Boroditsky, Lera & Lauren A. Schmidt. 2000. Sex, syntax, and semantics. Proceeding
Linguistics 210 – Fall 2011
Précis Assignment Guidelines
A précis is a short, summary paper highlighting the key elements of a longer, more complex article.
Choose one of the following articles. The relevant subject areas are given below each citation; I suggest that you read/review the associated chapters of the textbook as background. All articles are available on Blackboard.
• Anderson, Bridget L. 2002. Dialect leveling and /ai/ monophthongization among African American Detroiters. Journal of Sociolinguistics 6(1): 86-98.
o phonetics, phonology and sociolinguistics (language in social contexts)
• Berent, Iris, Tracy Lennertz, Jungho Jun, Miguel A. Moreno & Paul Smolensky. 2008. Language universals in human brains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105(14): 5321-5325.
o phonetics, phonology and psycholinguistics
• Boroditsky, Lera & Lauren A. Schmidt. 2000. Sex, syntax, and semantics. Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society 22: 42-47.
o morphology, semantics and psycholinguistics
� Ellis, Rod. 1989. Are classroom and naturalistic acquisition the same? A study of the classroom acquisition of German word order rules. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 11: 305-328.
o syntax, first language acquisition and second language acquisition Length:
Your précis should be 500 words long (acceptable range: 450-550). The point of this task is to extract the key points of the paper and summarize them clearly – not to repeat every detail of the study or minor point of the author’s analysis. You will be assessed based, among other things, on your conciseness.
In general, your précis should be based directly on the article – i.e., this is not an opinion piece. New ideas should come only in the implications section.
You should adjust the following structure to fit the article that you have selected and your own understanding of it. For example, if more than one experiment is described in the paper, you might want to subdivide the empirical evidence section to reflect this.
1. Overview: What is the research question that the author is aiming to address? Why is it important, interesting, and relevant to linguistics? What are the author’s conclusions? How did they arrive at them (very briefly)?
2. Empirical evidence: Describe the study or studies. What data was used? How was it collected? What generalizations do the authors draw? Give a few relevant examples to help your reader understand the study. Be thorough, but concise.
3. Implications: What consequences do these results have for our understanding of language? Do they challenge any generally-accepted ideas – i.e., ideas that we saw in class? What kind of follow-up studies do the authors suggest / do you think would be useful?
Do spelling and grammar count?
Yes! Linguists are interested in describing language, but this does not mean that we are unconcerned about clear communication. See the grading rubric for more details about how the précis will be assessed.
Assume that your audience is someone with a basic background in linguistics, but who has not read the article in question. You don’t need to explain what a “speech sound” or a “morpheme” is, but you may want to give examples for things like “falling-sonority clusters.”
It is understood that this is a review paper; however, this does not mean that you can simply copy phrases and sentences from the original article with impunity. What you should do:
• In the very first sentence of your précis, identify the title and author(s) of the article. For example, you might begin with something like: “In their 2008 paper “Language Universals in Human Brains”, Berent et al. argue that...”
• Provide a complete citation for the article at the end of your précis. (This does not count toward the word limit.)
• Direct quotation should be very limited. You should directly quote no more than a phrase or two throughout the entire précis. If you do directly quote the article, be sure that you use quotation marks and give the page number in parentheses immediately after the quotation.
• Provide page numbers for any examples that are longer than one word. For instance, you might say: “Omission of the past tense was the main type of error observed in the study – e.g., “he go yesterday” (87).” Other examples, such as single words that are used as stimuli, should be italicized.
• If you paraphrase explanations or other aspects of the original article, be sure to give the page numbers in parentheses immediately after the paraphrase. It counts as a paraphrase if you take a few identifiable sentences from the original article and simply restate them in your own words.
• Most of your précis should be general summary, where you take entire sections of the original article, pull out the key points, and explain them in a sentence or two using your own words. For the purpose of the précis it is not necessary to include page numbers when you do this, because you have identified at the very beginning of the précis that you are summarizing the original article.
• Any references to other articles or to the textbook should be properly cited. Put the author, date and page number in parentheses after the reference, and provide a complete citation at the end of the précis. (Again, the citation does not count toward the word limit.)
• If you are unsure about how to do any of this, please talk to me about it before you hand in your précis. Can I work with others?
I encourage you to meet with other students and discuss the papers before you begin writing, but you must submit your own précis written up in your own words. Your précis should represent your understanding of the article, not your classmates’.
When is it due?
The absolute deadline is for submission of the précis is November 30 (our final class). I am happy to accept précis earlier, beginning on October 17; once you have submitted your précis, however, it cannot be further revised. We will discuss the structure and content of the précis in class on October 5.