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The Hong Kong Institute of Education
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Public Lecture Series Spring 2013 - The English You Didn’t Learn in School

Organiser : Department of English Language Education
Date : 2013-05-25
Time : 09:45 - 12:00
Venue : Lady Ivy Wu Lecture Theatre D1-LP-04, HKIEd Tai Po Campus

Limited seats are now available for the Public Lecture Series on 25 May 2013, please refer to the below for details:


Topics: Why Language Rules Rarely Work

Speaker: Dr. Randal Holme (Department of Linguistics and Modern Language Studies)



The frustrating thing about learning a language is that teachers often seem to think that if we learn, then apply the rules of a grammar, everything else will be quite easy. Yet as we learn more and more of the language we find that there are more and more exceptions. Speaking a language seems to be like playing a game where the referee keeps changing the rules. For example, you learn that ‘water’ is uncountable and that we have to say ‘some water’. A few days later, however, you might hear a native speaker ask for ‘a water’. In this talk I will look at how people who expect too much of rules are being confused by what I call ‘the blueprint model’ of language. This model views a language as a system in which we start with the rules then use them to put words in their correct place. These rules are called a grammar. New ways of looking at language go in the opposite direction. Languages begin when we represent things with words. This is where an infant starts using one word to represent one thing. Infants build a grammar when they start to talk about the relations between things, saying for example, ‘the toy in the box’. One problem, however, is that different things are capable of different kinds of relations. So effectively, different words create different grammars. In this talk I look at how infant learners manage this complexity when adult learners often cannot.       


Online registration is required, please visit : for registration.