LING 177


Tues/Thurs 11 - 12:15 pm, Blake 108


Professor Clifton Pye

pyersqr at ku dot edu

Blake 424

Office hours: Tues/Thurs 10-11 or by appointment

Words surround us every waking moment of the day and yet we seldom stop to consider the nature of words and how they function. Words have a fleeting existence and yet many of the words we use today have histories that are thousands of years old. How do words reflect the way we think and perceive the world? How do the words we use reflect our identity? This seminar will introduce students to linguistic research on the properties of words and how linguists document the variation in the use of words in English.

Course Objectives

This seminar will develop your capacity for critical reasoning (Core Goal 1, Learning Outcome 1). This seminar will ask you to critically examine the linguistic properties of words with the goal of documenting ongoing changes in the English spoken in Lawrence. The class will be taught in a workshop format to develop and validate a survey of the dialectal variation of English. We will explore the features of English that are changing, and develop procedures for documenting these changes. You will learn how to apply the scientific method to the analysis of language. The critical skills that you develop in this seminar can be applied to any major you choose at KU and throughout the rest of your life.

Course textbook:

Peter Trudgill 1983. Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society, revised edition. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books.

Special Events


    Kiese Laymon, Common Book Author, Thursday, Oct. 3rd, 7 pm, Lied Center

Course Requirements


    Attendance and participation: 20%

Classroom participation is critical to your development as a student as well as to your understanding of the course material. The in-class discussions of word properties form the core component of the seminar, and cannot be made up in any other way. Classroom participation is expected and will count towards 10 percent of the final mark for all students. Students cannot earn full credit for participation without coming to class. Attendance at the FYS Colloquium will also count towards credit for class participation.


    Quizzes: 10%

I will give short quizzes during the first 10 weeks of the semester to check your comprehension of the course readings. The quizzes will be similar to the posted exercises. There will be no makeups for the quizzes.


    Exercises: 40%

The exercises provide an opportunity for students to reflect on the class discussion of the readings. The readings present research on the design and implementation of dialect surveys. The articles introduce useful linguistic techniques for research on dialects. Students should pay critical attention to the methods and results that are described in the readings.


    Final project: 30%

All students are required to write a 15-page term paper which describes the method and analyzes the results of the class dialect survey. The discussion should begin with a description of one of the hypotheses that was tested and explain how the survey was constructed to test that hypothesis. The paper should describe the population that was sampled for the survey and discuss how representative this sample was, as well as the problems that were encountered in finding a representative sample. The paper should describe the linguistic variables that were tested and assess the relation between the linguistic variables and the social variables. The paper should evaluate the extent to which the results support the hypothesis that you proposed.


I will ask students to propose a hypothesis to investigate towards the middle of the semester. On November 21st you should turn in a one-page description of your hypotheses and how you plan to test them. The hypotheses serve as a guide to the goals for your project. On November 26th I will consult with students in class about their hypotheses and their plans for testing them. The class presentation of your hypotheses will constitute 10 percent of your final project grade.

Your final project is due in my office by 5 pm, December 19th. I have posted some guidelines for the project at project guidelines.

Plagiarism, including cheating on exams, is the presentation of someone else’s work as your own. Plagiarism includes copying off of handouts, class notes/slides, the textbook, or internet without citing the source of information. Plagiarism will result in a grade of zero for any assignment or exam and the incident will be reported to University authorities. A second offence will result in an F for the class. Please ask us if you have any questions or concerns about how to avoid plagiarizing someone’s else’s work.

The Academic Achievement & Access Center coordinates accommodations and services for all KU students with disabilities or special circumstances. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodations and have not contacted the AAAC, please do so as soon as possible. Their office is located in 22 Strong Hall; their phone number is 785-864-2620. Please contact me privately in regard to your needs in this course as soon as possible.

KU weapons policy: Individuals who choose to carry concealed handguns are solely responsible to do so in a safe and secure manner in strict conformity with state and federal laws and KU weapons policy. You cannot legally carry a handgun if you are not 21 or if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Safety measures outlined in the KU weapons policy specify that a concealed handgun:


    Must be under the constant control of the carrier.

    Must be out of view, concealed either on the body of the carrier, or backpack, purse, or bag that remains under the constant control of the carrier.

    Must be in a holster that covers the trigger area and secures any external hammer in an un-cocked position.

    Must have the safety on, and have no round in the chamber.

Individuals who violate the KU weapons policy may be asked to leave campus with the weapon and may face disciplinary action under the appropriate university code of conduct. If you see a gun and the situation is not an emergency, call KU police at 864-5900. In an emergency call 911. If you know of a KU community member who is struggling with life and may be at risk of harming themselves or others, contact the Student of Concern Review Team at Everyone should understand the contribution guns make to the risk of injury death.

Tentative Schedule

This schedule is tentative and may be revised throughout the semester.






Web Links



Everyone has an accent

Introduction to Social Language

Which dialect?

Why Study Linguistics?



What’s my line?

Trudgill: Language and Society

Language and Society

Dialect Surveys



Language and Class

Trudgill: Language and Social Class

Social Class

British accents






English sounds, IPA



Sound Variation


Phonetic Variation

Phonetic Characters



Standard American

American pronunciation

Standard American

California migration



Common Book Author

7 pm, Lied Center




The American Midland

North Am Midland

Defining Midland

Kansas City, Kansas







Dialect survey on Wescoe Beach

9 to noon




American Grammar

American Grammar

American Grammar




Data Collection

Milroy 1987: speakers





Language and Ethnicity

Trudgill: Language and Ethnic Group




Language and Sex

Trudgill: Language and Sex


Sorting Columns



Language and Context

Trudgill: Language and Context


Elevated Speech



Language and Geography

Trudgill: Language and Geography











Language and Humanity

Trudgill: Language and Humanity




Present Analyses


Dialect Survey






Final Project Due