for such work, by providing a way of
relating such activities to a coherent
overall framework for describing language. This is what should be meant
by 'applied linguistics': theory which
suggests and illuminates interesting
practice.I think the kind of English syllabus I
have proposed has considerable attractions. First, it can be based on samples
of real language in use in the world.
Second, it is therefore 'relevant': English language in the world is important. Third, it emphasizes throughout
the diversity of English in use. On the
one hand, this should extend students'
own stylistic competence. But it
should also increase their understanding of diversity, and therefore their tolerance of diversity. Fourth, since it is
based throughout on comparing and
contrasting varieties of English, it provides a meaningful way of teaching
grammar: analytic methods are introduced because they are needed to solve
problems, not for their own sake. Fifth,
all the things I have suggested can be
taught at widely different degrees of sophistication. Sixth, a lot of the work
can be fun: 'serious but not solemn'
( Halliday, 1974). Seventh, the syllabus
has a coherent theoretical basis in current linguistic work in language variation.
WHAT IS ENGLISH?
Well, this article is already long
enough, and I suppose some of you
may have noticed that I haven't yet said
what English is.There is the story of an eminent
scholar of English who devoted his life
to trying to define the essence of English. He wrote many books, trying always to pare away the inessential and
the peripheral, and get down to the essential core. English was clearly not
homogeneous: but not entirely heterogenous -- structured heterogeneity. It
was sometimes categorial: but also gradient. A relatively stable core: but with
indeterminate boundaries. How to define fuzziness with precision? His writings became shorter and shorter, and
clearer and clearer. He began by writing long text books, but soon was
writing brief prolegomena, succinct
articles, gradually discarding the inessentials. At his death he was known to
be working on his ultimate project. He
was trying to distil the essence of
English into a single word. When he
died his disciples were going through
his academic papers, sorting out a lifetime's notes. Eventually they came
upon the piece of paper with the word
on it! The culmination of a lifetime's
study.Unfortunately, no one could read his
APPENDIX A: SAMPLE
I suggest below the broad outlines of a
course on modern English language.
Most of the topics could be taught at
widely different levels of sophistication, between secondary school and
|a. ||Given any text, students ought to be
able to comment systematically on its
Text means any piece of spoken discourse or written text which has actually occurred in a real social situation.
Texts could therefore include: chil-