Harry Potter and Linguistics

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Instructions:  For each of the following queries, there are two choices for answering.  For any given question, pick ONE option — and ONLY one option — and answer it in complete, concise, coherent sentences of connected prose (that is, not in outline form).  Be sure to type (i.e., word-process) your responses; use a common 12-point font like New Times Roman, and double-space or at least use space-&-a half.  Do NOT write LESS than half a page, or MORE than one full page, for any single question.  Turn in a hard copy of your answers on cleanly-printed standard-size pages stapled together in the upper left-hand corner (without any enclosing folder or plasticized sheets).  Make sure that your name is printed at the top of every page, and also that you have kept an electronic copy for yourself (plus, if you wish, a back-up hard copy).  Do NOT submit ONLY an electronic copy of your test-responses, but you may submit both an e- and a hard copy.

It is expected that many answers can be supported by effective examples from Rowling’s HP books (with exact citations according to Book & Chapter, as in “ HP3.1 ”, etc.).  Any other pas­sages quoted or paraphrased (other than notes on class-lectures) should also be attributed to their sources.  These may be cited [in brackets or in parentheses, but NOT wholly surrounded (as here) by quotation-marks] in the following way:  “ Langford 2007 ” or “ The End of Harry Potter ” or “ EHP ”, etc.  Other class-readings, outside readings, and other websites may also be referred-to (first in full, but, after that, via appropriately short but intelligible abbreviations similar to those preceding) — yet only if they are truly relevant.

It is almost always better to cite (i) something that looks highly relevant but is raggedly written in one’s own notes, rather than (ii) something that looks much less relevant but is nicely printed or tastefully displayed in some published or posted source.  By the same token, your answers will come across best if they reflect what was actually discussed in this course, rather than seeming to come directly from some source on the Web that shows no connections with L210/HP.

And now:  Good luck!



Question 1:  Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —


  1. In what sense(s) can it be convincingly argued that — even more than is the case for most books — J. K. Rowling’s HP series and its invented world (including the characters) are made out of language?


  1. In Rowling’s HP books, the Dark Arts clearly are something that Voldemort and his fol­lowers cultivate as a source of tools for use in the Dark Lord’s quest to structure and con­trol the world in a very particular way (one that bestows both immortality and unlimited power on [Him/]He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named [HWMNBN]). Is there anything in our world that might be considered a parallel to the Dark Arts, at least as far as language is concerned?



Question 2:  Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —


  1. To what (if any) extent do so-called ancient runes (or Ancient Runes [ARs]) actually figure in the HP books by J. K. Rowling [henceforth usually Rowling]? To what extent do they figure in the movies based on the HP series?  Are any of these runes truly ancient?


  1. What is the relationship between (i) the world of the HP books as created (out of language) by Rowling and (ii) arbitrariness in language(s), especially as regards (parts of) words?



Question 3:  Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —


  1. How, and to what extent, do performative speech-acts [PSAs] resemble the spells in Row­ling’s HP books? How, and to what extent, do PSAs differ from such spells?


  1. How, and to what extent, does the uttering of taboo words [TWs] in our world sometimes resemble the performing of spells in Rowling’s HP books? How, and again to what ex­tent, do (utterances with) TWs differ from (the uttering of) such spells?



Question 4:  Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —


  1. What is nominative determinism, and what does it mean to say Nomen est omen? In the HP books, to what extent, if any, does (the English translation of) that Latin saying hold?


  1. In regard to names, what are diminutives, and to what extent do they differ, if at all, from hypocoristics? What relation exists, if any, between (i) the sounds in some of the common diminutive-endings and (ii) Ohala’s proposals concerning the acoustic origin of the smile?



Question 5:  Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —


  1. What are the most common sources of surnames (a.k.a. last names) in English? Choose 3 or 4 chapters in the Rowling’s HP books — the choice is up to you — and use them as a representative sample for judging what the comparative frequencies are of names from the various sources in the HP series.  I.e., in your sample chapters, are there more names like Potter than names like Snape than names like Black than names like Johnson, or is there some other ranking of the (sources for the) names?


  1. What general trends in the naming of children by parents can be documented in our socie­ty? Discuss at least one major trend that involves only (or at least mainly) females, and at least one trend that involves both males and females.



Question 6:  Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —


  1. What role is played, in Rowling’s HP books, by English regional and social dialects? What are some of the major dialect-regions and linguistically-identified social groups represent­ed by central HP-characters?  What are some of the most salient regional or social dialect-features suggesting where Rowling (or someone else) intended particular characters to be localized (in either a regional or a social sense)?


  1. What role is played, in Rowling’s HP books, by what can be called national dialects of En­glish (like, e.g., Irish English)? What are some of the major parts of the United Kingdom [UK], and what are some of the other English-speaking countries, that are represented lin­guistically by major HP-characters?  What are some of the salient national-dialect features suggesting where Rowling (or someone else, like a filmmaker or an audiobook-voicer) in­tended particular characters to be localized?  Are there any necessary connections among (i) such national-dialect features, (ii) the British Commonwealth, & (iii) where certain HP characters can be assumed to have been born and raised?



Question 7:  Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —


  1. What is Wizard(ing) Latin [WL]? How does it differ from various other sorts of Latin?  Why do Rowling’s HP books use Latin at all?  Why do they use WL and not some other form of Latin?


  1. What evidence for linguistic phenomena resulting from language contact is there in Row­ling’s HP books? E.g., is there evidence of interference or other aspects of transfer?



Question 8:  Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —


  1. What major issues having to do with translation exist in connection with J. K. Rowling’s HP books? Do some translations show more J.-K.-Rowlingian creativity than others?  To the maximum extent that this is possible, support your discussion with examples.


  1. Are there meaningful musical themes in any of the HP movie-scores? What are some of these themes, who composed them, and in which HP films do they occur?  How is it at all possible for music to be meaningful?  I.e., what meaning, if any, exists in music?  Were any of the themes (and their meanings) in the HP film-scores borrowed from music that was composed before (even long before) Rowling wrote the HP books?  If so, name at least one such example.



Question 9:  Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —


  1. To what extent does Rowling’s portrayal of Neville Longbottom’s broken-&-bleeding nose [NL’s BBN] in one HP book conform to and/or deviate from what is usually taught in lin­guistics classes concerning the role of the nose in speech? In this conformity and/or devi­ation between spelling and speech, what (if any) parallels can be found vis-à-vis the form of Wizard(ing) Latin [WL] used by Rowling in the HP series?


  1. To what extent should (i) the audio versions of the Harry Potter books — by who(m)? — and (ii) the filmic realizations of the series (i.e., the movies) be considered as constituting part of Rowling’s HP world/universe? Given what is in the books, to what (if any) extent is it really justifiable for anyone to discuss, e.g., minute details involving linguistic aspects of the movie-prop version of the so-called Marauder’s Map [MM]?




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