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English Philology

Program Coordinator
Dr Krzysztof Migdalski/Erasmus student coordinator: Dr Laura Suchostawska

Contact for Erasmus students: Dr Laura Suchostawska, laura@uni.wroc.pl 

M.A. Program

This program is designed for students with a B.A. degree in English or in Humanities. It offers seminars in literary studies, theoretical linguistics, and applied linguistics. Literary studies focus on British and American literature, cultural studies, and literary theory. Courses in theoretical linguistics cover a variety of approaches to language, ranging from generative and cognitive linguistics to pragmatics and anthropological linguistics. Applied linguistics courses deal with theories and methods of teaching English as a foreign language and with translation studies. The M.A. seminars are accompanied by supplementary courses designed to further students' interests in the chosen field of research and by an advanced academic writing course.

Requirements:

All applicants to the M.A. program must have an excellent command of English, corresponding to the level of the Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or the IELTS score of at least 8.

In addition, all applicants must submit a research project in the field of study they wish to investigate during the M.A. program. The project should be approximately 1500 words in length and not exceed double-spaced five pages. It should consist of the following parts:

1. The formulation and justification of a research problem

2. An outline of the planned research

3. An preliminary hypothesis that follows from the initial research carried out by the candidate. The hypothesis may not be a self-evident statement or an argument that has already been examined in depth.

4. Detailed research questions that will be addressed by the applicant during the M.A. project.

5. A bibliography listing at least 10 publications.

 

Examples of research projects:

 

Theoretical Linguistics

 

Syntactic Constraints on English and Polish Idioms

The main aim of this project is to explore the syntax of idioms, a topic which appeared in linguistic theory only recently and thus constitutes an interesting area for future research. Following recent approaches to idioms from a syntactic point of view (such as O'Grady 1998 or Kuiper and Everaert 2000), we will introduce the syntactic constraints postulated in the literature, illustrate them with English idioms, and then attempt to check their validity with respect to Polish idioms. The project thus falls within the area of cross-linguistic investigations related to modern comparative syntax. The class of idioms to be investigated will be limited to the so-called verbal predicate idioms defined following Everaert (1991) as in (1):

 (1) A predicate idiom is an idiomatic phrase that consists of an argument-taking head and its arguments, and for which the following conditions hold:

a. the predicate may be freely tense-inflected (if verbal), or moved

b. the predicate has at least one open argument position, or one of its arguments contains an open argument position.

 Crucial in the above definition is the open argument position, which excludes proverbs and similar constructions from our area of research. The open argument position can be illustrated with (2), where the open position is the direct object NP:

 (2) take NP to task: ‘He took me to task over the way I repaired the roof of his house and said the work was not satisfactory.’

In particular, we will investigate the so called Continuity Constraint formulated by O'Grady (1998: 283) and the Hierarchy Constraint first mentioned by Kiparsky (1987:35-36), developed by O'Grady (1998: 293) and related to some sort of thematic hierarchy (cf. Bach 1980, Carrier-Duncan1985, Kiparsky 1987, Larson 1988, Baker 1989, Jackendoff 1990 among others). We will show that the Continuity Constraint accounts for different types of permissible constructions and that it also predicts which idioms are impossible. Furthermore, we will investigate if and how the Hierarchy Constraint allows to rule out impossible argument structures of verbs. We will conduct our analysis both for English and Polish. Our preliminary research suggests that the syntactic structure of  Polish idioms resembles that of the English examples. Idiomatic constructions of both languages are subject to similar syntactc constraints which limit their creativity. The Continuity Constraint seems to apply in nearly all cases. The problem gets slightly more complicated with the Hierarchy Constraint. There are some counterexamples to this rule.

Thus, this principle might constitute a good topic for future research against a larger set of Polish and English data. We will investigate different groups of predicate idioms, i.e. the VP, NP, PP and AP idioms thus extending the data known from the literature. Moreover, we will compare Kuiper and Everaert's (2000) theory to that of O'Grady's.

 

REFERENCES AND BIBILIOGRAPHY FOR FURTHER RESEARCH

Austin, J. P. M., and K. Kuiper. 1988. “Constraints on Coordinated idioms.” Te Reo 31: 3-17.6

Bach, E. 1980. “In Defense of Passive.” Linguistics and Philosophy 3: 297-34.

Baker, M. 1989. “Object Sharing and Projection in Serial Verb Constructions.” Linguistic Inquiry 20: 513-53.

Baltin, M. 1989. “Heads and Projections.” Alternative Conceptions of Phrase Structure. Eds. M. Baltin and A. Kroch. University of Chicago Press: Chicago: 1-16.

Carrier-Duncan, J. 1985. “Linking of Thematic Roles in Derivational Word Formation.” Linguistic Inquiry 16, 1-34

Everaert, M. 1993. “Verbal idioms, subject idioms and data theory.” Formal Linguistics Society of Midamerica. Eds. L. Smith Stvan et al. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press: 43-59.

Everaert, M., & K. Kuiper 1996. "Theory and Data In Idiom Research.“ Proceedings of the Parasession on Data in Linguistics. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.

Fisiak, J. 1993. Słownik idiomów angielskich. Warszawa: Polska Oficyna Wydawnicza „BGW.”

Fraser, B. 1970. “Idioms within a Transformational Grammar.” Language 6: 22-42

Jackendoff, R. 1990. Semantic Structures. Cambridge, Massachussets: MIT Press.

Kiparsky, P. 1987. “Morphology and Grammatical Relations.” unpublished manuscript, Stanford University.

Kuiper, K. and M. Everaert. 2000. "Constraints on the Phrase Structural Properties of English Phrasal Lexical Items.” PASE Papers in Language Studies: 151-170.

Nunberg, Geoffrey, Ivan Sag and Thomas Wasow. 1994. “Idioms.” Language 70: 491-538.

O’Grady, W. 1998. "The Syntax of Idioms." Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 16: 279-312.

 

Applied Linguistics

 

The role of formal instruction in developing accuracy and fluency in a foreign language

Two broad types of second language acquisition (SLA) can be distinguished according to the acquisitional setting: naturalistic and classroom SLA (Ellis 1994, Lightbown and Spada 1993, McLaughlin 1987). In comparison to naturally occurring  discourse, classroom discourse can be substantially modified (e.g. Krashen 1981, Sinclair and Coulthard 1975). An important question, then, is in what ways this modification affects the route, rate and final success in SLA, especially in relation to the two crucial aspects of this process - accuracy and fluency.

The main purpose of this project is to investigate whether formal instruction (FI) focused on form influences students‟ oral performance in terms of accuracy and fluency. Two groups of  20 intermediate students are going to participate in the study. Group One will take part in a 60-hour course focused entirely on communication with minimal emphasis on grammar. Group Two will take part in a 30 hour communicative course and receive 30 hours of formal instruction in grammar. The two groups will be tested twice, before and after the course. First, the students will take a multiple-choice grammar test, then, their spoken English (picture description) will be recorded and analysed in terms of speed, fluency and grammatical correctness i.e. mean length of utterance, number of syllables/pauses per minute, number of errors in a discourse (see for example Larsen-Freeman and Long 1991).

The study aims to confirm or reject the following research hypothesis: Classroom learners will be able to make use of knowledge acquired through formal instruction when they are focused on form in a discrete item test but not in spontaneous speech production (c.f. Long 1983). Therefore, we can expect Group Two to perform  better on the written test, but not necessarily in picture description. However, if the results prove that FI influences students‟ fluency, perhaps communicative language teaching should be appended with more extensive formal instruction.

 

REFERENCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR FURTHER RESEARCH

Ellis, R. 1994. The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Krashen, S. 1981. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Pergamon.

Larsen-Freeman, D. and M. Long. 1991. An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition Research. London: Longman.

Lightbown, P. and N. Spada. 1993. How Languages are Learnt. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Long, M. 1983. “Does Second Language Instruction Make a Difference? A Review of the Research.” TESOL Quarterly 17: 359-82.

McLaughlin, B. 1987. Theories of Second Language Learning. London: Edward Arnold.

Sinclair, J. and M. Coulthard. 1975. Towards an Analysis of Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

Literary Studies

 

Goats vs. Unicorns: The Issue of Genre in the Fiction of Allen Bloggs

The science fiction of Allen Bloggs (b. 1954) has attracted a good deal of critical attention in the past decade (Green 1990, Adembe 1995, Schorer 1999). However, a Harper’s journalist recently discovered that since 1991 Bloggs has also been publishing historical romances under the pen name of Ellen Bliss. While his science fiction novels invariably make the New York Times bestseller list, his historical romances are clearly addressed to a select audience. They are printed on custom-made paper, illuminated by hand, and printed in small runs by the author’s private press. Most of the romances are set in Medieval Europe. They are written in highly sophisticated prose alternating with stylized verse, and they focus on such themes as courtly love and redemption. The goal of my project is to read one of Bloggs’s romances, The Dream of the Unicorn (1998), against his science fiction novel The Nightmare of the Scapegoat, published in the following year, and trace their structural and philosophical parallels.

What I hope this study will show is that Bloggs uses the esoteric romance genre to explore certain ideas concerning the way language constructs the gendered self. He then rewrites the same themes in the more accessible science fiction genre. In the process of retelling the story, however, a pessimism sets in that is absent from the romances. This study is driven by the following questions: How does Bloggs use his male and female personae? How does the choice of literary genre affect his philosophical message? What is the significance of the goat and unicorn imagery? What are some of the similarities and differences between Bloggs’s imaginary past and future? To what extent can we use the romances to reinterpret his science fiction and vice versa?

In my analysis of the two novels I plan to use the theoretical formulations of Jacques Merrida and Mary-Louise Brady, as well as Robyn Ely’s recent study of unicorn imagery, Reimagining Goats: A Psychoanalytic Approach. In order to better understand the specificity of the two literary genres used by Bloggs, I shall refer to Ivan Vassilovich’s The Romance Reconsidered and Henrietta Huggins’s The Fiction of Science Fiction. I also plan to read Bloggs’s earlier novels to see if they, too, constitute matching pairs addressed to different audiences but concerned with similar problems.

REFERENCES AND BIBILIOGRAPHY FOR FURTHER RESEARCH

Adembe, Ray. “A Reevaluation the Fiction of Allen Bloggs.” Science Fiction Journal 11.3 (July1995): 120-141.

Bloggs, Allen. The Nightmare of the Scapegoat. New York: Ballantines, 1999.

Bloggs, Allen/Ellen Bliss. The Dream of the Unicorn. Baltimore: Bliss Press, 1998.

Brady, Mary-Louise. “Fears, Fantasies, and Forgetting: Towards a Theory of the Unicorn.” Journal of Literary Theory 21.4 (Winter 1993): 53-69.

Green, Jennifer. “Allen Bloggs: Pulp Fiction Writer or Underestimated Genius?” New Directions in Popular Fiction. Ed. Joyce James. London: Penguin, 1990.

Huggins, Henrietta. The Fiction of Science Fiction. London: Routledge, 1985.9

Merrida, Jacques. Theorizing Theory. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1977.

Ely, Robyn. Reimagining Goats: A Psychoanalytic Approach. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1899.

Schorer, Wayne. “Taking Allen Bloggs Seriously.” Readings in American Science Fiction. Eds. Max Major and Ted McMahon. Charlotte, North Carolina University Press, 1999.

Vassilovitch, Ivan. The Romance Reconsidered. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990.

(NOTE: the above project is based on fictitious primary and secondary sources)

 

NOTE: the projects presented above are shorter (approximately 600 words in length) than the ones required from the candidates. They are to be used as a guideline only. 

 

Program details