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Literacy Practices Contain Elements English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 2219 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In this essay I will attempt to give some of my own examples of literary practices and why I consider them to be creative, linking them to examples from the study material and where relevant build on my knowledge of Carter and make reference to a few of his ideas and theories and weigh them out in said discussion.

I shall start off by first explaining what literacy practices are and where we can find them and conclude by giving some examples of my own personal experience.

Literacy practices is the way in which people interact with texts and the meanings these hold for them and how these are tied up with individual identity, personal relationships, community membership, religious practices and political manoeuvring. They are influenced by affordances and constraints with technological and socio-historical/cultural factors. These will change and shift as part of technological advances and changes in the social world e.g. in the recognition of social space in households (Cruickshank 2001).

Some examples of literacy domains are home, work and social networks and examples of literacy practices are letter reading, filing, writing, diary writing, list making, newspaper reading and even filling a lottery slip.

A further relevant term named multiple literacy i.e. is a diverse range of competences which include text literacy, media literacy, information literacy, computer literacy, visual literacy, multicultural literacy, emotional literacy, etc.

The essay will also show that creativity is dependent and emergent from the creative literacy practices through which texts are constructed and that the way such a text is read is also considered creativity. There are several examples of literary creativity in everyday life.

However I shall mostly be using my own examples and explaining why I find them literary and/or creative.

An autobiography is something that most of us think of as “creative writing” because it is a memory of somebody’s past life. One writes about these memories perhaps first by writing letters, then a short story until eventually it emerges into a fully fledge book of its own.

But literacy doesn’t necessarily have to be a word; it might as well be a sign that we associate something with, like a McDonald’s or restaurant sign which children will instantly associate it with.

This so-called understanding of “environmental print” is recognised by children long before individual letters are known, so a child will recognize a McDonald’s burger bar sign much earlier before it can actually read the word as a whole. This phenomenon is called “emergent literacy” and children will notice words, colours, signs, and numbers and gradually begin to recognise their true meaning and start to experiment by copying or trying to describe them on a piece of paper with coloured pens, etc.

Carter (1999) identified three models of literariness:

The inherency model, which embeds particular properties of language. Literary language is regarded distinct from more practical uses of language which highlights language itself.

The socio-cultural model views literariness as socially and culturally determined, e.g. drawing attention that conceptions of literature will vary historically and culturally. Eagleton (1996) “There is nothing distinctive about literary language; any text can be seen as literature if it is defined as such.”

And finally, the cognitive model, which relates literary language to mental processes.

“Linguistic repetition derives from a basic human drive to repeat and is a kind of cognitive argument”, (Tannen 1989) whereas Cook (1994:4) believes that literary texts have an effect on the mind and help us to think in new ways and refresh and change our representations of the world.

Gibbs (1994) states human language and human understanding often are metaphorical and that literary metaphor will carry on and extend everyday metaphorical notions.

Carter believes creativity” is commonly regarded as a process that will result in solution or identification of problems, usually a result of a process of divergent and innovative thinking. (Carter, 2008. p.48)

The answer to where we find creativity in language is a broad expression in my opinion, because there are so many places where we would find language creativity in everyday context. However for the sake of example I have decided to give the example of language creativity made by young children because they are still learning how to use language properly and by doing so come up with expressions which really could be considered “creative”. So to answer where we find creative language we do not have to look far, we simply have to speak with small children because as they are still learning the rules of correct language grammar, they tend to “invent” new forms of grammar or more correctly, adopt and transmit it into their sentences. For example using flyed instead of flew or biccik instead of biscuit. This is a term I picked up from my younger cousin when he was around 2 years old.

“Creativity will nearly always depend on the intentions and inferences of the participants” is a statement from Carter. (Carter, 2008)

Further he feels that creative language use cannot be described as being evaluated by wholly formalistic definitions and depends on elements such as relationships, nature of external task, changing social contexts and speech genres. (Carter, p.167, 2008) He also suggests “creativity is seen as a social and interactional act as much as it is a distinctive individual act”. (p.44)

Furthermore there is also the proposal that “repetition is a resource by which conversationalists together create a discourse, a relationship and a world” (cited in Carter, 2008, p.101) and it is suggested that “spoken language use may be more closely connected with expressions of feeling and identity”, than written text. (Carter, 2008, p.112)

According to Carter it is important to recognize creativity in context. He feels that “while creativity in language can occur in the most situations, it will still remain probabilistic because a brochure may be informal but it can also be creative”. (Carter 2008)

The above has illustrated two points of view from two different people. One of them is Cook’s view and the other is Carter’s view; and at this stage I will attempt to discuss these ideas and try to demonstrate them in my answer. To recapitulate, Cook sees language creativity as a tool for survival whereas Carter sees it as a process of problem solving.

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There are 3 areas of language play: Pragmatic Function, Linguistic and Semantic. Pragmatic is the effect of language choice e.g. solidarity, enjoyment, Linguistic is the look or the sound of words e.g. patterning, repetition and Semantic carries inversion of meaning like puns. “Literacy activities” are a non-specialist way to simply refer to people’s interactions with texts. Even today we relate to people who are able to read and write as “literate”.

Literacy events are social interactions where literacy plays an important role, e.g. discussing a letter from a tax office, reading a bedtime story or helping a friend with a crossword puzzle. They are ways in which people use and interact with texts in particular context and the meaning it holds for them like the frequent email circulation of jokes among groups of friends and the importance of this for the people involved, for example writing Open University assignments plus the meaning and significance of the activity for the student doing the writing.

Why are we creative with language? This is not a straightforward question because there may be various reasons why we are creative with our language, it will depend wholly on the situation we find ourselves in, whether it is among close friends and family or in a work environment or even in our free time.

And throughout the years we have come up with new words for certain activities like the word “texting” or “tweeting”. In a sense this can also be seen as language creativity and a literacy practice because up to a few years ago there was no Twitter and text messaging has only recently become as normal as the email which can’t be thought out of our everyday lives anymore. But as everything can be considered as creative, what can be considered literary? Literary language can sometimes be axiomatic and may carry forms of moral injunctions even though it may not direct us to form certain constative speech acts in response to the text. Carter showed two examples in his book, the first being an instructional handbook for motor car repair and the second taken from a well-known novel published in the 1950s in Britain. In the instruction manual “medium dependence” is not a common characteristic of common literary language even though there may be special cases to the rule.

This concludes why we are creative with language; so that firstly we can get along with other people that may not be as articulate or creative with language as we are and as mentioned earlier in the essay, so that the language “evolves”. Even though some people might argue that language is a god given ability which must be treasured, we cannot argue that throughout our history as many cultures and the outlook of life have changed, so has our language.

Take the example of the English language: from becoming a Germanic dialect which came from the Scandinavians at around 1066 which eventually developed into Old English and eventually to the language we speak now, a lot of creativity has been changing ideas which make up the modern English language. In fact English as it is spoken today did not even come close to sounding the way that is sounds now. One could even say it was incomprehensible. And on top of that, next to sounding completely different it also had a completely different alphabet with letters that are no longer used today – a rune-like alphabet with extra letters in order to illustrate certain sounds like “sh”.

As we have seen, it is mainly because of creativity that we speak the language we speak today. From the moment we are born we are bombarded with literacy and the correct form of speaking the way that is considered by society to be literary. I have shown some examples of language creativity in young children and given some of my own personal examples and linked them to the question. I have also tried to link the ideas to Carter and how they fit in with his theories and have given some examples of new literacy activities which have become a part of everyday life in the 21st century, such as tweeting.

Facebook and Twitter have in that sense become new literacy tools for this age and time. And in the age of the tablet, our literacy practices have made another step to the future. Tablets have made some of the commonest everyday things redundant, like newspapers. Instead of holding a traditional newspaper in our hands which we will eventually put in the paper bin at the end of the day, we can read it on our tablet. And news updates are certainly swifter because instead of having to print it, one types it on the computer and when it’s done, uploads it directly to the internet for everybody accessible to a computer and Wi-Fi can read. It is very possible that there will be new forms of literacy which will find their way into our everyday lives like the email, Facebook or Twitter. What that may be I, nor anybody else can tell yet but we will recognize it when it comes. We may not immediately recognize it as a new form of literacy but Rome was not build in one day. Give it some time and in a few years it will become the most normal thing in the world.

This essay has shown some of my own examples of literary practices from my personal experience and whether they fit in with the ideas of Cook and other theorists. I have shown how literacy has changed from printed newspapers to being read on tablet devices and how young children become literate by inventing seemingly correct grammar and vocabulary forms in order to express their thoughts.

In conclusion it can be viewed that there are many literacy practices which are worthy to be considered creative. Whether it is a child’s recognition of a restaurant sign or the creativity of new words in the process of becoming a literate person and even the solving of a crossword puzzle, all of them require us to have at least some knowledge of literacy. By continuously practicing these activities, there is a chance that it will survive for the use of later generations. If we teach our children to be inspired by these activities then we can have a little hope that literacy shall be passed down for the future generations to come.

Required word count for essay: 2.000 words

Complete word count of essay: 2.036 words


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