See also the section below on giving examples in linguistics papers and assignments. Every paper will be different, but there are general guidelines that probably apply to all term papers (and not only in this class). Assume that your audience knows basic linguistics but knows nothing about your topic, and put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Start by thinking about the best order in which to present your ideas. Usually, that’s not the same as the order in which ideas occur to you. Writing stream-of-consciousness prose, which records
the history of your trial and error, is inappropriate for this sort of paper. One possibility (though it might not work in every case) is to start your paper by writing the conclusion. This way you set out explicitly what your paper is supposed to do before you start writing it. Conversely, the introduction might be the last part of the paper that you write. This will allow you to make an introduction an accurate preview of what is coming. Give the reader as many road signs as possible. Divide the paper into sections, even if they are very short, and give section headings. Tell the reader what you will
do in the next section. This will not only help the reader, but it will help you organize the material.
Grading final papers:
You will be evaluated on the following factors:
Quality of content: Does the paper accomplish what it sets out to do? Are the author’s claims consistent with the data and with each other? Does the analysis make the right predictions?
Quality of research: Does the paper show evidence of research (reading sources, working with native speaker, an experiment, etc.)?
Original ideas: Does the paper merely summarize information from other sources, or does it show evidence that the author did some original thinking? Even if the paper is a review of the literature, there’s a difference between summarizing a source and arguing for or against ideas presented in it.
Quality of writing: Is the paper clear, well-organized, and concise?
Giving examples in linguistics writing:
The data you will be faced within the problem sets are not always neatly organized into columns and tables; sometimes you have to find patterns and organize the data yourself, i.e. to make generalizations about the data. If you are making any kind of claim that’s not completely obvious from what is given in the problems set,
give examples that support it.
In running text, data given in orthography should be italicized, and glosses (translations), when necessary, given in single quotes. For example, French champ ‘field’ comes from Latin campus. When needed, IPA transcriptions can be placed in square brackets between the foreign word and the gloss: French champ [S˜A] ‘field’. Of course,
if you are giving the underlying form rather than the surface form, put it between slashes rather than square brackets, e.g.: English writer /ôAI“t@~/. When data are given in numbered examples, they need not be italicized.The same applies to data in English. If you are discussing the word hippopotamus as a piece of data, italicize it. If you are talking about the animal, don’t. For example: the English word hippopotamus [hIp@phAR@m@s] has five syllables and comes from greek hippop´otamos ‘river horse’. The closest living relative of the hippopotamus is the whale.The same applies to morphemes and phonemes. When you talk about Englishmorphemes like -ness and -s, or French morphemes like -ez, italicize them, provided
they are in orthography. When you give IPA, put them in square brackets; the same morphemes would be presented as [-nEs], [-z], and [-e]. These rules are conventions in the field, not just something I invented to make your life harder. You will not lose points if you don’t follow them, but it would make everyone’s life easier, mine and yours if we all have the same habits.
When you making any sort of claim, give examples. Don’t just say that Polish has final devoicing; give examples. Don’t just say that English has secondary stress; explain what you mean and give examples.
It is crucially important, for the sake of clarity, to give not only positive but negative examples. Here’s what I mean. Qu´eb´ec French has a well-known process of affrication, whereby [t, d] become affricates [ts, dz] when followed in the same word by a high front vowel or glide [i, I, y, Y, j, 4].
This seems clear enough, and the process we’re talking about should be quite familiar to Canadian students of linguistics. However, the examples given in (2)don’t actually show what I have claimed: they show that you get affrication before high front segments, but they don’t show that there is no affrication elsewhere. For
a reader who has never encountered this process — and you should assume that to be the case when you’re writing — give examples of words where affrication does not apply: words where [t, d] precede a vowel that is high but not front ([u]), or front but not high ([e]), or neither.