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Language Log

Wednesday, Aug. 09, 2006 - 7:49 a.m.

Weird language. I'm transcribing the evaluations now from the language institute. Actual language use always surprises me-- drives home the real extent to which linguists idealize their subject, and how much variation there really is out there.

One person wrote "he's" for 'his', in a clearly possessive context. Also allowed a paranthetical to intervene between first and second objects, i.e. "...teach students--blah blah blah-- the language". Very unexpected.

Last day of class today before the exam. I still have to write the exam. Have to do review today. I don't think I've mentioned it here, but there's this guy in my class who is a real jerk. He's been subtly (and not so subtly) disrespectful to me all semester, and dismissive of my arguments. He asks a question, and interrupts me when I try to answer. He attributes all linguistic arguments that he disagrees with to me personally. He's Mr. Hotshot Computer Guy, so acts like he understands recursion soo well but then teh other day when confronted with an embedded sentence to diagram, was like "IT's a SENTECE? INSIDE a SENTENCE?" I'm like, dude, yes, a sentence inside a sentence, it's an embedded sentence, that's what an embedded sentence is." "Well, okay, WHATEVER." [waves hand at me to keep me from explaining further and looks angrily away]. Dumbass, that's what recursive means.
He thinks he's just soooo smart, that he does extremely half-assed work because he doesn't actually have to DEMONSTRATE that he's as smart as he thinks he is.

Anyway, I've been trying very hard to grade his work fairly even though I hate his mysogynistc guts and hope he gets hit by a car after failing the final tomorrow. Or better, just before taking the final. (I'm not afraid to say what I feel). But on this last homework, I gave them an easy A-- I said, here are some tests for this thing, here's a sentence, put the relevant parts of the sentence through the tests, form an analysis, and write up your argument. I don't care what answer you come to, as long as you make a good argument supported by empirical data in the form of the sentences you've generated when doing the tests and your acceptibility judgments about them. Easy, huh? Dickwad applies the tests halfway, leaves a couple of them out, doesn't explain what the results of each individual test means, but what he does find points to Answer X. He writes this little conclusion where he discusses one or two of the tests and says nothing at all about the other four, then concludes that it is Answer Y because of some semantic criterion that we had not used as a test at all for this particular thing. Has to dismiss the results of the structual tests he did apply in order to reach this conclusion. Obviously, he's too good to have to make a real argument.

So I want to nail his sorry ass on this, but! For how badly he's actually done, not for how much I hate him. It's hard to know, I second guess my motivations every time I take a point off one of his papers. It's excruciating, and causes me to dwell more than is healthy onhow much I hate him. I do have points assigned for each thing, so it should be fairly objective and defensible-- though I must admit I did rethink the grading scheme just so I can take more points off of his homework. (25 points for this question? Let's make it 35, and five of that is for this thing that he didn't do, how sad.) It will require minor adjustment to another student's score, but is worth it to me. Is that wrong?

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