Ling 308/708

Final Project Guidelines

This page presents some general guidelines for the final project. The project provides an opportunity to explore a topic in semantics in more depth than the text or class discussion can provide. Your paper should begin with a clear statement of the thesis you are examining in your report. You should also explain the place of your topic in relation to the field of semantics. Undergraduates should write a six-page paper, while graduate students should write between 7 and 10 pages. I will grade your report on the basis of its content, mechanics and formatting. The content is the most significant factor in assessing a paper and will count for 80 to 90% of the grade for the paper. However, mechanics and formatting are also important, and can make the difference between an A and a B. I address each of these components in turn.


Your paper should discuss the topic fully and concisely. The analysis should be succinct (i.e., to the point) and logically constructed (i.e., each part should be clearly related to the preceding and following parts. You should make sure that your analysis maintains its focus and does not discuss irrelevant details. You should also be sure to supply enough information to enable your reader to understand your argument without the need to read your mind. You should try to avoid vague or nonspecific language and analyses. Compare the following examples:

Example of a clear presentation:

"In a dynamicity language, progressive aspect has a narrow semantic range and stative verbs are non-progressive, whereas in a closure language, perfective aspect has a narrow semantic range, and stative verbs are imperfective." (Weist 2003).

Example of an unclear explanation:

Some verbs in English do not appear in progressive constructions, whereas other verbs do appear in progressive constructions.

Remember that you are demonstrating your ability to understand the procedures/theories and apply them to a specific data set.

Mechanical Issues

Mechanical issues include such matters as incomplete sentences, the lack of subject verb agreement, an overuse of the passive voice, ambiguous pronouns, spelling and punctuation. Such problems distract the reader's attention. If the paper is hard to read due to mechanical errors the overall quality of the work becomes questionable. This is the time to develop good writing skills that will serve you well in your professional career. Make sure you use a spell checker on your final draft.

Formatting Issues

You should try to make your written assignments as uniform as possible. Where you include references to the literature, you should format your references in the same style. Now is a good time to learn the LSA style for citing references.

Possible Topics for a Morphology/Syntax Term Paper

These are some suggestions for possible term paper topics. Feel free to pick any topic whether or not it appears on this list. You should discuss your topic with me before embarking on writing your paper.

            Aspect Markers
            Tense Markers
            Word Orders
            Verb Complements
            Verb Morphology
            Subject Marking
            Object Marking
            Indirect Object Marking
            Prepositional Phrases
            Negative Polarity
            Noun Classes