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English 370

Autumn, 2018

Assignments and Updates

See also: Blackboard

Return to Main 370 page

This is the Assignments and Updates Page. All assignments and updates to earlier assignments will be posted here, beginning with the most recent first.

This is the most up-to-date information available on this website. Please check this page frequently throughout the quarter!!

Monday, December 10:

For the Final Exam click on this: Final Exam

 

As I have already explained, this will be an electronic final. At the beginning of the scheduled exam time, 2:30pm PDT on Monday, December 10, 2018, I will post a link to the final from this webpage. You can take the exam at home, or at school--or wherever you will be able to access my webpage. (I will also send you an email with the link, but that may be delayed, depending upon where you are on this earth, though probably not for long.)

You will then write an essay of no more than 600 words on ONE of the passages. You will have more than one passage to choose from, but you will write on just one. You will have until 5:00pm PST to complete your essay.

After you have finished your answer, please

copy and paste your essay into an email addressed to me: cicero@uw.edu.

PLEASE DO NOT SEND THE EXAM AS AN ATTACHMENT!! Just copy and paste it into your email.

Your essay must arrive NO LATER THAN 5:00 pm

HAVE A GREAT WINTER BREAK!!!!!

Wednesday, December 5

Reading: None.

Writing: You have two things to turn in today: your English 370 Portfolio, and part 2 of your Language Self-profile. (click on the links for full assignments)

We will also be doing an inclass mock final.

As for the Language Self-Profile, part 2:

The goal of the Language Self-Profile Part 2 assignment is almost exactly the same as it was when the quarter began: to describe yourself as a user of English and (if applicable!) other languages as well.

But what you can write now is quite different from what you wrote then. Step 1 of the Language Self-Profile asked you to write a 2-3 page description of yourself as a user of English.

Step 2 of the Language Self-Profile now asks that you write a new essay that will differ significantly from the version you submitted as the quarter began because you now know much more about how best to describe yourself.

So the prompt remains (almost) the same, but you now have been introduced:

to phonology (and therefore how to describe the sounds of your own idiolect as a speaker),

to syntax (you can describe your own writing style now in ways you would not have been able to do 10 weeks ago), and

to dialects and to registers (each of you has at least one dialect (and probably two [how so?!], and all of you have a rich array of registers)

to stylistics (what are your characteristic registers that are special to your sense of your language identity?; in what ways does your language use align/not align with gender or social varieties of English? What are your taboo usage patterns? What is your relation to Standard forms of English? As a speaker? Writer? Reader?

Those questions are only to prompt your thinking--you will need to decide what you will include in your profile.

LSP Part 2 Grading Criteria

  • Extent of your survey: you can't talk about everything, but I would expect to see particular focus on three to four areas.
  • Accuracy and sufficiency of Documentation: i.e., clear and well-chosen examples that can document your claims.
  • Linguistic sophistication (within expectations set by this course): you have learned various modes of linguistic description—like phonemic transcription—and I will expect you to use them appropriately.
  • Effective presentation skills. Readable, reasonably grammatical, well-organized, coherent.
2-4 pages. (The papers that score well on the first three criteria will tend to be longer, of course)

Writing: Mock exam to be written and discussed in class. You will be taking the actual Final Exam on Monday December 10 from 2:30 to 5:00. You'll write a mock exam today and we'll discuss it in terms of the grading criteria. The criteria are:

  • A set of 3-5 appropriate adjectives that characterize the speaking voice of the passage, e.g., is it formal, informal, chatty, serious, high, low, wise, snarky, defensive, bold, or any of a thousand other adjectives?
  • A full description of the specific stylistic features of the text that you see as having led to your conclusions about the style and the purpose you are claiming the passage enacts. What stylistic choices do you see the author to have made? how do those choices work to create the tone of voice you have identified and enable her or him to pull off the effects you have described?
  • An explanation developed as best you can of how the features of the text you have noticed contribute to the speaking voice the author chooses to create in the passage you analyze. (In the Hemingway passage from "Big Two Hearted River," for example, Hemingway creates a very factual, almost emotionless style that records what Nick does step by step, what each thing he sees is, but without telling you a thing directly about what he is thinking or fearing or wanting. He also uses almost entirely Anglo-Saxon derived vocabulary. These choices create a simple, even "elemental," voice, one that seems to be interested only in recording what Nick does and thinks.)

Length limit: 600 words.

Monday, December 3

Reading: The passage below from "Introduction to Faculty Planning" and the passage from "Living with Music."

Writing: An exercise for each of the readings:

1. First, read the selection below and again look for 3-5 adjectives to describe the voice. Then, second, I want you to work on its diction. First do this simply by replacing as many of its Latinate (or Greek) words as you can with words from the English language's Anglo-Saxon/Germanic lexicon. (Look up etymologies in your dictionary if you don't know where a given word has been borrowed.) What effect does this have, do you think? Where is it clearest? Would you change any of the 3-5 adjectives you used to describe the voice?

And second, now, just with the first paragraph, replace as many of the Anglo-Saxon words as you can with Latinate/Greek derived words. Again, what if any effect does this have?

Anonymous, Introduction to Faculty Career Planning

The change from a period of rapid growth to a period of stability may create serious problems in faculty career planning both for the individual faculty member and for colleges and universities. Administrators must be aware of the implications for faculty and for the institutional units for which they hold responsibility. Every effort should be exerted to develop guidelines for faculty career planning which will optimize the well-being of individual faculty members in a manner consistent with the institutional well-being of the university and its several sub-units.

From the institutional point of view, the planning objective should be to maintain maximum structural flexibility to accommodate shifts of enrollments among disciplines. Although it is by no means possible to predict specific shifts with a high degree of precision, a review of past enrollment patterns suggests that shifts do occur on a more of less continuing basis.

2. The next passage is from an essay by Ralph Ellison entitled "Living with Music." I've numbered the sentences (the numbers are in parentheses at the beginning of each sentence).

We have talked some about rhythm and sound in sentences (as with Ecclesiastes). This paragraph offers a good one to hear it happen. "Living with Music" is its title, and Ellison's prose is designed to complement his descriptions. Read the paragraph through, aloud as well as silently, and listen to the rhythms and sound effects. Look for the ways "music" becomes a theme in the paragraph, and listen for the ways in which this is reinforced by stylistic choices.

Then pick three sentences to describe as carefully as you can in stylistic terms. Include descriptions of how they fit the theme of the two paragraphs, and how the manage to do so by the language choices they make. Make sure that two of your sentence choices are drawn from sentences 1,2,4,6,7,8,9.

Finally, pick one from the sentences numbered 1,2,4,6,7,8,9 and write a sentence with a different topic, using your own words, but following as closely as you can the syntactic and rhythmic structure of your model. You don't need to be exact; the point here is mainly to force yourself to see and hear more clearly what Ellison manages to do.

For Example: If I were imitating sentence 3, I might describe a visit to a disappointing natural history museum and write:

"Happily there were the animals, various castings, and a tea room."

(Your example can be better than that one!) Finally, for the sentence that you compose, include a brief description of what in your sentence is the same and what differs from Ellison's sentence.

Ralph Ellison, from “Living with Music”

(1)In those days it was either live with music or die with noise, and we chose rather desperately to live. (2)In the process our apartment—what with its booby-trappings of audio equipment, wires, discs and tapes—came to resemble the Collier mansion*, but that was later. (3)First there was the neighborhood, assorted drunks and a singer.

(4)We were living at the time in a tiny ground-floor-rear apartment in which I was also trying to write. (5)I say “trying” advisedly. (6)To our right, separated by a thin wall, was a small restaurant with a juke box the size of the Roxy. (7)To our left, a night-employed swing enthusiast who took his lullaby music so loud that every morning promptly at nine Basie’s brasses started blasting my typewriter off its stand. (8)Our living room looked out across a small backyard to a rough stone wall to an apartment building which, towering above, caught every passing thoroughfare sound and rifled it straight down to me. (9)There were also howling cats and barking dogs, none capable of music worth living with, so we’ll pass them by.

*The Collier Mansion was famous for a while as a place left crammed full of papers, magazines, and other collections of all kinds at the death of its wealthy, but somewhat disturbed owners (brothers, both of whose corpses were actually found in the building (!) when it was finally forcibly entered after no one had heard or seen either of the two brothers in some very long time). (You can find pictures of the house and its contents by following this link to the Collyer Mansion)

Wednesday, November 28:

Reading: You will be writing about style for your final exam, and we will be practicing doing so between now and the last day of class. So now go to Writing About Style. There is there both an explanation of how I want you to be writing about style and an example of such an essay written by a very good student in an earlier class. First read the Gettysburg Address (you'll find it printed there under "Seeing it Work") and then read the sample essay, and notice the way the writer sets out a claim about Lincoln's purpose and how, exactly, he makes claims about the language choices Lincolm makes in order to create a unique speaking voice. As you read, make a note of three claims the writer makes that you think are particularly strong. With that exercise done, then:

Writing: I give you two more style passages below.

Using the Checklist from the Speaker in the Text to guide your work, please read the two passages below, and then come up with 3-5 adjectives for each to describe the speaker's voice.  Then try to explain in a short paragraph each how the passages are written so as to cause that voice to emerge. The voices in the two passages are really quite different, and I'd like you to see how far you can get in explaining the effects of suchpassages.

As with the assignment for Monday, this assignment draws on all of the knowledge you've developed to this point in the course: sound, word choice/etymology, and syntax. We are now both putting that technical introduction to work as a way to think about how your language knowledge can help you become a stronger reader and writer, and expanding that knowledge by adding a few new ways to characterize syntactic choices.

1. Ecclesiastes, from the Bible, King James Version

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever. The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. The thing which hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

2. Ernest Hemingway, from “Big Two-Hearted River”

Nick looked at the burned-over stretch of hillside, where he had expected to find the scattered houses of the town and then walked down the railroad track to the bridge over the river. The river was there. It swirled against the log piles of the bridge. Nick looked down into the clear, brown water, colored from the pebbly bottom, and watched the trout keeping themselves steady in the current with wavering fins. As he watched them they changed their positions by quick angles, only to hold steady in the fast water again. Nick watched them a long time.

He watched them holding themselves with their noses into the current, many trout in deep, fast moving water, slightly distorted as he watched far down through the glassy convex surface of the pool, its surface pushing and swelling smooth against the resistance of the log-driven piles of the bridge. At the bottom of the pool were the big trout. Nick did not see them at first. Then he saw them at the bottom of the pool, big trout looking to hold themselves on the gravel bottom in a varying mist of gravel and sand, raised in spurts by the current.

Monday, November 26:

Reading: We are moving now to Stylistics. Here the major reading is from the Blackboard: The Speaker in the Text: An Introduction to Stylistics.

So click on the link to The Speaker in the Text and read the first half of the essay (ending with the beginning of the section titled: Style Checklist). After reading to that point, look at the two passages below as examples of contrasting styles. Read them through, both silently and aloud, and write a paragraph each about the speaker and the voice or character the author creates. Start by giving three or four adjectives for each to describe the voice, and then do what you can to point to language choices you see that the author has made that you think may have led you to describe the voice in the way you did.

Don't worry about being perfect here, but do try to do a good job. This sort of exercise will be what you will be doing for the final, so you'll do well to get well into this as soon as possible!

Dickens, from David Copperfield

    Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.  To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night.  It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously. 

     In consideration of the day and hour of my birth, it was declared by the nurse, and by some sage women in the neighborhood, who had taken a lively interest in me several months before there was any possibility of our becoming personally acquainted, first, that I was destined to be unlucky in life; and secondly, that I was privileged to see ghosts and spirits—both these gifts inevitably attaching, as they believed, to all unlucky infants, of either gender, born towards the small hours on a Friday night.

Salinger, from The Catcher in the Rye

   If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.  In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.  They’re quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father.  They’re nice and all—I’m not saying that—but they’re also touchy as hell.  Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything.

Monday, November 19: Having already read the textbook's linguistic explanation of African American Vernacular English last week, now follow the link: AAVE. Once there, read the five short pieces on AAVE and the Great Ebonics Controversy. Come to class prepared for an in-class Quiz. (You may bring a one-page cheat sheet upon which you can write on either or both sides. I'll be collecting the sheets.) Come prepared with any questions you have, and we will discuss those before the Quiz.

Each of the readings is short, and together they give you background on one of the most famous of all arguments about race, education, and language in American schools.

We will take up metaphors in the second hour and work with the examples below. You won't have to prepare these in advance.

1. Do these two expressions means the same thing or are they different? If they are different, how? Be specific, think of the underlying semantic features, as well as identifying their source/domain and target.

a. He's as sharp as a tack

b. He's as sharp as a knife

2. What about these two?

a. She ran as fast as a cloud.

b. She ran as fast as a rabbit

3. What about these two?

a. the children played like wild animals.

b. the children played like goats.

4. And now these two:

The day was hot as hell.

The day was cold as hell.

5. And these:

The cat jumped like a clown

The clown jumped like a cat

And then this poem: This is an extended metaphor--a little obscure but not all that hard to understand. Again, explain the logic of the lines using the idea of an underlying domain and then the way that sets a semantic frame that influences us to think in one or mor particular ways.

I like to see it lap the Miles - (383)

By Emily Dickinson

I like to see it lap the Miles -

And lick the Valleys up - 

And stop to feed itself at Tanks - 

And then - prodigious step

 

Around a Pile of Mountains - 

And supercilious peer

In Shanties - by the sides of Roads - 

And then a Quarry pare

 

To fit its sides

And crawl between

Complaining all the while

In horrid - hooting stanza - 

Then chase itself down Hill - 

 

And neigh like Boanerges* -  (a loud and noisy preacher)

Then - prompter than a Star

Stop - docile and omnipotent

At its own stable door – 

 

Sentences:

1. The students waited for the teacher to get on the bus

2. I have learned that someone’s knowing CPR can save a life.

3. That Alan had scored well on his test ensured that he would get a good grade in the class.

4. The money’s having been stolen by the teller annoyed the bank manager immensely.

5. Sally felt bad because the laptop had been stolen.

(hint: “feel” is a linking verb and therefore works like “be”)

 

Wednesday, November 14:

Midterm #2. You had the mini-midterm in class so you know what will be coming. The exam will be set up as a 1 hour exam, but you will have the entire class period to work on it.

I will hold review sessions before the midterm. The first will be Thursday, November 8, at 3:30pm. We will start by looking at the three sentences below.

Here are some more practice sentences, taken from an exam given a year ago--I'll send out a pdf with the solutions.

1. Sally parked her new car in the garage.

2. I promised that I would pay the bill because my friend had paid earlier.

3. The thunder was heard by many people before the heavy rain began.

 

Wednesday, November 7:

Reading: NONE

Writing: Syntax exercises

Writing: Exercises with sentences

1. The new, sparkling day brought memories to his mind. 

2. For someone to answer the question correctly surprised the teacher. 

3. The book was replaced on the shelf by a passing patron.   

4. Flying airplanes can hurt you.

(This last sentence is sort of a trick question. It can meet two quite different things, each of which has its own deep structure. So see if you can diagram both.)

See you tomorrow....

Monday, November 5:

Reading: LNL Chapter 8—TBA later today. These pages will take us into the realm of dialect and sociolinguistics.

Writing: Syntax exercises

You now have ostensible control of simple sentences, sentences with other sentences embedded in them as nominalized clauses and/or with adverbial clauses, and, as of last meeting, passive constructions. All of these are summarized on Ye Olde Newe Grammar. We also last time looked more closely at the structure of verbs, introducing you to the simplified form of Chomsky's famous verb formula:

V —› T (aux) Vb

Vc —› T (aux) Vb

So here are some sentences to practice sorting all of that out. No single piece of these puzzles is particularly difficult, but trying to keep all of these concepts clearly in mind at once and seeing how to use them to analyze a given sentence's structure is more challenging.

NOTE: This set of sentences asks you to solve some puzzles. Don't worry if you get stuck in a place or two. We will now have added all of the syntactic elements we'll be diagramming here.

1. Libby ran swiftly down the street.

2. Henry's having lost his wallet caused great consternation because his friends had left their money at home.

3. Alex swam slowly and Alexandra swam fast. [Hint: this is a parallel construction that uses the S c S phrase structure rule. It—and its cousin the reduced parallel construction—occurs very, very frequently in speech and in writing. Could this parallel construction be reduced?]

4. The driver stepped on the brake but the car slid down the highway. [Hint: "but" is like "and." It, too, is a coordinating conjunction]

5. After the campfire died, the friends went to their cabins.

(note: We briefly talked about adverb movement on Wednesday. This sentence includes an example of ADV movement—be sure your diagram shows that the ADV is a modifier of the appropriate verb. This is an example of adverbial preposing ["Move ADV to first position on the S tree"]—a very frequently used construction, particularly in written English.])

6. My watch was stolen by a packrat.

7. I called the police after my window had been broken.

(Hint: So, who did the window-breaking? Who is the agent here? What would the active form of the adverbially embedded sentence be?)

8. For the class to have been dismissed early meant that the teacher had lost his carkeys.

The Midterm for this section of the course will be held on November 14.

Wednesday, October 31:

Reading: Part 2 of Metaphor: Conceptual Metaphor.

Writing:

a. Metaphors. Try to identify and explain the conceptual metaphors in the following sentences—what is the source and what is the target?

1. You can't get your concept across to the class that way.

2. His deepest emotions went right over her head.

3. The entire paragraph was full of emotion.

b. Sentence structures. See if you can figure out and provide diagrams for the underlying structures of the following sentences:

1. That someone stole the iphone annoyed her.

2. Robert sighed when he remembered that his homework required revision.

3. For the teacher to grade the papers required that he make a key before he started the task.

Monday, October 29:

Reading: Part 1 of Metaphor: Literary Metaphor, and "Cat in the Rain."

Writing: Having read the Literary Metaphor essay:

1. Find or make up 3 different metaphors of your own. Write them out and then give as full an explanation as possible of the features the metaphor invokes and at least some of the features that it does NOT invoke.

2. Then, print out and read "Cat in the Rain"—a two-page short, short story by Ernest Hemingway about a married couple in an Italian hotel. In the story it is raining, and the wife spots a cat outside in the rain. Read through to see what happens, and then:

1) underline each reference to the cat (or "kitty," or any other way the cat is referred to), and

2) write a page about how you think the cat functions as a metaphor in the story. Use the language of the Literary Metaphor essay: what features does Hemingway invite you to transfer, and what features does he NOT invite you to transfer? (Keep in mind, too, that what is relevant early in the story may not be exactly the same as what is relevant towards the end.)

Don't worry if you feel you are not very good at this!. The point is not to be a great literary critic, but only to approach the story from the perspective of one who has begun to think about metaphor in a conscious and analytic way.

3) Finally, here are three sentences to diagram using tree structures:

1. The teacher wrote on the whiteboard.

2. That I was late to class annoyed the teacher.

3. Sally demanded that I leave the building.

Wednesday, October 24:

Reading: Section 3 of How We Make Sentences: The Basics of English Language Constituent Structure. (This is the section on Adverbials.)

Monday, October 22:

Midterm 1: Phonology, Morphology

Wednesday, October 17:

Reading: Sections 1 and 2 of How We Make Sentences: The Basics of English Language Constituent Structure.

Writing: Preparation for Exam

In the first hour will have a short practice midterm. You can bring ONE sheet of 9x11 1/2" paper, and you can WRITE (not xerox or pasted bits) on one side whatever you think will help you. The exam will cover everything we have done so far.

In the second hour we will get a start on syntax: the study of how we connect words into sentences.

Monday, October 15

Reading: Morphology: Once More from the Top

Writing: Practice Sentences for the midterm:

For the three sentences below give a complete phonological analysis, along with a morphological analysisthat uses all of the categories described in today's reading:

1. Morphology tends to require attention to etymologies.

2. Dictionaries can be extraordinarily helpful when researching how different words were formed.

3. The newborn cats wrestled with unrelenting efforts.

In the first hour will be having a short practice midterm on Wednesday,October 17--you can bring ONE sheet of 9x11 1/2" paper, and you can WRITE (not xerox or pasted bits) on one side whatever you think will help you. The exam will cover everything we have done so far.

We will also be starting with syntax--the study of how we connect words into sentences. You can get a jump on this by reading the first section of How We Make Sentences: The Basics of English Language Constituent Structure.

Wednesday, October 10

Reading: Morphology, pp 79-86; 88-9 on Derivational Affixes; 93-4 on neologisms.

Writing: I. Exercises A-E in pp 79-85 and Exercise 1, pp.94-5.

II. For the three sentences below:

A. Give a phonemic transcription for each sentence.

B. Then give a phonetic transcription, indicating stress, and along with a listing of the phonological rules involved.

C. Then give the shortest possible (but still fully understandable) version in a phonetic transcription, including the phonological rules involved.

  1. Shakespeare should have written an English people could read.
  2. Did you want to call your mom?
  3. Why did you want to accept the prize the school offered?

Monday, October 8

Reading: LNL Chapter 6, pp.110-114 (end of paragraph at top of page [last word "unchanged']); Phonological Rules on the Blackboard.

Writing. 1. Create a phonemic transcription of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 (we will have done the first few lines in class). 2. Then as best you can do a phonetic transcription of the first quatrain.

We will have introduced that process in class, but it takes a while to get the knack for doing it. Don't worry if it feels as though you don't get it all right. Remember: phonemes are the units your brain translates what it hears into; phones are the actual sounds that we speakers hear and utter.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments; Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

Oh, no! It is an ever-fixèd mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Wednesday, October 3

Reading: LNL Chapter 6, pp. 99-110.

Writing: Exercise B 1-11

Monday, October 1

Reading: LNL, Read Chapter 1 and the Syllabus. Syllabus Perfect Quiz.

Writing:

Your Language Self-Profile, Step 1

LSP Step 1: Background

You will be working over the next 10 weeks through a series of ways of thinking about how people use the English language. Technically, we’ll survey phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics, and then we’ll go on to look at pragmatics, or, language in use—particularly the ways in which utterances can be meaningful in extra-literal ways.

Through all of this I hope it becomes very clear that being a speaker of a language is always a balancing act between what “the language speaking community” defines as appropriate sounds/words/modes of expression (the constraints on us as speakers), on one hand, and what any given individual’s own language experience and/or creativity enables them to bring to a given speech situation (the variation or diversity or creativity we display as speakers), on the other. Your job in this assignment is to create a profile of yourself as a speaker that describes both the ways in which your idiolect (a word that means "the version of English that is distinctive to you") is like and is unlike that of other speakers. As much uniformity as there is among speakers of any language, there is also a huge range of differences. You will be relating your idiolect to general American Northwest English—the basic dialect of English we will be using in this classroom.

In all that you write, please believe that I’m really interested in what you actually do when you speak English. I don’t care whether the differences you find between the way you speak and others speak are huge or small, but I do want you to sort through what you do as a speaker and writer of English and locate a set of identifying characteristics of YOUR idiolect.

The Writing

Step one of the Language Self-Profile asks you to write a 2-3 page description of yourself as a user of English. This will be the first step towards making yourself a “case study” for this project. You won't yet know a lot about linguistics, but you are nevertheless already the best authority there is (although an unconscious one!) on your particular idiolect. You are thus the insider here, and your job is to give me a verbal snapshot of your linguistic self as best you can.

So describe your language use now as best you can—i.e., do you always speak English? or do you speak another language in your daily life? If you are a native speaker what do you see as your strengths? or your challenges as a user of English? How would you describe your language use? What "accent" do you think you have? What are your favorite words? Why? If you are an English language learner, think about your strengths, and about what you want to do better. What problems crop up in your efforts to speak with or write to others? like classmates or professors? Can you tell a story that illustrates these issues?

Other questions you might address: What is the richest part of your vocabulary? What kind of writer are you? What are your strengths? What are your challenges?

In Short: Think of yourself in your role as user of English, and describe and illustrate as best you can your own particular idiolect.

Ordinarily, a good essay in this class would be well-focused, equipped with well-selected detail/example, as complete as the assigned length would allow, and written in an engaging, colloquial English. But since you only have a couple days to do this, and most of you don't yet know a lot about how linguists describe the ways we use language, the criterion for this first effort is simply ECI: Engaged Critical Intelligence.

(This assignment is based on an assignment first designed by Professor Colette Moore.)