Possible Topics
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Possible Research Topics

Some of the following topics are very broad; therefore, you will need to limit and narrow the focus for your essay.  Also, remember that although the topics ask for your responses to an issuethis is a RESEARCH project and will need to have a minimum of 4 (four) sources cited.

1.         It has often been said that language reveals the character of the person using it.  Write an essay in which you analyze the character of a particular writer or speaker with whom you are familiar, based on his or her use of language.

2.        Write an essay exploring the idea that we live in a world in which it is necessary to have a name or word for almost everything.

3.         Write an essay where you classify speakers not by their purposes or subjects but on the basis of their use of language.  You can take any large group--politicians, teachers, visitors, friends--and decide on a specific area of language usage for the basis of your classification--their manner of speaking, their words and phrases, their cliches, their humor, etc.

4.         Some of our most pressing social issues depend for their solutions upon a clear statement of the problem and the precise definition of critical terms.  For example, the increasing number of people kept alive by machines has brought worldwide attention to the legal and medical definitions of the word death.  Select a word, and write an essay in which you discuss the problems associated with the term and its definition.  (Words like: morality, minority, life, pornography, censorship, remedial, literacy, etc.)

5.         Respond to the following quotation: Man has been defined as a tool-using animal, but his most important tool, the one that distinguishes him from all other animals, is his speech. (The Power of Words, Bergen Evans)

6.         How children learn language.

7.         A device that writers use to characterize illiterate persons is to represent the way they talk.  For example, I da wanna go! or I betcha cant.  Examine a comic book/strip that contains dialogue of this sort and examine the stereotypical language that is used.

8.         The language of political propaganda.

9.         The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

10.       Study the language coined for fictional purposes in a work of science fiction, and write a paper on the language processes apparent in the new words/constructions.  For example, from Star Trek we have:  beam me up, set the phasers on stun, etc.

11.       Select a category of television or radio dramatic programs, such as domestic comedy or Westerns, and make a study of the levels of usage and varieties of style and their social implications.

12.       Black English

13.       Words in English borrowed from other languages.

14.       Language in womens magazines and in mens magazines.

15.       The jargon of a subculture

16.       Figures of speech (history and use)

17.       English as a world language

18.       The slanting of news.

19.       Trace the history of a single common word, such as dame or blue or head, from its origin through current standard and slang uses and determine the factors affecting denotations and connotation. (You will use, at a minimum, three different dictionaries)

20.       Contemporary euphemisms

21.       Verbal taboos in America

22.       Defend the need for an artificial world language.  Could a computer system create a language adequate for human use?

23.       How do we know that language will continue to change at an ever-increasing speed?  Could the rate of change ever slow down?  What could cause such a reversal?

24.       It has been reported that gorillas may possess even greater linguistic abilities than chimpanzees.  Write an essay on recent progress in primate language development.

25.       Write an essay on communication with animals as the best (or only) way to prepare ourselves for an encounter with alien intelligences.  (NASA has conducted research with porpoises for just this reason.)

26.       Many schools in America have bilingual programs.  Do you think it would be feasible if American schools included programs in American Sign Language?  What are the origins of the Sign Language for the Deaf?

27.       Compare selected sections of different editions of the same dictionary to show changes in vocabulary and meanings of words and to identify the language processes represented.

28.       Study the regional variations in the dialogue in an American play, short story, or novel in which locality is important, and discuss how they represent special aspects of American English.

29.       Analyze the slang vocabulary of a special group, such as Beatniks or Gangbangers, to show language processes and principles at work. ***You will need to have a WRITTEN verification of the vocabulary you study.

30.       If you have lived in different areas, write a paper on the chief differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and idiom which you have observed, classifying and analyzing the speech habits of both areas according to regional dialects.

31.       Consider: Literacy always blunts the edge of dialects.  If you know a group or family (even yours) with marked differences in book-learning between generations, see what evidence you can find to prove or disprove the statement.  Consider vocabulary, grammar, idiom, and pronunciation.

32.       Study the following definitions of language; choose one and write an essay explaining its deficiencies.

a.         Language is the expression of thought by means of speech sounds.

b.         Language is the instrument for the expression and communication of human thought.

c.         Language is nothing but a set of human habits, the purpose of which is to give expression to thoughts and feelings, and especially to impart them to others. 

33.       Do words, or does language, form our perceptions?  How?


Feel free to print this list to work from.
If you have any quetions, possible topics not on the list, or would like to talk to me about any of these topics after you have narrowed it down, please feel free to see me!  You may either visit the Contact Me page for options, or see me before or after any class.