Topic ideas

This is a place for you to share ideas of potential research topics. If you have several ideas, and just want to use one of them, please share the extra topics here, so others who might be having trouble thinking of topics can choose from your surplus. You can also use this space to think through some topic ideas and get feedback from me and others in the class.

If you are a member of this class site, you can reply as a comment to this post. If you’re in this class but aren’t a member of this site yet, please join (instructions here) so you can take part.

Remember, final topic ideas are due on 16 September.

25 thoughts on “Topic ideas”

  1. I’m not sure exactly what topic I’m going to choose but I do have an interest in slang, how words originated and how words are/can be borrowed from other languages. I wanted to do something along the lines of looking into the evolution of slang but I’m not sure if it’s too broad of a topic.

    1. Hi Kelly, that all sounds interesting. You’re right that it is a bit broad. You should choose something specific about the evolution of slang that interests you. Based on your interests, it might be cool to look at how some slang words are borrowings from other languages. I’d be interested in knowing whether monolingual English speakers in the Southwest might use words borrowed from Mexican Spanish as slang, for example.

  2. For my topic. i am 99% set on writing on how the Christianization of England played a role on the change of Old English. If not that, I reckon the topic of Celtic influence on Old English would be a viable topic.

    1. Hi James, both sound great. I should let you know that the issue of Celtic influence on OE is still fairly contentious. There are whole opposing camps of linguists, some of whom maintain Celtic had a huge influence especially on our syntax, and others who argue that its influence was very small. You might want to stay away from that topic, since sources can contradict each other, but you also might want to pursue it, because it’s fun to weigh the evidence and see who you think presents the most compelling arguments.

    1. Hi Kasia, this is a good idea but we should narrow it down a bit. The slang in NYC is different than the slang in Boston or London or Johannesburg, even among English speakers in all of those places, so analyzing the evolution of slang over time is a really broad topic. You should pick a particular variety of slang (e.g. London slang among punks) and identify a particular time range (e.g. the 1970s–1980s) to work with.

  3. I’m not entirely sure on the topic I would like to choose but I am also interested in slang and how it was formed and how it has changed over time. I am also interested in researching the pronunciation of certain words and how they differ based on where individuals live as well as their age groups.

    1. Hi Alicia – these both sound interesting. If you work on slang, you should narrow it down to be more specific – what variety of slang would you look at, and in what timeframe? Who are the people using it? I think that your second research topic is really good; there’s a lot of research going on around how certain vowel shifts are actually reversing among younger generations. You’d ultimately need to narrow it down, but it sounds like the start of a promising topic. (One example of recent research on this is here: https://repository.upenn.edu/pwpl/vol21/iss2/6/)

    1. Hi Samantha – I think that we should narrow this down a little bit. For example, maybe just look at a particular element within AAE that’s interesting to you (e.g. how AAE terms get borrowed into non-AAE English), or look at the use of cursing in day-to-day communications. I’d be cautious about conflating the two, because many people still think of AAE as “uneducated” or “bad” English, and I wouldn’t want to contribute to that narrative by associating it solely with cursing.

      1. Hello professor it was not my intention to relate the two together but to show how we have negative impact on how English should be. While I learned in linguistics that all English is acceptable. I just wanted to make the point of how we use Both in our day to day but it needed I will narrow it down

    1. Hi Anastasiya – you can definitely do this, but you’d need to narrow it down. Please look at what I said in my replies to others in this thread who want to work on slang. Also see my comment below, in which I paste some of what I told another student over email re: slang as a research topic.

  4. For everyone who wants to work on slang: Slang itself is definitely worthy of research, but it’s a very broad topic. I want everyone’s research papers to do some deep research, rather than to just be an overview of a subject. Since slang is such a broad topic, you’d have to write super long essays to address it as a whole with enough depth.

    Instead, you should choose a particular topic involving slang that you find interesting. I’m pasting below some advice that I gave one of you over email last week, which I hope will be helpful for everyone trying to narrow their focus.

    There are a few ways that you can narrow it down, but probably the easiest is to identify a particular time and area or variety of English that you’d like to look at. For example, you might look at the development of slang in Britain among WW1 soldiers, or the development of slang among English-speakers in New Orleans in the early 20th century, or something like that.

    In any study of slang, you’ll want to keep in mind why people are using it – Is it to reinforce a social bond? Is it to declare the speaker’s allegiance to a particular class or group? Is it to convey that they’re joking? Is it to mock the person they’re speaking to, taking them down a peg? – and try to figure that out based on the context the words are used in. For this reason, it’s best to work with slang that is fairly well documented, which unfortunately makes working with medieval materials fairly difficult. Early modern materials are usable, but fairly hard to search. We have much better sources, including purpose-written slang dictionaries, starting in the 1800s. I’d suggest choosing a range of a decade or two, starting some time after the 1850s, and then choosing a particular place or variety you want to look at.

  5. Hi Professor, not to pile onto the people who are interested in slang but I would like that to be my topic of discussion as well. However, I would like to focus on the generational difference regarding it. Like, the slang that I use and other people apart of my generation uses, my parents are completely unaware of. It amazes me how we can live in the same year but utilize different vocabulary.

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