Achilleas Kostoulas

Applied Linguistics & Language Teacher Education

Leuven University Library, interior view

Adjuncting, publishing and redefining linguistics

About this post: This is a curated summary of articles, blog posts and other content about Higher Education and TESOL/ELT, which were published between 3rd and 9th February 2014.

I was told off last week for posting too much depressing news. In view of this, it’s best that I begin this week’s selection of articles, stories and papers, with something a little more optimistic…

Adjuncting isn’t terrible

There’s much commentary online about the causalisation and adjunctification of the academic job market, and while it provides ample cause for concern, it risks masking the fact that an academic career, even as an adjunct, can be very satisfying. Kelli Marshal, writing at Vitae, reminds us:

Go for it if you know without a doubt that academic life is the road for you (i.e., you would be miserable outside of academe, you shudder when you think you’d never get to interact with college students again, etc.). Once you’ve determined that, then be wary, but don’t let all 1,320 of those “NEVER EVER GO TO GRAD SCHOOL” posts deter you from your academic aspiration(s). For even in the part-time arena, it’s not always doom and gloom.

What about the UK?

Coincidentally, the Times Higher Education Best University Workplace Survey was also published sometime ago, and its findings (summarised here) do not echo the doom and gloom sentiments that are sometimes anecdotally reported. While topics such as zero-hour contracts and the REF are unsurprisingly prominent, one does note comments such as:

“I am very happy here. Academics moan a lot, but relative to the non-academic world, we have it easy, are treated fairly and garner prestige and status.”

“The university on the whole is a good place to work. Individual managers can detract from that. Such is life everywhere, I guess.”

Let’s talk about the publishers, then…

Readers of this blog know that I have grave concerns about the way in which corporate publishers have encroached scholarly publishing. Even as universities in France are forced to cancel their subscriptions to academic journals, fairness compels me to acknowledge that the recent proposal to make academic content available, free-of-charge, to public libraries in the UK is a step to be praised. Here are some details:

The “Access to Research” initiative will provide online access to 8,400 journals published by many of the major academic publishers, including Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, Taylor and Francis and Nature Publishing Group. Over half of local authorities have signed up their libraries to the scheme, which will initially run as a two-year pilot while interest is monitored.

And now for something completely different…

Moving from the politics of academia to language policies, there seems to be an ongoing debate in China over whether the official language of Hong Kong should be Mandarin or Cantonese. There is much depth to this debate (e.g., are Mandarin and Cantonese languages or dialects?). You can read about some aspects of this debate (and find a link to a rather bizarre propaganda video) in this blog, evocatively entitled: Is Cantonese a language, or a personification of the devil?

Since stating that both Chinese and English are official languages of Hong Kong inevitably results in enormous confusion with regard to what “Chinese” is, after the handover in 1997 the stipulations regarding language usage were supplemented with a policy of [“biliterate and trilingual”].  By “biliterate and trilingual” it is meant that there are two official scripts […] and three spoken languages (Cantonese, English, and Mandarin).

A lesson in linguistics

Greek readers of the blog may know that Prof. Babiniotis has recently published a new dictionary “of difficulties and mistakes in the use of Greek”. As if to avoid confusion about the purpose of the dictionary, the opus is subtitled “so that we may speak and write correct Greek”. According to a news report, in a book presentation, the venerable linguist had interesting things to say about the connections between science and wealth:

Και όταν μιλάμε για τη δική μας γλώσσα, την ελληνική, που ομιλείται εδώ και 40 αιώνες και αριθμεί πάνω από 100.000 ζωντανές λέξεις, καταλαβαίνει κάποιος ότι αυτός «ο πλούτος είναι ταυτόχρονα η δύναμή μας και η αδυναμία μας. Πλούτος γιατί έχουμε έναν θησαυρό και αδυναμία γιατί είναι δύσκολο να τον κατακτήσουμε».
When speaking about our own language, Greek, which has been spoken for 40 centuries and counts more than 100,000 live words, one can understand that “this wealth is, at the same time, our strength and weakness. Wealth, in that we have a trove and weakness, in that it is hard to acquire”.

(Disclaimer: Professor Babiniotis was one of my university professors, when I was an undergraduate learning that linguistics aims to describe rather than prescribe. By redefining the foundational assumptions of the discipline, he continues to teach me.)

Featured image by Marja Ligterink @ Flickr, CC BY-NC







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