Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hella- movement to be analyzed by students of UCD Prof. Patrick Farrell's Linguistics 1 class

Earlier today, I got a facebook comment from one of my friend and fellow UC Davis Aggie, Johnpaul, who told me to check my email ASAP. When I did, I saw that he had emailed me a copy of the writing assignment he had received in his Linguistics 1 class. It took me a second to realize what he wanted to show me, but once I figured it out, I was blown away. Below I have pasted the assignment in its entirety; check out prompt C!

Linguistics 1 Essay Assignment, Due March 13

Choose one of the following three topics and write an essay of 4-6 double-spaced word-processed pages (in 12 point type with 1-inch margins all around). The essay must be handed in via SmartSite (click on “Assignments” from the course site and then “Essay” and follow the instructions for submitting an assignment, using the “add attachment” option). Be sure to save the file you will upload in .pdf, .doc, or .rtf format only. Please do not upload a .docx file (which is the default for thelatest version of Word). You can simply do a “save as” and choose to save the file in .doc format. Ifyou use WordPerfect (or something else other than Word), you can do a “save as” and choose rich text format (.rtf), if .pdf is not an option. Also, any file in any format (pretty much) can be converted to PDF for free via such web sites as http://www.freepdfconvert.com/. The exact due date is: 11:55 PM, March 13.

A) Do women talk more than men? This is a controversial question, as can be seen by reading someof the hits on the first page of an internet search for the phrase “women talk more than men.”Summarize and evaluate some of the key contrasting claims that have been made and theevidence that these claims have been based on. How do the claims and evidence square with Deborah Tannen’s stance on differences between men’s and women’s conversational styles, asexpressed in the video “He said, She Said” (to be shown in class) and in other work (e.g., thebestselling book You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation), summaries ofthis work (e.g., http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/bassr/githens/tannen.htm), or other commentaries (e.g., http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2007/07/13/AR2007071301815.html)? You may draw on your own observations of women and men in conversations to illustrate your points.

B) Based on an evaluation of the article “Dialect Readers Revisited” by John and Angela Rickford (http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Linguistics/DIALECT_READERS_REVISITED.html), discussthe problems that speakers of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) face in learning to read “standard” English, the successes and limitations of experimental uses of dialect readers, and the pros and cons of the authors’ conclusion that dialect readers are worthy of consideration as a tool for teaching reading to speakers of AAVE. You may draw on other sources ofinformation that you deem relevant.

C) Austin Sendek, a UC Davis Physics student is the founder of a movement advocating that theword hella be designated the official SI prefix for the value 10^27 that is now being used instead of 10^24 (= yotta) in calculations of such things as the wattage of the sun and distances between galaxies (see: http://makehellaofficial.blogspot.com/). Thus, one might say, for example, that thedistance between the Milky Way and Andromeda is 6 hellakilometers, rather than 6,000 yottakilometers. Summarize and evaluate this proposal, drawing on an etymological, grammatical, and sociolinguistic analysis of the word hella (i.e., how, when, and where this word developed, how it is used in the grammar of English, and what the social parameters of its useare) and an explanation of the SI prefix system. How well would hella fit into the SI prefix system and is the proposal reasonable? Discuss the pros and cons.

Organization and style

• Generally, you should begin an essay with an introductory paragraph in which you say what it isgoing to be about.
• In the body of the essay you summarize the results of your investigation and present your ideasand conclusions. If you are taking a certain position on an issue, it is important to justify thisposition with evidence and examples.
• If you report on matters you have read about, put things in your own words as much as possible. Quotations may be used only sparingly and must be marked as quotations, with a citation of the source.
• If you mention or rely on source materials of any kind, indicate this in the text using any standard format for citing references and include a list of references at the end. EvaluationThe main questions to be asked when it comes to assigning a grade are as follows.
• Did the author do what was asked for?
• Was the topic well investigated?
• Are the points made clearly and concisely?
• Are the conclusions well motivated?
• Are the examples well chosen?
• If ideas from source materials (readings, videos, web sites, etc.) are discussed, are they characterized accurately?
• Is technical terminology used appropriately?
• Are source materials appropriately cited and listed at the end of the paper?
• Overall, and in matters of detail, is the essay stylistically sound?
• Is it reasonably close to the suggested length?
• Was it handed in by the due date?


  1. Hahahaa! Nice! Hopefully we'll get a good body of literature on the movement - C is easily the most interesting prompt.

  2. Nice! I'm not sure about "6 hellakilometers," though... Let's not start chaining together orders of magnitude. (Hmmm... 1 hellayoctometer = 1 kilometer?)