Choose one of the following topics. Be sure to support your opinion with evidence, including examples. You may use your own experiences and observations as examples, but you must also use 3 secondary sources from GALILEO. At least one of them must be a peer-reviewed article.
- Is “the written word inferior to the spoken [word],” as Gloria Naylor claims in her essay “A Question of Language”? (The Little, Brown Reader 224) How or how not? Give examples.
- Can language, spoken and written, be dangerous? How or how not? (I’m not talking about texting while driving as one student read this last semester!)
This would be a good topic, given the tone of the election campaign.
- Scott Weaver claims that profanity is powerful and often expresses exactly what
we want to say. Do profanity and slang ever have a place in writing? Why or
why not? Do you sometimes read profanity or slang? Where? What is its effect
in the context?
- Can language create identity? If not, does language shape identity in any way?
(essays by Gloria Anzaldua and Amy Tan might be especially helpful here).
- Should Congress enact a law (can Congress enact a law might be the more appropriate question at this stage of the game) making English the United States of America’s official language? (No, we do not have an official language). Why or why not? To what does “official language” apply? I.e., where would it be used? How would it be enforced? Would it be constitutional? (The last question requires some digging).
- A question related to #4 might be how language shapes reality or perhaps more precisely our perception of issues. Write about an issue or controversy in which opposing sides deliberately use language to gain sympathy. (An example: I never discuss the abortion issue in class because I find it too emotional for both sides – except when I was teaching women’s studies and really couldn’t avoid it- and I do not want any of you to write about it. However, I find it quite interesting rhetorically. There are other such controversial subjects where the language of the debate is clearly framed either to garner sympathy for one’s own point of view or to cast aspersions on one’s opponents).
- Malcolm X began his education with an intensive study of language. Does education always begin with language? How or how not? (The question is not does language begin with education; the question is does education begin with language.)
- Our writers connect language to self-esteem. Do you agree that to value oneself one must value one’s own language? Have you ever felt dismissed because of your language?
- Why do we teach standard English? Whose language is it? What values does it have? (This is not a question about the use of English in the world. The question is: Why do we teach so-called standard English in school when so many dialects are spoken in our country?)