Skip to content
Home » Blog (hidden) » Syllabus: Language, Race, and Identity in the United States Today

Syllabus: Language, Race, and Identity in the United States Today

Language, Race, and Identity in the United States Today
GESM 130g – Seminar in Social Analysis – 35427R
University of Southern California
Hebrew Union College Jerome H. Louchheim School of Judaic Studies

Fall 2019 Professor Sarah Bunin Benor
Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30-10:50am E-mail:
Classroom: WPH 202 Phone: 213-765-2187
Office: Hebrew Union College, Rm. 21 (basement) Office Hours:
Syllabus and other materials available on Blackboard by appointment (don’t be shy!)

Course Description
In the United States, members of racial, ethnic, and immigrant groups indicate their identities partly through the use of multiple languages and by speaking English in distinctive ways. This class uses theories and methods from sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, and sociology to explore the interplay among language, race, and identity in the contemporary American setting. Students will become critical consumers of qualitative and quantitative research on language and identity, and they will gain experience conducting their own basic sociolinguistic analysis.
Several questions will drive the class:

1. How do Americans of various racial and ethnic groups use language and other cultural practices to express both their Americanness and their distinctiveness?
2. How much control do we have over how we are viewed by others in terms of race and ethnicity?
3. In what ways are people evaluated negatively or discriminated against because of their distinctive language?
4. How do racial/ethnic identities intersect and interact with other social dimensions, like socioeconomic class, gender, sexuality, and religion?
5. Why do some people speak in more “standard” ways than others? Why do some individuals speak very differently in different situations?
6. What counts as empirical evidence in the study of language, race, and identity?

Groups on the syllabus include African Americans, White Americans, Latino Americans, Jewish Americans, South Asian Americans, and Asian Americans.

Course Requirements
I. Regular attendance and participation are essential for the creation of a stable, stimulating learning environment. I will take roll at the beginning of each class; each absence over two will result in a reduction of one point off your final grade. You will be held responsible for all material presented in class, as well as all reading assignments. I suggest that you exchange contact information with two classmates to arrange to get detailed notes and handouts in the event that you are absent. Because class discussion will revolve around the readings, you will be expected to complete all of the reading in a thoughtful way before each class. Notice that prepared class participation is worth 20% of your grade.
This is how the participation grade is determined:
a. Quantity (regular participation in classroom discussions)
b. Quality (comments show understanding of and engagement with the material)
c. Evidence of preparation (reading in an engaged way)
d. Overall contribution to the class (not overbearing, not distracted, no inappropriate use of electronics, contributes positively to the class vibe)
e. Presentation for Assignment #2

II. Assignments (to be turned in via Blackboard):
Assignment #1: Language and identity autobiography (2-3 pages)
Assignment #2: (in pairs): Analysis of a film or TV show, focusing on issues of language and identity (5-6 pages)
Assignment #3: Research paper (7-9 pages)

III. Midterm quiz (in-class)

IV. Final exam (take-home, open-book)

Your grade in the course will be calculated as follows:
Prepared class participation 20%
Writing assignments 50% (10%, 20%, 20%)
Midterm quiz 10%
Final exam 20%

Grading scale:
93-100: A
90-92: A-
88-89: B+
83-87: B
80-82: B-
78-79: C+
73-77: C
70-72: C-
68-69: D+
63-67: D
60-62: D-
59 or below: F

Required Books (available in the book store or online)
1. Language and Linguistic Diversity in the US: An Introduction, by Susan Tamasi and Lamont Antieau, 2014, Routledge Press. ISBN-10: 9780415806688. (Called “Language” below.)
2. Raciolinguistics: How Language Shapes Our Ideas About Race, edited by H. Samy Alim, John R. Rickford, and Arnetha F. Ball, 2016, Oxford University Press. (Called “Raciolinguistics” below.)
ISBN-10: 0190625694.
3. Other readings are available on ARES (, indicated here by (A), Blackboard (, indicated here by (B), or on other websites.

Note: some of the films to be shown in class include “R-rated” themes and language.

Academic Integrity
As defined in the Student Conduct Code, plagiarism includes: “The submission of material authored by another person but represented as the student’s own work whether that material is paraphrased or copied in verbatim or near verbatim form;” “The submission of material subjected to editorial revision by another person that results in substantive changes in content or major alteration of writing style;” and “improper acknowledgment of sources in essays or papers.” In accordance with these standards, plagiarism will result in an ‘F’ grade for the course and possible suspension or expulsion from the University. (See Scampus, the Student Guidebook.) Because of the serious penalties for plagiarism, you should ensure that any writing you submit represents your own assertions and abilities and cites any texts in an open and honest manner. In academic assignments, writing is assumed to be the original thoughts and words of the student unless otherwise noted (i.e., material from other sources is clearly and properly cited). In other words, be careful to document your sources (print or online), even when you are only making use of data or ideas rather than a direct quote.

Accommodation of Disabilities
Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP ( Please be sure the letter is delivered to me as early in the semester as possible.

Laptop/Tablet/Phone Policy
Unless otherwise noted, students in this class may not use computers, tablets, phones, or other electronic devices with internet capability during class, even if internet/wifi/cellular is turned off. Phones must be in bags and either powered off or in Do Not Disturb mode (not on vibrate, as that is also disruptive). Students are expected to bring books or printed readings to class and to take notes by hand. If you have a disability that requires you to type notes, or if you have a personal issue that requires a phone to be visible (such as a family emergency), please let the instructor know.
This policy is based on years of allowing devices and finding that some students were unable to avoid distraction. It’s also based on academic evidence: In an experiment simulating a classroom experience, Sana, Weston, and Cepeda (2012) found that “participants who multitasked on a laptop during a lecture scored lower on a test compared to those who did not multitask [but did just as well on note taking], and participants who were in direct view of a multitasking peer scored lower on a test compared to those who were not.” When presenting ideas in class, I often gauge students’ comprehension and responses by watching their facial expressions. If students were reacting to a website or a friend’s message, rather than to the classroom conversation, this would be confusing.

How to Reach Me
I am available to help you with your research, writing, presentation, and comprehension of the course material. The best way to get in touch with me is via e-mail (, or you can talk to me after class.


Readings are to be completed before the class session under which they are listed.

Introduction: Language, race, and identity
Video to be shown in class: Saturday Night Live – Leslie Jones and Louis C.K. – This is How I Talk:

Language and identity autobiographies
O’Hearn, Claudine Chiawei. 1998. “Introduction.” In Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural, ed. by Claudine C. O’Hearn. New York: Pantheon. vii-xiv. (B)
Wamba, Philippe. 1998. “A Middle Passage.” In Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural, ed. by Claudine C. O’Hearn. New York: Pantheon. 150-169. (B)

Álvarez, Julia. 1998. “A White Woman of Color.” In Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural, ed. by Claudine C. O’Hearn. New York: Pantheon. 139-149. (A)
Danquah, Meri Nana-Ama. 1998. “Life as an Alien.” In Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural, ed. by Claudine C. O’Hearn. New York: Pantheon. 99-111. (A)
To be distributed and read in class: “Double Consciousness,” excerpt from DuBois, W.E.B. 1903. “Of Our Spiritual Strivings.” In The Souls of Black Folk. Penguin Classics. Paragraphs 3 and 4.

Linguistics: Basic principles
Language, Chapters 1-2 (1-42).

Language variation
Language, Chapter 6 (119-142).

Race and ethnicity
Reyes, Angela. 2010. “Language and ethnicity.” In N. Hornberger and M. Lee, eds., Sociolinguistics and Language Education. New York: Multilingual Matters. 398-412 (not entire article; you’ll read the rest in a few weeks). (A)
Urciuoli, Bonnie. 1996. Exposing Prejudice: Puerto Rican Experiences of Language, Race, and Class. New York: Routledge. “Racializing and ethnicizing.” 15-18. (A)

Sunday, September 15, 11:59pm: Assignment #1 due via Blackboard

Racial malleability
Kroeger, Brooke. 2003. “Not some social agenda struggle.” In Passing: When People Can’t Be Who They Are. New York: Perseus. 11-42. (A)
Sweetland, Julie. 2002. “Unexpected but authentic use of an ethnically marked dialect.” Journal of Sociolinguistics 6/4: 514-536. (A)

Raciolinguistics, 1-7, 33-50 (Alim, Intro excerpt; Transracialization).
Raciolinguistics, 51-64 (Roth-Gordon, Malleability).
Find pairs for Assignment #2 in class

African Americans
Language, Chapter 7 (143-166).
Comedy excerpt shown in class: Key and Peele, “Phone Call”:
Proposals for Assignment #2 due via Blackboard (one per pair)

Rickford, John Russell and Russell John Rickford. 2000. Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English. New York: Wiley. “Comedians and Actors.” 57-72. (A)
Rickford, John Russell and Russell John Rickford. 2000. Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English. New York: Wiley. “The Crucible of Identity.” 221-229. (A)
Comedy excerpts shown in class: Adele Givens, “Fake Bitch” (DVD).

No class: Rosh Hashanah
Language, Chapter 9 (186-207) (American multilingualism, melting pot/salad bowl, to be discussed in a few weeks).

Raciolinguistics, 153-169 (Blake, Heterogeneity).
Raciolinguistics, 203-219 (Podesva, Stance).
Raciolinguistics, 241-253 (Paris, Schools).
Model presentation by Professor Benor

Language attitudes
Language, Chapters 3, 8 (43-63, 167-185).
Writing skills presentation by Professor Benor

Standard language ideology, language discrimination, accent hallucination
Lippi-Green, Rosina. 2012. English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States. Routledge Press. 66-74, 90-97, 155-166, 322-329. (A)
Student presentation

Sunday, October 13: By now you should have watched your film/show at least twice, taken detailed notes (incl. quotes), and created an outline for your paper (not turned in)

Education and schools
Reyes, Angela. 2010. “Language and ethnicity.” In N. Hornberger and M. Lee, eds., Sociolinguistics and Language Education. New York: Multilingual Matters. 412-420 (you read the first part a few weeks ago). (A)
Barrett, Rusty. 2013. “Be yourself somewhere else: What’s wrong with keeping undervalued English out of the classroom?” Chapter 3 of Other People’s English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy. Vershawn Ashanti Young et al., eds. New York: Teachers College Press. 33-54. (A)
Midterm review sheet distributed
Student presentation

No class: October recess

Sunday, October 20, 11:59pm: Assignment #2 due via Blackboard (one per pair)
Assignment #2 Contribution Evaluation due via Blackboard (one per student)

Bucholtz, Mary. 2011. White Kids: Language, Race, and Styles of Youth Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “Cliques, crowds, and crews: Social labels in racial space.” 42-66. (A)
Raciolinguistics, 327-346 (Zentella, Networks).
Research skills presentation by Professor Benor
Midterm quiz

Immigrant languages; translanguaging; linguistic landscape
Otheguy, Ricardo, Ofelia García, & Wallis Reid. 2015. “Clarifying Translanguaging and Deconstructing Named Languages: A Perspective from Linguistics.” Applied Linguistics Review 6/3: 281-307. (A)
Shohamy, Elana & Durk Gorter, eds. 2009. Linguistic Landscape: Expanding the Scenery. New York: Routledge. Introduction (1-10). (A)
Student presentation

Sunday, October 27, 11:59pm: Proposals for Assignment #3 due via Blackboard

Native American languages; heritage language maintenance and shift
Language, Chapter 12 (253-277).
Hinton, Leanne. 2001. “Language Revitalization: An Overview.” In The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice. Leanne Hinton and Ken Hale, eds. San Diego: Academic Press. 3-18. (A)
Student presentation

Whiteness, diverse white speech styles, slang, and white privilege; Halloween costumes
Bucholtz, Mary. 2011. White Kids: Language, Race, and Styles of Youth Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “Say word?: Race and style in white teenage slang.” 67-89. (A)
Student presentation

Foster, Deborah. 2014. “A Guide to White Privilege for White People Who Think They’ve Never Had Any.” Politicus USA.
Blake, John. 2016. “It’s Time to Talk About ‘Black Privilege.’” CNN.
Student presentation

Latinos, Spanglish
Language, Chapter 10 (209-225)
Watch before class: Videos on the categories “Latino” and “Hispanic”; be prepared to discuss what’s missing from each:
Wonder Why:
Kat Lazo:
To be distributed and read in class: Excerpts from Anzaldúa, Gloria. 1999(1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.
Comedy excerpt shown in class: George Lopez, “Spanglish”:
Student presentation

Sunday, November 10: By now you should have notes on 5+ articles and an outline of your paper (not turned in)

Raciolinguistics, 135-150 (Mendoza-Denton, Gangs).
Raciolinguistics, 273-289 (Bucholtz, Name).
Comedy excerpt shown in class: Key and Peele, “Substitute Teacher”:
Student presentation

Raciolinguistics, 65-80 (Rosa, Spanglish).
Raciolinguistics, 255-272 (Perez et al., Zapotec).
Student presentation

Sunday, November 17, 11:59pm: Assignment #3 complete draft due via Blackboard (for peer review)

Jewish Americans
Benor, Sarah Bunin. 2011. “Mensch, bentsh, and balagan: Variation in the American Jewish linguistic repertoire.” Language and Communication 31/2:141-154. (A)
Raciolinguistics, 171-184 (Benor, Performing).

South Asian Americans
Raciolinguistics, 221-237 (Sharma, Punjabi).
Shankar, Shalini. 2008. Desi Land: Teen Culture, Class, and Success in Silicon Valley. Durham: Duke University Press. “Desi Fashions of Speaking” (100-118). (A)
Comedy excerpt shown in class: Master of None

Sunday, November 24, 11:59pm: Peer review of Assignment #3 due via Blackboard

Asian Americans
Raciolinguistics, 81-96 (Chun, Ching-Chong).
Raciolinguistics, 97-111 (Lo, Village).
Comedy excerpts shown in class:
Margaret Cho, “Race”:;
Jimmy Wong, “Ching Chong: Asians in the Library response song”:

No class: Thanksgiving

Raciolinguistics, 309-326 (Reyes, Korean).
Videos on Hawaiian Pidgin to be shown in class:,,

Wednesday, December 4, 11:59pm: Assignment #3 final draft due via Blackboard

No reading.
In-class review

Thursday, December 12, 1pm: Final exam (take-home) due via Blackboard


All assignments should be double spaced and should have page numbers and a heading with the paper title and the student’s name. For citations, any consistent parenthetical (not footnotes) system can be used (e.g., Chicago, APA, MLA). The bibliography at the end of the paper should include author, year of publication, article title, journal or book title, and URL if it was accessed online.

Assignment #1 (2-3 pages):

Describe your identity in terms of race/ethnicity (and, optionally, other dimensions), and discuss how it relates to language.

To help you get started, consider some of these guiding questions:
Who are you in relation to the social categories of race and ethnicity, as well as, optionally, gender, age, socioeconomic status, sexuality, religion, location, and/or ancestral heritage? Which of these categories are important to how you see yourself and how you think you are viewed by others? Why and how? What role does language play in how you see yourself and how others see you? What roles do physical appearance, music, home decoration, and/or food play? What strategies do you use to deal with any tensions between multiple aspects of your identity?

I am not looking for straight answers to these questions; they are merely here to guide you in addressing the underlined prompt above. If race/ethnicity is not central to how you understand your identity, you can focus more on other dimensions (gender, age, etc.); even so, please make sure to discuss your race/ethnicity, the way you talk, and how you differ from people of other racial/ethnic groups. I am looking for evidence that you absorbed the concepts covered in the first weeks of class and are thinking deeply about race, identity, and language. Be yourself, and be creative. This paper could take the form of an essay, a letter, a dramatic monologue or dialogue, a poem, or something else. Your writing should be concrete and should include specific anecdotes or interactions. Don’t just say “I speak differently” or “she used Ebonics.” Give examples of specific linguistic features (e.g., “She said things like, ‘They goin’ home”). Finally, make sure to be clear and concise in your writing. After you write the paper, set it aside and come back with fresh eyes to edit it twice, checking for consistency, clarifying any ambiguous wording, and removing extraneous words, phrases, or even paragraphs. Bibliographic citations are not expected for this assignment.

You will be graded using the following rubric:
(30 points) Discussion of identity, ethnicity, and language demonstrates understanding of early class concepts
(20 points) Structure, including unifying argument or concept, logical organization, and appropriate transitions
(20 points) Writing style: clarity, conciseness, word choice, no repetition or unnecessary words
(20 points) Mechanics: grammar, tense, punctuation, spelling, format
(10 points) Creativity and engaging writing

Assignment #2 (in pairs):
Analysis of a film or TV show, focusing on issues of language and identity, to be presented in class and written up in 5-6 pages. This assignment is to be done in pairs. Your essay should have a unifying thesis about ethnicity, identity, inter-group relations, transitions, or some combination of these elements, and you should support this thesis in part with analysis of language. Here are some questions you might consider as you work on your analysis:
 How does your selected work use language to represent an ethnic, immigrant, or other social group or the relations between groups?
 How do the characters change over the course of the film? Do they change their sense of self? Do they progress from one class/group/society into another?
 How are the characters depicted as belonging to two or more groups? Do they experience a sense of double consciousness? Do they feel as if they are stuck in a borderlands?
 How does the film portray conflict between groups or generations?

As part of your analysis, please discuss at least two of the following sociolinguistic phenomena (which will be discussed in detail in class) as they are portrayed in your selected work:
• Inter-speaker variation: Sociolinguistic variation among characters according to socio-economic class, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, generation from immigration, etc.
• Intra-speaker variation: Individual style shifting or code switching (according to situation, audience, or topic) used to negotiate identities
• Metalinguistic conversation involving language ideology and/or language discrimination: Conversation about language that represents (possibly conflicting) understandings of how language is or should be used and sometimes leads to negative consequences for certain speakers and privilege for others

Please include some linguistic analysis: give examples of distinctive features, offering quotes as evidence where appropriate. If any of the readings we have done are relevant to your analysis, please cite them. There is no need to cite additional scholarship.

Some ideas for films/shows to select:
BlacKkKlansman, Green Book, Sorry to Bother You, The Hate You Give, Crazy Rich Asians, Coco, Princess and the Frog, Get Out, Orange is the New Black, Master of None, Blackish, Fresh Off the Boat, Jane the Virgin, This Is Us, Down to Earth, Barbershop, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Bringing Down the House, Spanglish, Undercover Brother, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Driving Miss Daisy, Clueless, Malibu’s Most Wanted, The Joy Luck Club, Smoke Signals, The Lion King, A Shark Tale, Good Will Hunting, West Side Story, Real Women Have Curves, Do the Right Thing, Avalon, The Producers, Dreamkeeper, Bamboozled, Mi Familia, American Desi, Boys Don’t Cry, Better Luck Tomorrow, Jungle Fever, My Cousin Vinny, Eight Mile, Catfish in Black Bean Sauce, The Debut, The Namesake, Harold and Kumar (Whitecastle or Guantanamo).

Presentation stemming from Assignment #2:
In pairs, students will present their analysis to the class, including a thesis statement, excerpts from the film with analysis, and questions for class discussion. The entire presentation (including discussion) should last 15-20 minutes. Students should practice their presentations in advance and should arrive in class early the day of the presentation to make sure that all equipment is ready to go by the beginning of class.

Proposals for Assignment #2:
Each group will propose two films/shows in case there is overlap. Please submit the following information:
1. People who will be working on the project together
2. Title of film/show #1
a. Ethnic/social group(s) it deals with
b. At least two sociolinguistic phenomena you would discuss, including a sentence or two about how they manifest in the film/show
3. Title of film/show #2
a. Ethnic/social group(s) it deals with
b. At least two sociolinguistic phenomena you would discuss, including a sentence or two about how they manifest in the film/show

Contribution Evaluation of Assignment #2:
Students will evaluate their own contributions to the paper/presentation and those of their partner (2-3 sentences)

Grading of the 5-6-page paper:
(40 points) Examines identity and language (at least two sociolinguistic phenomena), shows deep understanding of class concepts
(20 points) Analysis, arguments, evidence from the texts
(20 points) Structure, including unifying thesis, logical organization, and appropriate transitions
(10 points) Writing style: clarity, conciseness, word choice, no repetition or unnecessary words
(10 points) Mechanics: grammar, tense, punctuation, spelling, format

Assignment #3 (7-9 pages): Research paper
Each student will conduct research on language use (spoken or written) among a particular group of Americans. You will submit a one-page proposal via Blackboard (see format below), and the professor may send you comments. You will submit a first draft, and there will be a peer review process before you submit the final draft. This 7-9-page research paper should include references to at least 5 academic books or articles (websites like Wikipedia are allowed but are not included in these 5 sources), some of which can be from our class syllabus. If any of our class readings or concepts are relevant to the paper, they should be cited and discussed. References should be cited parenthetically and listed in a bibliography at the end. Possible topics:

1. Description of Language Use in one American Community: Describe language use among a particular group of Americans that was not covered in class. Options include (but are not limited to): Gay men, Speakers of Hawaiian Pidgin, Deaf users of ASL, Menonite speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch (German), members of the Navajo Nation, Gullah people on the islands off of Georgia and South Carolina, Appalachian English speakers, Cajun English speakers, Transgender women, Arab-Americans, Polish Americans, Lumbee Indians, etc. For the group you select, your essay should address the following questions:
Distinctiveness: How does the group differ linguistically from speakers of standard American English? In this description, you should incorporate discussion of lexical, phonological, syntactic, and other distinctive features. If you are analyzing a language that is not a variety of American English (e.g., ASL, Navajo, German, French), you can provide a short description of the language instead of discussing distinctiveness.
Inter-speaker variation: How do community members differ from each other in their use of the language or distinctive features? Do some people speak more “standardly” than others? Is there variation based on gender, age, socioeconomic status, or some other dimension?
Intra-speaker variation: In what ways do people use the group’s language (e.g., ASL, Navajo, German, French) or distinctive features (e.g., distinctive /s/ and pitch variance in gay men’s speech) more or less for different situations or audiences? Is this a situation of communal diglossia?
History: How did this community come to speak as it does? What streams of immigration and other historical events were involved? How has the language of the group changed over time?
Comparative analysis: How does this community compare to some of the groups covered in class (African Americans, Latinos, Jews, South Asians, etc.)? What themes discussed in class are relevant to this situation?

2. Analysis of Written Language: Analyze language use on one blog or web forum connected to a particular ethnic or social group that uses distinctive English (could be one covered in class). Suggested groups include (but are not limited to) Muslims Americans (e.g.,, Greek Americans (e.g.,, and Native Americans (e.g., You should compile a collection of posts/threads totaling at least 2000 words and analyze it for the following:
Introduction: Offline speech: Based on published research, how do members of this community speak? Use Option #1 above as a guide for this part of the assignment (i.e., you should offer a brief discussion of each of the following: distinctiveness, inter-speaker variation, intra-speaker variation, history, and comparison). Given that the majority of this assignment will be based on analysis, these sections will be brief summaries, in contrast to the longer discussions in Option #1.
Analysis: Distinctiveness: How does the writing differ from standard American English? Incorporate discussion of lexical, phonological, syntactic, orthographic (writing systems), and other distinctive features. Are foreign words or scripts used? Distinctive pronunciations, as represented in writing? Non-standard grammatical structures? For the distinctive features you find, please discuss why they are used and how their use might relate to the identity of the participants.
Analysis: Inter-speaker variation: How do different participants within the forum use language differently in the forum? Although you may not know much about the people who post, you might be able to learn something about them from the content of their posts or from the sub-forums they post in.
Conclusion: What your analysis tells us about the group, online language, etc.

3. Linguistic Landscape: Visit two very different commercial blocks in Southern California and conduct a comparative analysis of the street signs, billboards, signs on restaurants, stores, churches, etc., temporary posters, and other written language. Ideally you will choose two parts of town that represent different immigrant or ethnic groups, such as Little Armenia and Jewish Pico-Robertson; Little Ethiopia and Koreatown; East Los Angeles and Persian Westwood; etc. Take many pictures! Your analysis should include:
Brief background on the two groups: For each of the two primary groups represented in the neighborhoods you chose, give some background information on their language use and immigration history, using previous scholarship.
Brief context: Give some information on the blocks you selected and how they are situated within broader neighborhoods and within Los Angeles. Describe the buildings and businesses on the blocks and the people you saw when you visited.
Quantitative analysis: Compare the following within each block and then between the two blocks: What percentage of signs/posters are English vs. other language(s)? English letters vs. other orthography? How do permanent signs compare to temporary posters?
Qualitative analysis: To what extent are the languages mixed or separate? Analyze the fonts used, the comparative sizes and placements of words in each language, and anything else you find interesting and relevant. Include a few photos of signs.
Synthesis: Discuss your findings in relation to broader issues of American identity, society, language, etc., incorporating concepts learned in class.

4. Alternative Assignment: Choose another topic that is relevant to the class. Generally this will take the form of a paper, but other formats will also be accepted, such as short films or podcasts (note that these take more work). Some ideas:
Actor’s language learning: Interview an actor about how she learns different dialects of English. Create a short film interspersing excerpts of the interviewee acting in different dialects and speaking about the dialect learning process.
Intra-speaker variation: Find a friend who uses different varieties of English when speaking to different people. Record two of her conversations and write a paper or produce a podcast analyzing them comparatively.
Education: Observe and interview a teacher and analyze how she uses and responds to different varieties of English in the classroom.
Census: Write a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau encouraging them to change something on the census questionnaire.
Legislation: Propose a state or federal bill to deal with an issue of language discrimination.
Free choice: Come up with your own creative idea.

You should select a topic you are excited about. Your level of interest in the topic is likely to shine through in your writing, and any professor prefers to read an interesting paper.

Format for proposal (1 page):
1. Topic
2. Why you selected it
3. Research question
4. Methodology (for option 1 this will just be review of scholarship; for other options this may involve interviews, recordings, analysis of text, visits to neighborhoods, etc.)
5. 5 references you expect to use (requires library research)

Format for paper (7-9 pages) (will be different for alternative formats):
1. Title
2. Introduction – states main argument in an enticing way and situates it in relation to previous research
3. Methodology – explains the research you did (only for options 2-4)
4. Findings (the bulk of the paper)
5. Conclusion – summarizes analysis in an interesting way and relates it to concepts learned in class
6. Bibliography

Your paper will be graded using the following rubric (see writing tips below):
(50 points) Analyzes identity and language, shows deep understanding of class concepts
(20 points) Scholarship review: Incorporates findings of relevant previous scholarship
(10 points) Structure, including unifying thesis, logical organization, and appropriate transitions
(10 points) Writing style: clarity, conciseness, word choice, no repetition or unnecessary words
(10 points) Mechanics: grammar, tense, punctuation, spelling, format

Essay Writing Tips:
 Outline. Make a detailed outline before you write your first draft and another outline after you’re done. This will help you create and maintain a coherent structure.
 Avoid extraneous words that don’t enhance your writing. Avoid repetition. Avoid repeating yourself!
 Avoid run-on sentences and fragments. Read each sentence to make sure it’s a full, clear sentence.
 Use commas and semicolons appropriately. If you combine 2 sentences with “and” – and both have subjects and verbs – then they should be separated by a comma. Consider using dashes (–) and colons (:).
 Choose a tense. Stick with it. In analysis of films, present tense is generally best.
 Make sure your persons agree. Avoid this: “The two things that are most important to me for the coming year is …”
 Make sure each paragraph conveys one major point and is an appropriate length. A page is probably too long, and one sentence is probably too short.
 Avoid using big words and complicated constructions just to sound more academic. At the same time, an essay is a formal genre, so you should also avoid contractions, slang, etc.
Checklist to improve clarity and succinctness:
1. Does every word add something to your essay?
2. Is every sentence complete and not too rambling?
3. Does every paragraph include just one topic or sub-topic?
4. Does the introductory paragraph explain what you discuss in the rest of the paper? Does it pique the reader’s interest?
5. Does the concluding paragraph sum up the paper in an intriguing way that makes the reader feel a sense of completion but also a desire to read more of your writing?
Formatting: Don’t forget your name, a title, and page numbers.
Reader’s interest: Try your best to keep the reader’s interest, incorporating interesting writing, person-centered anecdotes, or humor.
Edit! Proofread! Don’t rely on spell-check. Plan to finish your paper 2 days before it is due. That gives you time to set it aside for a day and then spend a good chunk of time the next day editing and then another half-hour proofreading.