Project #47836 - Grammar Analysis



ENG3318 (Fall 2014): Semester Project



This project counts for 10% (50 points) of your final grade. The purpose of the project is to allow you to explore language in your environment, practice explanations of language phenomena, and react to class discussions.

• A substantial draft is due for in-class peer review on November 24—you must bring 3 copies of the draft. The peer review counts as 5 points on the project -- if you fail to attend or do not bring a sufficient draft, you will lose 5 points.


• The final version is DUE on December 3.


• You will be writing TWO analysis pieces of differing lengths, as described below for a total grade of 50 points.



1. Both analyses must be typed or word-processed, one-and-a-half or double-spaced.


2. One analysis must be at least 500 words and one at least 700 words.

3. In each analysis, you should clearly introduce the data that you will discuss (e.g., where you found it, why it caught your attention, the context of the language use, etc.). Then, throughout your discussion/observations, you must use concepts and vocabulary you have learned in the class whenever appropriate. Also use plenty of examples and details – do not assume that I know anything. If you are trying to explain why a statement is confusing, non-standard, etc., it is NEVER sufficient to merely give the corrected form and say something like "well, it just didn’t look/sound right" or "the corrected version sounds better." Feel free to use charts, labels, and/or tree structures if it will help your discussion.



4. You may choose 2 from the following topics or find your own (which I suggest you run past me at some point before you submit it). You may use each topic only once.


a. What is non-English about these forms? (Get beyond "it sounds funny")–Barry p. 20

The Mr. Smith wrote this letter. He a hat bought.


What your name is? These book is difficult.




b. Choose a writing sample of an author and try to figure out what makes his/her writing distinctive in terms of syntactic structures; discuss at least 2 different features.

c. Interview people on what you think might be a changing grammar feature, such as the who/whom distinction. Test some specific usages in sample sentences. What’s the reaction? What are the results? What does it mean for language in future? Etc. (If you choose this, be sure to describe your method of opinion-gathering; it would be a good idea to consult with me.)



d. Test a computerized grammar checker (e.g., the one in Microsoft Word) on agreement or punctuation by designing a range of example sentences (at least 10 on the same issue). Your sentences should be designed to target specific kinds of structures or issues. How well does it work? What causes problems for it?



e. Watch/read Alice in Wonderland and analyze word play of one or more characters/scenes. Choose a scene in which the grammar is different from standard; discuss the grammatical variation in detail. [You will need to provide a transcript of the section if you use the movie, unless it is directly represented in the book.] Do NOT discuss spelling/pronunciation differences.



f. Look at some jokes and choose one more with the goal of analyzing why they’re funny or clever (many are puns are based on ambiguity of meaning and/or structure).


g. Find a billboard/ad that’s clever (or awkward) due to language use and explain why.


h. Pick an aspect of grammar that is troubling for you and try to explain what’s hard about it or how you solved your challenges with it. You need to be analytical and should include examples as part of your discussion.


i. Read a column or article about language by someone like William Safire or Dave Barry; discuss their language analysis with respect to what we learned in this class about prescriptive/descriptive approaches and issues of usage. Then offer a position of your own--do you agree with him/her? Why do you take this position and how is it related to what you learned in the course? can you quote other examples that are relevant to his/her discussion?


j. Find a character (movie, TV, book) who uses a non-standard pattern in syntax (not pronunciation, spelling, or morphology/word choice) and discuss the pattern – what is it? how does it vary from standard? how many other examples did you find and what are they (you’ll need more than one of each issue)? how does it contribute to the characterization of the role being played? (i.e., look at modals, verb endings/phrases, relative clause marking, question formation, pronoun usage/forms, etc.).


k. Choose a piece of literature that was written during an earlier stage of English (e.g., Shakespeare or Chaucer)—look for syntactic differences between that English and modern English and discuss those differences in detail (by using grammatical analysis techniques and terms). Do NOT discuss spelling differences or word meaning differences.


l. Examine a poem for sentence structure variation. What "rules" did the poet break? What was his/her reason? (i.e., what is the stylistic/rhetorical effect?). You will need to be specific in referring to your examples and the poem should be at least 20 lines long.


Basic Grading Criteria:


• Primary focus on grammatical issues


• Inclusion of sufficient examples and specific examination/explanation of those examples


• Accurate use of appropriate grammar terminology


• Clear organization and use of paragraph structure


• Appropriate use of rules for academic, college-level writing

[See Sample in the version of this assignment on next page.]

ENG3318: Semester Project Sample



I got an email with signs in foreign countries that had been translated into English. As expected, the translations were sadly lacking in "nativeness" and resulted in humorous interpretations. Interestingly, in all cases, the intended meaning is perfectly clear but no native speaker would say it that way. I’m going to focus on the following sign, which was evidently posted in a Tokyo bar:


Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts.


I believe this is ambiguous and could have four meanings, based on variation at the syntactic and semantic levels:


Meaning 1: special cocktails will be given to women who are eating/carrying legume-type foods (peanuts, almonds, etc.)


Meaning 2: special cocktails will be given to women who have male genitalia


Meaning 3: special cocktails containing nuts will be served to women in the bar


Meaning 4: special cocktails will be served, with nuts, to ladies in the bar

Obviously, meaning #4 is the intended one. However, the other three are more salient because of sentence structure and modification relationships. In both meanings #1 and #2, the basic pattern of interpretation is due to the association of the prepositional phrase (PP) with nuts with a head noun ladies; in each case, that PP would be an adjectival PP. This modification relationship is probably the preferred one because most English speakers associate a modifier with the closest possible target. In a sentence like The server spoke to the woman under the counter, the PP under the counter is first associated with the closest element that it could modify – the woman. In this case the PP is adjectival. Only after that interpretation is rejected based on oddness, since women don’t usually sit under counters, do speakers then attempt to relink the prepositional phrase with a more distant element spoke. When the PP modifies spoke it acts adverbially.


Ostensibly the same process occurs with the sentence here. A first reading associates the PP with the closest element (ladies). Even then there is ambiguity due to two meanings of with nuts. This is a semantic variation. The term nuts in a standard language context refers to a food item. While that meaning of nuts will eventually be considered the intended one, it is odd at first glance when construed with ladies because it is unusual to distinguish groups of people based on what kind of food they’re carrying. The next step is to consider an alternative meaning


of the words in the same syntactic relationship. It so happens that nuts has a more casual and vulgar interpretation of referring to male genitalia. This is clearly not intended for two reasons. First, it would be highly inappropriate for a bar to grant privileges to people based on physical attributes. Second, because the PP modifies "ladies" the reader gets contradictory information – it is impossible for women to have male body parts except in quite anomalous cases. Certainly, the bar is not trying to single out those rare people.


Thus, the interpretations based on a modification relationship between the PP and the closest noun are rejected; the only other possibility is that the PP is supposed to be linked with a different part of the sentence. The only other possible target is the first noun cocktails, in which case the PP would also be adjectival. Unfortunately, we get the odd notion with this modification relationship that there are drinks that have nuts in them.


In order to get the correct meaning in #4, we are forced to associate the phrase with nuts with an element which never appears in the actual phrase – the verb. Meaning #4 requires with nuts to be adverbial; it needs to modify something other than a noun. So we must reconstruct the sentence to include a verb to generate the intended interpretation--something like "special cocktails served to women with nuts." Notice that the order still produces meanings #1 and #2, but meaning #3 is not available.


Subject English
Due By (Pacific Time) 11/20/2014 12:00 am
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