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English 370, Spring 2009

Assignments and Updates


See also: Blackboard

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!!


FINAL. The Final will be posted online on Tuesday, June 9, by 11:30am; you will need to submit it NO LATER THAN Tuesday, June 9 at 1:30pm. Late papers will be penalized 1 point per minute.


The prompt for the final will read as follows:

Below are TWO passages from Obama's speech in Cairo, given 4 June, 2009. You can find the whole speech at:

Choose ONE of the two passage for your analysis, and then go to work. (At the end of each passage I give the beginning and ending minute of the passages on the YouTube video accessible at the URL above.)

In your answer I will be looking for:

  • a characterization as you see it of the particular speaking voice Obama puts on for the performance--is it formal, informal, chatty, serious, high, low, wise--one or more of all of those adjectives we use to capture a tone of voice, as well, sometimes as an indication of purpose. A serious voice connotes a serious purpose, for example--though on something like the Colbert Report a serious voice can have a very different purpose.
  • an explanation developed as best you can from your understanding of the speech why you think Obama makes the choices he does in the passage you analyze. What is the intention, as you see it, of this speaking voice? Why is he taking the tone he takes? What is he trying to accomplish in this section of the speech? Do you think you have in fact responded to the speech as you think his text seems to want his audience to respond? If not, why not?
  • a careful and full description of the stylistic features of the text that you choose to analyze. What choices does he (or, of course, his speech writers working to create the best and most appropriate possible speaking voice for him!) make, and how do those choices work to create the tone of voice you have identified and pull off the effects you have described?

Remember that I'm NOT wanting to know if you like the speech, or like Obama, or hate the speech and hate Obama. Those questions are irrelevant. You can appreciate or deprecate the stylistic choices if you'd like, but really I just want to know what you see as a "scientific" and systematic observer.

Word limit here: 1000 words.

[For those who could not take the exam on Tuesday, there was an alternative FINAL time on Monday, at 7:30pm-9:30pm. That's now done and gone.]


  • First, continue to review the course material--essentially the same range of ways to approach language use as we reviewed for the Linguistic Self-Profile.
  • Second, review the Speaker in the Text pages I distributed in class, and which, along with OTHER MATERIAL are on the Blackboard at The Speaker in the Text.
  • Third, study the example in those pages of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Read the address, think a little about how you would characterize Lincoln's voice there, and then read the student paper that is inserted immediately following the address. It gives a good example of how one could analyze Lincoln's style. [When you watch or read Obama's speech, by the way, you'll notice at least one allusion to the Gettysburg Address--and you might reflect a little on why Obama might choose to do that.]
  • Fourth, go to or the NYTimes or any other place where Obama's speech has been put up for download. Watch it! I know, it is long. An hour. But believe me, there may not be a speech of similar importance in your lifetime! (Of course, there may be, too!) And I, at least, found it pretty darn interesting. Read comments about the speech if you want to (though be sure if there is something you end up using that you give credit to whoever said it first). But in the end, it is your ability to characterize the voice, and give as specific an explanation as you can of how Obama manages to create the effects you have identified.

Thursday, June 4:

Reading: No new reading.

Writing: Portfolio Due, along with your Linguistic Self-Profile (LSP).

Just as I described it in class, the Portfolio will consist of three elements:

1) your Linguistic Self-Profile. For the full LSP assignment click here.

2) all of your written assignments for the term (these may be handwritten when appropriate).

3) a complete listing of the portfolio's contents, using an identifying label/title for each included piece.

Please submit your portfolio in a simple Self-Addressed, Stamped manila Envelope. I will send your material back to you once grades have been submitted. (You will need about $2 postage).

Tuesday, June 2:

Reading: Read The Speaker in the Text.


1. Here are two more passages to analyze for voice. Pick one of the two and use the speaker checklist to work through its linguistic characteristics. Characterize the speaker as best you can, and explain how, exactly, you think the text produces the voice you perceive there.

2. The last three chapters we've read are a little confusing--they are filled with an array of ways of talking about how language use can produce meaning and/or effect in indirect ways. Chapter 8 begins with two key notions. The first is speech acts, and the distinctions between locutionary acts, illocutionary acts, and perlocutionary acts. That is fundamental to everything that follows.

The second is conversational implicature, and that is really a somewhat more flexible way of pointing to the same thing--that we very often mean things indirectly, by "implication," rather than by direct utterance. "Gee, it's hot in here" can mean many, many things, depending on context. It can be a comment on the temperature in the room, it can be a request that someone open a window, it can be a comment on someone else's propensity to talk volubly and heatedly--it can even be an invitation to forsake one room for another for some pleasurable purpose.

But a goodly series of topics then follows in these three chapters, each one of which opens a new way of trying to get a bead on the indirections of linguistic expression. As a review exercise, go back through chapters 8, 9, 11. Make a list of the key topics of each chapter. (You'd likely begin with Speech Act Theory, The Cooperative Principle and Conversational Implicature....) Bring that list to class.

Thursday, May 28:

Reading: Chapter 11 on Language Variation. Read pages 366-78, 384-89, and 392-398. This chapter outlines a number of different factors that affect the ways we speak--exposure to regional forms, family influence, experience with other languages, age, gender, class, and sometimes occupation or education.

Writing: As you read, locate the two or three factors that you think most affect YOUR English. Write about them--and use your knowledge of phonology, morphology, syntax and/or lexical/semantic features to give examples.

Tuesday, May 26:

Reading: Get started on Thursday's reading....

Writing: None for today.

Thursday, May 21:

Reading: Chapter 9, 313-325.

Writing: On p 314 the text refers to the metaphor in the title of Maya Angelou's I know Why the Caged Bird Sings as an example of metaphor, labelling it "evocative." What is it evocative of? More particularly, What are the terms of the comparison (the tenor and the vehicle?) and what are its grounds? i.e., when you go to expand the comparison, what set of features seem most appropriate? If you have actually read this book you can probably get farther than those of you who haven't, but that doesn't mean you can't still get somewhere, right? Finally, what difference does it make here to know the lines King Lear speaks to Cordelia:

... Come, let's away to prison.
We two alone will sing like birds i' th' cage.
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness.... Act 5 scene 3, ll 9ff.

Once you get past page 314, the chapter surveys very quickly a series of literary topics, each connected to language study. We can't discuss them all in detail, so I want you to propose to me which TWO of the topics on pp. 315-325 you'd like to be clearest about. For each of the two, explain briefly WHY you'ld like THAT section to be one of the two foci for Thursday?

Tuesday, May 19:

Reading: Chapter 9, 291-313. (And I really do like "anyone lived in a pretty how town....")

Writing: pick one of the two and respond.

1) In this chapter you will be running into a lot of stuff that you may also have seen in various literature classes you've taken. That, in turn, means that you might think that you can already DO the things this chapter talks about, and you might then ask: SO WHAT?!

But is that true? What exactly does knowing something about the systematicity of language and its structures enable that "ordinary" ways of paying critical attention don't?

2) I want you to put your critical skills to work. Pages 310 and 313 each have a demonstration of something you can do with language, and both make a literary argument. What do you make of each of those two arguments? Do you buy them? Why? Why not?

Thursday, May 14


Tuesday, May 12:

Reading: Chapter 8, 260-284. Before you read the rest of the chapter, first read Exercise 8.3 and list (just list!) five concepts you would need to understand in order to do the tasks outlined there.

Writing: Having read through Exercise 8.3, write an answer for ONE (and only one!) of the six options.

Midterm Review Sentences. For each of the following sentences, give a Basic Structure diagram of its constituent structures, a list of whatever rules must be applied to yield its revised structure, and then a Revised Structure diagram reflecting the changes you have listed.

1. She is the one who broke my heart when she dumped me.

2. The clever argument she made said to me that she was brilliant.

3. For you to have left the restaurant because I insulted you meant that your huge tab was paid by me.

And for those of you who would like a special test:

4x. J.L. Austin was a great philosopher who wrote a book that was praised by critics because its title included a pun. [Note: The title of that book was Sense and Sensibilia.]

Thursday, May 7

The original schedule has you taking the Mid Term on Tuesday, May 12. That is now Offically postponed to Thursday, May 14.

Reading: Chapter 8. We won't really be getting to this much until Tuesday, but I'd like you to get started on it now, especially pp 251-260.

Writing: As a thinking task to help focus your reading, write a short paragraph in which you solve the following problem:

You find yourself on a post-graduation trip to Las Vegas. You over-indulge just a bit, lose track of things just a bit, and find yourself standing a little unsteadily before a minister in the I'll-Marry-You-in-a-Minute Church. You hear a voice say, "Do you take this person as your lawful wedded spouse?" A jolt of terror runs through your body. You want to be agreeable--you hope the person you are with, on another day and in another place, might in fact be the One. But you also think you know that you don't want to be doing this here or now.

So you try to remember your reading about speech act theory in Chapter 8 way back in English 370. You remember that one way to answer this question will lead to a lot of trouble, while another might allow you to walk out the door, at least temporarily free from marital bliss. You know you are supposed to say the famous phrase: "I do." What can you say instead that will give your lawyer a leg to stand on while still more or less playing along?

Exercise: For each of the following sentences, give a Basic Structure diagram of its constituent structures, a list of whatever rules must be applied to yield its revised structure, and then a Revised Structure diagram reflecting the changes you have listed.

1. The man who broke the pot left the store.
2. The cat that he saw played guitar.
3. The man I met ran for the train.

And for those of you who want a little extra challenge, see if you can do this one:

*4. Bill's losing at the cardtable meant that he needed to collect the money that was owed him.

Tuesday, May 5

Reading: From the Semantics chapter. Not all of this is equally useful; here are the sections I would like you to focus your attention on: pp. 214 to the top 0f 220; 224-6; 233-4 (on metaphor); 240-47.

Writing/Exercise: Here is a poem:

The Sick Rose
(William Blake, 1794)
O Rose, thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

The question of how words come to mean in poetry has obviously fascinated people. And since this is an English class, that is the tack I want to take to talk about semantics. We'll focus on "metaphor." Our book doesn't spend a lot of time with metaphor--just a page or so. But most of you will have learned at some point that a metaphor is a comparison between two things. More specifically you might say a metaphor is an assertion of similarity between two apparently dissimilar things. Thus if a lover were to declare: "My love is like a rose!" he or she would be taking two things that are not very much alike in fact, a person and a flower, and asserting similarity between them. This is pretty simple to describe, and that particular metaphor is overused enough that you might figure there isn't much to say about it. But there are lots of ways his love is NOT like a rose. S/he doesn't, I imagine, get mildew, nor do her/his "leaves" fall off from black spot. I hope s/he doesn't have thorns--anyone who prunes one sure knows that roses do!

1. In any case, the first thing I'd like you to do here is pick three words in Blake's poem that you think are being used metaphorically, and explain as best you can how each is used.

Don't worry about writing a great analysis--focus on the words and how you see them meaning. We'll spend time in class particularly with the concept of lexical features (pp. 224-6) as well as 233-4.

2. And the second thing I'd like you to do is to think about the word "cat." Write a definition for "cat," and then define as many meanings as you can by making up sentences that use the word, either by itself or in some sort of metaphorical combination. "I own a cat," is pretty easy; others get more complicated, like "My ambition is to be a cat-burglar."

See if you can get at least three reflecting three different meanings for the word "cat."

Thursday, April 30

Reading: NONE!!!!

Writing: For each of the following sentences, give a Basic Structure diagram of its constituent structures, a list of whatever rules must be applied to yield its revised structure, and then a Revised Structure diagram reflecting the changes you have listed.

1. For him to run away was a great disappointment to me.

2. Your having done the exercises will bring joy to your teacher.

3. His flying airplanes scared me because I thought that they might crash.

4. That my IPhone was stolen by a pickpocket led to my being very angry.

5. I am depressed by the Mariners’ losing on the road.

I've put up keys to the three final sentences of this exercise. To see diagrams of those key sentences, click here.

Tuesday, April 28

Reading: Chapter 6, pp. 187-207 (This is the textbook's version of the transformational dimension of what we are doing for this week. It doesn't correspond exactly to what we are doing, but it's actually pretty close. In all things, however, the Newe Mini-Grammar I handed out yesterday is THE authority. I'll be handing out a final, lightly revised version of the Mini-Grammar on Tuesday, April 28. Meanwhile, I've uploaded a version to the Blackboard)

Writing: On Tuesday we introduced copulative verbs and embedded structures. Speaking of which, for each of the following sentences, give a phrase structure diagram of its constituent structures.

1. Sally announced that the train was late.
2. The students were very happy with their lattes.
3. That Bill smokes cigarettes reduces his lung capacity.
4. The elephants played in the sun, and the giraffes stood on their toes.
5. That the antelope played in the sun indicated that the lions were in their lairs.

Tuesday, April 21

NO READING. Today is Midterm 1. We'll begin with 30 minutes of review and questions--then it's on to showing what you can do with phonetics, phonology, and morphology and basic phrase structure rules. The review will be based on these sentences:
The black cat arched its back defensively.
A well-stocked mini-bar held sandwiches for the hungry.
The recession-driven market neared an all-time low.

Thursday, April 16

Reading: Chapter 6, pp. 171-187--Beginning Syntax: phrase structure rules.

The schedule I handed out on day 1 had us reading Chapter 5 for the 16th, and you can still do that if you'd like. Chapter 5 is a full and up-to-date treatment of many of the concepts of traditional grammar--including parts of speech and how verbs are conjugated.

But we'll touch on much of what matters most in 5 when treating chapter 6, anyway, so in the interest of not overwhelming you, we'll integrate key elements of 5 into our work with 6.

The first part of the chapter explains what are called "phrase structure" rules--a way of defining the basic grammatical building blocks of English. Technically this part of language study is called "syntax"--which is Greek for "to arrange together"--which is what we do when we combine words into phrases and sentences.

Writing: Exercises 6.1 and 6.2.

Tuesday, April 14

Reading: Chapter 4 on Morphology. This is a chapter that does its best to apply the ways we've thought about sounds to ways we can think about words. Sounds in English are very much rule-governed. And phonology is the science of what sounds a language has in its system and what the rules for combining those sounds are. Words, too, are elements of English, and they, too, can (at least sometimes) be combined or modified--just like sounds. Unsurprisingly, then, linguists have wanted to explore the systematicity of our English word system, and the resulting efforts to formulate rules for the formation and combination of words then follows.

That's all good, but words are not as neat as sounds when it comes to making up rules about them. Some things are very clear--and easily described. Some are very unclear, and all but indescribable. So this chapter will seem a little frustrating at times.

Writing: So, instead of doing the exercises here, I want you to imagine yourself a teacher who wants to introduce high school seniors to the morphology of English, but knows that they are likely to get lost if you give them too much at one time.

So your job? Read the chapter, and then decide what three things in it would be the most useful things for a student new to the systematic study of language. Then write a paragraph explaining briefly each of the topics you select, and then explain why you think each of your three topics is worth putting on this short list of Things You Really Need to Know.

Thursday, April 9

Reading: Phonology: Phonemics. Underlying representations of sound. Chap 3, pp 82-95.

Writing: Do exercises 3.3.3, 3.4 and 3.5

Tuesday, April 7

Reading: Phonology: Phonetics. The sounds of English. Chap 3, pp 67-82.

Writing: Do exercises 3.1 and 3.2 (at back of chapter)

Thursday, April 2

Reading: Language basics. Chap 1, pp1-20; Chap 2, 35-48.

Writing: I didn't assign any. Call it the quiet before the storm....