Linguistics 001      Final Project stage 1     Due Mo 11/10/2003

The final project assignment

In plain language: explain something about how a piece of talk works, and why it matters.

More exactly: analyze the communicative effects of some aspects of one or more linguistic performances, attending to at least two different levels of linguistic analysis; and draw some interesting conclusion from your analysis.

Stage 1

Find or create a recording (or a text, but a recording is better). Submit a copy (or describe the resource if it's inconvenien to submit a copy), along with

  • an explanation of the two kinds of linguistic analysis you plan to do,
  • an example of each type of analysis,
  • and a brief sketch of the general point that you plan to make.

Kinds of material you could use:

  1. a recording that you make, of a conversation, a public event, a radio or tv program, the sound track of a movie, etc.
  2. something that you find on the web

There should be enough material to support an interesting analysis, but not more than you can handle. As a result, the appropriate amount will depend on what kind of analysis you plan to do and what point you want to make.

A few examples of the kind of general point we have in mind:

  1. The nature of regional or ethnic speech varieties
  2. Differences between genres or registers
  3. Analysis of effective or ineffective rhetoric

This list is not intended to be exhaustive -- you can take this in any direction that you want, as long as the basic premise holds -- at least two levels of linguistic analysis, contributing to some larger conclusion.

A couple of examples:

1. Your roommate is from London. You record a conversation with her, and plan to examine her vowel pronunciations and her vocabulary for things that you perceive as characteristically British. You submit a tape or CD of the conversation, an IPA transcription of one of her phrases showing characteristic vowels, and an example of British vocabulary that she used (e.g. "manky").

2. You notice that NPR radio news sounds different in many ways from the kind of news you hear on other radio stations, for instance the "all news all the time" AM stations. You record (or download) a few programs of each type, and look for some of the most striking differences, using measures of vocabulary size and type, sentence length and structure, and pitch modulation, expecting to find evidence of the ways that the target audience influences the language used.

3. You're interested in how some great orator achieves his or her effects. You find some recordings of speeches by Martin Luther King or Winston Churchill; you transcribe the speech(es), analyze their rhetorical structure (=pragmatics), and look at one or more other levels of analysis, such as word choice, syntactic paralellism, phonetic performance (pauses, speech rate, pitch range).

4. You like Monty Python's style of comedy, and you've observed that one of their standard methods involves a mismatch of linguistic "registers". Using recordings and transcripts of their sketches, you analyze their use of this kind of incongruity in detail.

We feel that you will probably learn more from analyzing recordings rather than ready-made transcriptions or texts, but this is not a requirement.

    [course home page]    [lecture schedule]     [homework]