Rebirth and Reserve of Cognition Under the Influence of Language
By Zhiqiu Ye
WRI 111: Writing Seminar
From Professor Jon Smart
Zhiqiu’s essay demonstrates not just her thoughtful understanding of how language and identity interact in human experience but also her skill in crafting accessible, engaging academic prose. In my writing seminar, students discuss issues in language and identity and reflect on their own experiences, and this final assignment (the “language history” paper) is the first major task that requires them to navigate between very different types of information: personal stories from interviews they conduct with their family and academic research. Zhiqiu connects both in her writing seamlessly. She tells her grandmother’s story interwoven with relevant information about historical events, language variation, and even social conditions in China during this time. And the background information Zhiqiu presents only serves to pique the reader’s interests further as we read how her grandmother faced challenges in work and life and eventually became the woman she is.
For this project, you will write an essay about the role language has played in the life experiences of a member of your family*. This project will require you to conduct original research (i.e., interviews) along with incorporating published research in support of your thesis. Additionally, you will give a brief presentation on your project in our classroom during the final week of the course.
As we have discussed in the course, there are many ways that language impacts our experiences and identities. For this project, reflect on the languages and language varieties that are used in your family. Your goal is not to provide an overview of how language has affected your family as a whole, but rather to focus on one person’s experiences. Has a member of your family traveled or emigrated to another country? Has a member of your family learned another language? Has a family member moved to a different part of the country or started at a university? Has a family member experienced oppression or exclusion based on their language use? What are your family’s attitudes towards other languages or language varieties?
Academic resources for this project include published journal articles and academic books. Additional resources you may want to consider are newspapers, magazines, documents from your family (e.g., letters, pictures), and other relevant media. The interview should be conducted as soon as possible. Please discuss with your subject (prior to the interview) the purpose of the assignment, and make sure you have her/his consent to use their name, responses, and experiences in your paper. You may interview more than one person, but this is not required. You do not have to record the interview, but you should at least take notes. The interview can be in-person or long distance.
*if you prefer to not interview a family member, you may instead interview a community member or someone you know well.