Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Critical Reading - Jessica Lloyd

At first glance, I was worried I was going to have a very dry few minutes ahead of me as I drag my eyes from word to un-biased word. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself up to my ears in helpful examples and, dare I say it, personality. Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines by Rosalie Maggio clarifies how our culture has been affected by language and follows up with definitions of classic biases. In a contrasting approach, we are introduced to Michiko Kakutani, author of the article The Word Police. In his article, Kakutani ultimately disagrees with pussyfooting around unorthodox terms and censoring social norms in order to save face. He brings our attention to Little Miss Coppertone, who is now in need of a gender equal; all hail Little Mr. Coppertone.

It seems as though any word containing the prefix or suffix of “man” or “men” need to be reassessed. For example, if we can no longer “man a ship” are we supposed to “woman/man/transgender a ship”? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it sounds ridiculous. Some schools have abandoned the word “freshmen” for “first-year student”. Although the term “freshwomen” eliminates the bias that only men are worthy of school, it still doesn't encapsulate the whole.

As writers we are artists in our own right, and it is argued by some of us artists that the use of unbiased language “spoils the fun”. Maggio is quick to dispel any fear and reassures us by saying, “If we have to search for the unbiased phrase it is not any more effort than we expend on proper grammar, spelling, and style.” Some people have panic attacks over “losing” words but Maggio argues by explaining how disrespectful words, although part of our history, will have no impact on the strength of our language or society if tossed to the curb. On the other hand, for some people the terms are not sung to the tune of disrespect, for they were brought up during a time where society deemed the words acceptable by ethical standards of the time. Unfortunately, laziness can keep change at bay, as some people are sick of having to “watch what they say”. Lastly, Maggio states, “The greatest objection to bias-free language is that it will lead us to absurdities.” She goes on to alter the song lyrics to He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother from “biased” to “unbiased”. I have to agree, the unbiased version does sound absurd - not exactly something you can snap your fingers and tap your toes to. Still, she encourages the use of unbiased language and elaborates by saying, “One of the most rewarding – and, for many people, the most unexpected – side effects of breaking away from traditional, biased language is a dramatic improvement in writing style.” That’s good enough for me…

In closing, Maya Angelou refers to us all as “humankind”; whether we are Jewish or Catholic, French or Greek, gay or straight we are all classified as human. Kakutani recognizes her words as an, “official embrace of multiculturalism and a new politics of inclusion.”

Is Sesame Street Politically Incorrect?

WebQuest Exercise– Jessica Lloyd

I’m not going to lie, just looking at the word ‘grammar’ gives me shivers, superlatives make me feel insecure, and when I think about interrogative pronouns my palms get all sweaty. Wait just a minute, I may have lied; grammar is only half as bad as I make it sound. Being able to understand the history of the English Language, and all its’ endearing quirks, enables you to use it to your greatest advantage (world domination, perhaps?). Our language has been used for centuries as a way to entertain, teach and as a tool in self-discovery. Chances are, you’ll be able to enjoy great works of literature even if you’re unsure of the differences between adjectives, adverbs and verbs. However, if you're like me and dream of changing the world one sentence at a time, you better hit the books.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Critical Reading Collaboration: Kristen Harris and Murriel Mapa

The expectations that were developed prior to reading the text by Rosalie Maggio were based on the title, “Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines.” This title gives the impression that it will be a piece on how to write more formally, straying away from the bias words that pollute today's vocabulary. Examples of the type of biased language Maggio hopes to diminish are found here. After reading the abstract provided, a clearer understanding of what context the author derives her view from was achieved. Maggio’s brief summary of the bias-free language guides that she made gave insight to her argument. Believing whole-heartily that society needs to carefully choose their words, Maggio begins her dispute.

Michiko Kakutani’s text, “The Word Police” first gave the impression that Maggio’s title did - the idea of being wiser when choosing words. With the use of the word “police” automatically giving the impression of enforcing something, Kakutani gave the notion that she was in favor of Maggio’s bias-free language theory. However, the abstract given before the piece suggested a different type of essay, one that opposed the ideas of Maggio.

Many people find it difficult or annoying to use bias-free language. A short overview of bias-free language can be found in this link. There are four excuses that Maggio dissects in her writing. One excuse that people put forth is the loss of fun their writing will have. Writers are very creative and thoughtful when it comes to their personal writing, and having to stifle this artistic advantage to use the words one pleases is definitely a defeat. Maggio defends the fact that writers take so much time looking for the “perfect” word in their pieces already, that a little extra effort would not hurt. One example of a bias-free term that isn't included in either essay is a flight attendant, opposed to steward and stewardess. Another is the word citizens, which can be used in place of the term mankind. The second excuse for ignoring unbiased language is the fear of losing words. In a world that is evolving every day, along with language, words aren't in short supply. “We are limited only by our imaginations,” according to Maggio. Another reason for not using bias-free words in our language is the frustration of having to watch what one says. Growing up in a society that teaches us manners and conduct, to be able to write what we want without having to think of the repercussions is always a thrill. Maggio counters this with the argument of consistency. Having been able to pick our words wisely with parents, advisers and peers, to be able to look after what we say in our writing shouldn’t be much of a challenge. Lastly, the expectation that filtering what we say will lead to absurdities in our writing. Many cynics and critics of this language lifestyle have given the blasphemous examples that take Maggio’s theory too far. Using words such as “personipulate” and “woperson” is just “a fault in logic,” claims Maggio.

In Maya Angelou’s inauguration poem she presents a wide variety of human beings. Depicting the variance of racial and religious backgrounds, levels of social status and even sexual preference among us, Angelou demonstrates the importance labels have in allowing us to differentiate between each other. Giving examples of racial background such as: Asian, African, Native American, and Greek, the author uses terms we all use in our daily lives. Society finds it perfectly acceptable to use these “biased” terms because they allow us to compartmentalize and separate individuals into recognizable categories; they are not found to be prejudice. These terms were not meant to pass judgment on one another, but to show distinction from one another. Other titles including Rabbi, Priest and Sheik, acknowledge the various relationships one has with their religion and god. If one is not allowed to use these terms Kakutani states “Some messy molar dilemmas,” could ensue; while trying to navigate to the use of politically correct language. Many of these terms symbolize to our author the tolerance we have of others. No longer do we refer to Native Americans as savages, or Asians as gooks. Using her examples of “biased” terms, Angelou illustrates the abundance of diversity and multiculturalism we often fight to protect, and that represents the differences in all of us. This brief cartoon demonstrates that everyone is different, but peace can still achieved.

Critical Reading Collaboration: Shawna Blumenschein and Jennifer Kerr

"Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines" by Rosalie Maggio and "The Word Police" by Michiko Kakutani in Exploring Language are two essays that address the question of politically correct language. In Maggio's essay, she advocates the usage of unbiased, gender-neutral terms, whereas Kakutani argues that the political correctness movement has been taken too far.

Before reading these articles the titles of each create certain expectations about the content. The title "Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines" clearly communicates the subject matter. The expectation is that an analysis of the impact and effect of words and word choice will follow, and that the argument will center around increasing awareness about biased language. However, the addition of "Some Guidelines" in the title sounds presumptuous, thus creating a defensive mindset in the reader. The phrasing of "Some Guidelines" sounds dogmatic, as if Maggio is telling others what to think before making her argument. The second article's title, "The Word Police," brings to mind people who obsessively correct the grammar of others. For example, imagine a party-goer who constantly interrupts conversations to correct people's speech. This expectation is proven false as the article responds to the political correctness movement.

Both articles address the movement of political correctness in speech and text. However, they take opposite sides of the argument. Maggio advocates strongly for the abolition of biased language. She addresses a variety of categories of language including inclusive versus exclusive constructions, nonsexist terminology, and the people first rule. Examples of inclusive and exclusive phrases are "the people" or "our generation" which include everyone, as opposed to referring to the human race as "man" which excludes women. Nonsexist terminology involves not referring to sex unless it's necessary. According to Maggio, sexist language "promotes and maintains attitudes that stereotype people according to gender while assuming that the male is the norm" (447). Thus, statements should be made with equal terminology, for example saying husband and wife instead of man and wife. Other gender non-specific words abound such as mail carrier instead of mailman and firefighter instead of fireman. These words do not give the impression that women should not and indeed can not pursue these careers. The people first rule is important in the medical field. Persons with disabilities should be put before their medical condition because their condition should not define who they are. Therefore, it is a child with Down's syndrome, not a Down's syndrome child.

Kakutani takes the opposite side of the argument from Maggio. Kakutani references a poem by Maya Angelou that lists several ethnicities, religious groups, and labels applied to various social groups. Kakutani says that such extensive recognition with an eye toward including everyone and offending no one is an "official embrace of multiculturalism and a new politics of inclusion." (453) This is the beginning of the political correctness movement, which Kakutani agrees with in theory, but that she feels advocates like Maggio have pushed to the level of absurdity. Indeed, Kakutani says that using nicer words, such as "underhoused" instead of "homeless"(456), could in fact detract from the severity of the problem. Ultimately, Kakutani feels that the extreme emphasis placed on politically correct language amounts to a smokescreen that obfuscates the real problems of inequality, racism, and sexism and makes them seem solved when in fact they continue to thrive.

Some of the points Kakutani makes are anticipated by Maggio. She outlines four arguments often used by detractors of unbiased language. These arguments include the fear of losing words, that people are tired of paying attention to what they say, it's limiting the use of language, and that it will create absurd terms. Maggio responds to each of these excuses. Firstly, she says that losing offensive words will not impact negatively on society or language because of our vast vocabulary and ability to create new terms. Secondly, Maggio flips the argument of watching what one says into people being tired of being sensitive; she adds that we have been taught from childhood to filter what we say depending on who we are speaking to. Thirdly, Maggio does not view being careful speakers and writers as limiting, but rather as being thoughtful. Lastly, Maggio points out that particular examples of absurdities, such as saying he/she all the time, are used to condemn the entire idea of inclusive language, including terms that would not sound as comical or unwieldy. Maggio further says that using specific, non-cliched words is rewarding and allows for better communication.

Political correctness is a well-intentioned movement. However, like anything, there is the potential for it to be taken too far. As such, being politically correct is often a target for comedians and social commentators.

Critical Thinking and Reading Blog Post, by Andrew Heck and Brent Stempfle

Prior to reading the essays of Rosalie Maggio and Michiko Kakutani, some immediate things stick out in the titles. In "Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines," the term "guidelines" sticks out with a domineering effect. Guidelines are a set of expectations, or rules, if it is taken far enough. This sounds somewhat unfair in nature, as bias itself is something that must be considered quite subjectively. In a way, almost all language contains bias, so it is difficult to set universal laws for all to follow. In "The Word Police," this same impression is felt. The prospect of the hypothetical enforcement of word usage that comes with policing is very daunting and autocratic, which serves as an impairment to creative expression through text--something that comes off as very stifling to writers.
In Maggio's essay, she mentions a few reasons that some people avoid using bias-free langauge. First, she criticizes the political incorrectness that comes with using old and simple terminology and lack of foresight in writing, like using the term "Indian" for a Canadian First Nations' person. Although thoughts may come quickly into our minds, it is important that we search for the best possible way to put the words to paper, which can require alteration of terms and careful placement in the context of a sentence. Second, she attacks the fear of "losing" words that could possibly fall out of touch with audiences who do not actively use them. This may be true, but she advocates the evolution of words to fit the contemporary conscience as a way to more effective communication. Third, she exposes the irresponsibility and neglect of people who use certain terms that are deemed inappropriate or unfit for common use. Calling a homosexual person a "queer" implies an unfair fickleness that a person might not embrace. The laziness and lack of consideration of some writers becomes obvious when they refer to people or ideas with terms that they are familiar and comfortable with, as opposed to close consideration of the effect that these words will have on readers. Fourth, she points out the myth of absurdities that might arise from becoming overly gender neutral or inclusive. She explains that the use of bias-free language does not need to be awkward and can easily be assimilated in writing. The fact that people purposely choose to avoid unbiased terms for this reason shows their willful ignorance and carelessness. In addition to these main reasons, she argues that avoiding them will not only increase the level of acceptability of writing, but can also contribute to the growth of a writer's style. This is something that is definitely worth considering for anyone who wishes to improve their skill and development as a writer.
In Kakutani's essay, the author mentions a poem by Maya Angelou that expresses a view of "humankind" that we are adopting in modern times. The changing demographics of Western society has forced a phenomenon of multiculturalism and created a cultural mosaic that would not have been predicted fifty years ago. In describing the different people, Angelou creates a new sense of unity in our population, which Kakutani believes has led us to an excessive desire to create unbiased terminology and forced social acceptance. The degree to which we are experiencing the shift has caused much hype to be around word usage, to an over-bearing extent, instead of naturally and gradually accepting the change. By using satire, Kakutani shows us the reality of the situation with specific examples.

In this video, Mark Steyn explains how our excessive use of unbiased, vague terms can lead to confusion:

Image Used:

Critical Thinking and Reading Blog Post: Lauren Wozny and Jenny Nielsen

Before reading Rosalie Magglio's essay "Bias Free Language: Some Guidelines," we assumed that it was a straightforward essay dealing with some of the more common linguistic biases such as gender and race. It seemed to us that Magglio would point out a few common errors and give some general guidelines for improvement. The essay was more critical and in depth than we had initially anticipated; it became more than a few guidelines but also an in depth critique of the evolution of language and some darker moments in history. Writes Magglio, "Biased language can also harm people, as amply demonstrated by bigots' and tyrants' deliberate attempts to dehumanize and demean groups they intend to exploit, oppress or exterminate. Calling Asians 'gooks' made it easier to kill them. Calling blacks 'niggers' made it simpler to enslave and brutalize them".

"The Word Police," by Michiko Kukatani was easier to discern through the meaning of the title. We anticipated some humour which would involve a commentary on the English language and those who desire to enforce certain rules, expectations and limitations. Our initial presumptions were rewarded with her sense of wit and style. Within the first paragraphs of her essay we are introduced to the idea that "the Coppertone Suntan Lotion People" are looking for a male equivalent, Little Mr. Sunshine.

Magglio points out four noteworthy excuses that people make to avoid using unbiased language. The first one is "There's no fun in limiting what you say." She explains that although most people do not protest to using a dictionary, or checking the correct use of grammar; some protest that any other editing may "spoil their fun". Magglio clearly makes the point that bias-free writing should be thoughtfully considered within the editing and crafting process of any mature writing.

She explains that other people fear losing words and dryly comments on the supposed famine of words. She points out that "Vague, inaccurate, and disrespectful words can be thrown overboard with no loss to society and no impoverishment of the language."

The third reason that Magglio expands upon is "People are tired of having to watch what they say." She reasons that "From childhood onward we all learn to watch 'what we say': we don't swear around our parents, we don't bring up certain topics around certain people...". It's not that we are tired of watching what we say, but rather we are tired of being sensitive to others requests.

The final and greatest objection to using bias-free language is that it will lead to absurdities. Critics argue that we may become so ridiculous that we begin to make obsessive changes to our language such as changing manhole cover to "personhole cover". She argues that "Using a particular to condemn a universal is a fault in logic."

In addition to these arguments, Maggio promotes the use of non-biased language by stating that it has the ability to improve our writing style. When these generalizations and cliches are abandoned we can create room for more convincing descriptions backed with concrete examples and even personal anecdotes. Our imaginations can thrive and we are not limited to a "one-word-fits-all" style.

According to Kakutani, within Maya Angelou's inauguration poem she symbolically embraces a new era of inclusion and political correctness through her address to various groups of "humankind".

It is easy to empathize with Maggio's ideas especially when we can find sound proof on a day to day basis. Terms such as "midget" and "dwarf" can seem demeaning where a term such as "short of stature" may not be seen as so offensive. A word such as "man-hours" may give an unfair impression that only men are capable of working so a word like "work-hours" can be substituted as a more ambiguous politically correct alternative. These phrases help us from offending, but where do we draw the line?

Critical Reading Collaboration, Caleb Caswell and Ramona Korpan

The title of "Bias Free Language: Some Guidelines" by Rosalie Maggio, elicits the idea of an essay based on writing without expressing a particular attitude to either side of an argument. The author may use technical language with large amounts of explanation and examples to elucidate her point of argument; showing some essays that do this well and others that do not. The examples given would be more-so for application to commonly used subjects; trying to inspire idea's rather than creating several specific extreme examples. Maggio's book, "The Bias-Free Word Finder" extrapolates on many of her ideas and contain more examples of bias-free language.

"The Word Police" by Michiko Kakutani was more straightforward. The expectations set out by the title were achieved by the topic being about terms and colloquialisms that have become regarded as inappropriate in public usage. It also includes a history of how these changes became social norms, and the future progression of language that may be censored later on.
Both essays include several examples of terminology that could be substituted as bias-free in place of gender or race sensitive terms. Two examples of terms that are bias-free which are not included in either essay would be mail-carrier as opposed to mailman, or server in the place of waitress, and many more exist.

According to Maggio, four excuses people make to avoid using unbiased language are as follows:
1. To demonize other races in times of conflict (racial slurs, eg. gook, nigger, wop, etc)
2. To discourage women from attempting careers in certain areas (eg. mailman, longshoreman,etc)
3. To demonize another group in an area of public debate (eg. Newspaper articles referring to another group that may support abortions as "killing human babies" rather than "removing fetal tissue")
4. Being used to certain terms and considering them colloquial and acceptable

In the case each issue, Maggio suggests that language affects the way we act, and by disposing of these harmful terms, we can create a society that is more open to change and collaboration by several peoples and sexes. What we may have considered excusable due to location or era does not excuse bigoted behavior or treatment, as location and era are relative to each individual. Her final counter-argument goes as such: "Bias-free language is logical, accurate, and realistic. Biased language is not."

Kakutani uses a quote from Maya Angelou's poem "Humankind", wherein she addresses people of many different races and social standings. Starting with a wide spread of politically correct terms for races, she continues with titles for people from specific countries, religions, sexual affiliations, and social positions. Kakutani implies that Angelou has created "a kind of official embrace of multiculturalism", along with a new political stance of inclusion.

Below is a video that shows what can happen when bias-free language and outlooks are applied to culture that is inherent within a nations history.

Critical Reading by Shayna Fehr and Billie Fleming

Prior to reading Rosalie Maggio's essay "Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines" one would assume that this piece of writing would be structured and give informative rules on how to use bias-free language. On the other hand, after reading the title "The Word Police" by Michiko Kakutani, one would expect it to be satirical, not an information based essay like the former.
Both texts refer to bias-free terms frequently. An example not mentioned in either essay would be the word history. A bias-free term for history could be the-story or the-past. Another example could be semester. The unbiased term would be ester.
There are several excuses people may use to avoid using unbiased language. A reviewer in Maggio's essay says, "There's no fun in limiting how you say a thing." She counters this by saying that it does not take any more time to search for a bias free word, than to search for the proper spelling of a word. Another excuse is the fear of "losing" words, but Maggio responds to this opinion by saying that we can use our imaginations to find unbiased terms that will not destroy our language. A third example reveals that individuals are tired of being accountable to others feelings and do not want to "watch what they say." Maggio opposes this belief, by giving examples of how people have been choosing certain terms to appease society from an early age. The last example people use to avoid unbiased language, in Maggio's opinion, is the most important. This is the opinion that bias-free language will lead to "linguistic massacre." Maggio believes that by breaking down the barriers that bias language puts up, writers will be able to express themselves in greater capacity. Maggio offers more defense of unbiased language by presenting her theory that bias-free language is the way of the future and bias language is becoming prehistoric.

In Kakutani's essay he refers to a poem written by Maya Angelou. In this poem he mentions several different classifications of people, all of whom would be considered minorities. Kakutani implies that biased terms are directed to these groups of people and that is what they symbolize.

Grammar Webquest: Lauren Wozny

Understanding the mechanics of correct grammar is helpful in improving both your reading and writing skills. Aspects such as capital letters, italics, the apostrophe, the hyphen numbers all have specific jobs when it comes to sentence structure. The use of capitals is used to identify names, titles as well as signaling the beginning of a sentence or line in the case of poetry. Capitals often indicate the importance of a subject so we can see why a proper knowledge of their use is good to have. Italics emphasize certain words and phrases within a sentence. Whether it be the title of a work or in a sentence like “ I met the Brad Pitt.” , the use of italics helps us to flag certain words and phrases so we can add an extra accent to their meaning. Possession and conjugation are highlighted with the apostrophe. How we show possession of a noun depends on weather or not the now ends in “s”; adding an addition “s” to a word such as boys creates awkwardness with the word boys’s. The correct placement of an apostrophe when it comes to conjugation not only helps us to avoid confusion but also promotes proper pronunciation. The hyphen acts as the bond between two words that may sound like they belong together in speech but may not appear so in writing. All of these mechanics contribute in their own unique way to proper grammar.

The are other facets of grammar, such as adverbs and adjectives, that help to develop proper sentence structure. The University of Ottawa has posted a helpful page on the correct and incorrect use of adverbs and adjectives that helps to illustrate why this knowledge is important to make our sentences coherent. Things like verbs and nouns are also key in the make up of a grammatically correct sentence. The University of Ottawa has also created a helpful page the gives us insight on how to identify nouns and verbs within a sentence. To better understand how these rules and others came to be, Encyclopedia Britannica has developed a lengthy history on english grammar. This timeline highlights major points in the developments of verb, adjective and noun use through the ages as well as multiple other grammatical aspects.

Grammar Webquest by Murriel Mapa

There are many different ways to convey a thought, help someone understand a concept, or just communicate with someone. Writing is just one of the ways that this is achieved. Writers have many tools that help them express their ideas and thoughts. The English language has numerous tools that help them do this. Without these tools that we use today, we would never evolve from cave dwellers to the sophisticated and eloquent speakers we are today. The English language dates all the way back to 450 AD, where "Old English" was established, soon after began "Modern English". The history of English is vital in understanding just how much we, as a society, have progressed. An example of this progression is in the use of adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives and adverbs are used in almost every piece of writing; therefore, are very important to understand. The English language requires sentences that include subjects and verbs, which are important to identify because they almost always cooperate together. The verb is referring to the subject, and the subject is performing the verb. This link on how to classify subjects and verbs is very helpful, and when you’re confident in your abilities to recognize the two, there is a quiz at the end of the website, see how well you do!

Grammar Webquest: Jennifer Kerr

A basic understanding of English grammar is important in clearly communicating. Attention to details in mechanics, such as capitalization and hyphenation is instrumental in clearly expressing a point through writing. The language is governed by many rules which help to clarify the meaning of words and sentences. For example, with proper capitalization, proper nouns like names can be distinguished from common nouns. To understand why all of these rules are important, an understanding of the history of English grammar is necessary. Grammar has been studied and taught for hundreds of years, and is constantly evolving. The parts of speech are another important part of English language. Knowing what the different words in a sentence are used for will help in understanding the meaning of the sentence. A sentence is always comprised of a subjects and a verb, which work together to give the reader information. Words such as adjectives and adverbs help to describe the subject and verb, clarifying or enriching their meaning. Once an understanding of grammar is reached, communicating clearly with the English Language is much easier.

Grammar Webquest: Shawna Blumenschein

To comprehend and use any language effectively it is vital to have a firm understanding of the rules that govern the language and the elements of a sentence. The parts of speech - such as an adjective and adverb - are the building blocks of English sentences and thus it is important to understand what function they have in a sentence. Another vital part of a sentence is a verb, the action that's being performed, and the subject, the person who does or receives the action. There are some tips that will help identify the subject and verb of a sentence. Of course, one must follow these rules as well; not adhering to common conventions - such as capitalizing the first word of a sentence and proper nouns - or including all the necessary parts of speech runs the risk of not being understood by others. But where and how did these rules develop? Such a question can be answered by looking at the history of English grammar. Since the language and its rules evolved over time, understanding that history has the potential to convey additional understanding of why certain rules exist or why certain words are spelled the way they are.

Grammar Webquest: Kayla Gaffney

English is a universal language. Most countries in the world have some knowledge of how to speak English. To speak English; however, you must learn the fundamentals of grammar. The English language has evolved since it's beginnings. This website shows a time line of how the English language progressed. This link shows key events that lead to English being a commonly used language and how it was formed.
The basic pieces of English are the noun and the verb. The noun is capitalized if it is a proper noun such as Canada, Peter and/or England. The first word at the beginning of a sentence is always capitalized. Verbs are the action of a sentence. They are what the subject is doing. Verbs are words like run, jump and kick. They give movement to a sentence. Subjects and verbs make a sentence complete. Adjective and adverbs describe, respectively, nouns and verbs. Adverbs tend to end in "ly" like the word quickly. Adjectives can be anything from colors to other descriptive words.

In-Class Assignment - Webquest - Cassidy Munro

The English language is complex and diverse language that can be difficult to learn as a second language. The use of important mechanics such as capital letters, italics, the apostrophe, the hyphen and numbers all help in the proper use of the language and can aid a new learner in proper grammar use. When someone is aware of and able to use proper grammar it makes them a better listener, reader, thinker, writer and communicator. For instance, you can use a hyphen to distinguish between recovering a book from someone or somewhere, and physically re-covering the book. Understanding how English grammar developed can be important when understanding how to properly use grammar. The ESL in Canada website contains a very useful article that quickly and briefly describes the history of English grammar. Adjectives and adverbs are also an important aspect of the English language; they colour and describe the world we live in. A helpful article on the proper use of adverb and adjectives can be found on the University of Victoria website. Another important skill to have when using proper English Grammar is the ability to locate verbs and subjects in a sentence. It can be difficult to pinpoint whether or not grammar is correct without being able to properly identify what part of the sentence is what. Tips and a short quiz on locating the verbs and subjects in sentences can be found on the GrammarBook website.

Grammer Webquest: Kristen Harris

If your first language is not English, you probably feel intimidated learning all of the grammar and mechanics of a new language. Depending on which is your first language you may be able to find similarities between the English language and your own. Many of the worlds major languages: English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French are derived from Latin, and so they contain many similarities. To get a good understanding of this and to use it to your benefit follow this link. When trying to write your own work, it would be valuable to you to have a couple of examples of good writing to work from. Start with the basics: Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives and Adverbs. You can find many good resources of proper grammar from numerous books. A list of many of these can be found here. Once you have a grasp of the basics it’s time to start writing! Be sure to use dictionaries, thesauruses and encyclopedia's to enhance your writing and remember it takes many years to become a good writer, and many more to be a good writer in a new language so when you make mistakes, don't be discouraged. If you find yourself still struggling with located things like verbs and subjects in your sentences, this site may help you.

Introduction to the English Language Webquest by Andrew Heck

The English language can be as complicated or as simple as you make it. Like many other languages, it has evolved over time to include new words whose origins can be found in old languages, or in other contemporary languages that have exercised cultural transmission, which can be understood by identifying the definition of the word, the root of the word, and the word's etymology. This procedure can assist in streamlining your basic comprehension skills and maneuverability within the oral and written worlds.
The proper and efficient use of grammar, punctuation, and correct spelling are very necessary in conveying clear messages that others will read, interpret, and evaluate. It is also useful to be able to recognize the structure of sentences and the parts of speech. This will help ensure that you are communicating in an effective manner, which will ease the burden of deciphering otherwise-confusing critical information for the person trying to understand what you are saying.

An Introduction to the English Language Webquest, by Brent Stempfle

It is important to understand many aspects of the English language. These aspects include the English language's history, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and subjects. The history of the English language traces back to the earliest of Anglo-Saxon settlements. This is the first of five events that shaped the language as described here. This link provides a historical background to the earliest traceable uses of the English language, and documents its development up until present day.

Regarding the use of adjectives and adverbs, The University of Victoria's "study zone" web page provides a brief introduction to adjectives and adverbs, as well as a helpful tutorial on how, and when, to use each of them properly.

In order for an adverb to be useful, it must accompany a verb. Verbs are one of the most important parts of a sentence, because they provide it with action, that allows it to be visualized by the reader. Verbs often work closely with the subject of the sentence. The ability to locate subjects and verbs can lead to much more comprehensive understanding of what has been written. has a webpage that provides a description of verbs and subjects, and provides examples of each in use.

Webquest by Billie Fleming

The English language can be a tricky thing to learn; a hard pill to swallow when delving into it when it is not your native tongue. Wording of sentences can be difficult too. Like the the phrase a hard pill to swallow. One might ask, "What does that mean? English is a pill that that gets stuck in your throat?" This is a colloquial phrase that only English speaking people would understand. And when using italics to emphasize; a hard pill to swallow. This is done to set the phrase apart from the rest of the sentence so that in doing so, you the reader will know the context in which it is being used. The English language also has many different names for the same thing, and many different things with the same sounding name. When talking about sentence structure the verb is also called the predicate, and the noun also called the subject. Finding out how all the parts of speech work together can be a daunting task, but there is hope! Although English is one of the most challenging languages to learn, it is also the one that has the most resources available to help you.

Webquest by Shayna Fehr

The English language is full of mechanical principals that are necessary if you are going to write correctly. The history of why our language is this way can be further explored here. There are a few fundamental things a sentence needs to have for it to be a proper sentence. Those things include verbs and nouns. A verb is an action word. It is used to put nouns into motion. Nouns on the other hand, are the subject of your sentence. Things like people, places, things, or ideas are considered to be nouns. To make your writing more interesting, you should also include things like adjectives and adverbs to your sentences. These words are used to describe nouns and verbs. Take a tour of this website for additional information regarding adjectives and adverbs. Further study of the English language will reveal other mechanical aspects you should work into your writing. The textbook, Correct Writing, goes into great detail of how you are to use things like capital letters, italics, apostrophes, hyphens and numbers in your writing. These things are all important in creating a piece of writing that is grammatically sound.

Websquest, In-class assignment- Caleb Caswell, Jenny Nielsen, Ramona Korpan

There are many aspects and factors that are integral to expressing a proper sentence in the English language. Aside from the main parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc), there are other important elements that one must consider; such as using Capital letters, italics, the apostrophe, the hyphen and numbers properly. The proper use of grammar is important because it is how the sentence has form and structure and enables one's ideas to be expressed in a clear and concise manner.
Language is a way to enter into conversation and when conversation is written, understanding the mechanics of a sentence can lead to better clarification and definition of the thoughts you are trying to express. Learning the historical background of English can be a boon towards understanding and appreciating the elegant structure and foundation of this widely spoken dialect.
English achieves beauty in its language by using descriptors; the two most common being adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives describe simple objects, places and things in general, while adverbs describe action. They modify or add to the meaning of other words in the sentence. More detail is given when using descriptors which helps to obtain a deeper level of understanding.
It is of paramount importance to be able to locate nouns and verbs within the two parts of a sentence because these are the base structures for the entire thought. They are what the rest of the sentence builds upon. Nouns and pronouns are considered the subjects of the sentence, they are what the sentence is about. Predicates (verbs) are what the subjects are doing.

Lecture 3: Critical Reading and Mechanics Review

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Introductory Blog Post By Kristen Harris

I am a new student here at Macewan and my name is Kristen Harris. I’m taking this course because I want to build a good foundation and understanding of our language and the different ways we communicate with each other. I hope to learn proper use of grammar in different types of writing, be able to identify how and why our language works and have a thorough understanding of the mechanics of the English language. I have basic knowledge of grammar and composition that I earned with my high school diploma. Already, within these first three weeks of college I have refreshed everything I was taught before and have retained many new concepts and tools. Once I have completed this class I hope to be able to confidently help other students and colleagues with their own use of words. I want to have the ability to edit different kinds of writing professionally and produce work that reflects all the new skills I will gain in this class.
This external link will take you to the video I am referring to in the next few paragraphs.

In Steven Pinker’s lecture he touches on many topics surrounding how language came to be and the way we use it everyday. One issue he mentions early in his speech is the fact that language is unstoppable from changing. Once a dictionary is printed it becomes out of date because new words, slang and jargon are created continuously. He opens up a new way to think of sentences as containers that pass a message along to a receiver.

I don’t believe dictionaries are dead or will ever become dead. Even if they are out-of-date the moment they are printed, they become a reference of how our language was at a time in history. Through dictionaries we can follow the development of our words and our culture. I do believe we should maintain a Standard English that we use for all forms of formal writing. Using txt spk (text speak), slang, jargon and other abbreviations should be confined to informal writing. There are constantly new ways to abbreviate or refer to a word (slang), so not everyone will be up to date on this changing jargon at the same time. This creates a need for Standard English. It is a form that everyone is taught and we can all understand.

Steven Pinker refers to language as a “window into human nature”. I agree with him because an effective way to dissect a culture is to learn how it uses its language as a way of communicating with each other. The different ways we perceive language and the variety of outcomes, once it is communicated, gives us a understanding of how one human relates to another. We choose to use different types of language at different times. If I wanted to quickly reply to a friend through text to end the conversation I would write “k, ttyl :)”. On the other hand, if I were replying to an email from my teacher I would use Standard English such as, “Everything sounds great! Thank-you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon. Sincerely, Kristen Harris.” The various ways we can choose to respond also shows that as humans we like choices. It is in our nature to change things and explore different ways of doing things, which includes communicating with each other in different forms.

This internal link goes to the poster some classmates made in our first class about verbs!

Pinker also states “the verb is the chassis of the sentence”. He means it is the framework for which all other parts are constructed. He is alluding to the fact that without a verb, a sentence has no point. I agree with this analogy because the verb is what modifies the noun or gives the noun purpose. Without a verb no action would take place and nothing would have happened, so the sentence would have no point of existence. The subject refers to the action of the verb which in-turn gives the sentence purpose.

Introductory Blog by Murriel Mapa

Greetings! My name is Murriel Mapa. I'm enrolled in the Professional Writing program, which requires I take this course in Foundations of Composition. I am hoping to learn how to write less analytically and more formally. I am already familiar with the parts of speech required for grammar to produce a nicely put-together piece of writing. I also am familiar with the basic outline of an essay, but I'm hoping to learn to write different forms of essays. Several goals I'd like to accomplish by the end of the course are learning how to phrase my thoughts more clearly, and to learn more about the English language in comparison to other languages. I'm looking forward to becoming a better writer upon completion of this course!

In the film about Steven Pinker he addresses the issues with the dictionary and how infants and adults learn the English language through the computer, and the problems with verbs. The French dictate the correct usage of words, and at the same time are attempting to create their own dictionary. Also, Pinker mentions that children and adults are taught the English language through the computer which causes many misinterpretations of what correct grammar is in our society. This is just one example of what Pinker is referring to in his lecture.

I believe that dictionaries are not dead because the English language changes so quickly. On the contrary, I believe that we should keep producing new dictionaries, and allow the dictionary to grow along with our language. Dictionaries should be able to evolve along with mankind. Decades from now, when our own children are looking in the dictionary, the new words that are contributed now will be able to convey how we've evolved in language. However, I strongly believe we should not give into "txt spk" which I believe to be is just laziness. Abbreviations such as, "lol" or "ttyl" should be kept on computers and text messaging, and stay seperate of our dictionaries.

Pinker mentions the, "Window Onto Human Nature" in his film, which explains how languages emerge from human minds interacting with one another. I believe this to be true because the best way and sometimes the only way to interact with our peers is through speech. In order to convey our thoughts and our feelings, we need to accept the English language and how to use it correctly. This is accomplished by learning the correct use of grammar, such as verbs and metaphors, which are mentioned in Pinker's speech.

"The verb is the chassis of the sentence," conveys the meaning that the framework of a sentence is based around the verb. I agree with this statement because a sentence is not complete, or even considered a sentence without a verb and its object. Pinker makes it clear that the most common mistake in the English language is which verb goes in which construction; intransitive verb or transitive verbs. The poster for verbs that Andrew, Jennifer, and Brent made does a great job of defining what a verb is in case you forget!

Introductory Blog Post, Jennifer Kerr

I’m a professional writing student, so PROW-100 is a required course for me. I’m glad to be taking it, because I hope it will help me to gain a good foundation in grammar and composition. These skills will be an asset for me in other classes I will take as I continue with my studies, as well as to improve my writing outside of school, and in my career. My current knowledge of composition and grammar is limited mainly to what I’ve learned in high school and by experimenting with writing on my own, as well as what I have learned in the short time that I’ve been attending Macewan, and by observing other writers’ work. In her comment on describing pictures using adjectives, Shawna said that paying attention to word choice bred a greater understanding of language itself. I agree with this, and would like to continue to explore and understand language. This class will hopefully allow me to do so.

In class we watched a video in which Steven Pinker talked about language and thought. In it, he brought up the issue of dictionaries becoming obsolete. He argued, with the example of the French Academy’s dictionary of official French, that many dictionaries become outdated before they are even completed. While I understand this to be true in many cases, I do not think that dictionaries will ever be ‘dead’. They are useful tools in reading and writing, used daily by many students and researchers. Enough of language remains constant throughout long periods of time that dictionaries are for the most part able to retain their usefulness.

I feel that ‘standard’ English is and always will be very important. Text speak, slang and jargon all have their places, but in many situations are simply not acceptable. Standard English is widely understood, while much of slang, jargon and text changes rapidly and is only understood by select groups. I personally find that text speak comes across as immature and lazy and prefer not to use it. However I recognize that it is a fast and convenient way for many to communicate. It should continue to be used in private communication, but should not become a commonplace in writing and media. Over time, slang may become part of everyday language, but we should proceed with caution in allowing it to do so.

Pinker says that “The verb is the chassis of the sentence”, and I think that he is right. The verb is what gives a sentence life. Without it, the sentence cannot exist. It is what moves a sentence forward and tells us what we need to know about the verb’s object or subject. While other parts of a sentence are just as, or in some cases, more important, the verb is always the basic framework or skeleton of the sentence.

Language is without a doubt a window onto human nature. From what people choose to say or write, as well as when, where and why they do, we can glean unlimited insight. With the right interpretation of language, almost every aspect of human nature can be looked at. Communication through language is the basis for a large portion of everyday human interaction, and is in many ways what shapes human nature in the first place.

Steven Pinker Disussion - Caleb Caswell

My name is Caleb Caswell, I'm taking this course to improve my writing/speaking skills, along with my ability to build a well-structured argument. I can say that I know little of proper grammar. I bump along and hope that speaking English for the last twenty years will carry me through. I hope to do well in this class and gain a better understanding of the basic structure of English.

With Steven Pinker's talk of how dictionaries are dead, I would have to disagree. It's incredibly important to have a written history of our culture, and language is one of the main faucets through which we identify ourselves. Though slang can culturally become accepted and integrated into daily use, it still needs a source to be relevant, and needs standard phrases to replace. We have had dictionaries for so long that we don't have any idea what a world without any sort of literary reference work would be like. A picture of what the world was like before a working dictionary is painted in Simon Winchestor's The Professor and the Madman, which describes the creation of the Oxford English dictionary in detail. A picture of the cover with summary is linked below:

A great read, highly suggested, no where near as boring as it sounds.


The verb serving as the chassis of the sentence is an interesting thought. While the noun can be considered just as important to sentence structure, Pinker does a good job of showing that much of the rest of the sentence is built around servicing and clarifying what context the verb is to be used in. While the noun may be the engine, and your adjectives and adverbs may be your heated seats and cup-holders, it's the verb that gives order to all of these things being used together.

How people use language can be a very transparent view into their personality. Using language to communicate, ultimately the way in which we speak is how we reveal our intentions. There are some that use it at its most basic function, often with uncomplicated words or structure to get their point across in its most simple form. Others will create flowery descriptions and use words outside of the colloquial norm should they feel that common words do not do justice to their intended meanings. Some people wish to be clear, others want to create a fog of conversation, some want to create an impression of who they are through language, others could care less. Many examples of this can be seen in the class blog about the poster project that was completed the week before:

Some are more terse than others, some use slang that identifies them with a certain demographic or age group. We use language to communicate more than points, but also social standings, personal tastes and more.

Whether or not txt speak will ever become 'acceptable' is open to debate, but I feel that as far as fads go, this is yet another style of communication that will go out of fashion with the progress of technology. People's knowledge of morse code had passed away once the technology, really the only technology that used morse code, became cumbersome and out of date. Should something happen to the structure of cell phones to make typing in full less time consuming, text speak will more than likely pass on as well.

Introductory Blog Post by Cassidy Munro

Who am I and why am I here? My name is Cassidy Munro. I am taking this course as part of the Professional Writing program like most of my classmates. The reason I'm in this particular program is because, after high school, I was unsure of what I was doing, and where I was going. I knew I wanted to go to post secondary, I had an urge to learn, but I just didn’t know what classes I would take. The description of this particular course just seemed to strike a chord within me that resonated and, so, here I am! In this class I’m hoping to hone my writing skills, specifically with grammar and punctuation. It’s almost unfair that after spelling class is done in grade 6, students are just thrown into English courses without any refresher. Much of the basics of grammar I haven't touched in at least six years. What I do know about language, grammar, and punctuation is all very instinctual now, without much knowledge backing it up. For me, a major goal in this class will be to gain that background knowledge I need to understand the language I'm using and to use it effectively.

Regarding Steven Pinker's talk on language and thought, he addresses the subtleties of the English language. It is true that much of our language is subtle nuances that can seem obscure and confusing to a new learner. Pinker points out that many of these nuances are vital parts of communication. Without the indirect meanings to our words, much of what is being communicated can be lost. However, how we communicate is changing. Slang and txt speak are becoming more prominent, and this touches on another of Pinker's points. Are dictionaries dead?

Language changes quickly. In my lifetime I can remember countless terms that have come and gone, and I can think of dozens more that were before my time. This quick phase in and out of popular terms makes me believe that txt speak, slang, jargon and other abbreviations should not become a part of "standard" English. By the time every form of jargon was integrated into our language, it will have changed. Now, especially, with internet speeding along the transition of slang how can we ever keep track of what's "cool" and what's not? Websites like Urban Dictionary keep an online record of slang, but it's an open forum for additions: since 1999 it's had 4,250,575 entries. That number right there tells me the dictionary is fine without the addition of all those mostly obsolete terms.

Pinker's idea that language is a "window onto human nature" is one that rings true with me. As humans have evolved, so has our language, for it is our main method of communication. As far as I know, in this day and age there is no culture that hasn't developed a spoken language. It is through language that human beings share their thoughts, emotions and relationships. Socialising is a major part of being human and communication is the primary method of socialising. For example, when we commented on the posters we created in the first class, we all communicated with each other. The way the language was used conveyed emotions and thoughts, specifically with Kayla Gaffney's comment, who could clearly communicate to us her opinion on the Noun poster.

In the same way that communication is important, so is the format of communication. Pinker says "the verb is the chassis of the sentence". I completely agree with this statement. When humans communicate, something has to happen within that communication. If nothing happens, what exactly is the point? You start with an action, a verb, and add on to it. Without a verb, or a framework there is nothing to start with and your sentance, you communication, will collapse.

In all, Pinker had quite a few interesting and important points. He obviously knows what he's talking about, though at times I had a hard time understanding him. With careful consideration, I think I managed to get the main points, all of which are very beneficial to my understanding of language. It's only a matter of picking up on the communication!

Introductory Blog Post by Shayna Fehr

My name is Shayna Fehr. I grew up in Sherwood Park, Alberta on a buffalo ranch.
This sort of upraising taught me to appreciate many things, none being art. I grew up begging my parents to enroll me in any art program available. I was in choir, in drawing classes, in piano and violin lessons and in photography. Art has grown into a powerful force in my life. This force is combined with other things I did learn on the ranch. Things like hard work, determination, innovation and a strong will. I believe this environment was perfect for creating a developing writer. I've learned to express myself in other forms of art, like drawing and music, now I'm interested in exploring writing. This explains why I've chosen to enroll in PROW 100. What I do know about grammar and composition is pretty basic. This class should bring my writing skills to a much higher level. This is my goal.

Steven Pinker brings up some interesting points in his talk regarding language. Some I agree with and others I do not. I think his passion for the English language is inspiring. It makes me want to continue learning more about it. One of Pinker's points was that verbs can be used in many different parts of speech. This really makes you think while you're reading or taking apart a sentence you have written. It reminds me that parts of speech aids in making writing creative.

Since the "standard" English language is always changing, I do think a lot of dictionaries are loosing their effectiveness. Does this mean they are dead? I don't think so. The writers of dictionaries should keep updating and molding the words to fit the appropriate meanings. If this doesn't happen, the dictionaries will become obsolete and useless.

Language is the way we communicate with each other. I'm not sure we should explore a deeper meanings than that though. The way we communicate will continually change as generations pass on. What Pinker said about language being a "window onto human nature", does have some truth. Different types of language (even in the English language) represent that culture of people. People who live in New York speak differently from people who live in London. They have different cultures, yet speak the same language. This, to me, is an example of how language can be that winder into how human nature works.

This was Pinker's point that I did not agree with, I don't think that "the verb is the chassis of the sentence". There are many parts of speech that are necessary in creating a sentence. One being the noun. All parts of speech work together to create a great piece of art.