N is for New Information

N is for New Information


Screenshot of front pages of papers

Definition

New information is information that is assumed by the speaker not

  • to be known to or assumed by the addressee, or
  • previously established in the discourse.

Discussion

New information typically

  • is placed late in the sentence, and
  • has a high amount of stress placed on the words representing it.

Examples (English)

In the following exchange, the stressed words are new information:

A: Do you know where my SHOES are?
B: I put them in the CLOSET.

Source

http://www.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsNewInformation.htm

As you can see, the new information becomes OLD information in the second utterance and the NEW information in the response provides additional facts or responds to the new information in the previous utterance.

New information and pronunciation

This high stress placement on the new information is usually called nuclear or tonic stress and marks information which is new or contrasted with information presented in a previous utterance or, simply, adds to or builds on that information.

Lack of such stress placement makes utterances difficult to follow a speaker (whether native or non native) and is a typical problem is foreign learner (and teacher) talk.

In terms of a hypothetical acquisition order of phonological features along the cline between unintelligible and with native like phonological competencies, stress placement seems to be a late acquisition item along with segmentation and catenation.

Thinking Task

Here is the transcript from a clip from the  “Yes, Prime Minister” TV series

It’s a series of aphorisms, which the PM delivers about British newspapers. Read through them and try to predict which parts of each utterance will be delivered with low stress (given information at that particular stage in the discourse) and which particular words will receive high/tonic/nunclear stress (New Information) 

 

Prime Minister:

“The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country,

the Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country.

the Times is read by people who actually do run the country.

the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country.

The Financial Times is read by people who own the country, 

the Morning Star is ready by people who think the country ought to be run by another country, 

and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.”

Second speaker:

“Well, Prime Minister, and what about the people who read the Sun?”

Secretary(?):

“The Sun readers don’t care who runs the country as long as she’s got big t***.”

 

Now Scroll down please to listen to how these lines were actually delivered – listen from 1:04

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Teaching the feature

I usually do this as a whole lesson on newspapers, part of which has to do with genre and features of different newspaper styles.

If you would like to use this in a lesson you might like to consider this procedure:

Lesson Outline

  1. Lead in with a brief chat about newspapers in the students’ native language. How many are there and what kind are they; what/who do they represent.  What paper do they read, if at all.
  2. Give them a handout with the aphorisms above but with the names of papers blanked out – depending on the local culture you might wish to omit the last one with the asterisked bits.
  3. Ss read and decide which of their local papers fit the descriptions – they can insert the names and practice reading them aloud
  4. Ask them to decide which word(s) in each sentence receive(s) the highest, most prominent stress
  5. Ask them to practice reading the sentences aloud in pairs or groups
  6. Then give them names of English newspapers and they can decide where they fit in
  7. Get them to listen to the video and fill in the names first then listen and mark the stress – check if they were right
  8. Last, ask them to read out their views of their own local papers and assign correct stress.

If you like, they can then add or change some of the aphorisms as they please.

This can be followed by more focused work on the lexical, grammatical and textual features of these papers.

 

 

Books on Discourse Analysis

Brown, G., & Yule, G., 1983, Discourse Analysis, Cambridge University Press

Johnstone, B., 2003, Discourse Analysis, Blackwell

McCarthy, M. 1991, Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers, Cambridge University Press

Partridge, B., 2006, Discourse Analysis – an Introduction,  Continuum International

Thornbury, S., 2005, Beyond the Sentence, Macmillan Education

 

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Demand High ELT – is it really something new?

The concept of ‘demand high ELT’ was first introduced at IATEFL Glasgow in 2012 in a talk by Jim Scrivener, in which he told the story of the long conversations with Adrian Underhill and how they both felt that they needed to redefine or reshape their beliefs/ideas in terms of good ELT practice.

Here are his slides from that talk

Here you can watch a recent presentation by Jim Scrivener himself at the IH DOS conference in 2013
Here is also a link to an article in the Guardian Weekly in which they explain all

As expected when speakers/authors of their calibre come up with some new claim, there was a lot of interest in the whole notion/angle, and the talk has been repeated since several times at conferences around the world.

Jim Scrivener & Adrian Underhill also created a related blog – Demand High ELT  in which they post news, observation tasks and slides or interview and posts.

An interesting post which went up recently looks at demand high ELT as a possible topic for a Module 2 Experimental Assignment – part of your PDA.

Here is the title with the link Doing Delta Module Two? Could Demand-High be your Alternative Practice?

#ELTchat discussion on this topic

Recently, on the 16th of January, I moderated an #ELTchat discussion on Twitter with the title

“How does Demand High Teaching differ from Dogme (if at all)” 

The discussion was quite lively and joined even by Jim Scrivener himself – you can read the transcript of our conversation here  and Carolyn Kerr’s great summary here

Demand High and Dogme – brothers in arms or distant cousins?

Everyone, including Mr Scrivener, was pretty thrilled with the attention to DHELT and Carolyn’s summary was also featured in the DHELT blog by the two authors.

An #ELTchat summary is, of course, always useful to read but, oftentimes, may also reflect the writer’s attitude, so it’s a good idea to have a look at the actual tweets

Enter Jeremy Harmer

Today Jeremy Harmer published a blog post which has had the blogosphere wondering if there will be a tiif or what….

Title

Does reading (and learning a language) require two brains?

Jeremy reports some research which found different parts of the brain active during pleasure reading and language work and started off a discussion which goes into Krashen and further questions a number of things, amongst which demand high ELT which he calls ‘somewhat ramshackle’ …. hmm

I am not sure the research Jeremy quotes has much to do with whether language analysis or conscious learning is more or less effective than pleasure reading; he seems to think it does prove something – but there your are, this is what the discussion is all about.

Comments have already been added by Scott Thornbury and others, and, soon, I expect, by Jim Scrivener who very humorously put out the following tweettweet

What do YOU think?

We can discuss Mr Harmer’s claim about this research in a different post/thread, but for now, I would like you to reflect on demand high ELT.

Do you think it a new approach?

Do you think it’s something worth considering?

Is it a new method?

Is it a new attitude?

Have you noticed any ‘demand low ELT’ in your locale?

Please add your comments below

 

Related Posts

https://canlloparot.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/demand-high-another-dud-product/

http://www.mikejharrison.com/2015/02/beware-spreading-good-word-elt/

https://cgoodey.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/the-way/