Teaching

January 01, 2020

Linguistics 192: Things You Can't Say

Course slides and student work available upon request.

Linguistics 192: Fall 2019

Things You Can’t Say

 

Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.

Mark Twain

 

Course Description

Things You Can’t Say is a class about bad words—what they are, and what processes all languages share with respect to them. This is a class on how a word becomes inappropriate, about the ways naughty words operate in the brain. This is a class on what it means to tell people what they can or cannot say, and how that control extends through spoken, written, and signed language—and through the lifetime. Indeed, some of the language considered offensive in our society mere decades ago is now considered utterly mundane—and vice versa. We will investigate what kinds of topics or words are typically considered to be taboo or off-limits and how bans on blue language are enforced. In so doing, we’ll discover that what is considered profane is determined by social and cultural norms, situational expectations, and individual preferences, habits, and identities; we will consider the similarity of linguistic operation beneath that dynamism. We will also discuss the cognitive paths obscenities take, and the psychological and physiological consequences of communicative processing. The goal of this class is to take unmentionable and illicit language as an inherently interesting lens through which to learn about human linguistic capability and creativity. Swearing is, scientifically and socially, cool. We will approach Things You Can’t Say from the viewpoint of multiple disciplines that concern themselves with the study of Language and its use, including Linguistics, Neurobiology, Anthropology, Psychology, Literature, Rhetoric, and The Law. Students will have the opportunity to engage in self-directed research on a pejorative word of their choosing, and will have the space to present that research to our classroom community.

 

We will be talking about topics that are offensive and we will also say, read, and sign vulgar words, phrases, and gestures that make people uncomfortable in the wider world. Do not take this course unless you are interested in critically engaging with religious terminology used outside of prayer or ritual; graphic descriptions of bodily functions; suggestions or descriptions of sex acts; ethnic, racial, gendered, and aged epithets or slurs—or if you feel you cannot personally work to maintain open-minded, professional decorum in the presence of reprehensible language usage. Be ready for frank and mature discussions about controversial topics, and to work within yourself to encourage openness for reconsidering your ideas about language and society.

 

Required Texts and/or Coursepack

Bergen, Benjamin. (2016). What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves. New York: Basic Books.
 

Major Assignments

 

Words Paper (Midterm): 25%

You will choose a profane word or phrase and conduct a word history analysis that goes beyond a search in the OED. This paper will be 3-5 pages of academic prose due by Midterm.

 

The objective of this assignment is to equip you will the skills to do lexicographic research and corpus-based analysis. This assignment will demonstrate that you understand the history of a word and the effect it has on its contexts of usage overtime and today, to reflect on current domains and registers of usage and to assess its taboo status.

 

In-Class Presentations: 5%

You will construct and deliver a 5-minute presentation of your Words Paper, so that your peers can learn about the words you’ve now become an expert on.

 

The objective of this assignment is to introduce you to the process of restructuring academic work made in one medium to another (written to spoken), which you will do after incorporating commentary from myself and your peers. This assignment also functions in giving you the opportunity to refine and present original work and opens up space for us to discuss our thoughts on your subject as a community of scholars.

 

Observations in The Wild: 10%

Occasional Discussion posts tied to chapter topics that require you to observe pejorative language being used in the world around you and/or metalinguistic commentary about pejorative language occurring in the world around you. You will describe, report, and analyze the usage and/or topics you’ve been tasked with observing in a discussion post due before class, and we will use your observations to fuel our discussion in class on those days. Observations from The Wild are worth two (2) points each, and six (6) total points are needed for full credit. Extra credit is available if all Observations are completed.

 

The objective of this assignment is to encourage you to be finding and analyzing the usage of the terms and the presence of phenomena under discussion in this course in their in contemporary, contextual nuance. Too, this assignment functions to create a low-stakes space for each student to participate in our collective knowledge-building, and allows for active engagement with the surrounding community.

 

Chapter Presentations: 10%

The objective of this assignment is to ensure attentive reading, for you to take personal ownership in our community learning, and to encourage all voices to be equally active in the classroom. You will be required to present, in a group of three, once in the semester on the given homework chapter to begin our discussion in class the day that chapter is covered. This can involve presenting a summary, designing an exercise, or organizing a series of questions for your classmates to consider. These presentations are informal in the sense that their format is not strictly regulated, but they are important in the sense that they are worth a significant portion of your grade--a high stakes method of measuring your overall engagement with the text for this class, an opportunity to demonstrate that you can think critically and work collaboratively on a complex topic. 

 

Follow this link after September 6th at 10:00 PM to sign up for your chapter presentation. Feel free to skim through the textbook chapters for a preview of the possible topics. 

 

Plan accordingly your reading schedule with your group so that you have time to collaborate at least once together after everyone has read the chapter. I will make available all digital spaces on Canvas to facilitate your coordination in these matters. You will be graded on three criteria: the working notes you keep while reading the chapter; your contribution to the presentation in class; and your short response/self-assessment completed after the in-class presentation.

 

Daily Participation: 20%

You will earn participation points for contributing to in-class discussion and for responding to the weekly discussion posts of your peers. You will earn points for participating openly and cooperatively during in-class group work and workshop sessions. Participation points will be updated quarterly on Canvas; updates in office hours by request.

 

The objective of this requirement is to create a culture of free-flowing commentary; to ensure when you are not doing a chapter presentation you have a way to receive credit for contributing to discussion; to create a culture of open exploration and scientific investigation in our classroom. All of our small homework assignments (mostly reading responses) will contribute to this grade as well, ensuring that you receive credit for preparing for class, whether you audibly contribute to in-class discussion or not.

 

Final Exam: 30%

The final exam will be take-home and you will have one week to complete it using only your textbook and class notes. The exam will consist of a combination of T/F, Short Answer, and Essay questions. The objective of this assignment is to give you a space to demonstrate a command for the overarching topics of this course, which are the nature of profanity, linguistic universals, socialization’s role in acquisition and pejoration, censorship and best practices (if any) for protecting the innocent and the defamed.

May 15, 2019

English 125: Teaching Materials

While this course, overall, shares the same objectives and description as that described below, this semester represented the best overall shape of the course, in terms of examples used and concepts applied. I offer the slides from this course for anyone to use. It may be best applied in Writing or Rhetoric courses, or for anyone teaching Social History. It also provides scaffolding for a semester-long Podcast project. The other major assignments include a Literacy Narrative, Rhetorical Analysis, and a Research-Based Revision.

Sides here! :) (sample student work available upon request)

August 01, 2018

English 125: Writing and Academic Inquiry

University of Michigan English Department Writing Program

Graduate Student Instructor of Record:  Kelly E. Wright, University of Michigan

Terms Taught:

Fall 2018 (Course slides and sample student work available upon request)

Course Description:

There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at your typewriter and bleed.

 

This class is about writing and academic inquiry. Effective arguments stem from well-formulated questions, and academic essays allow writers to gain deeper understanding of the questions that they are exploring. In this course, you will learn to create complex, analytic, well-supported arguments that matter in and out of academic contexts. The course will also hone your critical thinking and reading skills. Working closely with your peers and instructor, you will develop your essays through extensive revision and in-class workshops. Our course readings will cover a variety of genres and serve as models or prompts for assigned essays. The specific questions that you pursue in your essays will be guided by your own interests.

 

For this course, as an investigation of ourselves as subjects in conversation and in the built environment, we will be focusing on cultural blindness. Good writing necessitates a fluid and empathetic conception of audience, which in turn necessitates an awareness of self that cannot be taught. Our exercises will involve introspection with the aim of noticing, developing, encouraging, and supporting our individual authorial voices. To do this, we will come to understand ourselves as readers, not simply of text, but also of the world around us and the messages in it, of other people, of our collective history as human beings. As your instructor, it is my goal to fill your toolkit with what is needed to engage—enthusiastically and easily—with the tasks set before you as adults, contributing citizens, and nascent academics at the world’s premier public university. 

 

Learning Goals for English 125

  • To cultivate practices of inquiry and empathy that enable us to ask genuine questions, engage thoughtfully and rigorously with a wide range of perspectives, and create complex, analytic, well-supported arguments that matter in academic contexts and beyond.

  • To read, summarize, analyze, and synthesize complex texts purposefully in order to generate and support writing.

  • To analyze rhetorical strategies that writers use to address particular audiences for various purposes and in various contexts; to understand how those strategies evolve out of our means of description and the drive of capturing the totality of a moment; and to know genre by such strategies’ repeated, creative application.

  • To develop flexible strategies for revising, editing, and proofreading writing of varying lengths, in various media, for various purposes.

  • To develop strategies for self-assessment, goal-setting, and reflection on the process of writing.

  • To develop a complete understanding of the purpose and process of academic research methods—scholarly research, computational, and experimental work and theory—alongside a practiced grasp of correct in-text, oral, and bibliographic citation procedures.

July 22, 2017

Inaugural NARNiHS Conference Workshop

Workshop:  A Historical Sociolinguist's Digital Tools "Starter Kit"

Workshop Leader:  Kelly E. Wright, University of Kentucky

Date / Time / Location:
Saturday, 22 July 2017, 3:30-6:00 pm
Jacob Science Building, Room 221
University of Kentucky

2017 Linguistic Institute: http://lsa2017.uky.edu. 
Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Description:
This workshop will present a bouquet of digital tools for historical sociolinguistic investigation. We will be working with a prepared dataset to facilitate a common experience and maximize our investigation of the tools, but we will have some opportunity for play! The workshop will contain the following modules:

  • A RegEx primer/refresher to enhance basic search strings (demonstrated in a text/code editor [BBEdit or Notepad++] and in the corpus analysis software AntConc). This will illustrate that with some foreknowledge of a dataset, one can maximize search coverage and minimize noise in the results by using this special set of characters to help define search patterns.

  • A short introduction to VARD2 spelling normalization software. This software allows for variant spellings in the data to be gathered into a search using the current (or contemporary) standard.

  • Guided experimentation with network visualizations using Gephi, revealing the capacity for measurement of sociolinguistic interaction that such analysis adds to historical data.

  • (If time allows) a deeper look into the metadata accompanying our dataset to discuss approaches to documentation and standardization of metadata.

This workshop will require participants to bring their own laptops (note that tablets will not run all the software we will be using). If this is an issue, please email Kelly Wright (workshop leader) at kelly.wright {at} uky {dot} edu to discuss other options.

==> Here is the list of software tools and resources that you should download to your laptop to be prepared for the workshop:

A full set of guided instructions, complete with screenshots, will be provided, alongside directions on how to access the prepared materials, so these tools can be easily returned to and shared.

January 18, 2017

Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies

WRD 111: Composition and Communication II 

Spring Section 002: M/W/F 8-8:50 a.m.

Instructor: Ms. Kelly E. Wright        Email: kelly.wright@uky.edu           

Office Hours: Fridays 10:00-1:00     Office Location: 1522 POT

 

Please read this syllabus closely. Remaining enrolled in my class means that you have read and understood the content of this syllabus and that you agree to abide by all of the outlined guidelines and policies it contains.

Overview and Goals

Composition and Communication II is the second of two general education courses focused on integrated oral, written, and digital communication skills development emphasizing critical inquiry and research. In this course, students will explore issues of public concern using rhetorical analysis; engage in deliberation over those issues; and ultimately propose methods to address them based on well-developed arguments. Each of you will sharpen your ability to conduct research; compose and communicate in multiple modalities; and work effectively in groups. A significant component of this course will consist of learning to use visual and digital resources, first to enhance written and oral presentations and later to communicate mass mediated messages to various publics. We will focus on investigating the concept of public interest by engaging critical and ethical issues of concern. By expanding our view of cultural and community identity and need, we will come to recognize the stakes involved in investigating and reporting on local and national issues.

 

To learn to analyze a public issue using rhetorical analysis, the entire class will explore together a case study. This semester we will focus on consent, how this issue is approached and understood locally and nationally, who the stakeholders are; how their interests are represented—multimodally—to wider publics. Concurrently, students will be grouped in teams, each of which will explore a different local or national issue and determine the discourses and practices related to the communities it effects. For the first two-thirds of the class, students will decide on their team focus and conduct significant primary and secondary research on the issue. In the last third of the class, teams will develop digital projects to communicate their well-argued solutions to audiences beyond the classroom.

Student Learning Outcomes 

By the end of the semester, you will be able to

  • compose written texts in many different modes and media and deliver oral presentations that represent a relevant and informed point of view appropriate for its audience, purpose, and occasion in an environment that reinforces the recursive and generative nature of the composition and delivery rehearsal processes.

  • demonstrate an awareness of strategies that speakers and writers use in different communicative situations and media, and in large and small groups; learn to analyze and use visuals effectively to augment their oral presentations; to employ invention techniques for analyzing and developing arguments; to recognize and address differing genre and discourse conventions; and to document their sources appropriately.

  • find, analyze, evaluate, and properly cite pertinent primary and secondary sources, using relevant discovery tools, as part of the process of speech preparation and writing process.

  • develop flexible and effective strategies for organizing, revising, editing, proofreading, and practicing/rehearsing to improve the development of their ideas and the appropriateness of their expression.

  • collaborate with peers, the instructor, and librarians to define revision strategies for their essays and speeches, to set goals for improving them, and to devise effective plans for achieving those goals.

  • engage in a range of small group activities that allow them to explore and express their experiences and perspectives on issues under discussion.

August 18, 2016

Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies 110

 

“The first thing I want to say to you who are students, is that you cannot afford to think of being here to receive an education; you will do much better to think of yourselves as being here to claim one.” – Adrienne Rich

 

 

Please read this syllabus closely. Remaining enrolled in this class means that you have read and understood all of the content in this syllabus and that you agree to abide by all of the outlined guidelines and policies contained within. 

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION

In this course, we will be investigating ideas of community and representation. During our investigation, we will consider several questions: how do we define community? What is our place in our communities? What does membership in our communities entail? What makes us different? What does it mean to to have this difference represented? Throughout the course, I will encourage you to explore your place, and the place of others, in the broader community and take a stance on issues of public concern—that is, to begin to view yourself as an engaged citizen.  

OVERVIEW AND GOALS

WRD 110 is a course in speaking and writing, emphasizing critical inquiry and research. Our concept of research will go far beyond an ordinary method of looking up information and plugging it into essays. Research is a creative, complex and exciting process. You will engage in reflective thinking and analysis, conduct primary research in the community, and secondary research using library resources. And you will learn how to write and speak effectively as we answer questions focusing on our place in different communities and in evolving places in our lives. A significant component of the class will be learning to use visuals and online resources to enhance writing and oral presentation. Over the course of the semester, you can expect to work independently, with a partner, or with small groups of your peers to investigate, share findings, and compose presentations of your research, as well as to practice and evaluate interpersonal and team dynamics in action.

STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES

After successfully completing WRD 110, students will be able to:   

 

•    Compose written texts in many different modes and media, and deliver oral presentations that represent a relevant and informed point of view appropriate for its audience, purpose, and occasion in an environment that reinforces the recursive and generative nature of the composition and delivery rehearsal processes.

•    Demonstrate an awareness of strategies that speakers and writers use in different communicative situations and media, and in large and small groups; learn to analyze and use visuals effectively to augment their oral presentations; to employ invention techniques for analyzing and developing arguments; to recognize and address differing genre and discourse conventions; and to document their sources appropriately.

•    Find, analyze, evaluate, and properly cite pertinent primary and secondary sources, using relevant discovery tools, as part of the process of speech preparation and writing process.

•    Develop flexible and effective strategies for organizing, revising, editing, proofreading, and practicing/rehearsing to improve the development of their ideas and the appropriateness of their expression.

•    Collaborate with peers and the instructor to define revision strategies for their essays and speeches, to set goals for improving them, and to devise effective plans for achieving those goals.

•    Engage in a range of small group activities that allow them to explore and express their experiences and perspectives on issues under discussion.

May 18, 2016

Linguistics 211

Course Description: 

This course is designed to give you a broad introduction to the field of Linguistics, the scientific study of language. This course is divided into two parts. The first will provide you with a basic foundation in the five core components of human grammar: syntax, morphology, phonetics, phonology, and semantics. We will then build upon this knowledge in the second section, surveying a number of linguistic subfields, including historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, language acquisition, and language and the brain.

 

Course Goals/Learning Outcomes: 

This course hopes to:

  • Instill in you an understanding of and appreciation for the complex, systematic nature of language.

  • Acquaint you with the fundamental concepts and principles of linguistic theory and prepare you for higher-level linguistics courses.

  • Train you in basic techniques of linguistic analysis.

  • Promote tolerance of linguistic diversity, especially of your own way of speaking!

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The University of Michigan

Department of Linguistics

440 Lorch Hall 

611 Tappan Street 

Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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