Re: [xmca] When Ancillarity is Constitutive in Writing Activity

From: MARK DE BOER <mark who-is-at>
Date: Thu Oct 04 2007 - 16:03:02 PDT


I don't know if you have seen this or not, but this is Steven
Pinker's presentation at the TED conference July 2005.

You wrote 'The question of how we do things with words is fascinating
to me' - caught my eye.


On Oct 5, 19 Heisei, at 4:18 AM, Ann Feldman wrote:

> Hello all: I've been enjoying the conversation thus far. I want to
> contribute my current thinking about the difficulty of the
> ancillary and
> constitutive distinction. I direct a first-year writing program and a
> writing-based civic engagement program as well here at UIC. We face
> the
> challenge daily of asking students to pay attention to the context
> of their
> discoursing ( in much the same way as Gordon works) as participants in
> situated practices. We see genre as a nexus between the
> social/historical/economic/ideologically driven context and the
> emerging
> text. Discoursing (although we may not use the term) is a key
> activity for
> transforming a situation or advocating for a particular reality.
> Austin's distinction between performative discoursing (saying "I
> do" during
> a marriage ceremony) and illocutionary discoursing (instrumental
> uses of
> language to accomplish tasks) at first seem to offer a way to
> categorize
> "ways to do things with words," but upon further study seem to
> illustrate
> the instability of the distinction.
> This question of how we do things with words is fascinating to me.
> I am
> particularly interested in a certain kind of classroom discoursing
> that is
> commonly called reflection. Teachers ask students to examine an
> experience
> by writing about it. In composition classes this sort of
> discoursing may be
> aimed at producing a literacy narrative and in service learning
> classes it
> may be aimed at producing an account of learning that emerged from a
> community-based experience.
> Most teachers assign reflections because they see them as a way to
> do things
> with words, but are they? When we examine the classroom as an activity
> system (as do David Russell, Anis Bawarshi, and Charles Bazerman,
> my writing
> colleagues) we see how reflection gains power because it occurs in a
> "naturalized" classroom in which the layers of context we expect
> from any
> activity system are ignored. The student is constructed as a
> speaker who can
> do two things simultaneously -- reflect on an experience and deliver
> evidence of learning to the teacher. Reflection assignments often
> blur this
> crucial distinction, giving students a diminished view of the way
> writing
> can work in particular contexts outside of classrooms. Discoursing
> (or doing
> things with words) then engages * both* ancillary and constitutive
> goals for
> language, which does not help students learn how writing works as a
> tool for
> mediation. (In rhetorical terms we would say a way to advocate for
> particular realities.) When all writing is seen by students to
> demonstrate
> learning to the teacher, this goal takes over and subverts other
> goals that
> can demonstrate the power of writing to intervene in non-classroom
> situations.
> I'm really pleased that Gordon has gotten us involved in this
> important
> conversation because language is too often viewed as a conveyor
> belt for an
> activity's goals and we need to own up to how complex such
> situations really
> are. All the best, Ann
> Ann M. Feldman
> Associate Professor of English
> Great Cities Scholar
> Director, First-Year Writing Program
> Director, Chicago Civic Leadership Certificate Program
> 2001 University Hall
> Department of English (MC 162)
> University of Illinois at Chicago
> 601 S. Morgan St.
> Chicago, IL 60607
> (312) 413-2249
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:xmca-
>] On
> Behalf Of David Kellogg
> Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2007 3:27 AM
> To: xcma
> Subject: [xmca] When Ancillarity is Constitutive
> Mark:
> Wilkins, the grand old man of communicative language teaching,
> noted that
> the "distinction" between form and meaning in language is highly
> interesting
> to linguists but unsustainable by teachers or learners.
> In Ellis' 2003 "Task Based Learning and Teaching", the author
> starts out
> by saying that tasks are "pieces of work" where the principle focus
> is on
> MEANING (I don't like the word "work" applied to children, but
> we'll leave
> it there for the moment). "Exercises", in contrast, are pieces of
> work where
> the principle focus is on FORM.
> Then he gives us this:
> ¡°Indicate whether the following sentences are grammatical or
> ungrammatical:
> They saved Mark a seat.
> His father read Kim a story.
> She donated the hospital some money.
> They suggested Mary a trip on the river. (Ellis, 2003: 164)¡±
> Mark is neither here nor there, Kim's story is unread, because
> his father
> never had a son, the hospital is not only destitute but
> nonexistant, and
> neither suggestion nor trip will ever take place. Yet this is,
> according to
> Ellis, a task (he calls it a "consciousness raising task") because
> the kids
> are going to use language to talk about it.
> Here's the paradox. If they focus on the MEANING of the task,
> they will
> talk about grammatical form. It is, therefore, no task, but merely an
> exercise, because the focus is on form. But if they are focussing
> on form,
> that is indeed the intended content of the exercise, and it is,
> therefore,
> no mere exercise, but a bona fide task.
> Russell says: in a certain village, there is a barber who shaves
> every man
> who does not shave himself. If said barber doth shave himself, then
> he must
> not shave himself. But if he does not shave himself, than he must
> shave
> himself betimes.
> When Ellis was here in Seoul, I asked him if ANY teaching English
> through
> Englsh could be considered "task based". Not so surprisingly, he
> said "yes".
> Think a minute what this means for non-native teachers!
> Children and teachers HAVE to shuttle between form and meaning.
> Sometimes
> form is "ancillary" and sometimes its "constitutive", and sometimes
> meaning
> is "ancillary" and sometimes its "constitutive".
> But perhaps a better way of expressing this is that people
> shuttle between
> "ancillary" and "constitutive", and the distinction, while highly
> interesting to linguists, is not sustainable in practice.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> ---------------------------------
> Check out the hottest 2008 models today at Yahoo! Autos.
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list
Received on Thu Oct 4 16:08 PDT 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Nov 20 2007 - 14:25:43 PST