Linguistics 575A: Guidelines for leading a discussion
The general goal is to facilitate a good discussion of
each paper where contributions from all class members
lead to a greater understanding of how the paper informs
our work towards answer the main questions raised in the
seminar. Towards this end, I suggest the following overall
- A brief introduction during which the presenter discusses
how the paper relates to the questions being asked.
- An overview/summary of the paper, including both what
the author intended as the main points and the most important
points from our perspective.
- Free form discussion of points of interest/confusion in the
paper. The presenter should have some questions which can spark
discussion prepared, but it is expected that other participants
will contribute questions as well.
- 5 minutes or so at the end of the time for the paper in
which the presenter summarizes the discussion and the conclusions
we have reached.
The presenter is also responsible for keeping the discussion
on track. The discussions should be contentful rather than superficial,
but it is also not ideal to spend the whole class time on just one
or two subpoints of a paper.
- Why do we represent the semantics of NPs in English as generalized
quantifiers? (Historically, epistemologically)
- Do NPs have the same (range of) meanings in all languages?
- Why are quantifiers so central to the study of formal semantics?
- What are the alternative possibilities for representing a) the
meaning of elements like every and some and b) the meaning of
NPs in general?
- How compatible are those approaches with MRS/the Grammar Matrix/local
compositionality/the LKB generator?
- What are the linguistic motivations for a local compositionality?
- Are there any empirical tests for local v. global compositionality?
General critical reading questions
Critical reading is the process of actively engaging with a text as
you read it, going beyond simply following the author's arguments or
explanation. It involves examining the underlying assumptions not
made explicit in the text, both in the initial framing of the issue
and in the reasoning from evidence to conclusions. In doing so, you
place the text in a larger context, relying on your own knowledge of
the field, your knowledge of related fields, your own personal
experience, and the text itself.
Critical reading is not criticizing. You can read a text critically
and come out the other end liking it or disliking it. In either case,
you'll have a better idea of why.
In order to break down the process of critical reading into
specific steps, I have found the following questions helpful.
In answering these questions as you read, keep in mind who the author
and intended audience are. These two pieces of information are
an important part of the context.
- What is the research question that the article asks?
- What assumptions/presuppositions are involved in asking/framing
the question the way the authors do?
- How is the work situated with respect to other previous
- How were the data gathered?/What sources of evidence are brought to bear?
- What potential for bias was there in the gathering of the
- How are the authors' presuppositions involved in the way
they collected the data?
- What are the conclusions drawn?
- What presuppositions are involved in the reasoning from evidence
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