It’s language, stupid! (New book by Michael Cribb.)

Ever thought there might be something missing from our understanding of the universe? Ever thought there may be some extra dimension curled up, hidden away right in front of us? What if language was that dimension, a fifth dimension in the fabric of the universe which unfurls itself whenever we think, speak or write?

Continue reading “It’s language, stupid! (New book by Michael Cribb.)”

Tone unit – worked example (L2)

When we speak, we tend to speak in ‘chunks’ – small groups of words. Each chunk has its own change in intonation and there is usually a brief pause before the next chunk. We call these chunks ‘tone units’ and these units appears to be one of the basic building blocks of speech. A tone unit is the minimum unit of speech which can carry intonation. It is typically a few words in length but can be a single word or syllable. Other terms for this unit are ‘intonational unit’ or ‘foot group’.

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Use of pitch range

When making an oral presentation, a skilled presenter will use the full pitch range in order to structure and segment their monologue. Pitch can be useful in a presentation to highlight, among other things, the division of the talk into spoken paragraphs (paratones). Less skilled presenters often use a narrower pitch range which gives them less headroom in which to show these divisions.

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Tone in Chinese

Chinese (Mandarin) has four different tones numbered 1 to 4: high level, rising, fall-rise and falling. These tones are often shown on the top of the vowel in the Pinyin systems for writing Chinese (eg. mā to indicate high level tone).


Tone in Chinese has a lexical function in that it can change the meaning of the word. (Unlike English where tone usually only shows attitude). So for example, the word ‘ma’ can actually have four different meanings depending on the tone that it is uttered with. Continue reading “Tone in Chinese”


Structure of the Clause

What is a clause?

All languages are able to talk about ‘things’. That is, we can talk about things such as dogs, chairs, democracy, etc. And all languages are able to say what happened to these things or what state they are in. That is, we can say something is barking, are broken, is vital. Thus at the heart of language we have a system which consists of things that we talk about (the subject) and states or actions that we ascribe to the thing (the predicate). Continue reading “Clauses”


Punctuation is the use of small typographical symbols ( .  , ; :  ) to segment and conjoin textual items at the morphological, lexical, phrasal and clausal level. Grammar is enabled through good punctuation and punctuation is mollified with correct grammar. Hence punctuation is an important part of writing, and teachers should be aware of the punctuation conventions in English so that they can teach these in class. Continue reading “Punctuation”

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