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Source: University of Waikato

Two University of Waikato senior linguistics lecturers recently celebrated book launches.

Dr Andreea Calude’s Questions About Language – What Everyone Should Know about Language in the 21st Century came about rather unexpectedly, as Dr Calude got in touch with her co-author, Victoria University of Wellington’s Professor Laurie Bauer, for a different reason altogether.

Dr Calude and Professor Bauer are linguists from very different generations, but share the unique link of having both their PhDs supervised by Professor Jim Miller – Professor Bauer being the first student whose PhD Professor Miller supervised, and Dr Calude the last.

Covering core questions about language, Dr Calude and Professor Bauer’s book consists of twelve short chapters of essential reading for anyone with an interest in linguistics, with no background knowledge of the subject required.  It sets out to answer a series of new and exciting questions about language in an easy to understand way.

Sixteen language experts from across the world were contacted to answer a series of challenging questions, from ‘what makes a language a language?’, to ‘do people swear because they don’t know enough words?’ As a collaborative effort, the book was written and published in less than a year.

Dr Calude has a background in mathematics and linguistics and researches (spoken) grammar, language evolution, loanwords and just about any quantitative language-related questions she can get data on. She also authored the TED ED lesson “Does Grammar Matter?”, which has received more than 1.5 million hits.

“Writing a book about language for a popular audience is a great privilege. I hope it inspires new generations of young linguistics scholars to pursue fresh questions about language themselves, because, as we write in the book, language is everyone’s business”, she says.

Dr Calude’s co-author is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and an Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington.  He says working with Dr Calude has been inspirational in terms of writing for a lay audience.

“People might not realise how much work goes into finding suitable topics for both readers and authors, and suitable people to write the material. Most of us are not used to writing for the general public – we tend to write for each other – and it is a very different challenge.”

Another book launched by a University of Waikato senior linguistics lecturer at the same time, Expressing Critical Thinking through Disciplinary Texts by Dr Ian Bruce, investigates the specific linguistic elements involved in the process of exploring how critical thinking is expressed in writing.

Drawing on five studies to examine the similarities and differences in the linguistic elements deployed across different genres, Dr Bruce took a genre-based approach to comparing the textual expression of critical thinking in samples of academic, professional and journalistic writing.

His book highlights the most important contributory factors in the expression of critical thinking, looking at phenomena such as the link between propositions and words which express the writer’s personal attitude, patterns of organising content, and the role of metaphor.

Providing an in-depth examination of how critical thinking is communicated through different types of specialist writing, Dr Bruce hopes the book may help to provide a more grounded approach to writing pedagogy as well as paving the way for further research.

“It represents a shift in focus on critical thinking, from being centred on general principles of logical reasoning and argumentation, to the use of genre analysis to explore how it is constructed through the texts of different disciplines.”

As an applied linguist, Dr Bruce researches academic, professional and journalistic genres of writing and has a number of publications in this area. His research of academic genres aims to inform academic literacy education.

He is currently a visiting academic, working on a range of projects in collaboration with staff in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies at the University of Leeds.