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Mutual intelligibility

    QUESTION

    1. Respond to the question posed at the end of the scenario below. Be sure to justify your answer.

    James was born in London, England. Both his parents are native speakers of Spanish and spoke to him in Spanish at home, and due to living in England, his schooling was entirely in English. As such, James grew up as bilingual in English and Spanish. In conversations, sometimes James substitutes a Spanish word for an English word, or vice versa.
    What might this imply about James’ competence in English? How about his competence in Spanish?

    2. Respond to the question posed at the end of the scenarios below. Be sure to justify your answer.

    Sarah studied German for four years in high school and two years in college before spending a semester abroad in Berlin. Despite her six years of training, Sarah struggled at first when interacting with German speakers at the market and in restaurants, sometimes making grammatical mistakes or forgetting the word that she intended to use.
    Do these struggles likely reflect a problem of Sarah’s competence or performance in German?

    3. Czech and Slovak are mutually intelligible with one another to a high degree. However, for political and historical reasons, they are described by some as different languages.

    1. Define the idea of mutual intelligibility in your own words.
    2. Based on what we know about Czech and Slovak, would linguists describe them as separate languages or as dialects of the same language? Explain your choice

    4. Briefly describe how a sentence can be descriptively acceptable to some speakers while it is unacceptable prescriptively.
    Be sure to define the notions of prescriptive grammar/prescriptivism and descriptive grammar/descriptivism in your own words in your answer.

    5. Consider the following sentence and determine whether it is acceptable. If you are not a native speaker of English, you can feel free to confer with a friend or classmate to ask their opinion.

    • She thinks that Fiona can speak French. [note that the underlined expressions She and Fiona are meant to refer to the same person]

    a. Indicate whether a sentence is acceptable descriptively.
    b. If a sentence is unacceptable descriptively, suggest a way that it might be changed in order to make it acceptable. Be sure to explain your choice in simple terms.
    c. If a sentence is acceptable descriptively, consider whether it is prescriptively acceptable. Is it likely acceptable to all speakers of English, or is it likely to be acceptable only to some speakers? Be sure to explain your choice

    6. Consider the following sentence and determine whether it is acceptable. If you are not a native speaker of English, you can feel free to confer with a friend or classmate to ask their opinion.

    • We be workin’ 24/7. (Hint: the first 5 minutes of this video is useful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZpCdI6ZKU4)
    a. Indicate whether a sentence is acceptable descriptively.
    b. If a sentence is unacceptable descriptively, suggest a way that it might be changed in order to make it acceptable. Be sure to explain your choice in simple terms.
    c. If a sentence is acceptable descriptively, consider whether it is prescriptively acceptable. Is it likely acceptable to all speakers of English, or is it likely to be acceptable only to some speakers? Be sure to explain your choice

    Sample Solutions
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