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Undergraduate Reading Group Suggestions?


One of the things I’ve decided to pursue this year is an undergraduate reading group for students who are interested in learning more about linguistics. So far, I’ve had expressions of interest from about 12 students, so I would expect less than half that to turn up. I’ve genuinely no idea how it’s going to go, but the expectation is to meet once every four weeks (so three times per semester) for about an hour during lunch and chat about interesting/controversial/topical papers in linguistics (although it will probably be more geared towards sociolinguistics).

The main aim of the reading group is to try and generate more ‘grass roots’ interest in linguistics within the student cohort. This is particularly challenging since linguistics isn’t a separate department or even a separate single honours degree programme (it can only be done as a joint degree with literature), so there isn’t a strong base from which to draw students. With that in mind, the papers need to be relatively straightforward and not contain a great amount of ‘technical’ linguistic work. The papers also need to be suitable for students across all three years of study and generate enough material for the students to discuss for an hour.

So yeah, the demands are pretty steep, and I’ve only got a very general idea of what to go for:

  • 1st session – Intro and something on regional dialect judgements (Coupland and Bishop 2007?)
  • 2nd session – Something on AAVE (Labov’s the logic of non-standard English?) or something on the beginnings of sociolinguistics (Martha’s vineyard stuff, but pretty technical)
  • 3rd session – Something on gender (perhaps Locke vs. Cameron? Kielsing’s Dude paper? Rusty Barrett’s paper on African American Drag Queens?)

There are some options here then, but what seem most appealing? Is there a paper that ticks all of my needs that I haven’t included here? Suggestions welcome!

The Social Linguist

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  1. January 3, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Another possibility for Session 2 is Pullum 1999, “African American Vernacular English is not standard English with mistakes” [PDF].

    I’m curious to see what you come up with, and I’ll keep mulling it over.

  2. adph
    January 3, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I’m going to assume you’re looking at the “socio-” bit of linguistics, ignoring things like child language development, bilingualism, cognitive linguistics and so on?

    I always found work on lexis, grammar or ‘discourse’ more straightforward than phonology. I think you need to have some grounding in the concept of variation (and some grounding in all the statistical analysis that goes with it) before you can really discuss Labov’s work (and so on). I always found Cameron and Kiesling relatively easy to understand though.

    Re: Session 1, there’s Bucholtz and Lopez’ recent paper (JoS 15(5) 2011) about linguistic “minstrelsy”. It’s quite dense, but you could concentrate on just one section (phonology, grammar or semiotics)

    Other suggestions would be something to do with language and/in the media. Unger and Sutherland (2005) on Shrek? Something by Charteris-Black on metaphors in news media? Culpeper (2005) on impoliteness on The Weakest Link?

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