Tuesday, 28 June 2011


So, you know how my car is slowly dying, which is why I need to buy a new car this year. Well, here’s some interesting stuff happening with my car:

Not only did the car survive the recent trek across the prairies (i.e. from here to Fargo, Fargo to Minneapolis and back, and then back home on successive days), it did so without the check-engine light coming on at all. The light that’s usually on pretty much all the time in the city didn’t come on after I stopped to buy a soda on the way out of town (and got right on the highway), and stayed off until I stopped and idled at the border a while. Then it went off at some point, and didn’t come on at all the whole rest of the way. It’s come on a couple of times since, but for the most part it stays off. Weird. Makes me think it was a valve or the EGR or something that got blown out and fixed magically by staying at highway speeds for a while. But what do I know?

Okay, now today. On the way home tonight, approaching two different stops, the car gave a kind of shudder. Well, not a shudder, more of a thunk, but physically, not sound-wise. If you follow. “That’s odd,” thinks I, “probably means something is going very wrong with the car. I really do need to buy a new car this year. Possibly tomorrow.”

Then, approaching the light at Stafford, it just died. No power. No break assist. Volt and other lights on. I have the presence of mind to slap on the hazard lights (the switch is located on the steering column, which is a stupid place for it, now that I think about it, since it means I reach through the steering wheel to get at it), and slam it into neutral and coast to a stop. Then I put it in park, which I probably didn’t need to do, and turned the key. Vroom vroom. Started right up again, no problem. Made it all the way home without shuddering again.

So I’m thinking the shuddering was something weird happening to the automatic transmission as it tried to downshift as I was coasting to a stop, until finally at Stafford, it just failed and the car stalled, just like it would if you get to slow at too high a gear and fail to clutch it to neutral. Which makes me thing my transmission is going.

Interesting side note, still no check engine light all the way home.

Weird, eh?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

On the subject of sociolinguistics

Teaching "Language in Society" in the winter. Looking for a textbook. The one that came most recommended isn't going to work for me: too jumbled in its presentation, too may different boxes and insets and asides, and print way too small (and sans serif!).

So casting around for a new book. This class is for 2nd year undergrads, so limited background. I am tempted to go back to a reading course I offered a grad student a few years ago, with Sociolinguistics by Milroy and Gordon as the backbone, supplemented with other readings. UGs hate that, but I've been meaning to post my reading lists to my 'courses' area of my website. But anyway, for anyone who cares, that course looked like this:

  • Milroy & Gordon (2003). Sociolinguistics: Method and Interpretation. (Blackwell)
  • Preliminaries and points of view (to accompany M&G Ch 1)
    • Hymes, Dell (1971). On Communicative Competence. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Excerpted in J. B. Pride & J. Holmes (eds), Sociolinguistics: Selected Readings (Hammondsworth: Penguin Education), pp. 269-293.
    • Labov, William (2003). Some sociolinguistic principles. In C. B. Paulston & G. R. Tucker (eds) Sociolinguistics: The Essential Readings. Malden: Blackwell. Apparently excerpted from W. Labov (1971), The Study of Non-Standard English, Champaign: National Council of Teachers of English.
  • Techniques, methodology and practical issues (Ch 3)
    • Milroy, Lesley (1980a). “Studying language in the community: The fieldworker and the social network”. Ch. 3 of Language and Social Networks (Baltimore: University Park Press), pp. 40-69.
    • Milroy, Lesley (1980b). “The quantitative analysis of linguistic data”. Ch. 5 of Language and Social Networks (Baltimore: University Park Press), pp. 109-138.
  • Sociological factors (Ch 4)
    • Rickford J. R. (1986). The need for new approaches to social class analysis in sociolinguistics. Language and Communication 6(3), 215-221.
    • Eckert, P. (1989). “The whole woman: Sex and gender differences in variation.” LVC 1, 245-68.
    • Eckert, P. (1997). “Age as a sociolinguistic variable”, in F. Coulmas (ed) Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 151-167
    • Labov, W (1990). “The intersection off sex and social class in the course of linguistic change. Language Variation and Change 2, pp. 205-254.
  • Cases – Phonology (Ch 6)
    • Labov, William (1982). “The social stratification of (r) in New York City department stores”. Ch. 3 of The Social Stratification of English in New York City (3rd printing) (Washington: Center for Applied Linguistics), pp. 42-59.
    • Dubois, S. and B. M. Horvath (1998). Let’s tink about dat: Interdental fricatives in Cajun English. LVC 10(3), 245-61.
    • Eckert P. (1998). “Gender and sociolinguistic variation”. in J Coates (ed) Language and Gender: A Reader, Cambridge: CUP, 64-75.
  • Cases – Grammar and discourse (Ch 7)
    • Sankoff, David, Henrietta J. Cedergren, William Kemp, Pierre Thibault & Diane Vincent (1989). “Montreal French: Language, class, and ideology”. In R. W. Fasold & D. Schiffrin (eds), Language Change and Variation (Philadelphia: John Benjamins), pp. 107-118.
    • Schiffrin, Deborah (1999). “Oh as a marker of information management”. In A. Jaworski & N. Coupland (eds), The Discourse Reader (New York: Routledge), pp. 275-288. Excerpted from D. Schiffrin (1987), Discourse Markers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sign Language
    • Ann, Jean (2001). “Bilingualism and language contact”. In C. Lucas (ed.), The Sociolinguistics of Sign Languages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 33-60.
    • Lucas, Ceil, Robert Bayley, Clayton Valli, Mary Rose & Alyssa Wulf (2001). “Sociolinguistic variation”. In C. Lucas (ed.), The Sociolinguistics of Sign Languages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 61-111.