28 Tyler, EQ
Prof. John Lawler,
- Reading and homework – We will proceed through a number of reading
assignments in McCawley (though not the whole book, which is designed for
a year-long course). There will be homework assignments consisting of
data analysis problems, some from the book, some not. These will be due
on Tuesdays, in an informal format, usually less than one page; they will
be discussed and corrected in class, and not usually collected.
- Weekly writing – Every week, except as noted, a 1-page essay on an
assigned topic, carefully edited, is due on Monday. Four
students each week will be "on deck", responsible for bringing
copies of their essay to class to distribute to everyone. See below for
details and schedule.
These will be read aloud, discussed, and critiqued by the class during
the second hour of the Monday class. Students on deck should be
prepared to justify any word or construction in their essay, to answer
questions about their lexical or grammatical choices, and to explain what
alternatives they considered and why they rejected them. See below for the
first two assignments.
- Papers – Two analytic papers on some grammatical topic will be written
during the term. The final draft of the first, of about ten pages, is due
at Midterm time (Monday Mar 1, after Winter Break); the second, of
about fifteen pages, is due in final draft on the last day of class
(Wednesday Apr 21). The papers will be written in stages, with feedback:
- A 1-page description of the chosen paper topic is due as the Weekly
assignment on Monday Jan 26 for the first paper, and on Wednesday Mar 3
for the second. (NB: Mar 3 is the next class after the first paper
is due in final form.)
- A rough draft of the first paper is due on Monday Feb 9, and of the
second paper on Monday Mar 22. There will be no Weekly writing assignments
during these weeks. Instead, each student will meet individually with the
instructor to go over their draft and plan for revisions.
The grades will be based equally on mastery of factual material about
English syntax, improvement in writing, and class participation. In
addition to letter grades, R.C. students will receive written evaluations.
Weekly Writing Assignments:
Weekly themes will generally be assigned on each
Wednesday for the next Wednesday, as we progress through our grammatical
studies. However, we have to start somewhere, so here are the first
- Due Monday Jan 12 (i.e, right away). Read the preface to the second
edition of McCawley and select a sentence from it to analyze. Write a
1-page report on that sentence, examining anything you find significant,
interesting, or odd about it and its structure, and discussing what the
purpose of the sentence is in its context, what job it does for the writer
and the reader, and how it accomplishes that job. Be prepared to suggest
alternatives to various words and constructions, and your guesses about
why the author didn’t use them.
- Due Monday Jan 19. Collect a real sentence, used by a real person
in a real context (i.e, the sentence should be spoken, not
written), that you find interesting. Then write a 1-page analysis of that
sentence, as used in that context, commenting on any differences you
notice between spoken and written English syntax. Note: the sentence must
be a complete sentence, and as far as possible should be grammatical – we
are not concerned here with solecism or grammatical error, but with
structure and function.
Later assignments will come more directly from our experience in
analyzing English syntax and writing. In general, though, anything you
read or hear or write or say is grist for our analytic mill, and you are
advised to start paying at least desultory attention to the grammar of
every chunk of English that you encounter or produce.
In most cases, the approach to grammar that
McCawley uses is going to seem strange, even counter-intuitive, to
students unfamiliar with linguistics. A great deal of confusion is almost
inevitable. Be advised that this is normal, and that it passes. If you
find the material unfamiliar, this is not your fault, but the fault of
those who educated you; you are not responsible for that. You are,
however, responsible for yourself now. A good way of dealing with any
confusion you encounter is to ask a question about it. Asking questions
is basic to analysis of all kinds, and the careful use of questions is a
necessary part to writing of all kinds. Treasure your questions and share
them with the rest of us. Frequently.
In writing about technical subjects, one needs technical terminology
and technical conventions of all sorts. All terms that appear in
boldface in McCawley are considered technical terms, and so are the
names of rules and structures which are Capitalized; you will be
responsible for using them correctly and appropriately, as needed. A good
way to do this is to make a list of them as they appear, with notes about
their usage. Conventions are pointed out as they appear in the text; you
should master them as they appear.