What We Can Learn from “Bad English"

What We Can Learn from "Bad English"
Elizabeth Peterson, PhD
University of Helsinki

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About the Presentation

Why is it that some ways of using a language are considered “good” and some are considered “bad”? Why are certain forms of language considered elegant, eloquent, or refined, whereas other use of language is considered uneducated, coarse, or inappropriate? Dr. Peterson will preview her upcoming book‘Bad English’: An introduction to language attitudes and ideologies , expected from Routledge in 2018.This book first gives an overview of language attitudes and the rise of ideologies about the correct use of English. It then talks about real-life consequences of these perceptions about language use, as well as some of the benefits of using a “bad” variety of English. Finally, the book gives an overview of some of the linguistic features of these varieties, including African American English, Indian English, children’s English, learner’s English, and English as a Lingua Franca. The reader learns that many of the supposedly “bad” features are common across varieties. Is it the case, then, that these aspects of English are “bad,” or is it just our views of them that are? Features that are unique to a particular variety, on the other hand, tell a story about the history of the variety or about the social settings in which it is used. This book weaves together themes that are familiar in sociolinguistics, with the aim of making them relevant and immediate to users of English in a global setting, presenting the ideologies and discrimination that characterize the many varieties that are used locally and globally. Using the language situation in Finland as a launchpad, this book lifts the varieties of English in its "home" countries and around the world up to scrutiny, informing readers how to distinguish the social facts from linguistic facts of this language that seems on the tip of so many tongues. 

About the Presenter

Elizabeth Peterson is a University Lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Helsinki, where she teaches courses on global varieties of English, dialects of English, sociolinguistics and pragmatics.

Elizabeth’s research focuses primarily language contact. She investigates the relationship of English with various recipient languages, including Finnish and Swedish. She is currently co-editing a volume on language contact with English, featuring submissions that deal with nine different languages from the European continent. In addition to her work on English as a contact language, she has worked on the loss of heritage Danish in a Mormon community in Utah. Her work in Utah has entailed sociolinguistic fieldwork, especially interviews with elderly “rememberers.” She is particularly interested in discourse pragmatic variation in contact settings, and has been responsible for leading research on borrowings such as pliis ‘please’ and jees  ‘yes, fine’ in Finnish. At present, she supervises PhDs on language revival, language and gender, pragmatic variation and English as a lingua franca, in addition to several MA theses on language contact and the role of English in Finland.

Elizabeth is on the steering committee of the Discourse Pragmatic Variation and Change (DiPVaC) research network, whose fourth conference she will host in 2018. She is also a founding member of the Global Anglicisms Database (GLAD) Network, a research organization that tracks and investigates English borrowings into worldwide languages. Her upcoming book, ‘Bad English’: An introduction to language attitudes and ideologies, is expected from Routledge in 2018. She will be a visiting scholar at North Carolina State University in 2017 while she works on this monograph.

Her PhD is from the Department of General Linguistics at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she minored in Central Eurasian Studies (Finnish). Her dissertation was on pragmatic variation in Finnish. She has worked at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC, and as a University Lecturer at Joensuu University (now the University of Eastern Finland) and the University of Jyväskylä. She worked as a journalist in Salt Lake City, Utah, before entering academia.