Language and Education in French cinema

Tonight’s Linguists at the Movies (@LinguistsMovies) screening is The Class/Entre Les Murs

As explained in an earlier post, the idea of Linguists at the Movies is that everyone who’s interested accesses a film, presses play at the same time and shares thoughts during or after viewing the film using the hashtag #LinguistsMovies. This week’s film is available to rent or buy on amazon prime in the UK.

Tonight’s screening begins at 7.30pm UK time and is hosted by Billy Clark. Here are some advance thoughts from Billy on the film:

. . .

We usually try to avoid spoilers for LinguistsMovies screenings. I’ll try to do that here.

The film is fascinating for lots of reasons, including its exploration of ideas about language, education, class and identity.

It’s an adaptation of a memoir called Entre les murs (the film’s French title) by François Bégaudeau, based on his own experiences as a teacher. Bégaudeau also co-authored the script and plays a version of himself, François Marin, in the film. Many of the parts in the film are played by people who were not professional actors when the film was shot, including most of the students in the school.

For me, the film was initially interesting as it dramatises classroom issues and problems the teacher and students get into as they work together in class. We see largely from the perspective of the teacher and watch things go wrong while naturally (for me at least) thinking about how we might behave in these situations. Most viewers will be critical of at least some of the things the characters (including the teacher Marin) do and of some of the school policies and procedures.

The school is a collège but I’m not sure exactly how old they are and what class they’re in. I think that they’re around 14 and that they will have one more year in the collège before they move up to lycée for the final three years of school. (If anybody knows for sure, please let me know at billy.clark@northumbria.ac.uk)

There have, of course, been lots of French films which are based in schools and explore, often criticially, ideas about French education. If you’d like to read more, one place to start is this article which discusses Entre les Murs and Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2004 film L’Esquive (‘The Dodge’) ( for historical linguists, esquive is related etymologically to the English word skive):

Strand, Dana. 2009. Être et Parler: Being and speaking French in Abdellatif Kechiche’s L’Esquive (2004) and Lauren Cantet’s Entre les murs. Studies in French Cinema 9.3: 259-272.

Strand’s article mentions several other films which came before this one, including Jean Vigo’s (1933) Zéro de Conduite (‘zero for behaviour’), François Truffaut’s (1959) Les 400 Coups (‘the four hundred blows’), Nicolas Philibert’s (2002) Être et Avoir )’to be and to have’) and Michaele Haneke’s (2005) Caché (‘hidden’) (I wrote about Caché myslf a few years ago). Strand focuses on ideas about language and links these to ideas from the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu who, as Strand points out, was very criticial of the French educational system.

There are other films you might think about while watching this one, including Mathieu Kassovitz’s (1995) La Haine (‘hatred’/’hate’) and Céline Sciamma’s (2014) Bande des Filles (‘Girlhood’).

I definitely recommend the film. For me it’s very engaging and moving in positive and negative ways.

There’s one much-discussed scene about the use of the (imperative) subjunctive but the film raises lots of issues about language and its social roles as well as some explicit discussion of lexical semantics and pragmatics and other things.

So please view along if you fancy it and share thoughts either with the hashtag #LinguistsMovies on twitter or in comments here.

Explaining Metonymy

We are looking forward to next week’s online Institute of Humanities research seminar.

Deirdre Wilson (University College London and Centre for the Study of Nature and Mind, Oslo) will be talking on ‘Explaining Metonymy’.

Deirdre is a leading figure in pragmatics and cognitive science. She is a co-founder, with Dan Sperber, of relevance theory, a very influential approach to cognition and communication which has since been applied in a wide range of areas.

The talk is at 16.10 UK time on Wednesday 17th of March.

All welcome.

Email billy.clark@northumbria.ac.uk for the link to join.

Here is an abstract for the talk:

Abstract

For two thousand years, figurative utterances such as metaphor, irony and metonymy have been seen as violations of a pragmatic rule, norm, or maxim of literal, plain speaking, and analysed in terms of arbitrary ‘transfer of meaning’ rules (e.g. ‘In irony, the literal meaning is replaced by its opposite’, ‘In metaphor, the literal meaning is replaced by a related simile or comparison’, or ‘In metonymy, the literal meaning is replaced by an associated attribute or adjunct’). Recently, attempts have been made to provide more explanatory accounts which shed light on why the same types of figurative utterances should arise in culture after culture. While some progress has been made with metaphor and irony, metonymy continues to present a serious challenge. Why should a rational speaker of (1)-(3) expect to be understood as referring to a patient, a customer or a group of people rather than a disease, a dish or a building, respectively, without the aid of arbitrary ‘transfer of meaning’ rules?

(1)       The appendicitis in bed 3 is threatening to write to the newspapers

(2)       Can you take the pepperoni pizza his glass of wine?

(3)       Buckingham Palace is refusing to comment.

In this talk, I will outline a new approach to metonymy (developed jointly with Ingrid Lossius Falkum) which may help to meet this challenge. On this approach, metonymy is a type of neologism, or word coinage, and is understood in exactly the same way as other types of word coinage, needing no special ‘transfer of meaning’ rules or mechanisms.

Language and Linguistics Seminars at Northumbria

We have an exciting line-up in our Language and Linguistics research seminar series this semester.

Like many others, we’ve been enjoying the opportunity to join seminars online and to welcome online visitors to our events this year.

All are welcome to these.

Email billy.clark@northumbria.ac.uk for more information.

We’ll let you know if there any additions to the programme,


Northumbria Language and Linguistics Research Seminars Semester 2 2020-2021

12/03/2021 – 16:00-17:00
Sarah Kelly – University College Dublin    
“Examining the linguistic properties of threatening communications”  

Click here to join the meeting 

17/03/2021 – 16:10-17:30 – Joint seminar with the Institute of Humanities
Deirdre Wilson – University College London
“Explaining Metonymy”  

Click here to join the meeting 

23/04/2021 – 16:00-16:45
Sameeha Al Ahmadi – Northumbria University
“The Effect of Gender on the Nativisation and Lexical Density of Tweets by Saudi Bloggers: A Corpus Based Study “ 

Click here to join the meeting 

30/04/2021 – 16:00-17:10
Kingsley Ugwuanyi  – Northumbria University
“Linguistic ownership among speakers of Nigerian English”, 

Judith Taylor – Northumbria University
“Evaluations, impressions, and affiliations; measuring language regard amongst gen-Z Geordies” 

Click here to join the meeting 

07/05/2021 – 16:00-17:00
Sarah Duffy – Northumbria University
“Winter is coming… or are we coming up to winter? An exploration of two contrasting perspectives on time”  

Click here to join the meeting 

19/05/2021 – 16:10-17:30  – Joint seminar with Institute of Humanities
Louise Pybus – Northumbria University
“Language, identity and the school curriculum: challenges and opportunities for students with EAL in rural secondary school contexts” 

Linguists at the Movies

During lockdown this summer, a few linguists (including Billy Clark from Northumbria) launched a twitter feed which we use to watch movies together and to comment on them during or after screening.

We announce the films and where they can be streamed or downloaded from in advance and then anybody who wants to join in presses ‘play’ at the same time.

The viewings are every second Monday at 7pm UK time.

Anybody can join us. There’s no need to be a linguist or a language researcher. And of course there’s no requirement to comment. We just watch a film at the same time and anybody who wants to comment can do so during or after the screening using the hashtag #LinguistsMovies

You can read more about the idea at our twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/LinguistsMovies

and there’s an article about it in Babel magazine here:

Linguists at the Movies in Babel magazine

There’s a review (by Billy) of one of the films we viewed earlier here:

Review of Bodied in Babel magazine

As you’ll see, this film was rated with 2.5 stars (out of 5) for quality and three ‘schwas’ for how its ‘linguistic credentials’.

Tonight (9 November 2020, 7pm UK time) we’ll be viewing Brief Encounter:

Brief Encounter on Linguists at the Movies

It’s an interesting film for lots of reasons, including some insight into language change from the accents and linguistic expressions used by the actors, and also evidence of changing social/cultural assumptions and behaviour (including assumptions about gender roles).

There’s a very interesting discussion by the linguist Paul Baker of the use of gradable adverbs (in this film and elsewhere) here:

Keep calm and use an adverb

Please join us and tell anybody else who you think might be interested!

Email Billy if you have any questions about it:

billy.clark@northumbria.ac.uk

English Graduate Success Stories

Several of us are excited to be up early to talk to potential students in Clearing this morning.

While waiting for the calls to begin, we’re enjoying reading English graduate stories which are being shared with our colleague @ProfKatyShaw on twitter:

If you’re interested in talking to us about a possible place our Clearing Hotline number is 0800 085 1085

Fiona Shaw: ‘Outwalkers’, ‘Tell It To The Bees’ and Yaddo

 

fionashaw

We are delighted that our colleague Fiona Shaw has been nominated for 2019 CILIP Carnegie Medal for her novel Outwalkers  You can find the full list of nominations here

To add to this, Fiona has also been awarded a month’s residency at the prestigious Yaddo artists’ retreat, whose prior residents have included James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Katherine Anne Porter and Jeffrey Eugenideshttps://www.yaddo.org/about/history/

tellittothebees

Meanwhile, the film version of Fiona’s novel Tell It To The Bees has been appearing at festivals, including at Cannes and the Toronto film festival

We are very happy about this well-deserved recognition of Fiona’s work

Induction, quizzing and the new year

 

We’ve had a great start to the new academic year. Lots of lovely and lively students joined us during induction week. Here are some photos from the Humanities Induction Quiz which was great fun.

We were impressed by the general and specific knowledge of the students, and especially by the incredibly high scoring winning team.  Here they are already enjoying their weetabix (other cereals and food groups are available):

quiz 3

We’re looking forward to working with our new and returning students this year!

From Private to Public Exposure: Portraits, Prints and the Royal Mistress

Dr. Claudine van Hensbergen will be giving a public lecture at Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery on Wednesday 7th November.

This talk is inspired by Exposed: The Naked Portrait exhibition.

mw204602
Nell Gwyn, attributed to Simon Verelst. NPG L248.

Simon Verelst’s portrait of Nell Gwyn (c. 1670) is one of a number the artist produced of Charles II’s most famous mistress. Nell looks out at us from the canvas, meeting the viewer’s eye with a seductive gaze. The tone of the milky pearls strewn in her loosely-flowing locks echoes the creamy skin of her exposed torso. Nell turns slightly from us, in a teasing gesture that suggests she has just wriggled free of her nightshirt for the viewer’s benefit. Yet how daring, or unique, was this portrait? And how widespread was its influence? This talk answers these questions by exploring portraiture of the mistresses of Charles II, tracing how many of these images became products for public consumption through the new technology of mezzotint engraving. England’s developing print culture, which also made numerous literary treatments of the mistress available to a growing readership, fed a cultural fascination with these women and gave them the status of early celebrities.

Claudine van Hensbergen is Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century English Literature at Northumbria University. She is close to completing a new book, Reading the Royal Mistress: Women in Print, 1660-1735, and specialises in the literary and visual culture of Britain at the turn of the eighteenth century.

For more details and booking information please visit the Laing’s website here.

The language of the lake

alexbellosUrosimage

Today’s puzzle from Alex Bellos in The Guardian requires a range of skills which can be developed in English Language programmes (and in other subjects, including maths).

As Alex says, today’s puzzle is ‘hard, but not impossible’. He also suggests that working on puzzles like this can help you develop the skills needed to find a job with technology firms such as google. That suggestions is based on this article by Sam Gibbs in which he reports thoughts from google’s head of search, Ben Gomes.

Alex’s puzzle is one that has been used in the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad, one of several linguistics olympiads held around the world which then select teams to enter the International Linguistics Olympiad. The UK Linguistics Olympiad has been  very successful with lots of school students taking part each year.

You have until 5pm UK time today to solve it before Alex reveals the answer . . .

 

Character to Caricature

charactertocaricature.png

Character to Caricature 1660 to 1850 is a one-day conference organised by Northumbria Postgraduate student Montana Davies-Shuck (Northumbria) and Jenny Buckley (York).

It takes place in the Institute of Humanities at Northumbria on the 3rd of September 2018.

The keynote speaker is Elaine McGirr (Bristol).

You can find full details of the programme at:

@Character2018 or http://www.character2018.wordpress.com/

It should be a great day!