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Afton J.

Samson
afton.samson@ndsu.edu
Capstone Research Proposal
Fall, 2016

Meme, an Intellectual:
How the Internet Mocks
the Academic Prestige
Dialect
24th October 2016
PROPOSAL
For my Capstone project, I will be writing a research paper. My research question is,
How do people with no formal linguistic training talk about language? Specifically,
how do they talk about academic prestige dialect on the Internet? I was initially
inspired by a recently-popular humor format/meme, referred to in this text as me,
an intellectual. I am choosing to focus on this meme and its usage as it relates to
addressing the academic prestige dialect.
At this time, the following four sources are informing my research and guiding my
further reading.
Bruce Maylaths article, Words Make a Difference: The Effects of Greco-Latinate
and Anglo-Saxon Lexical Variation on College Writing Instructors, shows the
academic impact of the lexical dichotomy found in English.
Talking Power, a book by Robin Tolmach Lackoff, focuses on the politics of language.
The book discusses several topics of interest. How to Write Like a Professor, a
subsection of Chapter 8, The Grooves of Academe, focuses on how
undergraduates, graduate students, pre-tenured professors, and tenured professors
are expected to write, especially in regards to adhering to academese. Chapter
15, Language Bosses, discusses prescriptivist grammar, hypercorrection, and
governmental euphemisms.

Hyperfluency and the Growth of Linguistic Resources by Valerie Balester


addresses the misuse of an in-groups language patterns. She specifically focuses
on students attempting to enter their universitys discourse community. Balester
also says that hyperfluency, despite its stigma, can signal the growth of an
individuals linguistic resources.
Nancy D. Bells Humor Scholarship and TESOL: Applying Findings and Establishing
a Research Agenda, addresses the use and purpose of humor as it relates to
foreign language acquisition. She provides a summary of major findings in linguistic
and sociolinguistic humor research, and discusses how these findings might be
applied to language teaching programs. This explicit and concise discussion of the
theories, forms, and functions of humor is useful when discussing the emerging
humor formats found online.
Deliverables for this project will include:
1. A 10-12 page research paper
2. An annotated bibliography detailing the sources used
3. A 15-minute presentation of the research, to be presented to the English
Department

OBJECTIVES
This project intends to fulfill three objectives.
O1.

Examine the power dynamic between common and academic language

patterns.
O2.
Contribute to the discussion of internet linguistics.
O3.
Showcase my research skills and abilities.
O1 is at the core of this research project. Because this meme specifies the epithet
an intellectual, it is explicitly addressing the fact that there is a different lexical
expectation when someone is presenting themself as highly educated. The humor
of the meme is rooted in this difference.
Internet linguistics is a relatively new and rapidly growing field. O2 is an
opportunity unlike many others. I feel that I can make a worthwhile contribution.
Even as I am working on this project, me, an intellectual has mutated from its
original function of mocking the academic dialect to a new function, namely as a
sort of in-joke for high school juniors who took this falls PSAT.

O3 is, of course, the primary purpose of this project. This project fulfills my
capstone requirements, which in turn fulfill the goals and requirements necessary
for graduation. Beyond the graduation-related purposes, this is also a personal
goal. I know that I have all the necessary skills and abilities to complete this
project. O3 is proof that beyond having these skills, I have the ability to apply them
successfully.
These three objectives may seem dry and simplistic on the surface, but all three are
deeply important to me. The power dynamics of academic language have
fascinated me since high school, when a biology pre-requisite was waived in part
because I had studied Latin. Internet-based communication has impacted how I
speak, write, and discuss ideas. Finally, I believe it is important that I prove my
abilities to myself. Self-doubt, anxiety, and perfectionism have impacted me more
than Id like to admit, and completing this project will be my way of fighting back
against those adversaries.

METHODS
For this project, I will be gathering information on several key topics. Because I am
interested in the use of me, an intellectual, I will be doing some primary research.
Tumblr, the blogging platform that is home to me, an intellectual, has built-in
search functions. Since the meme has recently expanded its purpose, I will be
selecting specific instances of the meme that match the original format. This is
unfortunately a convenience sample, but I believe that I am familiar enough with
the initial purpose that I can create a representative sample.
I will also be researching three neighboring topics that are necessary to analyzing
the meme itself. These three topics are the academic prestige dialect (the GrecoLatinate), hypercorrection and hyperfluency, and humor as a rhetorical tool.

TIMELINE
Weekly Progress Goals
I have several marks that I have to hit each week in order to complete this project.
The range of hours indicates minimums and maximums, subject to shift depending

on the stage of the project. I will be using the habit-tracking app Habitica to stay on
track with my goals.
-1 hours:

Meet with Mentor

9-12 hours: Research & Readings


9-12 hours: Writing & Revision

Milestones
Oct. 25:

Annotated Bib due in Class

Oct. 27:

Progress Report Memo due in Class

Nov. 4:

1st Project Draft due to Mentor

Nov. 8:

Project Draft due in Class

Nov. 11:

2nd Project Draft due to Mentor

Nov. 17:

Project Abstract due @4pm Google Doc

Nov. 22:

Final Revisions due (Annotated Bib) in Class

Dec. 1:

Present to English Department and Class

Dec. 6:

Latest Possible Submission to Mentor for Grading

READING LIST
Balester, Valerie. Hyperfluency and the Growth of Linguistic Resources.
Bell, Nancy D. Humor Scholarship and TESOL: Applying Findings and Establishing a
Research Agenda. TESOL Quarterly, vol. 45, no. 1, March 2011, pp. 134-159.
JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41307619.
Crystal, David. Internet Linguistics: A Student Guide.
Crystal, David. Language and the Internet.
Ierusalimskaia, Anna A. & Kartashova, Elena P. Precedent Phenomena as the Basis
of Laughter Culture in the Internet Communication. Mediterranean Journal of
Social Sciences, vol. 6, no. 3 S7, 2015. DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2015.v6n3s7p291.

Kauppinen, Kirsi. Such LOLspeak. So analysis. Wow.: A comparative analysis of


LOLspeak and dogespeak. University of Helsinki, April 2016.
Lackoff, Robin Tolmach. The Groove of Academe. Talking Power, Basic Books,
1990, pp. 141-160.
Lackoff, Robin Tolmach. Language Bosses. Talking Power, Basic Books, 1990, pp.
283-302.
Maylath, Bruce. Words Make a Difference: The Effects of Greco-Latinate and AngloSaxon Lexical Variation on College Writing Instructors. Research in the
Teaching of English, vol. 30, no. 2, May 1996, pp. 220-247. JSTOR,
http://www.jstor.org/stable/40171360.