with Jim Lehrer (August 27, 2002): The Vanishing Verb
What is "TV Speak"? Students will become
familiar with the topic by reviewing pre-listening discussion questions.
These questions include analysis of excerpts from the NewsHour program
The Vanishing Verb and call attention to differences in spoken and written
Pre-listening Discussion Questions: What is TV Speak?
is missing from the following news excerpts highlighted in the NewsHour
b. ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC News: "Gary Condit today, the first sighting in weeks."
c. SHEPARD SMITH, Fox News: "Meantime, the Navy looking for another suitable training location, the Navy secretary saying it will be tough but not impossible. The Navy using Vieques for the past 60 years."
3. How is spoken language different from written language? Provide an example in which social context or setting changes the way you speak.
Procedure: Join the class for viewing of the report (video and audio are available on the transcript page). Each student should receive a handout with the discussion questions. First, place students in small discussion groups so they can share ideas about the main themes, compare and contrast attitudes, and express opinions on key issues. Students should write short answers to the discussion questions based on the small group interaction. Then, moderate a larger discussion.
Understanding Main Themes - Discussion Questions
1. What is "TV Speak"?
2. According to the report, how has script writing for news broadcasts evolved since the 1970s?
3. Describe Phillips' attitude towards "TV Speak." Do you share his views? Explain.
Smith's view, what are some advantages of using "TV Speak"?
6. Do you think the evolving language of news media reflects the desire to attract younger audiences? Explain.
Pass out the study questions handout. If you assign this activity for homework, ask students to write short answers to the study questions. At the next class meeting, students can share their responses. If this activity is completed in class, place students in small discussion groups for review of the extended interviews and study questions. Discussion teams may focus primarily on one extended interview and report their analyses back to the class.
1. Compare and contrast the views of Robert Hager, Tom Phillips, and Shepard Smith on recent trends in the media. What do the interviewees say about the impact of technology (e.g., the Internet) on American society?
3. How do time constraints impact TV language?
4. How do you feel about Phillips' views on the trends in TV language? In your view, should the English language adapt to an ever-evolving culture?
5. How do you feel about "TV Speak"? Does the use of shortened language on TV or in e-mails reflect our fast-paced society? Explain.
for Activity 1:
Teach students about the importance of avoiding plagiarism and paraphrasing correctly. Remind students that when they are paraphrasing, they are putting another person's ideas into their own words. Thus, they must change the original wording and sentence structure. At the same time, they have to maintain the original meaning of the source and not add any of their own commentary. Most importantly, students must cite the original source when paraphrasing. For more information on avoiding plagiarism, paraphrasing correctly, and using documentation styles, check out the following Web sites:
as reporters for a fast-paced news network, students will enjoy experimenting
with "TV Speak" in the role-play. Pass out the handout.
1. (Academic writing style) Imagine that you are writing an essay on U.S. foreign policy towards Iraq. You would like to incorporate comments from Henry Kissinger or Madeleine Albright into your paper. Choose a quote and paraphrase it.
Activity 2: Design your own news format!
1. Imagine that you are a producer of a national news network in the USA. Describe the types of stories and news format that would appear on your program. Consider the three questions below:
a. Who will be your target audience?
b. What guidelines will you provide for your reporters regarding the style of language they should use on feature news stories?
c. How do you think different segments of the American population will respond to your news program?
Procedure: The vocabulary activities may precede or follow the viewing of the NewsHour report. Pass out the handout. In the first exercise, ask students to read the excerpts from The Vanishing Verb (students may work in pairs). For each excerpt, students should fill in the blank(s) with the most appropriate vocabulary word from the box. In the other two exercises, students will match vocabulary words/expressions with definitions and write their own sentences. Students should be encouraged to study vocabulary in context; i.e., focus attention on how the vocabulary words are used in the NewsHour report.
Vocabulary Exercise 1 - Fill in the Blanks
Read the excerpts from The Vanishing Verb and choose the most appropriate vocabulary word from the box for each excerpt.
staccato shoehorn workhorse yakking episodic moonlights elliptical bard tickertape few and far between
1. TERENCE SMITH: "Today in Washington, around the country, television reporters, talking like this Short, ___________________ bursts."
2. TERENCE SMITH: "Shepard Smith, the anchor of the fast-paced Fox report on the Fox News Channel, is known for his _____________________ delivery."
3. TOM PHILLIPS: "You hear a lot of sentences that aren't really sentences. You hear a lot of words dropped. You hear a lot of ... _____________________ speech with 'dot-dot-dots' where the connective tissue used to be."
4. TERENCE SMITH: "Time, of course, is the ultimate tyrant in television news, and Shepard Smith argues that shedding verbs, the ___________________ of traditional sentence structure, permits him to ____________________ more news into less time."
5. SHEPARD SMITH: "We don't speak in sentences with periods and dashes and colons and commas. That's not how we talk. So I try to talk like I speak when I'm ___________________ with my buddies."
6. TERENCE SMITH: "And script doctor Tom Phillips, who ___________________ as a Shakespearean actor, says that ___________________ English is nothing new."
7. TERENCE SMITH: "Call it 'TV speak,' or the case of the vanishing verb. Whatever, it's an abbreviated language unique to time-pressed television correspondents Verbs are ___________________________ as she continues."
8. TERENCE SMITH: "But Tom Phillips argues that the best guide to television writing was provided not by the ________________, but by Albert Einstein."
Exercise 2 - Matching
Vocabulary Exercise 3 - Write your own sentences
Procedure: Ask students to write their own sentences using the vocabulary words/expressions.
Listening and Speaking - Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
Media - Standard 10: Understands the characteristics and components of the media
- Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret
visual media Thinking and Reasoning Standards
Author Laura Greenwald teaches English for International Relations at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC. She has a Master's Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and a Master's Degree in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University SAIS. She has a B.A. in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University.
To find out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact Leah Clapman at firstname.lastname@example.org