Thursday, 22 September 2011

On being fairly much aware

A correspondent writes to ask if he can say fairly much and still be grammatically correct? If we can have pretty much and very much, he says, can we have fairly much?

A quick trawl of the Internet brings to light quite a few instances, such as:

I'm fairly much aware of that...
I'm fairly much a novice when it comes to marketing...
You can locate virtually anything online now, fairly much...
It's fairly much the same from class to class...
Australia is fairly much in the middle...
This fairly much mirrors my own experience...

What we seem to have here is a lexical issue rather than a grammatical one: we're dealing with a collocational change. Fairly traditionally collocates with well but not much. Words like pretty and very collocate with both. What's probably happening is that the collocates of pretty and very are transferring to fairly.

It's not a usage that's part of my idiolect, but I've heard it occasionally, especially in the north of England. Fairly is one of those words which has quite a wide range of usage in regional dialects in Britain, e.g. She's fairly looking (meaning 'good-looking'). I seem to recall hearing it abroad too, for example in Australia. Can readers of this post add their impressions?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

On LARSP latest

Long before I began this blog, correspondents were already writing asking how they could get hold of the three texts on clinical language profiling that were developed when I worked at the University of Reading in the 1970s. They had gone out of print, and it was proving difficult for new generations of students in speech therapy and language pathology to get hold of them. Those wanting to improve their proficiency in using the grammatical analysis known as LARSP (the 'Language Assessment Remediation and Screening Procedure') were particularly affected.

Old books have new leases of life today, thanks to Internet technology. So, my thanks goes to Tom Klee and his colleagues at the University of Canterbury at Christchurch, New Zealand, for hosting electronic versions of each of the books. Keyword searches can be made through the search facility of
 the PDF reader and the table of contents is linked to each chapter. The various profile forms in these works can be reproduced without charge.

The Grammatical Analysis of Language Disability can be downloaded from 

Working with LARSP can be downloaded from 

Profiling Language Disability can be downloaded from 

As it's a busy university server, there may be the occasional delay in accessing the material. A download takes about a minute per text.

It's great to see these books readily available once more. And this is especially timely, as a new book illustrating the way LARSP has been used in thirteen languages is about to appear: Assessing Grammar: the Languages of LARSP, edited by Martin Ball, David Crystal and Paul Fletcher, published by Multilingual Matters.

Monday, 12 September 2011

On OP latest

Several correspondents have written recently asking about the latest developments in 'original pronunciation' (OP) - a recurrent theme of this blog. I've delayed a response until I had something to report - which I now have. This week sees the launch of an OP website. The idea behind the site is to provide a place where people can find out about OP, archive their events, announce plans, and share their experiences of working with it and listening to it.

Although Shakespeare was the stimulus for current interest in OP, the notion is much broader. Any period of English history can be approached in this way, and indeed there have been several projects where people have tried to reconstruct the pronunciation of earlier works in Old and Middle English, notably for Chaucer. The British Library exhibition, Evolving English, which ran from November 2010 to April 2011, had an audio dimension which included OP extracts from Beowulf, Caxton, Chaucer, and the Paston letters, as well as Shakespeare. The 2011 anniversary of the King James Bible also prompted readings in OP, some of which can now be found on the OP site. And there is an ongoing project on one of John Donne's sermons which has an OP dimension.

More than literature is involved. There are opportunities for people interested in the vocal dimension of early English music, as well as for those involved in heritage projects which present original practices, such as Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts. Examples from these perspectives include an OP rendering of vocal music by William Byrd and of the songs that appear in Shakespeare's plays.

Interest in OP has been remarkable over the past couple of years, and the Future Events section of the website already has three events and will doubtless soon have more. I very much hope so. Each time a new text is explored from an OP point of view, something fresh and interesting emerges. Only half a dozen Shakespeare plays have been OP'd so far, and (as far as I know) none from other dramatists of the period - so there's plenty of scope.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

On linguistic apps

A correspondent writes to ask if there are any linguistics apps. They are certainly beginning to appear, and coincidentally I received news this week of a grammar app from the Survey of English Usage at University College London. It's called iGE, the interactive Grammar of English, and it's available for iPhone 3 and 4, iPod Touch, and the iPad.

iGE comes in two versions. iGE Lite is free. It contains a glossary and three units of course material covering word classes, nouns, and determiners. It's only a taster. A grammar is a complete system. One can't dive into it without finding oneself pulled in all sorts of different directions. So I quickly found myself wanting to check out aspects of clause and phrase structure which are only available in the complete iGE. But a complete grammar for less than a fiver (in pounds) is good value by any standards.

The interactive bit relates to various exercises and puzzles, where you can score your success rate. Whether you get 100 percent or not will depend on the extent to which you have assimilated the particular grammatical model being presented. For example, asked to find all the nouns in a passage, you won't score 100 unless you accept that attributive items (such as garden in garden wall) are also classed as nouns. But the model presented is a well-established and influential one, and there are lots of real examples of usage, taken from the ICE-GB corpus.

I'm sure it won't be long before we see many more linguistic apps, especially in areas of language which are difficult to handle in traditional ways, such as phonetics and phonology. It used to be almost impossible using a textbook to obtain a good auditory experience of nonsegmental phonlogy, for example, but multimedia technology has changed all that. I would welcome reports from readers of this blog who have experience of using other apps in our field.