The Linguistic Orientation
. L is the common property of all humans.
. All humans possess L equally.
. Differences are due to variety.
. Variety results from naturally occurring variation.
. Varieties become socially dominant and others not so much.
. Literacy allowed the establishment of norms based on the socially dominant
. All varieties are used for artistic expression, often one variety serving
as a vehicle specific to a form of art e.g. Southern English and country
. All varieties consist of the same elements i.e. there is no such thing as
an impoverished L in terms of vocabulary, phonetics, structural features,
. Vocabulary fits the culture carried by the L. Contact among peoples and L
may augment vocabulary.
. Phonetics and structures can be affected by contact but less likely than
. Most changes in L are generated internally via well-studied and
. These processes are always at work so their is no such thing as an
. When a L loses its status as the first and native L of a population, it is
labeled dead, meaning it no longer has native speakers.
. A current example of a dead L reviving is Hebrew. Otherwise, dead L are
frozen except to the extent they continue being used and change only around
the edges, especially in vocabulary.
. The structures do not represent the culture but may reflect categories of
mind. Recent theories of universal grammar examine these categories.
. No L lacks subtlety of espression or complexity of linguistic elements.
. Subtlety of expression can be augmented by vocabulary and will be when the
culture “feels” the need e.g. the Christian Gospels reachng the northern
Germanic, Celtic and Slavic tribes.
. L vary in the areas of complexity and subtlety, cf. simple phonemic
inventory of Polynesian L, the progressive tenses of English and Spanish cf.
with the Latin tense system, aspectual richness of Slavic L., etc.
. Nevertheless, there is no case of a L unable to express a full range of
notions and functions and L routinely develop by reaching for ways to
express currents of thought and art and philosophy. Evidence of this can be
found in the etymology of many words associated with higher level thinking
e.g. ecstasy means “cause to stand or place outside” or, as we say in
English, “beside oneself”. Body metaphors are extremely common for
expressing such ideas.
. An example of man’s need to create L to express himself is seen in the
transformation of pidgin L into creoles. Children growing up hearing only
Pidgin soon create a fully expressive L called a Creole (pidgin and creole
are here used as technical terms).
. Given this natural drive to communicate, people finding themselves in
contact with another L community absorb as much of the L as they need.
. Classroom teaching of L2 should reproduce the conditions in which people
naturally acquire another L.
. Because our understanding of how L is acquired is not fixed and because
the aforementioned conditions are hard to create, teachers should proceed
pragmatically and empirically.
Therefore the SLA research and other research in the psychology of learning
can only stimulate, not dictate.
In this situation, best practices can be established only with a great deal
In order to achieve an acceptable level of norms, standards, best practices,
we need to assess learning on the basis of a shared goal.
For linguistically oriented teachers the goal is creative use of L where the
term “creative” means the ability to generate spontaneously well-formed
sentences in the L
The Humanities/Arts Orientation
. L is the expression of thought.
. Thoughts are not equal, nor are humans and therefore L is not equal.
. Deviations from the ideal do not have value.
. Deviations are due to natural flaws in humans – laziness, slovenliness,
. The best is selected out and into the ideal. Deviations can only be of a
lower order of L.
. What is written has permanence and therefore should be the best.
Deviations that find their way into writing have no value unless it serves a
special purpose like Huck Finn’s speech.
. A L that hears a high culture is itself a high L. Indicators of being a
high L are complexity, hypotaxis, standardization, lexical diversity, and
. The development of a L is directed by those we invest with authority.
Their authority derives from their expertise and reputation as bearers of
. While it is obvious that L changes, without control and guidance, brakes,
so to speak, the result will be linguistic anarchy.
. A mark of a high L is, as stated earlier, standardization and that implies
at least a slowing down of these change processes. In this way, we might
compensate for the changes as they arise.
. The only dead L we concern ourselves with are the classic L like Latin,
Greek, Sanskrit, Chinese, Arabic that are recognized for their great
. These classical L are fixed by virute of their being dead and idealized
for the same reason. Moreover, by virtue of the great literature they bear,
a sense of L superiority clings to them.
. Cultures create L and high cultures create high L. Cultures not considered
high cultures per force do not have high L.
. Only the high L have subtlety of expression and compexity. One does not
have to examine these other L to know that, i.e. an empirical look at these
other L is unnecessary since it is obvious from the fact that the culture
these other L bear is not a high culture that they cannot be high L.
. High L express notions and functions and thoughts unavailable to L not
bearing high cultures. Once those cultures become high cultures, their L
will become high L in order to bear the load.
. The directed development of L can be charted in the history of the L of
many high cultures. Words become imbued with the sense imparted to them by
the creators of high culture.
. Creoles are extreme deviations from the proper, educated speech,
reflecting the low social status of their speakers.
. Speakers of Creoles should aspire to the acrolect e.g. French for Haitian
Creole (Kweyol) speakers, rather than creating literature in a L regarded as
a degenerate form the acrolect.
. Any L learning outside a classroom setting is by nature unguided and
perforce rough-and-ready. Lack of control and ignorance of standards permit
only a pidgin at worst or a mimicking of acceptable speech at best. Careful
and cultivated speech can be created only by careful and cultivated
instruction carried out by careful and cultivated people.
. Two thousand years of culture permit us to be sure of best practices as
sown, watered, fertilized, and pruned by our predecessors. Turning our back
on this heritage is a crime and jumping on new fads will rip this heritage
apart because only the most dedicated persistent effort will prepare a
teacher to pass this heritage on. There is no room for fads.
Such a well-prepared teacher can and will succeed given similarly prepared
students. Lacking such students, a teacher can only offer this heritage. To
adapt to found conditions is to admit such poorly prepared students to the
charmed circle of our heitage where they truly do not belong.
This treasure must be guarded and protected and part of the heritage is the
way it is transmitted and to whom it is transmitted.
Those students who are not a good fit with this transmitted heritage should
be channeled elsewhere.
Writing is the hallmark of high L and high culture and should be the
starting point in L study.