- Human language has transferred meanings, in animals most sounds refer to only one referent.
Human language has the ability to refer to more referents. Metaphors etc.
o Animal communication is only present and for current events. Human language has the
magnificent ability to talk about past and future.
o Human language has syntax. Certain orders of words.
- Language was invented in different cultures of people that had no contact with each other
- That’s why language is understood as a uniquely human ability. We innately learn oral
language by simply growing up in a community with that language.
o It is essential to human survival and success
Functions of language for humans:
1- Instrumentals – fundamental use
2- Regulatory – controlling of behaviour through rule of law, hierarchy, etc.
3- Interactional – establishing relationships
4- Personal – expression of feelings in a personal way
5- Heuristic – way of acquiring knowledge
6- Imaginative – for create of entertainment and amusement
7- Represententional – our ability to communicate information
8- Divertive – for example humour
9- Contractual – used in business and politics when we negotiate a contract between two parties
10- Historical – to document the past and to learn from the past
Language is social and individual
- It is social in the way human beings communicate in large communities. It is through language
that we learn to participate.
- It is highly individual. We rely individually in our own language to make our own sense of the
world. Our individuality of using language and composing of our world.
o Causes us to interpret ideas, articles, and lectures differently.
o We all read the same text differently. Even one day and 10 days later, the same text will
be read differently.
Theories of language: - You have to choose only one. They are all made by experts in that field. Choose the one that
makes more sense to you!
1- Prescriptive theory – argues a single system of language based on an authorized collection of
definitions and rules
- The theory we all think is true and we’re educated to believe
- Everyone can and should learn this normative system. (normative = standard)
- Argues that there is an official and normative system of English for example. And it is the
responsibility of school systems to teach it and make sure of its accuracy
2- Psycholinguistic – language is seen as an instrument for individual human use
- Through cognitive psychology
- The individual vernacular language that all humans learn is seen as the source of all language
- We don’t need the official language. We can use our vernacular ability to make our own sense
of the world.
- Vernacular = our own inside our head. When we read or hear, we compare the words with
what we have in our head
- Every student should be treated with their language as unique.
3- Sociolinguistic – the study of language in its social setting as part of a larger communicative
- Language cannot be separated from context. We can only use language as it is being used in a
- Language acts are social processes used to establish, structure, and maintain social
- Children in a community are not only learning language. They’re learning rules of etiquettes
and social rules and their place in the world. Social status, gender roles, when to speak, when
- We have multiple languages and we use them in different situations.
- We learn language by participating in the community
Psycholinguistic view is interested in intrapersonal and sociolinguistic is interested in interpersonal.
Teaching language will be different in different views.
3 language acts:
- Speaking / Listening
- Writing / Reading
It is through language that humans create the world in brain. Based on external receptors (eyes, nose,
Brain has a complex model of the world that changes if we find something contradictory to that model. Writing has the ability for us to clarify ideas that we never thought we had. Writing is more efficient that
speaking because it adds sophistication. Through writing we can create a representation of ideas and get
back to them as necessary. As opposed to speaking.
Writing is one of the most powerful ways to think. It was invented for us to think. It is less important to
use it as a tool for communication.
How do written and spoken language differ?
a. Oral is learned naturally through the community
b. Written language must be explicitly taught and learned
2. Grammar and syntax
a. Written language is not merely the oral language written down.
a. In oral speech it is normal to use fragmented sentences
b. In written language, since the reader is absent, there is no response. So the text should
be more organized and structured. Writer has more responsibility.
c. In written the reader relies on genres for the text to make sense.
d. In oral language there is no planning. You just start speaking. As opposed to written
language which we plan.
a. In written editing is involved. We re-read the text and make changes. Writer imagines
himself as a reader and makes changes to make it more readable.
a. Written is more fluid. You can take back what you have said.
b. Written language was more sustainable.
7. Text control – reader has tremendous text control. Can start from everywhere. She can re-read.
8. Time and Space – written language had the ability to pass over time and space
9. Separation of Writer and Text
a. Text exists independently from the writer and writer has no control over the text.
10. Speed – writing is the slowest.
a. We certainly think far faster than we write
b. The most comfortable speed of speaking is 200-250 words in a minute. Continuous
speech without thinking about the words.
c. We can seat and listen at a rate of 200-300 words per minute.
11. Normalization –
a. in most nations languages become normalized and standardized in written form. b. In spoken form and pronunciation, language differs in different areas.
c. Change begins in oral language and then appears in written use.
12. Modern Communication Technologies
a. We now have abilities to give spoken language advantages. Such as more sustainability.
We can have digital copies of spoken language.
Speaking vs writing:
- Speaking is less fearful because it is not documented. When you write you will be more
careful to make sure you’re documenting something accurate.
- Speaking is more efficient and joyful for daily communication
Theories of Writing (Jan 23):
- At each corner we have a component of communication relationship:
o Encoder – Person or machine that makes a message out of idea and sends it
o Decoder – person who makes sense of the message
o Contextual Reality –
- at the middle we have the signal
- this idea applies to all communication of human and machine
Written communication triangle:
- writer (encoder)
- reader (decoder)
- contextual reality
- text (signal)
- Prescriptive theory – for prescriptivists what is important is a single normal language that
everyone can learn and should learn.
o There is an emphasis on text. Whether the language is correctly being used.
o The text should be a perfect representation of the language.
o Their main obsession is to follow the standard, evaluate the text, search for error, and
correct errors. o Prescriptivist controls our whole understanding of writing.
- As opposed to prescriptive view, they believe there is an individual view. Language varies
from individual to individual.
- Writer is the most important component and determinant of how the language is being used.
- Two schools of psycholinguistics, they put the reader in the middle as the most important
component. It’s the reader that determines what the text means.
- Social reality of the communication act is taking place
- Writer, reader, and text are trapped in the social reality.
- If they are from a different social reality, the communication will not work.
- “The world is actually a product of human symbolic activity, and as transformative activity,,
writing actually creates text-worlds” Janet Emig. – An epistemological view. Texts create our
conception of the world.
- “writing is a social act, so the writer is a product of society’s distinctive ideology constituted
by its numerous discourses” Linda Flower
o Ideology – macro beliefs that we have by being raised in a community that lets us
interact with each other in an easy way.
- The theory you hold, changes the world you live in. - Naive understanding of reading and writing – an act that you should have learned in grade 4
and if you don’t know how to do it, you’re either not smart enough or didn’t pay attention.
Early Reading Theories (1970’s):
- Reader is far more important in the transaction between writer and reader
- These early reading theorists demonstrated that at least as much information is put into the
text by the reader as by the writer of the text.
- Gibson and Levin found that each of us have
o Mature readers select and synthesise from the text. They make sense of the text in their
own terms. They collect very less language from the text. Matures read the text very
- Frank Smith
o Eye usually follows the prediction of brain to find it in the text. It either is correct or not.
o Our previous understanding of the world is the way we understand the text
o 90% of the information when reading the text comes from our own brains rather than
o We don’t pronounce the words in our head while reading
o Every other letter could be left out and every 5 word could be left out and reader still
understands the text.
- Concept of schemata – file folders in our brain
o When we read, we do not extract meaning; we use our schemata to construct meaning.
o We rely on schemata because of our limited capacity of short-term memory since it is
only able to process 7 bits of information (+-2). Quickly short-term has to dump the
information into the long-term memory.
Each time we encounter something; we either dump that into one of our file
folders, or may change it. It is the file folder (schemata) that defines how we
understand the world. That’s why we live a conservative life, because adults
have a safe schemata that’s safe and works in a lot of situations. We’re afraid of
learning because it means a change in our schemata and not comfortable.
We say I don’t understand it because we don’t have the schemata. We either
change schematas to add more information, or make a new one.
Objective of an article is not for you to understand all ideas, but to adjust
yourself slowly to some of the ideas.
The reader remembers NOT what the text tells him, but what he tells himself
through his schemata.
Contemporary Synthesis (theories) of Reading:
- Writer, reader, text, and context are all powerful components that give meaning to the text
o A change in one of them, changes the meaning that text has. - The contemporary researchers define reading as the process of constructing meaning through
a dynamic interaction between the reader’s existing knowledge, the information suggested by
the written language, and the context of the reading situation.
- Four Elements to Reading:
1- Interactive Process – in the course of an interactive process, meaning is mediated (not
extracted) between the writer, reader, text, and the context. Reader builds the hypothesis
and tests the hypothesis. Our schemata makes a prediction and tries to adjust it to the text.
2- Constructive process – it is a process of making the meaning (not extracting) from text.
3- Context dependant – you change the context, you change the meaning. You read Charles
Dickens novel in an English Literature class, it is different than reading it in a History class.
4- Multi-level Complex Process – not a simple-level task. It didn’t come to us naturally, we had
to learn how to do it. That’s why it is a difficult task. It relies on so many elements: prior
knowledge, language fluency, etc. Applying Reading Theory to Writing (Jan 30, 2013)
1. Context – embedded in reader’s schemata.
a. The more explicit the writer in establishing context, the more likely reader relies on the text.
2- Predictions and Reader – When humans read, brain predicts what we are about to read and our eye
follows the prediction. Since reader relies on his expectations of reader, writer should set the
context up in a way to fulfil reader’s expectations.
3- Gists – Reader just remembers chunks of the paragraph and dumps that chunk into the long-term
4- Structuring Gists – If writer plans the chunks for reader’s eye to catch, he would be able to get them
to make more sense of the text
Three rules for academic writing (Flower):
1- State key ideas explicitly – establishing hierarchies.
a. Make a chunk in your introduction. Tell reader in the introduction what to expect in
the next paragraphs.
b. First sentence of the paragraph is important.
2- Focus each paragraph – every paragraph only has ONE main issue which has been established in
the first paragraph
3- Use a standard pattern of organization – the more you become adapt to your major, the more
will be able to establish an organization of ideas on essays related to that topic.
Audience – represents both listener and reader.
- Rhetors – whom uses rhetoric
o Should be responsive to the differences among audiences.
1- Psycholinguistic views:
a. Expressivism –
i. Have roots in romantic theories of art and reading. They place critical interest in the
author of the text.
ii. “True art ignores the audience… True artists write only for themselves.” Wane Booth
iii. “The whole duty of a writer is to please and satisfy himself, and the true writer
always plays to an audience of one (himself).” E.B. White, The Elements of Style.
b. The New Rhetoric – anything worth writing must have the capacity to change people. If it
doesn’t change people, then it’s worthless. Is the audience have been informed,
i. Very reader centered.
ii. Audience Analysis – a conscious effort on the part of the writer to define the specific
audience for whom she is writing. Writer should conceptualize and analyze the need
of audience c. Reader-Response Criticism – readers decides the meaning of the text. After all it is the
reader’s schemata that gives meaning to the text.
i. Recursive relationship between rhetor and audience – they constantly influence
2- Sociolinguistic view of audience – there is a cooperative relationship among the writer, the text,
and the reader with each influencing the other in a recursive rather than linear way (Kenneth
a. There is no such thing as an original text. There is only intertext.
b. Intertext (by Bakhtin) – the writer is not the originator of the text, rather she borrows
from existing community texts as she constructs texts (Bakhtin, ‘intertextuality’)
i. There are a finite source of texts that give meaning to the society. Anything that
doesn’t follow the society’s meanings would not be accepted. You can’t all of a
sodden give a new meaning to everything. Maybe once in a while a new meaning is
ii. You can never be the lone genius who creates a whole set of new meanings. There is
a need for fundamental capacity.
c. Linear vs Recursive – Linear is causality (cause and effect). Recursive is a constant
influence in a loop
Genre – a way of classifying and organizing text in a systematic way. They form the arrangement and the
content of the text. They classify text into different genres.
a- Basic prescriptive definition: Genre is bases on a combination of the form the text takes,
that is the particular arrangement of the parts, and the subject matter of the text
o These consistent structural features constitute the basis for classifying
o Repetition – There are repetitive elements that writer creates to guide the audience to
make sense of the text.
o Taxonomy – a system of classifying through sets and subsets. In this case we classify
b- Psycholinguistic view (genre as contract) – there is a kind of deal between the rhetor and
o Alastair Fowler: “genre is an instrument not of classification, but of meaning…. Genre-
related features… serve as ‘instructions’ for interpreting the coded information in the
c- Sociolinguistic view (genre as social constructions) – a certain genre arises in a certain
society as a coherent way of giving meaning to the members of the society.
o We rely on genres to interact and communicate with each other.
o Charles Bazerman: “a genre is a social construct tat regularizes communication.
Interactions and relations.”
o Carolyn Miller: “these socially-constructed genres [become in turn] a form of social
knowledge – a mutual construing of object, events, interest, and purposes.” d- D. Berkenkotter’s five principles: (genre from a sociolinguistic point of view)
1- dynamism : genres are dynamic rhetorical forms that develop and change over time
2- Situatedness: genre knowledge is derived from our ongoing participation in the
communicative activities of a particular community
3- Form and content: genre embraces the knowledge as to what form and content is
appropriate to a particular situation
4- Reproduction of structure: as we draw on genre rules in order to participate in the
community’s life, we also in turn reproduce those structures
5- Community conventions: genre rules signal a community’s norms, epistemology,
Discourse Communities – a social group defined by particular kinds of speech and writing, the
boundaries and character of which are determined by the communicative practices, shared norms, and
cultural values of the members.
1- Prescriptivism view of discourse –
o Alexander Bain:
a. Description – sets forth a static scebe
b. Narration – tells a story
c. Exposition offers rational explanation
d. Persuasion seeks action
2- Sociolinguistic view of discourse – most generally ‘discourse’ is defines as “language in use
whether oral or writer”
o A particular instance of discourse would employ unique language conventions, and the
resulting texts would be understood to have specific social functions in the human
o Discourse thus includes all the contextual elements involved in any language act
o Each discourse contexts takes place in a community relationship. A specific group have a
common discourse that holds them together. This discourse is not just the language, but
the social relations. We all belong to multiple discourse communities. Large ones and
o The shared discourse binds the members of the community, and excludes non-members
o The individual language user – there is no such thing. We are all replicas of the
discourse community. But each of us belongs to small unique discourse communities
and causes us to be unique from each other. There is some degree of uniqueness among
us. Classical Rhetoric
Rhetoric – the study and teaching of language use
- Most of the questions that we have, have been discovered many years ago.
- We changed how we understand the language, thus questions. Epistemology has changed.
We are changed.
A. Ancient Greek Rhetoric – in order to be successful in the community you had to learn it. A lot of
what we learn goes back to ancient Greek.
a. Early classical period –
b. The first school of Greek rhetoricians are sophists. They were charging children to teach
them art of persuasion. Talk, how to use voice, and how to use body language.
c. Gorgias – Language has infinite possible meanings so, interpretation is important. (a
deconstructive and post-modern concept)
d. Protagdras – for every logos (argument), there is an equally valid counter logos
(argument). Thesis and antithesis.
e. Thrasymachus – you cannot find truth through language. Since language can be
infinitely manipulated. At the end of the day, all that matters is winning. And winner
decides the truth.
f. Use of persuasive discourse
g. Study of persuasive discourse
h. Sophistry – someone who’s dishonest in her arguments.
i. The high classical period –
i. Plato – student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle. Most of his thinking is
written in dialogue form and not so clear which side he’s on. He used dialogues
to rescue rhetoric from nihilist sophists.
ii. Aristotle – most influential person by far in terms of rhetoric. His ideas directly
influenced romans, renaissance, 18 century and North America’s education
system. Aristotle’s rhetoric:
1. political oratory aimed at expedience and concerned with future action
2. judicial oratory aimed at justice and determining past facts
3. ceremonial oratory confusing on praise and blame, and situated in the
4. Heuresis – finding an argument:
5. Ethos – the perceived good character of the speaker. (speaker)
6. Pathos – the emotion aroused in the audience by the discourse.
7. Logos – the suasive force of the logic of the argument. (signals)
B. Roman Rhetoric – roman adopted Greek rhetoric and used it in their system
a. Sons of aristocrat families become apprentice of lawyers etc. and after 10 years they
became a lawyer themselves. b. Then they had to educate masses to increase the power of empire system. They took
Greek slaves to Rome to teach roman children art of rhetoric so they will become
beauracrats in the roman empire.
c. Three parts of roman rhetoric:
i. Precepts which were the rules of rhetoric. Divided into 5 main parts:
1. Invention (inventio) – finding a true or probable information which
makes an argument believable. It uses Aristotle’s three types of oratory.
2. Arrangement (disposition) – the structure of arguemt. Contains
introduction (which has a highly systemized list of topics), narration,
visio, proof (logically put it all together), reputation (finding erros).
3. Style (elocutio) – they had 3 styles. They learned to use each style for
different situations. Different vocabulary and grammar. 4 virtues:
clarity, correctness, appropriateness, ornateness (how beautiful did you
use the language)
4. Delivery (pronuntiatio) – use of voice, body, arms, etc.
5. Memory (memoria) – no notes. They had to memorize 7-8 hours of
length of speech. Without a break. Word by word.
ii. Extensive practice of the various forms of rhetoric.
iii. Imitation which was used to reinforce the learning of the first two parts
d. They only studies rhetoric. A very prescriptivist system of education. A lot of imitation of
e. Public oratory was important. Not much of writing.
C. Medieval Rhetoric – church was the sole repository to learn read and write.
a. They needed a sophisticated way of communication. So they looked back to roman
b. Saint Agustin – roman rhetorician who became a Christian
c. Three important genres:
d. letter writing
i. Genre of letter was systematized in 5. It became dominated and manuals
spread to teach people how to write letters:.
1. Salutation (writers position toward reader)
2. Good will
f. Poetics – for any educated person it was important to read and write poetry. To show
how adapt person was in using language. Person’s capacity to use language to describe
i. Complicated poems had a narrative and told stories.
D. Renaissance Rhetoric – a broad geographic area and time period. a. Secular rhetoric – a reaction to the dominance of the church. Brought language use to
the secular life, rather than religious life. They went back to the classics (Greek and
Romans). Many found in byzantine Europe and monasteries.
b. Vernacular Languages – shift from Latin to vernacular languages. Important texts were
translated to German, French, Spanish, English, etc. It was considered to translate
“loosely” in a way that the text would be more meaningful. They changed the original
change for it to be understandable for the culture.
c. Written language – speech was ethereal or momentary. Everything more important
would be written down more thoughtfully.
i. Shifted from oral communication to written studes. No one studies public
speaking nowadays (which was essential before Renaissance).
E. 18 century English Rhetoric –
a. Largely influenced by Scottish enlightment – this idea argued that knowledge could be
objectively produced through inductive reasoning.
i. Scientific thinking became dominant as the way we understand rhetoric.
b. Purpose of education – an emphasis on profession as the main goal of education.
Language is not the centre anymore and study of it is less important.
i. Training professionals for a career is more important.
Analytic NOT DESCRIPTIVE. Don’t stay too big. Instead of staying at the surface, focus and go deeply into
the single issue that you found. Lecture – Feb 13, 2013
Academic written communication discourse communities
Each discourse community has its own language and view of the world
- The study of written language in universities is fragmented at present, divided among a
variety of academic discourse communities
- Thus writing is studies in psychology (cognitive and developmental), sociology, English
literature, philosophy, rhetoric, anthropology, linguistics, communications studies, and in
3 theories of studying language:
1- Prescriptivist – most interested in text in the triangle of language.
a. Current-Traditional Rhetoric – the dominant way which languages is studies and
understood. By Daniel Fogarty. All of us have been taught in this model. Most textbooks
are based on this.
i. Follows a prescriptivist view of language and thus focuses on the written text
ii. Emphasizes grammatical correctness, ruled-based systems of genre structure,
and a linear step-by-step view of the composing process
iii. Alexander Bain wrote a writing textbook which systematically describes
structure of each genre and different levels of writing from invention to editing.
He invented the ide