Sunday, January 6, 2008

What main stream language use won't show

I have finished the linguistics course from the University of Arizona by Amy Fountain. I cannot generally recommend this lecture series as a podcast (feed). It is too difficult to put up with missing out on visuals and it is highly technical, which may be interesting to some people, but I assume, not for the whole wide audience. When I mailed Ms. Fountain my previous reviews, she wrote me back:
You're very right about my not taking into account enough the podcast listeners in terms of the visuals in the lectures, that's something I'll think about in subsequent efforts.

So, the next series will be better. In the mean time, when looking back, some lectures stand out as more accessible to the average user. The story of English and the lecture about language families are less technical and contain a lot of interesting facts. As noted in the first review, the first lecture is also good for everybody, especially those who need to be freed from their grammar angst. There is this thing 'descriptive grammar' - it is serious grammar, describing what native speakers experience as correct use of their tongue, without the smart gits dotting the i's and squaring the t's.

I'd like to especially praise the lecture about taboo language. (Don't listen if you cannot stand the references to all kinds of swear words.) The most amazing thing about the lecture is how Fountain shows that the study of bad language can teach serious things to linguists. If you wonder whether English allows for infixes (bits of words inserted in other words), you'll find the positive answer only in swearing. And what about pig-Latin: the way this scrambles words (like 'scram' turns 'amscray') teaches linguists how English syllables are constructed. Never bash a foul mouth again. You may earnlay something new.

The two previous reviews: A new adventure and Prescriptive and descriptive grammar.

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