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Open Access journal
ISSN (Print) 2035-7680 - ISSN (Online) 1035-7680
Published by U of Milan [22 journals]
Authors: Paolo Caponi (a cura di), Giovanni Iamartino (a cura di), David Newbold (a cura di)
- Errori e percezione dell’errore nell’italiano contemporaneo
Authors: Vittorio Coletti
Pages: 1 - 17
Abstract: This essay sets out to outline different and frequent types of violation of the traditional and scholastic norm of the Italian language, and to examine doubts and oscillations in its control, in order to explain the origins and reasons – either internal or external to the system – of these “errors” and to highlight the extent of their acceptability in the general use. Obviously, the differences between language modes and levels will be taken into account, especially that between the oral and the written mode. As a result, the distinction between the actual linguistic “error” and its social perception – which has always been crucial in the evolution of languages – will also be restated.
- Blunder, Error, Mistake, Pitfall: Trawling the OED with the Help of the
Authors: Jane Roberts, Louise Sylvester
Pages: 18 - 35
Abstract: The paper considers the lexis of error and examines its use across time in relation to the writing and spelling of English, to grammar and pronunciation. Discussion focuses first on the earliest records of notions of correctness in English language usage, from Ælfric forwards to the emergence of standard English, from the sixteenth century’s growing worries about copiousness and purity of diction to eighteenth-century concerns to prescribe and rule the language. The historical overview is complemented by consideration of the data drawn together by the Glasgow Historical Thesaurus project, its evidence taken from the Oxford English Dictionary and the Dictionary of Old English Corpus. For earlier centuries, there are by far fewer relevant citations, often buried within words wide in reference. With the help of the Historical Thesaurus we drill down to view how views of language mistakes and errors have changed over the centuries of the recorded history of English.
- When Mistake Rolls up Its Sleeves and Becomes Slang
Authors: Elisa Mattiello
Pages: 36 - 47
Abstract: This study explores the semantic area of ‘mistake’ in contemporary English, with a special focus on slang in general English dictionaries (e.g. OED) and dictionaries of modern slang (e.g. Green 2010/2016, Urban Dictionary 1999-2016). While the ‘mistake’ area already abounds in standard lexical items concerning misconceptions, misunderstandings, errors of judgement, gross mistakes, or even blunders, the negative connotations that it entails are even more evident in slang. Slang items designating ‘mistake’ range from regular formations, such as the compound party foul or the derived word floater, to extra-grammatical words, such as clippings (e.g. boob ← booby), acronyms (e.g. snafu ← situation normal, all fucked up), reduplicatives (e.g. boo-boo), and even to rhyming slang (e.g. penny banger for ‘clanger’) (Mattiello 2008, 2013). The origin of these items is often specialised or restricted to small speech communities – e.g. military world, theatre, students’ campus – but their use has extended to common language nowadays. The study both investigates the morphological peculiarities of slang items of the ‘mistake’ area, and shows how they are often tinged with offensiveness, vulgarity, and rudeness due to their semantic associations to negative, vulgar or abusive standard meanings. Diachronically, the emphasis is on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
- Lexicography, or the Gentle Art of Making Mistakes
Authors: Giovanni Iamartino
Pages: 48 - 78
Abstract: The man in the street’s attitude of mind towards dictionaries is that they are the true repositories of all the words in a language, and that they are both authoritative and objective – in short, dictionaries are perfect. By mainly referring to the early history of English mono- and bilingual lexicography, this essay explodes the myth of the perfect dictionary and shows that mistakes in dictionaries may profitably be discussed under two headings: lexicographical mistakes, i.e. vague or circular definitions and the so-called ghost words in monolingual dictionaries, and non-insertable equivalents in bilingual dictionaries; and socio-cultural mistakes, which are related to the often elusive impact of ideology on dictionary-making.
- Errors and Learning/Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language: an
Exercise in Grammaticology
Authors: Andrea Nava
Pages: 79 - 97
Abstract: Despite ‘pendulum swings’ and ‘revolutions’ throughout the history of language teaching, the association of errors and grammar (of one’s native language or of a second/foreign language) has been a constant concern of language professionals as well as the subject of academic interest in linguistics, second language acquisition and grammaticology. Grammar books are ideally suited to the investigation of how perceptions about errors, along with associated notions such as those of grammaticality, acceptability and correctness, have changed throughout the centuries. While much academic interest has been devoted to the analysis of English pedagogical grammar books (and usage manuals) aimed at native speakers (‘prescriptive’ grammar books and usage manuals, cf. Peters 2006), very little is known about English pedagogical grammar books for non-native speakers, particularly those published in the 20th and 21st centuries. A recent development within the realm of pedagogical grammaticography has been the genre of pedagogical grammar books specifically aimed at teachers of English as a second or foreign language (Nava 2008). Grammar books such as Celce Murcia and Larsen Freeman (1999) have the express purpose of presenting English grammar drawing on research in linguistics and second language acquisition that is thought to be relevant to the practical business of teaching grammar to second/foreign language learners. In this contribution, after identifying a few key issues in the way the notion of ‘error’ has been conceived of in linguistics, second language acquisition and grammar writing, I will present a study of how a selection of pedagogical grammar books for English language teachers view and operationalize errors.
- Dealing with Students’ Errors: Oral Corrective Feedback in the
Italian EFL Classroom
Authors: Luciana Pedrazzini
Pages: 98 - 117
Abstract: In mainstream Second Language Acquisition (SLA), errors are viewed as indicators of learners’ interlanguage development and of the mental processes involved. While there is considerable variation regarding how errors are treated in classroom contexts, research has shown what type of corrective strategies can be most beneficial in helping learners notice their errors and providing them with opportunities for language acquisition. In this paper, I intend to focus on oral corrective feedback. I first consider how it is both handled in language pedagogy and investigated in second language research. Next, I present an observational study that aimed to explore teacher corrective feedback strategies in four Italian "English as a Foreign Language (EFL)" classrooms. Selected data from classroom observation are analysed vis-à-vis teachers’ beliefs about their use of corrective feedback. Finally, implications of corrective feedback research for teacher education are highlighted.
- Towards a (Painful?) Paradigm Shift: Language Teachers and the Notion
Authors: David Newbold
Pages: 118 - 132
Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between language teachers and the errors made by their students. Traditionally, errors reflect a deviation from a standard, which is a described or imagined standard form of linguistic behavior, and teachers are the repositories of that standard. Errors also provide insights into processes of language acquisition, and offer teachers convenient strategies for classroom intervention.The appearance of contrastive analysis in the 1960s, the brief ascendancy of error analysis, and the ensuing development of inter-language studies, kept the focus firmly on the learner’s distance from native speaker competences, and the teacher’s role to bring students as far as possible towards a native-speaker like use.With the appearance of the Common European Framework of Reference the focus shifted from learner error to learner competence. Nonetheless, a standard form of the language continued to provide the target in coursebooks, and an ostensibly communicative approach continued to be the vehicle for a grammatical syllabus.But recently further challenges have been posed by the growth of English Lingua Franca (ELF) and the awareness that most interactions in English are now between non native speakers (NNSs). ELF research shows that success in NNS interaction does not come from approximating native speaker norms, but rather from a range of collaborative strategies. In this context, teachers and testers will increasingly have to redefine the notion of “error” in the language classroom, an operation which is likely to entail a painful paradigm shift.
- ELF Users’ Perceptions of Their ‘non-nativeness’ in Digital
Communication Through English: Falling Short of the Target?
Authors: Valeria Franceschi, Paola Vettorel
Pages: 133 - 148
Abstract: In the past years, the unprecedented use of English as a shared language of communication has sparked academic interest in English as a Lingua Franca (ELF). One of the main tenets of ELF studies, in the deconstruction of the persisting dichotomy between ‘nativeness’ and ‘non-nativeness’, is a perspective on non-normative forms that does not consider them ‘errors’ or ‘failures’ in comparison to native (Standard) norms. Rather, these forms may occur as the result of meaning-negotiation strategies, or as expressions of identity.However, ELF users appear to show a certain level of self-consciousness when communicating in ELF contexts, often pre-empting potential deviant uses of the language by apologizing for their ‘non-native’ English - or by flagging what they perceive as marked linguistic choices. Indeed, bilingual speakers of English are still traditionally characterized by their non-nativeness as ‘deficient’ language users, where their identity as (permanent) learners is foregrounded within a ‘comparative fallacy’ (Cook 1999) paradigm, that is also projected on language use.This paper explores ELF users' perceptions of their ‘non-native’ use of the language in digital contexts. Such perceptions will be investigated, through a mainly qualitative approach, with data drawn from the Sketch Engine EnTenTen corpus (2013v2), comprising almost 23 billion tokens of web data.
- Errors in EU-English
Authors: Jeremy Gardner
Pages: 149 - 164
Abstract: Under the EU’s multilingualism policy, its 24 languages have equal status as both official and working languages. However, in fact, most of the EU’s day-to-day work is now conducted in English. In contrast, most EU staff writing in English are not native speakers, and their proficiency in drafting documents in English may vary. There is also no systematic procedure for ensuring that texts are edited before publication, resulting in a varying level of quality in terms of the English used.This paper uses a widely-distributed EU Commission document as a starting point for examining some of the English language errors commonly found in EU documents. It is argued that these errors often make them difficult to read and interfere with the EU’s ability to communicate with the public.
- Exposing Errors and Removing Errors: Pushing the Boundaries in Legal
Authors: Christopher Williams
Pages: 165 - 175
Abstract: As is well known, the language of the law tends to be relatively conservative in its style when compared with most other varieties of language. However, in recent decades we have witnessed a minor revolution in the way legal English has developed, largely as a result of pressures from the Plain language movement. An encrusted style of writing which had predominated for centuries is being overhauled, at least in the sphere of legislative texts, in an ongoing process which is transforming ‘legalese’ into standard formal English. As with any development involving change, there are detractors on the one hand and enthusiasts on the other.Referring to the benefits of drafting in plain language, Butt and Castle (2001: 89) affirm that “Errors are harder to find in dense and convoluted prose. Removing legalese helps lay bare any oversights in the original.”Central to the philosophy of plain language is the idea that a legally binding text should be understandable to laypersons. Inevitably, such a view clashes with the reasoning of many ‘traditionalist’ legal practitioners who argue that the main purpose of a legally binding text is that it should be able to withstand scrutiny from experts and perform the task it was meant to undertake, irrespective of whether it may be intelligible to a layperson.In this paper I will highlight some of the main arguments for and against this fundamental question of whether a legally binding text should be written with a non-expert readership in mind, focusing on the concept of ‘error’ which, from the perspective of the more traditionalist members of the law community, concerns the newly adopted terms or expressions introduced, in many cases, for the benefit of laypersons, whereas from the perspective of plain language proponents, the ‘error’ is to be found in the older style of ‘legalese’ which abounded until fairly recently making legal texts incomprehensible to most citizens and which has now been duly ‘rectified’
- Errare, sviarsi, vagabondare lungo il sentiero della traduzione letteraria
Authors: Franca Cavagnoli
Pages: 176 - 189
Abstract: The essay intends to look at the notion of error with particular reference to literary translation from English into Italian. It specifically focuses on texts uncomfortably poised between spoken and written language, coming from postcolonial literature written in contact languages (Nigerian Pidgin English and rotten English), and American literature written in dialects and vernaculars. It will try to shed light on how the norm/usage dichotomy can be creatively explored and redefined by both the writer and the translator.
- Spelling Errors as a Cry of Protest. The Idiosyncratic Language of the
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Authors: Francesca Chiappini
Pages: 190 - 203
Abstract: This article aims at analysing the spelling oddities in the still widely unknown corpus of the German-American poet Elsa von-Freytag Loringhoven (1874-1927). Such irregularities prove too widespread in her poetic work merely to be ascribed to her German origins, especially since her English was otherwise proficient, and since she had native speaker friends willing to proofread her writings. Although ‘the Baroness’ only learnt English in her thirties, recidivism in the misspelling of some particular words motivates further investigation.The Baroness’s poetic language is so rich in misspellings, mistranslations, coinages, portmanteau words and unusual idioms, that it is idiosyncratic and unique; clearly, a lack of proficiency in the English language cannot be identified as the (only) cause. Indeed, in a letter to Djuna Barnes, she declared: “It is written like half mad in syntax […] I am half mad – as is only sensible”. While such a statement is not to be taken literally, it is still true that the Baroness’s intolerance of social prescriptions, her alluring performances and daring behaviour caused her to be labelled as “hysteric, perverted and mad.” (Gammel 2003: 57) Spelling errors and other oddities in her corpus should therefore be reframed in a wider, programmatic intention to challenge the English language specifically, and verbal expression in general; ultimately, linguistic errors are one of the most interesting manifestations of her uncompromising non-acquiescence to rules.
- Sir Thomas Browne Against Error: An Apology for Complexity
Authors: Giuliana Iannaccaro
Pages: 204 - 218
Abstract: In 1646 Sir Thomas Browne published his Pseudodoxia Epidemica, a broad, somewhat encyclopedic catalogue of errors divided into seven books. Browne intended his work as “Enquiries into Vulgar and Common Errors” to help discourage “radicated beliefs” – that is, received opinions based on popular credulity and the unchallenged authority of tradition. Far from being dogmatic and assertive, the treatise engages the modern reader for its defence of open debate and of the value of contradiction; actually, Pseudodoxia appears deeply in tune with the epistemological uncertainty of our times for its complex, relativising and even dubitative approach to all things human. Browne endorses the idea that uncritical acceptance of received notions about the world hinders the advancement of learning; at the same time, though, a rigidly straight path – a unique, simplified method to decipher reality – equally perverts knowledge and is the source of misapprehension and mystification. Building on recent studies on his style and his connection with a culturally and politically convulsed historical period, the present contribution discusses Browne’s notion of complexity and highlights exemplary passages in which he discusses the main source of error: the human tendency to simplify what is complex, thus reducing the interpretation of notions, signs and phenomena to a one-sided and necessarily inadequate undertaking.
- Mrs Malaprop Goes to Hastings: History, Parody, and Language in 1066 and
All That (1930)
Authors: Marina Dossena
Pages: 219 - 232
Abstract: This essay discusses the manifold ways in which malapropisms, among other strategies, contribute to the comic effects achieved in 1066 and All That, a book meant to satirize early twentieth-century history manuals. After an overview of the book’s structure and contents, I will highlight examples in which linguistic choices cause semantic shifts resulting in humorous remarks. These typically sound like misremembered facts or mispronounced names, in a flurry of statements evoking the idiosyncratic usage of Mrs Malaprop, Richard Sheridan’s famous character. Throughout the text it is however difficult to draw a line between mere spoof and thinly-veiled ideological criticism: in carnivalesque uses, the maxims that underpin the Cooperative Principle can hardly apply, and reading between the lines, or indeed among semantic clusters, is indispensable.
- Le parole che noi usiamo: l’errore in storia
Authors: Aurelio Musi
Pages: 233 - 242
Abstract: Unlike the hard sciences, historiography lacks a specific nomenclature. The lexicon employed by historians is drawn from the plain language of everyday life. Therefore, the words of history are to be defined within the spatio-temporal framework, and to be construed through processes of contextualization and comparison. My work here stems from these considerations, and attempts to chart the occurrence of errors in historiography. In particular, I take into account the way in which historiographic mistakes arise from the intermingling of words, space, and historical time. Another significant aspect concerns the relationship between history, fiction, and arbitrariness. The latter concept is linked to historical interpretation, which constitutes the last stage of historiographical work, after the analysis and the reconstruction of events. The last part of this paper offers a typology of frequent errors in historiography.
- Speech Errors as a Window on Language and Thought: A Cognitive Science
Authors: Giulia M.L. Bencini
Pages: 243 - 262
Abstract: We are so used to speaking in our native language that we take this ability for granted. We think that speaking is easy and thinking is hard. From the perspective of cognitive science, this view is wrong. Utterances are complex things, and generating them is an act of linguistic creativity, in the face of the computational complexity of the task. On occasion, utterance generation goes awry and the speaker’s output is different from the planned utterance, such as a speaker who says “Fancy getting your model renosed!” when “fancy getting your nose remodeled” was intended. With some notable exceptions (e.g. Fromkin 1971) linguists have not taken speech error data to be informative about speakers’ linguistic knowledge or mental grammars. The paper strives to put language production errors back onto the linguistic data map. If errors involve units such as phonemes, syllables, morphemes and phrases, which may be exchanged, moved around or stranded during spoken production, this shows that they are both representational and processing units. If similar units are converged upon via multiple methods (e.g. native speaker judgments, language corpora, speech error corpora, psycholinguistic experiments) those units have stronger empirical support. All other things being equal, theories of language that can account for both representation and processing are to be preferred.
- L’homo errans nell’era dell’infallibilità tecnica
Authors: Fabrizio Bracco
Pages: 263 - 274
Abstract: In this paper the phenomenon of human error will be described in relationship to human performance in complex high-technology systems. Misconceptions could lie behind the terms “human error” at several levels: cognitive, emotional, moral, and cultural. From the cognitive perspective, human error has been widely investigated and proper theoretical models can accurately describe its nature and functions. From the emotional perspective, making a mistake could lead to feelings such as guilt and shame, which could have relevant effects on how people cope with the situation and try to remedy the error. Concerning the moral perspective on human error, we describe a dangerous mix of cognitive biases and the judgment of the person. The cognitive biases frame the mistake as something that was predictable and avoidable, and the severity of the blame is correlated with the gravity of the outcomes. These distortions critically move the perspective from an analysis of behavior to moral judgment of the person, a typical effect of the so called “blame culture”. Finally, from the cultural perspective, human behavior is superficially compared to the reliability of technology. Blaming humans for not being like machines is just a symptom of current technology-centered culture. Given the complexity of today’s socio-technical systems, the challenge is to harmonize human and automation characteristics. The goal is not to make humans less prone to errors, but to make complex systems safer.
- Le fallacie argomentative tra logica e dialettica
Authors: Alberto Mura
Pages: 275 - 310
Abstract: This paper is about the so-called fallacies of reasoning, that is, those arguments that seem to be compelling but don’t. It is argued that, strictly speaking, the traditional distinction between formal and pragmatic fallacies is impossible. However, another distinction, here proposed, between origin and import of fallacies turns out to be useful for classificatory purposes. The origin of a fallacy is that property on which the fallacious character of an argument ultimately depends. That property is the same in all contexts in which the fallacy can take place. By contrast, the import of a fallacy is the set of consequences that it typically has in each context. Identifying the origin of fallacies not always is a simple undertaking. In that regard, petitio principii presents special difficulties. It will be offered a detailed critique of the traditional analysis of petitio principii. This critique is aimed at showing that there are two distinct fallacies, both called petitio principii in the literature, erroneously considered as identical. It will be shown that one of these fallacies, which occurs only in the context of axiomatic proof, is a special case of non sequitur fallacy. By contrast, the other fallacy, which occurs typically in the dialectical context, derives from the fact that the credibility of a proposition cannot grow through a circular argument. A Bayesian analysis of this fact is proposed.
- The Joy of Errors
Authors: Lynne Truss
Pages: 311 - 313
Abstract: The Joy of Errors