2009 FALL & 2010 SPRING




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Project Descriptions 

The following are brief descriptions for semester projects for small groups. They are designed for students to carry out their own observations of language in use around them every day, without reference to library sources. Students should turn in a written report on their findings, including an introduction explaining the topic and questions they investigated; a design section detailing how data was collected; a findings section showing what was found; a discussion of the findings; and a conclusion. If instructors require students to cite the textbook, then a references or works cited section should be included. Appendixes may be needed in some cases. (See the sample report guidelines following the project descriptions, for reference only. Follow the requirements your instructor gives you.)

All of these topics have been used successfully many times before. While working on a specific topic, students may have to read ahead of the course schedule, and see their instructor with questions they run into. Students should feel free to modify the topics, in consultation with their instructor. Instructors and students may, of course, think up other good topics to be investigated.

        When collecting naturally occurring data, do not record people without their permission, and do not give participants¡¦ real names in the written report. Review Chapter 1 on how to present linguistic examples in your report.




In this project you will not, of course, be expected to figure out everything about Chinese morphology.  You will work on just two basic questions.  The first is the nature of words in Chinese.  Many people say that Chinese is monosyllabic, that is, that all (or at least most) words are made up of just one syllable.  Others say that this is a confusion between the form of spoken Chinese and the form of written Chinese.  They say that those who claim that Chinese is monosyllabic are basing their ideas on the written character (¦r).  Work out your own opinion on this question.

After you have made up your minds about the first question, the second part of this project is to draw up a list of Mandarin function words similar to the list of English function words on page 65 of the textbook.  You may also want to refer to the list of Mandarin inflections on page 66 to make sure that you list function words and not inflections.

OR Optional questions to consider: (1) the relationship between spoken and written Chinese; (2) derivational processes in Chinese; inflections in Chinese (different varieties of Chinese)

Don¡¦t hesitate to come see your professor if you have any questions.


How do people really talk?  Is everything they say ¡§grammatically correct¡¨?  Do they speak in complete sentences all the time?  What kinds of omissions seem to be allowed?  Do speakers follow rules, or can they speak any way they feel like speaking?  Is the syntax of spoken language different from the syntax of writing?  How?  Are there differences in the syntax of different types of spoken language?

To find answers to these questions tape samples of various types of spoken language¡Xconversations, arguments, academic discussions, lectures, and news broadcasts, for example¡Xand analyze the syntax.  To do this you will have to transcribe your tapes.  This takes time, so start early.

Concentrate on samples all in the same language (English, Mandarin, other varieties of Chinese, another language you know).  Don¡¦t hesitate to come see your professor if you have any questions.



In this project you will investigate how meaning is worked out between (or among) people in an interaction.  For this you will need to know about the distinction between sentences and utterances, about what people do with utterances, and about context, all of which are discussed in Chapter 7 (Nash).  For your data taperecord a few conversations, discussions, or classes.  Then in your recordings find examples of utterances which depend on the context for their meaning.  To simplify things try to use sentence-length examples so that you can analyze them as sentences and as utterances in order to show how utterance meaning depends on context.  There are some examples in Nash on pages 101 and 102 you might look at to get a better idea.

Concentrate on examples all in one language (English, Mandarin, other varieties of Chinese, another language you know).  If you have any questions feel free to come see your professor.



Find examples of borrowed words in English, Mandarin, and any other languages that you know.  Determine the sources of the borrowed words and look for possible reasons they were borrowed.  In English look especially for words that have been borrowed from different varieties of Chinese.  With all your examples check to see if the structure (pronunciation, morphological form) and usage of the borrowed words have changed.  Can you find any words that have changed meaning when borrowed into another language?  Relate all that you find out about borrowed words to language change.

Optional: You might also try to find examples of structures, such as sentence structures or morphological structures, that have been borrowed by one language from another.

Feel free to come see your professor if you have any questions.




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by Dr. Yun-Pi Yuan & Dr. Kentei Takaya;
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