Link to University of Washington
Information for Current and Prospective Students
Puget Sound Writing Project
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
London Theatre and Concert Tour
About Me
Contact Information


Fall Quarter 2023

English 370: English Language Study,


What Do We Do When We Speak English?

Classroom Smith 405

Office phone: 206 543-6203


MW 10:30-12:20am

Office Hours: TuTh 3:30-4:30 + by appt

Course Overview | Texts | Syllabus | Reading Schedule

Assignments and Updates


Course Overview

English Language Study introduces students to the most extraordinary thing we human beings do: communicating. Indeed, this fact of human behavior is so central to our lives that we take it for granted. We speak and hear our words so much, so easily, and so automatically that we hardly even think about what we are doing when we do it.

But even if we are not thinking much about what we do when we speak English, in fact we are doing a lot. We look for words to fit our thoughts and we unconsciously judge them for how well they fit the context in which we use them. We put together the sounds of the words we select in carefully articulated ways, and we slot the resulting words into different structures, each of which creates different meanings even when we are using the very same words. And we do all these things at speed, not even noticing our actions.

How do we do it? How can all the tweaks, moans and pops that human beings so easily cast out into the air cause others to laugh or grow angry or reach out to take a hand?

It is actually all pretty amazing, and it sets us the problem: how can we capture and understand even the basic facts of this extraordinarily ability to communicate?

All of which means: this class will introduce you to a range of language issues, like why grammar is your friend (and not boring at all), or how in spite of the fact that all the thousands of words we say in English are made up of only about 40 distinct sounds, speakers can nevertheless say millions of completely different things. You will find out, too, why English spelling is so confusing, and how language change has caused enmity and war, or (with Shakespeare) how making language into poetry is often to take a step towards making love.

Most important, you will learn something about yourself—about the ways language can control you much more than you control it, and about how knowing more about that control can return to you some of the power you will need to have in order to fight back.

Text: How English Works, 3rd ed., Curzan and Adams. This book in hardcover is expensive, and we will read/study a good deal, but won't read the whole of it. So you might want the e-version, priced earlier this year at $44.99, available either at Pearson (the publisher) or from Amazon; where it also costs $44.99.


The goal of this class is to introduce you to the systematic study of English as a language. We'll look at its structures and how those structures enable us to communicate. We'll glance at its history and its relation to other human languages, and we'll look at questions of dialect, usage rules, and the social dimensions of language choice. And we will conclude by looking at stylistics—the study of how writers deploy language for literary effect.

Work: Two midterms, a final, and, as a term project, a language autobiography (see below). You'll also do regular exercises (see below for more), and a few quizzes. At quarter's end you will also submit a portfolio of your work along with a final Self-reflective Essay on your learning in the course.

You can earn up to 500 points apportioned as follows:

Midterm 1.......Converted into Canvas Assignments 100
Midterm 2. .....Converted into Canvas Assignments 100
Language Autobiography I..........25
Language Autobiography II.........75
Attendance and Participation.......40
Canvas Assignments....................60

Overall demands of the course: Language is complicated, its study is an enormous field, and though we won’t be covering it all by any means, we will do enough to give you a strong base for pursuing further language study either in this department or in Linguistics or Education. But yes, it will be demanding. The reading is not that much per week, but you will find yourself having to read and reread, to memorize a good deal, and (hardest of all) to get used to thinking about language quite differently than you may have done before.

Moreover, we will cover a LOT. That means that missing class will be a major downer. I hope we will keep things interesting, but really, missing class will make your job a great deal tougher. So if you have a busy schedule and don’t have time to devote to this class, then you will want to find something else to take.

More on Assignments:

You will be doing some form of writing for every class. Sometimes it will be a short paper; at other times it will be an exercise either posted on the Assignments and Updates page (at Assignments and Updates ) or the Course Canvas page, or from exercises in the book, or it may be something to prepare you for a quiz. I will read and respond to some, but not all. However, all papers, quizzes and exercises will be collected by you and submitted at the end of the course in a final portfolio for credit. More on the Language Portfolio will be forthcoming later in the quarter.

What do I want: Engaged Critical Intelligence (ECI) : My criterion for the daily exercise/response papers is “engaged critical intelligence,” or ECI. You don’t have to be “right,” and you don’t have to be polished. You don’t even have to solve entirely whatever problem I give you. But I do want to see real effort, even if it’s only to narrate for me the difficulties you are having as you try to come to grips with the assignment.

How Much Time Should You Spend Writing? In the past some students have spent more time and anxiety on these responses than is necessary. Please understand: although I genuinely do want you to take these exercises seriously, I’m not asking for finished "English Papers." I call them “response papers” to suggest that their purpose is to be responding with an Engaged Critical Intelligence both to the reading and to my question(s) about it—NOT writing a series of "papers."

In specific terms that means: I expect from you either TWO typed pages, or ONE FULLY ENGAGED HOUR of writing. If you want to spend more time than that—fine. Just don’t go over two pages, or, when posting on line, over the word-limit.

My response to your responses. I certainly do want your papers to be coherent, but the daily response papers are not supposed to be fully finished works. And because they are informal in this way, I will also rarely read them with the same close attention I will give to your formal work. Their primary usefulness is in the writing itself. I take it as axiomatic that you will get substantially more from this class by having written regularly throughout than you otherwise would—and end-of-quarter evaluations from students in earlier classes consistently confirm that most students agree.

Moreover my intent is that these exercises will be useful to you whether I actually read them or not. Indeed, I will not read every set of papers at the time you write them (though you will be collecting them as you complete them, and turning them in as part of the course portfolio at quarter’s end). And when I do collect them, my comments will be of the “OK,” “good,” or “I’d like to see more thinking going on here” variety. (If you want more specific response to your work, you are welcome to come talk with me during my office hours.)

Late Papers: I cannot accept late submissions. There will be 40 or more of you, and you’ll be writing something for almost every class. That adds up to a huge number of submissions, and if they are coming in at different times, I simply cannot keep track of them. So if I have collected a day’s exercise but you didn’t have it ready to turn in, then make it up, and submit it in your final portfolio, but please don't give it to me. (You can miss up to TWO such exercises without penalty. Otherwise you will lose points for missing papers.)

Virtual Office Hours: My office hours are listed above; I enjoy talking with students, so don't hesitate to use them. I am also available for reasonably simple questions online. Send me a note. If your question or concern is too complicated to address online, I’ll tell you so and we can find a time to talk.

Finally, remember to back-up your work regularly, and always keep a copy of anything you turn in! Don’t be a victim of a failed hard drive—whether yours or mine!

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is using the words or ideas of another person without crediting that person fully and accurately. Faculty at the UW generally view plagiarism as a very serious matter.  That doesn't mean you can't use things other people say or write. We do that all the time.  The point is that you must clearly identify anything you borrow or quote, and you must acknowledge your source!  Copying, quoting, or even paraphrasing others without crediting your source is very much prohibited, not just in this class but for any class you take from here on out.  

A particularly serious form of plagiarism is copying or submitting someone else's work as if it is your own, an act that can result in both a failing grade and referral to the University for further disciplinary action.

There are guidelines in any handbook and available online for how to give credit to your sources, but if you have any questions at all about how best to deal with sources, please visit the OWRC, or write or talk to me!

Unforeseen Difficulties: Should any unforeseen difficulties (like injury or illness or the effects of culture shock) affect your performance in the class, please let me know! Things do happen, and in spite of all of the rules and warnings above, the paramount goal for all of us here is to ensure you get as much from this course as you possibly can. So don't hesitate to talk with me about any issue that may slow you down or hold you back. I hold regular office hours (see above), but I'm also available by appointment at other times and by email just about anytime.

Important UW Campus Resources

FIUTS: (The Foundation for International Understanding Through Students) provides opportunities for students from all over the world to connect. Consider going to a FIUT’s outing : Every week during the summer, FIUTS organizes an outing for students and friends (canoeing and visiting Discovery Park were two recent excursions). You do not have to make a reservation in advance.  See what events are planned at:

Writing Centers: UW writing centers can support you as you transition from high-school writing to university-level writing in any course you take. These centers are free and provide individual attention from trained mentors. During Early Fall Start contact:

The Odegaard Writing and Research Center (OWRC)

OWRC offers free, one-on-one help with all aspects of writing at any stage in the writing process. The OWRC is located in Room 121 of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library (OUGL) and it is open Monday - Thursday from 12:00-6:00 p.m. during Early Fall Start. You can consult with a writing tutor at any stage of the writing process, from the very beginning (when you are planning a paper) to near the end (when you are thinking about how to revise a draft to submit to your instructor).

To make the best use of your time there, please bring a copy of your assignment with you and double-space any drafts you want to work on. To make an appointment or browse the center's online resources, please visit

Q Center: The University of Washington Q Center is a largely student-run resource center dedicated to serving all members of the University community on issues of gender and/or sexual orientation.  

The Q Center hosts students groups and regular programming events, as well as maintaining a queer-centered library and student blog.  You can access the Q Center website at:

or stop by room 315 in the HUB Monday-Friday between 9am-5pm.

Disabilities: Please let me know if you need accommodation of any sort. I am happy to work with the UW Disability Services Office (DSO) to provide what you require, and I am very willing to make suggestions specific to this class to meet your needs. This syllabus is available in large print, as are other class materials—just ask.  More information on support at UW may be found on the DSO web site at:

Emergencies or Complaints

If for some reason I am not available when you have an emergency, or if you want to speak to someone else about the class, please contact Dr. Anis Bawarshi, Chair of the English Department. His office number is 206 543 2690, and his email address is




Course Overview | Texts | Syllabus | Reading Schedule

Home | A&S Writing | Classes | PSWP | SoTL | London | Vita | About Me | Golf | Contact Info