Suggested Paper Topics

For students in English 554, here are some possible paper topics:
  1. Here are several lexical or syntactic changes in progress happening in English now.
    a.   The development of “be all” and “be like” as forms marking quotation, as in “She was all ‘I won’t do that!’”
    b.  The development of “my bad” as a response to a mistake
    c.  The development of [iz] plurals for forms like processes and premises.

    Pick one of these changes in progress (or another one you’ve observed and confirmed with me) and collect data about it: Collect all the live forms you can – privilege those in spontaneous speech, but include those found in writing, in dramatic presentations, in other pre-thought-out contexts. Who uses the form? Who doesn’t use it? Are people’s introspections about whether they use the form reliable? Does everyone use it in the same contexts? To mean the same things?

  2.  Pick out a short text (500-1000 words) that exists in Old English, Middle English, and Early Modern English (New Testament texts work well for this. It may be hard to find suitable texts outside of the Bible, but, for example, Boethius’ Consolations of Philosphy entirely or in part, was translated from Latin by Alfred the Great, Chaucer, and Elizabeth I. ) Select an interesting continuous section of each text of about 100 words (the same chunk for each version) and annotate it—for OE, for example, prepare the texts the way the class texts were prepared (give a gloss for the lexical meaning and then note the grammatical properties, gender, number and case for nouns, adjectives, and demonstratives; tense and agreement for verbs, etc). Any interesting or curious lexical uses, for example, should be noted. Then write a description of some of the ways in how the text is treated changes from OE to ME to EME. (You can compare EME to Present Day English if you like, but it isn’t required.)  (Look at chapter 20 of FOETSE; it will help with this kind of analysis.)

  3.  Read the introduction, the last chapter and at least one sample word study from Lewis’ Studies in Words. Following Lewis’ model, pick a word or groups of words and discuss its development in English (i.e., from Old English to Modern English, not back into Latin or Greek or Proto-Germanic).

  4. Anything that shows change across time in English is fair game, but you have to get to approve a specific proposal (maximum 1 page), due by 1 pm on Friday, 13  March (the Friday before Spring Break). (If you suspect that your proposal may need discussion, try to get in earlier so we can discussed it before the due date.)

The paper is due by 5 pm on Wednesday of Finals Week, 6 May 2014.
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