Special sessions at LAGB meetings:

Linguistics at school 


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last revised 13 July 2013

These meetings take place between 2.00 and 4.00 in the second or third afternoon of a regular LAGB meetin. Unlike all other parts of LAGB conferences, they are open to all without payment of the usual conference fee.

For more information about the conference venue - e.g. how to get there - see the second circular for the conference on the LAGB web site or on the site indicated below.

Historical note: This series of meetings, under the aegis of the Education Committee, followed an earlier series called the 'Educational Linguistics section', which was started in September 1983.

21. Towards an A-level in linguistics? (29 August 2013, SOAS)

We think it's time to revisit the possibility of launching an A-level exam in Linguistics. Since our previous discussion of this issue in 2005, a lot has happened - A-levels are under review, the exam in English Language has continued to thrive, foreign languages have continued to decline, new A-levels have been launched in comparable subjects (Creative Writing and Anthropology) and, most important of all, the UK Linguistics Olympiad has revealed an enormous untapped enthusiasm in our schools for analysis of language structure, with 3,000 entries in 2013. This olympiad joins the established competitions in STEM subjects such as Maths and Physics, but, uniquely, our subject is not yet part of the school curriculum. Is the world ready for an A-level in linguistics? If so, what steps do we need to take to introduce it? And what would it consist of? These are some of the questions that face us.

Planned speakers include:

The Chair will be Graeme Trousdale (Edinburgh).

20. Grammatical terminology (6 September 2012, Salford)

The session will be devoted to the following question:

Is a unified terminology possible for grammar?

It will consider variation in terminology both across theories and also across object languages, and will consider it from two points of view: academic and pedagogical. Our research may push us towards diversity of terminology because categories in different languages and different theories are fundamentally incommensurable; but pedagogy calls for a unified terminology, whether at undergraduate level or in the schools (where grammatical analysis is now firmly embedded in the curriculum). Can the needs of research be reconciled with those of pedagogy? And is there a role for the LAGB, e.g. in commissioning a project on grammatical terminology for schools? (See the historical note below for background to the discussion.)

Speakers (both from the Department of Linguistics and English Language, Manchester):

Chair: Dick Hudson - powerpoint slides

Historical note: This isn't a new issue!! Henry VIII worried (and legislated) about the confusing terminology of grammar; and our meeting will (almost) mark the centenary of the publication (in 1911) of the report of the 'Joint Committee on Grammatical Terminology' which promoted a unified terminology. This project divided academic linguists, with Sonnenschein on one side and Jespersen on the other, and its failure probably hastened the death of grammar in both universities and schools. (For more details, click here.) A hundred years later, can we do better? The immediate context is a draft curriculum for primary English which you can download here, and which includes a grammar glossary which is separately available here.

Practical information: TRAVEL & ARRIVAL General travel information can be found at . A campus map is available for download at . The event takes places in the Lady Hale Building (building 35 on the map) (M5 4WT). BY TRAIN: The easiest way to reach us is to take a train to Salford Crescent station. From Salford Crescent station, please walk up the ramp, turn left and left again, take the second exit at the roundabout and walk straight ahead for about 300 metres to the Lady Hale Building. BY CAR: Please follow the directions provided on the URLs above. There is free (but rare) parking on Hulme Street which runs parallel to The Crescent (A6) in Salford. Alternatively, you're advised to park your car in Irwell Place car park, located off The Crescent (A6) and only a short walking distance from the Lady Hale Building. You can drive directly on Irwell Place car park but will need a £4 parking token to exit. Parking tokens can be purchased at the registration desk in the Lady Hale Building. From Irwell Car Park, please make your way back to The Crescent (A6), cross the road at the traffic lights, walk past the Maxwell Building and Sallford Museum (on your right), walk down a little path and across a small car park towards a red-brick building, walk past this building and you'll see Lady Hale.

19. The UK Linguistics Olympiad (9 September 2011, Manchester) - where?

The session will be devoted to the UK Linguistics Olympiad (a competition in which school children solve linguistics data problems). The speakers will be:

  • A school teacher's perspective: Neil Sheldon (Manchester Grammar School)
  • A school student's perspective: Nathan Somers (member of the UK team 2010)
  • An HE perspective: Jeanine Treffers-Daller (Reading University and chair of the LLAS SAG on linguistics)

The discussion will cover all aspects of these olympiads, including their implications for the future of linguistics in schools.


18. Corpora in teaching (3 September 2010, Leeds)

The discussion will address the use of corpora in teaching at both school and university level. The speakers will be:

17. Typology for schools (7 September 2009, Edinburgh)


The speakers will present topics and materials that might be used in schools.

16 Foreign languages: changes at school (and university?) (12 September 2008, University of Essex, Colchester)

How changes in primary and secondary education will affect future undergraduates, and how universities can help. The speakers will be:

Note: Exceptionally, this session will end formally at 3.20 because of a conflicting item in a parallel session, but those who wish to will be able to continue the discussion till 4.00.

15 Talking to schools (31 August 2007, Kings College London)

How do linguists in HE talk to teachers and students in schools?

14. How can linguists help schools? (1 September 2006, Newcastle)

More specifically, how can linguists help by providing material for use by teachers? Speakers will be:

13. An A-level in Linguistics? (1 September 2005, Cambridge)

Presentation from Subject Centre Special Interest Group on Language at School. (A similar presentation will be given at the Institute of Education, London, 2.30-4.00 on Oct 26th 2005.)

12. Teaching linguistics to students of Modern Languages (31 August 2004, Roehampton)


  • Paul Rowlett (University of Salford) - handout
  • Florence Myles (University of Southampton) - powerpoint

11. A-Level English language (5 September 2003, Oxford)


  • Tim Shortis (Chief Examiner, AQA English Language Board and University of Bristol School of Education): What A Level Language students are bringing with them to Higher Education.
    This talk explained the structure of the new AS and A2 A Level Level courses following the revisions made to GCE in 2000. It outlined the the numbers following courses in Language, the six module structure and the assessment objectives. It noted some of the continuity and progression issues relating to GCSE and to Higher Education
  • Andrew Moore (School Improvement Service of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council) : Linguistics in schools - A-level English language: is it broken and can we fix it? complete paper

10. Community languages (15 April 2003, Sheffield)

Chair: Anthea Fraser Gupta


    • Mahendra Verma (University of York)
    • Mike Reynolds (University of Sheffield and Sheffield Multilingual Forum)
    • Urdu in Sheffield - (download paper)

    • Arvind Bhatt (Crown Hill Community College, Leicester).

9. Why education needs linguistics (2.00-4.00, 18 September 2002, UMIST)

Dick Hudson will lead a discussion of the various contributions that linguistics can make to school-level education, and also of the ways in which linguistics stands to gain from this link.

8. Linguistics in teacher education (10 April 2002, Edge Hill College)

7. Why are the British such poor language learners? (5 September 2001, University of Reading)

  • Chair: Richard Hudson (UCL & LAGB Education Committee)
  • Speakers:
    • Mike Reynolds (University of Sheffield): Sociolinguistic issues (view abstract or download full paper)
    • Rosamond Mitchell (University of Southampton): Pedagogic issues (view abstract)
    • Peter Downes (Nuffield Languages Inquiry): Institutional issues (view abstract)

6. Phonics and accents of English (April 2001, University of Leeds)

5. Grammar teaching and the development of writing skills (September 2000, University of Durham)

  • Chair: Anthea Fraser Gupta (University Leeds & LAGB Education Committee)
  • Speakers:
    • Geoff Barton (Thurston Community College, Suffolk): A view from a secondary school
    • Jim Crinson (Collingwood Primary School, North Shields): A view from a primary school
    • Raphael Salkie (School of Languages, University of Brighton): A view from teacher training 

4. The National Literacy Strategy (April 2000, UCL)

  • Chair: Richard Hudson (UCL & LAGB Education Committee)
  • Speakers:
    • Paul Higgins (DfEE)
    • Molly Sayer (University of Manchester) 

 3. English language A-levels (September 1999, University of York)

 2. The National Curriculum for English: a place for linguists? (April 1999, The University of Manchester)

1. Language issues in the school curriculum: an overview (September 1998, University of Luton)

Speaker: Dick Hudson (University College London)

The Educational Linguistics Section

This section organised the following discussions at regular LAGB conferences:

  • March 1991: Assessing speaking and listening. (panel: Maggie MacLure, Gillian Brown, Joan Swann)
  • September 1986: How homogeneous is the grammar of British English? (panel: John Harris, Jim Miller, Mark Sebba)
  • April 1986: The synchronic organization of English spelling. (panel: Gillian Brown, Ted Carney, Richard Coates; chair: Mike Stubbs)
  • September 1984: Language and sexism
  • April 1984: Higher level differences between speech and writing.
  • September 1983: Linguistic equality (speakers: Margaret Deuchar, Dick Leith, Jim Milroy)

The discussions are reported in papers in the CLIE Working Papers series, which also list the (many) speakers who contributed to the discussion.


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