble is, more often than not, noun phrases consist of much more than the obligatory bits like a noun and possibly a determiner (like the). So you might have a single noun (recipes), but you can also build in a number of different pre- and post-modifying expressions (some popular basic recipes for bread which use oil for a spongier texture). Noun phrases can be linked to other noun phrases and their modifiers can themselves be modified. A bread recipe might recommend that Soft elasticity and a smooth texture can be achieved by enthusiastic kneading and flavoured oils. Or it might tell us:

The induction of a soft elasticity into the bread dough and the promotion of a smooth and even texture in the end product can be achieved by the operation of enthusiastic kneading and in the initial stages of the procedure the addition of subtle flavoured oils together with sugar for assistance in the conversion of the flour’s natural sugars into carbon monoxide.

This syntactic nightmare illustrates the horrifying potential of this particular aspect of noun phrase modification.

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Stress and swearing

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Swearers lead less stressful lives?

It is a common observation that those who condemn swearing are “uptight”. This opinion is now buttressed by new research coming out of England’s Keele University. News commentary everywhere this week reported on the results of a study Swearing as emotional languagecarried out by psychologist Dr Stephens and presented recently at the 2014 British Psychological Society annual conference in Birmingham.

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'Not' - erosion and creation, the linguistic cycle-of-life

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As you’re well aware I’m sure, much of language change is driven by the perpetual tug-o-war between creativity or expressiveness (people’s search for exciting new ways of saying things) and the tendency for these exciting new ways of saying things to reduce and wear out, a process rather horribly dubbed ‘routinization’ (I think it was Sir Ernest Gowers who once said no good will ever come of a word ending in -ize). You can see the processes at play in vocabulary (and spectacularly so), and they even drive grammatical changes.

Read more: 'Not' - erosion and creation, the linguistic cycle-of-life


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The jargons of disciplines like linguistics and sociology can be more alienating than other jargons, and perhaps it’s because (of) the everyday nature of their subject matter. I still recall as a beginning student thinking I had a good idea of what a word was — until I went to the lecture on words.

Read more: Language-Code-Style-Switching-Mixing-Shifting?

Introducing Kate Burridge

Kate Burridge, our resident linguist, is Professor of Linguistics in the School of Languages, Literature, Cultures and Linguistics (Monash University) and a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Her main areas of research are: grammatical change in Germanic languages, the Pennsylvania German spoken by Amish / Mennonite communities in North America, the notion of linguistic taboo and the structure and history of English. She is a regular presenter of language segments on radio and has been a panelist on ABC TV’s Can We Help.

Her books include: Euphemism and Dysphemism: Language used as shield and weapon (with Keith Allan, 1991), Syntactic Change in Germanic (1993), English in Australia and New Zealand (with Jean Mulder, 1998), Blooming English: Observations on the roots, cultivation and hybrids of the English Language (2004), Weeds in the Garden of Words: Further observations on the tangled history of the English language (2005), Forbidden Words: Taboo and the censoring of language (with Keith Allan, 2006), Introducing English Grammar (with Kersti Börjars, 2010), Gift of the Gob: Morsels of English language history (2010) and (with Debbie de Laps) Love the Lingo (2010) and Living Lingo (2011).