An Ethnographic/sociolinguistic approach to language by Charlene Rivera

By Charlene Rivera

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Sample text

Thus, a child who uses a somewhat montonous rising tone at the end of each clause, as in one of the examples given earlier, is not necessarily incapable of other kinds of prosodic modulation in a task of this kind, but may well be interpreting the task as a test of his or her ability to identify and describe what he or she sees in each picture as the page is turned.  Children who do not appear proficient are then observed in the classroom by teachers who have been trained in the rudiments of ethnographic observation, and who are familiar with the criteria used to assess the discourse samples.

Factors such as the student's specificity of topic, Page 17 provision of background information and explicitness of interclausal relations would then be related to whether or not the teacher understood the point that the student was making and was able to respond to what the student was saying.  They allowed a listener to follow the story line without constant reference to the picture book, and made inferences which explained the meaning or point of the events from the perspective of the characters in the story itself.

Exhaustive descriptions of given stretches of discourse employing highly refined tools of analysis may not always be practicable in applied settings.  Alternative structural descriptions are often possible, each with different consequences for the understanding of the nature of the discourse. Third, there is the problem of making a connection between structural analyses, interpretations, and the uses to which these analyses and interpretations may be put.  In the area of language proficiency assessment, the political implications of how language proficiency is to be defined, and of how this definition is to be related to structural and linguistic analyses, are in fact present from the very beginning of the analysis.

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