2017 events

What are they really up to?

  • LALS Staff
  • 10 March
Academic staff in LALS will entertain and inform you with brief overviews on their current research questions.

To launch the LALS seminar series for 2017, staff from across the school will take turns to tell you about their research. Could it be that they really do know what they’re talking about in lectures? You will get to hear what academics do on their research days and during their non-teaching trimester - and all neatly packaged in just one or two PowerPoint slides. Come and get excited by the breadth and depth of research currently underway in LALS.

Are students prepared for the language demands of their studies?

  • John Read 
  • 31 March
Post-entry language assessments can identify students from various backgrounds who should be encouraged to enhance their language and literacy skills.
There are concerns in English-medium universities internationally about the levels of language proficiency and academic literacy of incoming students (both domestic and international). This seminar will focus in particular on the role of a post-entry language assessment (PELA) in identifying students at risk of academic underachievement. The Diagnostic English Language Needs Assessment (DELNA) at Auckland is a particularly comprehensive example of a PELA, but other models will be considered as well. Among the issues are: what is the appropriate model of language ability for a PELA? To what extent can a PELA be diagnostic in nature? And how do we evaluate the impact of a PELA in helping to address language needs?

Making Books to Teach English in Cambodia

  • Jae Major, Education
  • 7 April
What do pre-service teachers need to know in order to teach English to children in Cambodia?
This seminar describes an international teaching experience programme where student teachers work for a month teaching English in a small NGO in Cambodia. As part of their programme the students work with children to construct a picture book in English and Khmer. Through this process, they develop some core understandings about teaching English to beginners in a developing country. This seminar discusses the benefits of using text construction as a context for teaching and learning English, and for developing these core understandings, before widening the conversation to consider the baseline linguistic knowledge needed for effective teaching in any context.

PhD Celebration: Is vocabulary in academic spoken English really ‘academic’?

  • Yen Dang
  • 5 May
What is the nature of vocabulary in academic spoken English? Find out what the data from corpora tell us.
Understanding academic speech is essential for the success of second language learners in English-medium universities. Surprisingly, little is known about the nature of vocabulary in this kind of discourse. To fill this gap, my PhD research examines the role of high-frequency words in academic spoken English from the perspectives of corpus linguistics, teachers, and learners. It also involves the development and validation of an Academic Spoken Word List (ASWL) that is adaptable to learners’ proficiency levels. This seminar focuses on how the ASWL has helped to shed light on the nature of vocabulary in academic spoken English.

Assessing English as an international language: A global approach to a global language

  • Douglas Meyer, PhD candidate
  • 12 May 
In the post-modern era, successful international communication requires more than knowing the rules of Standard English.
While much has been written about the notion of English as an international language, little has been done to address the challenges of how to define and assess such a complex construct. This seminar will discuss the conceptualization and operationalization of an online test battery focusing on the function of English as a means for international communication among government officials.

Strategies will also be discussed for raising awareness of English as an international language in the classroom.

Evidentials and Extended Interrogatives

  • Tyler Peterson, University of Auckland
  • 19 May
We know relatively little of the cross linguistic diversity in the kinds of meanings questions can express - especially in under documented languages. How do we go about uncovering these?
The aim of this project is to extend the current empirical base and typological scope of questions, through investigating how different semantic and pragmatic elements affect the kinds of meanings questions express, and how they are interpreted. One of the goals of this talk is to demonstrate the importance of semantic and pragmatic fieldwork, as many of these meanings resist direct elicitation in a field situation. As such, I show how we can ‘scaffold’ our investigation of one kind of meaning into exploring other kinds of `extended’ meanings of questions. This is often aided by following the predictions a theoretical analysis makes.

Is Chinese hard for Danish people?

  • Mengzhu Yan, MA candidate
  • 2 June
The seminar presents my Master’s project on the problems that Danish learners of Chinese have with the four Chinese consonants <d t z c>, phonemically /t th ts tsh/.
L2 learners, especially adult learners, usually encounter difficulties when perceiving or pronouncing non-native sounds. Anecdotal evidence shows Danish learners of Chinese find it difficult to distinguish between the four Chinese obstruents /t th,ts, tsh/. The research investigates 1) the relationship between the L2 Chinese consonants /t, th , ts, tsh / and the L1 Danish consonants /d̥, ts /? 2) the relative weighting of aspiration and frication cues in the perception of the four Chinese consonants by Danish learners of Chinese

Evidentials and Extended Interrogatives

  • Tyler Peterson, University of Auckland
  • 19 May
We know relatively little of the cross linguistic diversity in the kinds of meanings questions can express - especially in under documented languages. How do we go about uncovering these?
The aim of this project is to extend the current empirical base and typological scope of questions, through investigating how different semantic and pragmatic elements affect the kinds of meanings questions express, and how they are interpreted. One of the goals of this talk is to demonstrate the importance of semantic and pragmatic fieldwork, as many of these meanings resist direct elicitation in a field situation. As such, I show how we can ‘scaffold’ our investigation of one kind of meaning into exploring other kinds of `extended’ meanings of questions. This is often aided by following the predictions a theoretical analysis makes.

Consequential validity of the English Language Exam for university entry in Shanghai

  • Matthew Book, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • 21 July
English Language is one of the compulsory subjects in the Shanghai university entrance examination.

The major purpose of classroom observations and interviews was to ascertain the consequential validity of the University Entrance Exam; that is, to what extent the UEE influenced the ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘how much’ of teaching and learning in the classrooms. A teacher’s class for one unit of teaching was observed and audio-recorded and real-time notes were taken. Post-observation interviews were carried out – The questions covered both teacher and students’ learning beliefs and behaviour. Teaching materials including testing syllabi and textbooks were collected for analysis; they were examined to determine the impact on teaching and learning.

The class observations, post-class interviews with the teacher and students, and the interviews with the UEE designers and the materials collected showed that the UEE had a strong impact on different aspects of pedagogy: teaching, learning, textbook, curriculum and assessment. Given the controversy, the study has important implications for policy-makers and other stakeholders, allowing them to make far better informed decisions concerning this high-stakes exam than has previously been possible.

Learning between the lines: Optimizing ER for L2 vocabulary development

  • TJ Boutorwick, PhD Candidate
  • 28 July

Is more merrier?

Given finite time in the language-learning classroom, how can teachers ensure their students receive the best opportunities for vocabulary development? This talk suggests that reading supplemented with post-reading discussion facilitates vocabulary development to a greater extent than a traditional reading-only approach. The discussion will introduce latent semantic analysis as a means to analyze lexical development, as well as language-related episodes and their role in development. The seminar will thus be of interest to researchers and practitioners alike.

Pronunciation teaching in EFL classes at a Vietnamese university

  • Loc Nguyen, Ph.D. Candidate
  • 4 August
How do Vietnamese tertiary EFL teachers teach pronunciation and what reasons do they give for their teaching decisions?
Recent research in ESL contexts has shown pronunciation teaching to be undervalued and often overlooked both in published textbooks and in teachers’ classroom practice. This is despite growing research evidence for the efficacy of appropriately structured pronunciation teaching and learning. The research reported in this talk seeks to extend research on this topic into EFL contexts, namely on EFL in Vietnam. Hitherto, no research of which I am aware has investigated the teaching of pronunciation in EFL classes of the Vietnamese tertiary context. In the talk, I will present the findings from the first of two phases of my research in which I investigated the pronunciation teaching practices in EFL classes at a Vietnamese university and the attitudes and beliefs of the teachers. I will conclude by outlining the way in which these findings informed a teacher professional learning (TPL) intervention which was carried out in phase 2 of the research.

Tonal Reduction and Literacy in the Me'phaa Vathaa Community

  • Rolando Coto Solano, LALS Lecturer
  • 11 August
Complex tonal phonetics and colonial language ideologies interact to complicate language revitalization in the Me'phaa community in Mexico
Me'phaa Vathaa (an Otomanguean language from Mexico) is in the process of language revitalization and integration into bilingual curricula. However, its complex tonal system has hindered its expansion into written use. This study examines the relationship between tonal phonetics, tonal reduction and the orthographic patterns produced by Me'phaa Vathaa speaking teachers, and discusses these patterns in the context of Indigenous education in Mexico and the language ideologies held by the teachers.

In studying these phenomena, this study also describes the processes of tonal reduction in Me'phaa Vathaa and describes its similarities and divergences with the reduction described for other tonal languages such as Mandarin, Thai and Triqui. Tonal reduction processes in Me'phaa Vathaa show differences from those documented for these languages, such as carryover assimilation only in reduced speech and a lack of anticipatory assimilation due to Me’phaa Vathaa’s syllabic structures. These results expand our known typology of tonal reduction. Finally, the study offers a report on the differential of phoneme and tonal awareness in adults who did not receive tonal training during literacy acquisition. This is relevant to both educational and language planners, as well as to practitioners of language revitalization.

What are English Language Institute teachers working on in their language programmes?

  • ELI teachers
  • 25 August

The English Language Institute (ELI) offers a diverse range of English language programmes for academic or professional purposes, as well as pre-service teacher education courses.  In this presentation, ELI teachers will talk for two minutes each about what they are working on in their programme to promote better learning or teaching.

Teacher Identity in Language Teaching

  • Professor Jack C. Richards, LALS Adjunct Professor
  • 15 September
Language teacher identity  - how it evolves and how it relates to the competencies required for language teaching

This talk reviews notions of teacher identity, how these relate to the specific characteristics of language teaching, and how teacher identity can evolve or be developed through experience and teacher education. The elements of language teacher identity are derived from research into teacher identity and described in terms of the foundational and advanced competences required for language teaching, as illustrated by excerpts from teacher narratives. The talk concludes with recommendations for teacher education and professional development with a focus on identity.

Initial vs. non-initial placement of agent constructions in spoken clauses: A corpus-based study of language production under time pressure.

  • Koenraad Kuiper, University of Canterbury
  • 15 September

In this exploratory study we test the hypothesis that the retrieval from memory of proper noun Agents (PNAs) under processing pressure causes a greater proportion of such semantic arguments to be placed to the right of the initial position in a clause than would be the case if such retrieval from memory were not necessary. This effect is manifest in sports commentary. Processing pressure on sports commentators is modulated by the speed at which the sport is played and reported. Non-initial placement is also facilitated by formulae which have slots in non-initial position.  It follows that the non-initial placement of PNAs is not always semantically or pragmatically motivated. This finding therefore runs counter to a strong form of the functionalist hypothesis that syntactic choices available in the systemic structure of the syntax of a language offer solely semantic or pragmatic choices. It is an open question in a weak functionalist account of language and language use how processing and communicative functions interact in general.

Are they really bilingual? The linguistic landscape of English-Spanish Dual Language Picturebooks

  • Nicola Daly, University of Waikato
  • 22 September
How do you place text for two languages in a single bilingual children's picturebook?

In this presentation over 200 English-Spanish Dual Language Picturebooks from the Marantz Picturebook Collection for the Study of Picturebook Art, based at Kent State University are analysed in terms of linguistic landscape (Landry & Bourhis, 1997). Findings are discussed in terms of the relative status of the two languages and how this is communicated via relative print size and placement. The separation between languages in the picturebooks analysed is discussed in relation to bilingualism and translanguaging.

The Wellington Language in the Workplace Project Turns Twenty-one!

  • Bernadette Vine, LALS Research Fellow
  • 29 September
Please join us as we celebrate twenty-one years of the project. We will also celebrate the publication of The Routledge Handbook of Language in the Workplace.

When Janet Holmes and Maria Stubbe began the Wellington Language in the Workplace Project in 1996, they had two main goals:

  1. to identify and analyse effective interpersonal communication in a variety of workplaces;
  2. to then explore the practical implications of the research.

In this presentation I explore the ways these goals have been achieved over the last twenty-one years. I will also launch The Routledge Handbook of Language in the Workplace which attests to the development of the field of workplace research around the world during this time.

Motivations and Disincentives for Studying Asia-Pacific Languages

  • Aime Black, Carolyn Tait, Diego Navarro, Jonathan Newton & Stephen Epstein, Victoria University of Wellington
  • 6 October
What do New Zealand students say about their reasons for studying a language?

In this talk we will discuss initial findings from a research project we are currently undertaking to investigate the reasons high school and university students in New Zealand choose to study languages or to discontinue their study of languages. In particular, the project aims to investigate the motivations and disincentives of students for studying Asia-Pacific languages in order to understand more fully--and address--a decline in New Zealand in the study of second languages. The limited research on this topic in New Zealand has, to date, privileged teacher perspectives. For this reason, the project has focused on the perspectives of two other stakeholder groups—students and high school careers advisors. Data was collected through focus group interviews with students at eight high schools and at Victoria University of Wellington as well as from interviews with high school careers advisors.

Gamilaraay language revival in eastern Australia: A community development approach

  • Hilary Smith, Australian National University
  • 11 October
I will discuss issues relating to the context of the project and what it is contributing to the development of a social psychology model of second language acquisition applied to the revival of Gamilaraay.

Australia is a “hotspot” of Indigenous language loss and endangerment, as a result of colonisation which has included significant loss of culture and language through disease, displacement, massacre, language bans, and the forced removal of children from their families. However, there is a growing number of language revival projects. I describe one such project which is using a community development approach for the revival of the Gamilaraay language in north-eastern New South Wales. There are now no fluent speakers of Gamilaraay but there is community support for its revival, with courses being taught from pre-school to tertiary level. This project seeks to address the lack of resources to support these courses, based on the use of free online tools to develop digital assisted language learning. We are taking a community development approach in partnership between academic researchers and Gamilaraay community members, based at an Aboriginal Child and Family Centre where there is strong support for Gamilaraay language teaching and learning.

Compounds and compounding

  • Professor Laurie Bauer, LALS Emeritus Professor
  • 13 October
Are compounds words or phrases or neither? How should we classify compounds semantically? What do compounds tell us about the way the mind works?

To celebrate the publication of his new book, Compounds and Compounding (Cambridge University Press), Laurie Bauer talks about some of the problems that compounds present to the analyst, and some of the reasons he finds compounds fascinating, even after 40 years’ study of the subject.

Reflections on Exploring the language learning affordances of concordances: An experimental design perspective

  • Oliver Ballance, PhD Celebration
  • 20 October
What on earth is that? And why would you spend three years doing it?

Rather than reporting directly on the findings reported in the PhD thesis, this PhD celebration will discuss the motivations behind the studies conducted and insights generated by the research that are unlikely to find their way into wider circulation.

Te Vairanga Tuatua (Corpus of Cook Islands Māori): How, what, why and what now?

  • Sally Akevai Nicholas, Auckland University of Technology
  • 27 October
Te Vairanga Tuatua is a corpus or database of Cook Islands Māori comprising more than 1.7 million words and growing rapidly. What it has done and what might it do next?

Cook Islands Māori is an endangered East Polynesian language closely related to but distinct from Tahitian and New Zealand Māori, and indigenous to the Realm of New Zealand. The Vairanga Tuatua is a corpus or database of more than 1.7 million words of Cook islands Māori, which served as the primary data source for my doctoral research on the grammar of CIM.  In this talk I will give a brief overview of the descriptive (grammar) and documentary (corpus) elements of my PhD, and discuss some of the next steps with the Vairanga Tuatua.

Ronald or Donald? Vernacular Theorizing on Language in Newfoundland

  • Dr. Jonathan Roper, University of Tartu
  • 29 November
A vernacular discussion of a traditional song, and the use of playfully insulting nicknames for neighbouring towns and villages will be discussed.

It was not by chance that three of the four articles that George Patterson wrote on Newfoundland for the Journal of American Folklore focus not so much on the folklore but on the varieties of English spoken on the island. Their publication was a key step in the establishment Newfoundland English as a topic of ever-growing attention and discussion. Reflection upon, and topicalization of, Newfoundland English is not only the purview of professional linguists and published authors, it is also something everyday people do at both a meta and an enacted level.  Vernacular linguistic theorizing was something I came across during fieldwork in western Newfoundland in the mid-2010s.