Foreword – Spring 2008

| January 8, 2014

Foreword to Spring 2008, Volume 3 Issue 1

For the first edition of the Linguistics Journal for 2008 we are pleased to present six articles. Congratulations to all the authors whose papers have been accepted. Two additional Associate Editors, Katalin Egri Ku-Mesu and Jeanette Sakel, have been appointed to supervise submissions. The number of editors reviewing papers has been increasing as well. We would like to thank all reviewers, editors, proofreaders and authors for their valuable contributions. A special thank goes to the Associate Editor Steve Walsh who is moving on. We wish him all the best.

The first contribution comes from Mari Lehtinen, University of Helsinki (Finland).The study shows that similar kinds of modal implications are conveyed both in French and in Finnish via stylised intonation contours consisting of pitch rises. The author presents the so-called figure of familiarity of Finnish, including only one pitch rise, and the French undulating figure, consisting of several pitch rises, and points out how different the shapes of the phenomena are. This investigation falls within the scope of conversation analysis, and makes use of an interaction-based perspective. The author regards Gumperz’s contextualisation theory as central for this paper, as, according to Gumperz (Gumperz 1982, 1992), speakers construct a context for their utterances with the help of different contextualisation cues, such as prosodic cues, gaze direction, gestures, mimics, and postures. The author draws on Finnish data that comes from large collections of everyday and institutional interaction consisting of both phone calls and face-to-face interaction. The French data, in turn, comes from six radio broadcasts transmitted by different French radio stations. Finally, the author raises the question of the universality of the functions of certain melodic features as the similarities concerning the uses of certain pitch contours in these two unrelated languages, French and Finnish, cannot be explained by their common origins.

Yasunari Fujii from Tokyo Denki University (Japan), investigates the passive voice in scientific writing in Japanese-to-English translations in the second paper of this volume. This paper is in line with English grammarians, such as Maimon et al. (1981, p. 219) who suggest that science writing should convey factual information in an objective tone without heavy reliance on the passive voice, but the author argues that the passive voice does have its specific uses in science writing, such as in experiments. The author looked at the writing of 207 Japanese undergraduate students, all science or engineering majors. He points out that English speakers might choose the passive voice for stylistic reasons to call attention to an action or resulting actions rather than an agent. In Japanese, the passive is not as widely used for these reasons as the subject is often omitted unless the agent needs to be explicitly identified in the context. This study confirms that language teachers are not translators and that language teaching and translation are vastly different professions. Based on an exploration of the frequency and types of potential problems involving active/passive voice constructions in Japanese-English translation of a set of specialised scientific texts, the article discusses pedagogical strategies designed to enhance translation training.

The third paper comes from Mahboobeh Morshedian, Allamah Tabataba’i University (Iran). The author looks at lexical attrition/retention among Iranian EFL learners who haven’t been using English for three months. The particular emphasis is here on the impact of initial proficiency level on the attrition/retention of productive vs. receptive word knowledge of learned nouns. He compares the results of the receptive/productive test, modelled on The Vocabulary Levels Tests (Nation 1983, 1990; Laufer & Nation 1995), taken by the learners at the end of their reading comprehension course, with the results of the same test taken by the same participants after the summer break. In this study, the role of proficiency level was reaffirmed about the EFL lexical (noun) attrition, and the author argues that the difference in proficiency levels must be remarkable to have an effect on the L2 lexical retention. This finding is presented in contrast with the results of some other studies (Weltens, 1989, cited in Weltens & Grendel, 1993, p. 139), which show that the amount of lost knowledge seems to be independent of the original level of proficiency. According to the author, in most of these studies, the level of proficiency is described in terms of years of studying the attrition language, which is, at best, a crude means of operationalizing the construct. The author comes to the conclusion that all participants – irrespective of their initial proficiency level – retained more receptive word knowledge than productive word knowledge after the summer vacation.

The fourth paper comes from Elsa Gonzalez-Álvarez, University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain), and from Susana M. Doval-Suárez, University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). In this paper the authors explore the acquisition of the semantic categories of at by Spanish advanced learners of English. The study follows the framework of Contrastive Interlanguage Analysis (CIA) (Granger et al. 2001), and investigates the learner’s linguistic behaviour from the perspective of what semantic functions the learner uses significantly more or significantly less than a native speaker. The authors use a Corpus Linguistics methodology and investigate the data from two comparable corpora. The first corpus used, is the Spanish component of the International Corpus of Learner English (SPICLE), and the second corpus used, the control corpus, is the LOCNESS (the Louvain Corpus of Native English Essays). In summary, the study aims to show the usefulness of applying a cognitive model of categorisation to the description of the learner’s use of prepositions. Finally, the authors ask for more research to investigate the importance of the learners’ L1 in the process of acquisition of the semantics of at.

Weimin Zhang from Tsinghua University (China)/ Georgia State University (USA), and Guiling Hu from Georgia State University, present a study drawing on a quantitative analysis of the Collins WordBanksOnline English corpus. They investigate three patterns of the subjunctive mood (SM) patterns in an English as a foreign language (EFL) setting (i.e., would rather, had hoped, and it’s time). The authors show that the occurrences and frequency of the three patterns are not very high in the corpora, but some sub-patterns even have a very low frequency in the corpora—for example, it’s about time (2.2 per million), would sooner (0.7 per million), and would just as soon (0.4 per million). The authors argue that whatever should be tested also needs to be based on corpora of authentic language, as it may otherwise mislead EFL teaching and learning. In summary, this study implies that it is time for Chinese EFL educators and material developers to reconsider grammar instruction from a corpus-based perspective. In line with other corpus researchers (Owen, 1993; Sinclair, 1997), the authors agree that language teaching needs to focus on the core grammatical constructions that are frequently used and are based on authentic language.

The final paper is written by Anna Feldman from Montclair State University (USA). This paper explores the relationship between the tagset design and linguistic properties of inflected languages for the task of morphosyntactic tagging. Her study investigates a number of properties of Slavic (in this paper Russian, Polish, and Czech) and Romance languages (in this paper Spanish, Portuguese, and Catalan) quantitatively. She presents the problem of tagset design as particularly important for highly inflected languages, such as Russian, Czech, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish. One of the questions presented in this paper is whether all syntactic variations, realized in theses languages by means of morphological affixes, should be represented in the tagset. The author points out that an interesting result of the investigation supports the existence of a relatively fixed order of syntactic constituents in so-called“free word order” languages and provides an additional argument in favour of using the n-gram techniques for tagging theses languages.

Andrea Milde, PhD
Associate Editor
The Linguistics Journal


 Table of Contents:

Foreword by Andrea Milde

1. Mari Lehtinen. Downgrading the Importance of What Is Said via Prosodic Cues:A Comparative Perspective on the Use of Stylised Intonation Contours in French and in Finnish

2. Yasunari Fujii. The Asymmetrical Relationship Between the Active and Passive Voice: Implications for Teaching Japanese-to-English Translation of Specialized Scientific Texts

3. Mahboobeh Morshedian. The Role of Initial English as Foreign Language Proficiency in Lexical Attrition/Retention of Iranian Learners: Is Productive or the Receptive Word Knowledge of Learned Nouns More Likely to be Lost?

4. Elsa Gonzalez-Álvarez & Susana M. Doval-Suárez. Testing the Cognitive Categorisations of at in Native and Non-Native English Speakers. Evidence from a Corpus Study

5. Weimin Zhang & Guiling Hu. A Corpus-Based Study of Subjunctive Mood Patterns: Implications for EFL Instruction

6. Anna Feldman. Tagset Design, Inflected Languages, and N-gram Tagging

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Category: 2008