missing variable in intro courses

Michael K. Gottlieb michael.gottlieb at YALE.EDU
Sun Aug 13 17:49:04 UTC 2000

On Sun, 13 Aug 2000, Mai Kuha wrote:

> And then, on Sun, 13 Aug 2000, Laurence Horn was all:
> (...)
> > I'm not sure most of my discussion of orientation as a linguistic
> > variable really fits within a general discussion of slang, although
> > we do touch on some issues in that intersection in a different part
> > of the course.  (...)
> Still, it's an interesting alternative for organizing the topics. Instead
> of having, so to speak, a "sexual orientation day" on the course schedule,
> a general discussion of pragmatics and cross-cultural communication could
> be a good place to discuss e.g. the exchanges with subtle "gay-centered
> messages and meanings" that Leap reports. Other aspects could be brought
> up during discussions of language & identity, and so on. Done right, this
> organization of topics might even send a more inclusive message.

As an alumn of Professor Horn's course, I suppose it's appropriate for me
to chime in to say that contextualizing the issues you're addressing under
general headings is an excellent way to go, both in terms of how the
students will receive you, and how they will organize your lecture in
their mind.  Addressing the exchanges with subtle "gay-centered messages
and meanings" is much better done in a general discussion of pragmatics,
etc., as you suggest.  I think this will be easier for your student,
and easier for you, as well.  Professor Horn's class was structured in
such a way a particular theory or general trend was the topic of the day.
He THEN incorporated and discussed the examples you're bringing up here.
The effect was a greater understanding of theory, and a greater wealth of
examples for each.  This also gave Professor Horn, I believe, the freedom
to bring up interesting and current topics wherever he saw fit, which
allowed him some room to improvise and work examples brought up in class
into his lectures.  He would not have been able to do this if he had
designated one day to be "sexual orientation day."

Of course, if I'm remembering this incorrectly, I'm sure Professor Horn
will correct me.  However, I guess the lesson then would be that your
students are going to reconstruct your course in their memory however they
please, anyway.  (But I doubt it.)

Mike Gottlieb

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