Date: Mon, 6 May 1996 16:30:54 -0500 From: Donald Larmouth Subject: Re: Linguistic Autobiography As another McDavid student I used to use the "linguistic autobiography" assignment too, but I found they were usually long on family history and short on linguistic citations, and many of the latter seemed either cute or labored in an effort to be "interesting"--or they were very judgmental, hung up on "correctness." In recent years I've asked students to focus on a particular setting (part-time [or full-time] job, recreational group, hobby club, favorite hangouts, etc.) and characterize the usage of that group in that setting, especially in-group slang and jargon that would likely not be known to "outsiders." This has been quite productive and diminishes the privacy issue because it characterizes group conventions rather than idiosyncratic ones. For me this is an early assignment, not a late one--I like to try to get the students into an "observer mode" as soon as possible. As might be expected, the students are more comfortable picking out special terminology, idioms, acronyms, etc., and defining them--less comfortable trying to describe phonological features, "accents," etc.