By Gene Dixon,2014-06-13 19:55
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I do not think it necessary for us here to go into the textual detail of a modern poem like Larkin's "Toads" if we want to prove that ...



    Teaching for Three Kinds of Competence

    Alexander C. H. Tung


This paper points out that all our foreign-language departments share a

    rationale in designing their curricula. It concludes that the rationale

    is in actuality a foreign-language teachers threefold mission: to teach for the students linguistic competence, literary competence, and

    communicative competence. In order to reach the conclusion, the

    paper touches on such topics as practical vs. impractical courses,

    literary vs. ordinary language, literariness or poeticalness,

    grammaticality and poeticality, grammar and rhetoric, and the

    structuring art of selection and combination. To discuss the relevant

    topics and elucidate some relevant issues, the Russian Formalist ideas,

    the speech act theory, and some foreign-language teaching methods or

    approaches are much dwelled on, and some important points are made.

    We suggest that linguistic competence aims at truth (correctness of

    language), literary competence at beauty (beautifulness of language)

    and communicative competence at goodness (appropriateness of

    language). We also assert that teaching is an art (of selection and

    combination); we have impractical teachings indeed, but never

    impractical courses so long as the courses involve the use of the

    target language. Finally, we claim that the idea of teaching for the

    three kinds of competence is as time-honored as Confucianism.

    Key phrases:

1. linguistic competence 2. literary competence 3. communicative competence

    4. literariness or poeticalness 5. language-teaching methods or approaches

    6. Russian Formalism 7. speech act theory

Introduction: Literariness

    During the last few years, I have been called upon to evaluate a good number of

    the so-called Departments of Foreign Languages and Literature(s), Departments of (Applied) English, Departments of Applied Foreign Languages, etc., here in our country. I find there is one thing common to the curricula of all such departments:

    they all offer literature courses along with linguistics courses and language-training

    courses, although some of the departments have a higher proportion of literature

    courses while others offer more linguistics courses or language-training courses.

    This fact reveals that all such departments of ours share a rationale in designing their

    curricula. But what is the rationale?

    Before we proceed to find the answer, I must point out another fact commonly

    found in our departments. That is, many students of our departments, especially

    those in the departments that offer more literature courses, keep wondering why they

    should take so many literature courses. Arent we here just to learn such language skills as those of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and translation? They often

    ask themselves, and their teachers or departments as well, questions like this. Some

    of them even go so far as to protest against listing literature courses among the

    required courses and plead that they should be provided with more practical courses.

    Those students who want more practical courses may have the delusion that only such practical courses as English Conversation and English Composition can

    teach practical English while such courses as English Literature and American

    Literature can only teach non-practical English, that is, English not directly related to our everyday English. This delusion is based on the idea that literary language is

    distinguishable from ordinary language. And this idea is a debatable presupposition

    of the so-called Russian Formalism.

    Roman Jakobson, as we know, once wrote: The subject of literary scholarship is not literature in its totality, but literariness (literaturnost), i.e., that which makes a given work a work of literature.

    1 Since Jakobson made this remark, scholars have

    2 In the course of seeking literariness or poeticalness, they have once considered the idea of fictionality indeed tried vigorously to inquire into the distinguishing features of the literary and the use of images as the distinguishing features. But the typically Russian materials as Boris Eichenbaum wanted them to do.Formalist ideas in this regard are those developed by Viktor Shklovsky, Roman

    Jakobson, Boris Tomashevsky, and Jan Mukarovsky. Shklovsky regards art as device: he thinks that the literary or poetic art is to use verbal devices so as to make strange or defamiliarize the object depicted, and that literary or poetic language,

    therefore, can prevent automatization and effect perceptibility of the object by such devices.3 Jakobson tells us that the distinctive feature of poetry lies in the fact that a word is perceived as a word and not merely a proxy for the denoted object or an

    outburst of an emotion, that words and their arrangement, their meaning, their

    outward and inward form acquire weight and value of their own (quoted in Erlich 183). In the same vein, Tomashevsky states that poetic language is one of the linguistic systems where the communicative function is relegated to the background

    and where verbal structures acquire autonomous value (quoted in Erlich 183). And, similarly, Mukarovsky says that the function of poetic language consists in the maximum of foregrounding of the utterance, and he explains, thus:

    In poetic language foregrounding achieves maximum intensity to the

    extent of pushing communication into the background as the object

    of expression and of being used for its own sake; it is not used in the

    services of communication, but in order to place in the foreground

    the act of expression, the act of speech itself. (43-44)

    I have attacked, elsewhere, the Russian Formalist ideas of art as just the laying bare of ones technique, of literature as just a special use of language for its own

    sake, of defamiliarization (ostranenie) as the sole distinctive feature of literary or

    poetic language in contrast to practical language, and of foregrounding the utterance

    as the sufficient aim and quality of literariness or poecticalness.

    4 I have, instead,

    suggested that literariness or poeticalness is no other than verbal artfulness. Thus,

    literary or poetic language is an artful use of language for artistic purposes, not just a

    special use of language for its own sake. In fact, literary or poetic language may or

    may not deviate from or distort ordinary (or practical, standard, utilitarian, prosaic,

    scientific, everyday, communicative, referential, etc.) language.5 Just as art for art

    sake is but an empty slogan, so language for language sake (as implied in the

    concept of foregrounding the utterance) can only ring with a bogus truth.

    I have been of the opinion that a piece of literature (e.g. a poem, a play, a novel,

    or an essay) is an artful piece of discourse uttered by the author to express a certain

    idea or feeling to the reader. It is consequently like any discourse in that it also 6 It is only that when we talk about literature, the addresser or involves the six constitutive factors in any speech event, in any act of verbal

    sender is the author or writer, the addressee or receiver the reader, the contact the communication, as pointed out by Jakobson: addresser, addressee, contact, message,

    medium (the book, the magazine, the website, etc., where the text appears), the code, and context.

    message the idea(s) or the feeling(s) of the author or writer, the code the language

    used for the work, and the context the society or the world in which the work is

    written, produced, and read. When we talk about the poem Dover Beach, for

    example, the addresser or sender is Matthew Arnold, the addressee or receiver is each

    reader reading the poem, the contact is the medium through which the poem is printed

    and read, the message is the idea(s) or feeling(s) Arnold wants to convey through the

    poem, the code is the English language used for the poem, and the context is the

    society or world in which Dover Beach existed and exists. Besides being artful, a piece of literature like Dover Beach is different from a chance talk about the Beach in that the literary discourse continues to exist for different readers of different times

    and places to read while an ordinary discourse, once uttered and heard (or not heard),

    may just disappear for good, not to be noticed or mentioned again and again. So, in

    a sense, a piece of literature is a written or printed speech kept for repeated listening

    or reading.


     Talking of speech, we must understand that in writing a piece of literature, an

    author is also performing a speech act. Besides, a narrator in a literary work is also performing a speech act each time he or she narrates a story to the narratee.

    Likewise, all the characters therein are also performing speech acts each time they

    speak to one another. So, a literary work can be regarded as a two-level speech

    act, at least, containing the first level of the author addressing the public and the

    second level of the fictional figures--the narrator(s) and the character(s)narrating or

    speaking in the work. Furthermore, since the fictional figures are usually involved

    in a series of talks, their speech acts naturally constitute what Teun van Dijik calls a

    global speech act or MACRO-SPEECH ACT (238).

    According to J. L. Austin, as we know, to say something is in the full normal sense to do something (94). Furthermore, saying something will often, or even normally, produce certain consequential effects upon the feelings, thoughts, or actions

    of the audience, or of the speaker, or of other persons (104). To put it simply in

Austins terms, normally a locutionary act is always both an illocutionary act and a

    perlocutionary act. If we apply the speech act theory to the case of literature, we can

    say, for instance, that Dover Beach is Arnolds written speech: when he wrote the

    poem, he was not merely delivering a form of locution; he was also performing the

    illocutionary act of warning his sweetheart and the world alike that Faith had ebbed

    into a critical phase by the time he came to the Beach with his sweetheart. In

    addition, we know the act must of necessity have become a perlocutionary act since

    8 So, a piece of literature is never merely an aesthetic objectan object the poem has had some instructive effect and brought about some subsequent

    with its intrinsic elements of beauty to delight peopleit is also a social or ethical criticism.

    object, an object with its communicative message aimed to bring about a certain

    result and certainly often with some social or ethical consequence. That is why

    9literature is traditionally said to have two functions: to delight and to instruct.

     Whereas a literary work can be regarded as a literary discourse which like any

    other form of communication shares the six essential factors of communication, and

    like any other form of speech can be investigated in terms of illocutionary and

    perlocutionary act, a literary work is nevertheless a special discourse indeed, but it is

    special not only in its extrinsic functions or purposes (both to delight and to instruct

    or inform) but also in its intrinsic textual details. There have been authors, to be

    sure, who choose to see no differences between literature and ordinary language.

    William Wordsworth, for instance, asserts that the poet is only a man speaking to

    men (255), and that there neither is, nor can be, any essential difference between

    the language of prose and metrical composition (253). And Moliére made the

    philosopher in The Bourgeois Gentlemen tell Jourdain that all speech is either poetry

    or prose and that Jourdain has been speaking prose all his life without knowing it.

    In real life, however, what is called prose or verse, when referring to the language

    used to compose drama, fiction, or poetry, is certainly distinguishable from ordinary


     In The Princeton Handbook of Poetic Terms, it is said that Words are used (1) for

    ordinary speech, (2) for discursive or logical thought, and (3) for literature

    (Preminger et al. 291). Furthermore, it is suggested that the language of ordinary

    speech is not prose, or at least is prose only to the extent that it is not verse; verse

    has some form of regular recurrence, whether meter, accent, vowel quality, rhyme,

    alliteration, parallelism, or any combination of these; while verse results from

    conventionalizing ordinary speech by recurrent rhythm, prose results from

    conventionalizing ordinary speech by a consistent and logical sentence structure;

    discursive language makes statements of fact, is judged by standards of truth and

    falsehood, and is in the form of prose; all verse is literary ... [but] all literature is

    not verse (Preminger et al. 291).

     In a book of mine, I have pointed out that the word prose can be understood in 10 In its broadest sense, prose is no other than ordinary speech: four different is, as just mentioned above, that language which is not verse, or that language which lacks any conventionalized verbal rhythm or structure. In a broader (but not

    the broadest) sense, prose is that language which has a certain logical and linguistic

    organization of words analyzable in terms of style or rhetoric, i.e. the so-called

    consistent and logical sentence structure. In a narrower (but not the narrowest) sense, prose refers to the literary genre of non-fiction, which includes such literary sub-genres as biography, autobiography, character, memoir, diary, letter, dialogue,

    maxim, and essay, but excludes such non-literary writings as found in books of

    history, philosophy, and science. And in its narrowest sense, prose refers only to the

    literary genre of essay, especially to the so-called familiar essay, which is often associated with such good prose writers or essayists as Montaigne, Bacon, and E. B.


     Normally, when we speak, the speech certainly seldom shows any

    conventionalized verbal rhythm or structure as found in verse or good prose. That is,

    we seldom speak words with enough artful arrangement of verbal details. In other

    words, our speech often lacks prominent literariness or poeticalness. However,

    we must bear it in mind that there are indeed a lot of people (e.g. such people as

    called orators or humorists) who can occasionally speak not only prose but also verse

    so artfully and effectively that we may even praise them by saying that they are

    speaking poetry. Meanwhile, we must admit that all types of literature are

    certainly written in either verse or prose. But just as ordinary speech can contain

    verse, good prose, or even poetry, so literature can contain ordinary speech or prose

    in its broadest sense. Sometimes, ordinary speech in literature may be as artful and

    effective as any poetic or literary language in ordinary speech. For instance, after

    Goneril and Regan have got power and tried to ill-treat their father king by all means,

    Lear once says to them, You think Ill weep:/No, Ill not weep (II, iv, 282-3). What Lear says in that context is but ordinary speech. But the plain ordinary speech

    is uttered as a natural contrast to the flowery (hence, literary or poetic) language

    Lears two elder daughters formerly used to coax his kingdom out of him. And this

    natural contrast artfully and effectively pinpoints the unnaturalness of the daughters.

     In his A Linguistic Guide to English Poetry, Geoffrey N. Leech considers many

    aspects of poetic style. But while he admits that poetic language may violate or deviate from the generally observed rules of the language in many different ways, he also tells us that most of what is considered characteristic of literary language ... has

    its roots in everyday uses of language (5-6). And so he further affirms in the

    meantime that just as there is no firm dividing line between poetic and ordinary language, so it would be artificial to enforce a clear division between the language of

    poetry, considered as verse literature, and that of other literary kinds (6). Then, as if to show the difficulty of separating poetic language from ordinary language or

    other literary language, Leech in his Examples for Discussion cites Philip Larkins Toads and asks why this poem strikes one as colloquial and familiar in tone, rather

    than formal or elevated (20-21). Indeed, when we read the poem, we will feel that

    the lines (at least such lines as Lots of folk live on their wits:/Lecturers,

    lispers,/Losels, loblolly-men, louts--/They dont end as paupers) are words not unlikely to be heard in everyday speech.

     I do not think it necessary for us here to go into the textual detail of a modern

    poem like Larkins Toads if we want to prove that literature or poetry can be made

    of everyday speech in addition to verse or prose. In an ancient epic like Homers Iliad, do we not see colloquial speech uttered by Achilles and other heroes? In a

    drama, Greek or Roman, are dialogues really very much unlike ordinary speech? In

    an 18

    th-century novel, say Defoes Robinson Crusoe or Swifts Gullivers Travels, do

    thcharacters not speak like us in practical conversations? In a 19-century familiar

    essay like Lambs Old China, we read such statements as I have an almost

    feminine partiality for old china and I love the men with womens faces, and the

    women, if possible, with still more womanish expressions. Do the statements

    deviate from ordinary language?

     In Western literary theory, mimesis or imitation has since Plato been a central idea

    used to explain the relation between literature and life. The mimetic theory, as does

    the school of realism, stresses mainly the truthful, life-like verisimilitude found in a

    literary works verbal representation of peoples actions in life. Nevertheless, a

    really truthful or faithful representation of life in literature must of necessity include

    the use of real language for the narrators and characters speech, since speaking is

    a common action of people and speaking is normally done in real language, that is,

    the common, communicative language. That is why, in any work of any literary

    kind (except, perhaps, a surrealist or postmodernist work), the narrator of a story as


    well as the characters in the story must of necessity speak such real language as

    understandable to others. Talking of real language, Ferdinand de Saussures distinction between langue (language) and parole (speaking) may come to our mind. According to Saussure,

    langue is the language system preexisting actual speech, and parole is the individual utterance that realizes the system in actual instances of language.12 Behind this distinction, in fact, lurks our traditional understanding that we speak on the basis of,

    or in accordance with, grammar. If we follow the rules of grammar (regarding the

    formal features of a language, as the sounds, morphemes, words, or sentences), we

    will be able to speak correctly. Perhaps langue is a broader term than grammar. It covers all linguistic aspects of a language (phonological, morphological, syntactical,

    semantic, pragmatic, etc.), while grammar normally only refers to such things as

    found in, say, Otto Jespersens A Modern English Grammar (i.e., rules of sounds,

    words, and sentences). Yet, all the same. Our speech or parole does observe the principles of langue or the rules of grammar. Grammaticality is, thus, of great

    importance to any speaker.

     From the idea of grammar we are easily led to the idea of rhetoric. Rhetoric, as we know, is primarily understood as the art of persuasion in speaking or writing or a system of persuasive devices, as it is mostly associated with an orator; however, rhetoric can also be seen from an Aristotelian perspective as the art of

    expressing truth clearly and logically, and thus it is a necessary part of education, which along with grammar and logic constitutes the TRIVIUM studied in the medieval university (Frye 398). Anyway, today as we teach rhetoric in a language

    department, we think of it as something that goes beyond grammar to enable the

    students to speak or write not only correctly but also effectively or beautifully.

     In the so-called Prague School Theses of 1929, it is suggested that language has either a communicative function, that is, it is directed toward the signified, or a poetic

    function, that is, it is directed toward the sign itself (Pratt 8).

    13 Theoretically speaking, both to speak (or write) “correctly” and to speak (or write) effectively are to fulfill the communicative function, since linguistic communication, as does any

    other type of communication, normally expects to be effective but demands to be

    correct first. An incorrect piece of communication may not be fatal sometimes; it may still be able to convey its message roughly, marring neither its intention nor its

    result. Yet, more often than not, an incorrect instance of phrasing may cause

    misunderstanding or even displeasure on the part of the addressee. So, considering

the communicative function of language, the teaching of grammar for correctness

    and the teaching of rhetoric for effectiveness are both necessary.

     As to the aim of speaking or writing beautifully, we must say, it is to be achieved not only by the teaching of rhetoric but also by the teaching of literature.

    If language has the other poetic function to fulfill, the function is to be testified not just in a work like Aristotles Rhetoric, Ciceros De Inventione, Quintilians Institutio

    or any modern book of rhetoric; it is to be testified in all literary or poetic (if you

    prefer the term) works and learned from them as well. Literature, as we have said

    above, aims both to instruct and to delight. To delight is to utilize language

    beautifully. We admit that literature makes use of all rhetorical devices to make

    its language effective and beautiful. But literature is effective and beautiful not just

    because of its rhetoric, unless the sense of rhetoric is stretched to cover all literary or poetic devices.

     Every piece of literature is a composition. To compose is to select and to combine. When we speak, we select words first and then combine the words into

    phrases or sentences; we select phrases and sentences first and then combine them

    into a discourse. Similarly, when we compose a literary or poetic work, we select

    words first and combine them into statements next, and select statements first and

    combine them into a text next. The art of speech lies in the act of selection and the

    act of combination. The art of literature lies also in the acts of selection and

    combination. But the art of selection and combination as applied to the making of a

    speech or an utterance is primarily grammatical and rhetorical; it is usually confined

    to such linguistic or rhetorical matters as related to sound and sense in words, phrases

    or sentences. The art of selection and combination as applied to the making of a

    literary discourse or a poetic work does not rest with such linguistic or rhetorical

    matters. It often involves extra-linguistic and extra-rhetorical matters such as the

    choosing of narrators, the arranging of correlated images, the establishing of styles,

    the creating of thematic unity, and the use of intertextuality. A literary text is thus

    not only a linguistic text; it is a social and cultural text as well, a text that selects and

    combines for its own purpose all relevant, social and cultural entities involving not

    just sound, shape, and sense, but also situationall the pragmatic as well as

    14phonological, visual, and semantic aspects of verbal communication.

     Here we may note in passing that Jakosons study of aphasia (speech defect) led

    him from considering the vertical (selection) and horizontal (combination)

    dimensions of language to assorting the similarity disorder as the result of inability

    to select a proper linguistic element and the contiguity disorder as the result of inability to combine linguistic elements in a sequence. From the assortments, then,

    Jakobson went on to assert that the two kinds of disorder correspond to the two 15 I rhetorical figures of speech: metaphor and metonymy. And, further on, he

    do not think it very useful to adopt the two rhetorical terms for the dichotomy of suggested that normal speech tends towards either the metaphoric or the metonymic,

    normal speech or aphasia, nor for the description of a literary style or movement. and literary style or even literary movement also leans towards either extreme.

    But I do agree that any speech or any text may foreground or lay bare its strength (or weakness) on either the vertical axis of selection or the horizontal axis of

    combination. And that is where the success or failure of the speaking or writing

    art lies.

     In regard to the axes of selection and combination, Jakobson has made a famous

    but sometimes puzzling statement: The poetic function projects the principle of

    equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination (71). This statement refers to the fact of promoting equivalence to the constitutive device of the

    sequence such as the poetic convention of equalizing one syllable with any other

    syllable of the same sequence. Nevertheless, this statement may also imply and

    stress the fact that the poetic function, as fulfilled in a poem, manifests itself not only

    in seeking the metaphoric element of similarity in the selection of individual words,

    phrases, images, etc., for the poem, but also in seeking the same metaphoric element

    of similarity in the combination of such words, phrases, images, etc., in the poem.

    In Larkins Toads, for instance, the poetic function is seen in both the selection of

    the poems verbal details and the combination of such details so that we may know

    our jobs are like so many toads squatting on our life and pressing us to work on and

    on with all its disgusting pressure.

     Mary Louise Pratt has called the Russian Formalist postulation of poetic or

    literary vs. nonpoetic or ordinary language the poetic language fallacy, and has had a good discussion of the topic in her Toward a Speech Act Theory of Literary

    Discourse. She doubts the validity of Jokobsons projection principle and the Formalist ideas of dominance and focus on the message as an answer to the question Jokobson poses: What makes a verbal message a verbal work of art?‟” (36). I also doubt the validity. I even doubt Jokobsons idea of attributing poetic function to a message predominantly focused on itself,

    16 preferring the Prague Linguistic Circles idea of seeing poetic function in the languages being directed toward the sign itself rather than toward the signified. For me, what makes

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