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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2008

E 376L • Good and Bad Grammar: The Politics and Practice of American English

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35305 MWF
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
PAR 204
Henkel, J

Course Description

Good and Bad Grammar is a course designed for English and rhetoric majors, future writing teachers, and other language-oriented students who want to know more about traditional or "prescriptive" grammar, particularly about its social meanings and political uses.

Specifically, the course will focus on:

1) Language structure, language universals: What does it mean to say language is rule-governed? In what sense do all languages have grammars?
2) Historical perspectives on prescriptivism: Where did all those grammatical rules come from? Why did people first write grammar books and what were they like?
3) "Good" grammar; an overview of traditional grammar and prescriptive rules: What are some specific types of prescriptive rules? Which concern contemporary handbooks and writers?
4) "Bad" grammar and language change: Why does language change? How is English changing? Is English getting better or worse?
5) "Bad" grammar and language variety: Why do people in the U.S speak different varieties of English? Which dialects and features do people consider somehow "wrong" and why?
6) Grammar in the classroom: How do notions of good and bad grammar affect verbal testing and the teaching of English?
7) Grammar in public: How do public media represent good and bad grammar? How do public debates centering on good and bad language affect government and educational policy?

Grading Policy

Minimum requirements are: 1) satisfactory work on (possible) quizzes and on linguistics problems; 2) satisfactory work on four to five minor written assignments (2-3 pages each); 3) a passing average score on exams (three; no exam may be missed); 4) a satisfactory final paper (approximately 8-10 pages, two drafts); 5) discussion informed by familiarity with the required readings; and 6) regular attendance. Note that these are minimum requirements.

Grades are based half on problems and tests (quizzes and problems 5%; exams 45%, 15% for each of three) and half on writing assignments (minor written assignments 20%; draft and final paper 30%). Discussion and attendance are considered essential, and unsatisfactory marks in these areas are deducted from the final average.


Possible readings:

Selections from texts:
Baron, Grammar and Good Taste
Bauer and Trudgill, Language Myths
Crawford, At War with Diversity, Language Loyalties
Delpit and Kilgour Dowdy, The Skin That We Speak
Dicker, Languages in America
Lippi-Green, English with an Accent
Riley and Parker, English Grammar
Tse, Why Don't They Learn English?
Wolfram and Schilling-Estes, American English
Wardhaugh, Proper English
Various handbooks; various prescriptive grammar columns and texts.
Other readings by Baugh, Lakoff, Rickford, Smitherman.


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