The Integrative Exercise (“comps”) in Linguistics gives students the opportunity to conduct extended independent research on a topic central in linguistic inquiry, and to articulate the results of that research in both written and oral form, at a level at least approaching professional competence.

The Comps Process

  • During spring term of their junior year, students meet with the department chair to kick off the comps process, with an information session. A current senior is invited to attend as well, to share their wisdom and perspective.
  • Later in the spring term, or at the very beginning of the fall term, the compsing students select a theme as a cohort (subject to faculty approval). The theme offers a unifying thread, yet is broad enough to allow everyone to identify an appropriate narrow topic that reflects their own particular scholarly interests. Past themes have included:
    • Algonquian languages
    • Dakota
    • Dialectal variation
    • Diglossia
    • Empty categories
    • Language acquisition up to age 5
    • Language contact
  • Students develop their specific research topic in the fall of their senior year, in the three credit seminar course LING 399 (Senior Thesis). At the end of the term, students in LING 399 submit:
  1. An appropriately narrow research question.
  2. A preliminary thesis statement.
  3. A preliminary plan for conducting the remaining research, including an annotated bibliography. Many linguistics comps involve an experiment, elicitation with native speakers, or work with an existing corpus; for these comps, the student is required to submit the experimental design at this stage.
  4. An outline of the paper to be written, with the anticipated chapters.
  5. A draft of the introduction, approximately 2-3 pages.
  6. An indication of which faculty member in linguistics the student prefers as their primary reader, if the student has a preference. Additionally, the student can, but again is not required to, indicate who they’d like as their secondary reader. We’ll try to accommodate students’ requests, but we may not be able to arrive at a perfect match (we need to divide up advising responsibilities among the faculty). Further, sometimes it makes sense for the secondary reader to be outside of the department; in these instances, the department chair has to approve the request.
  • Most of the research and writing takes place in winter, when students are enrolled in LING 400 (Comprehensive Exercise), for six credits. Throughout the winter term, students work closely with their primary reader to carry out the plan they identified at the end of fall term.
  • Students complete writing goals each week, determined in consultation with their primary reader, and meet weekly with their primary reader to discuss their research progress and their primary reader’s feedback.

Winter Writing Schedule

  • Beginning with the class of 2022, the process will be standardized for everyone in the senior class. Everyone’s comps will be completed by the end of winter term and we will have a comps symposium toward the beginning of spring term. Below is a detailed schedule of deadlines.
  • 9:00 a.m. Monday of week 9: A completed draft is sent to the 2nd reader. The 1st reader must give the student permission to send the draft to the 2nd reader.
    • The completed draft includes a full bibliography, proper formatting, title, introduction, and conclusion. (The director of the comps seminar will provide a style guide so that formatting instructions are explicit.) 
    • If possible, the draft should be a Word doc (for ease of commenting), but a PDF is fine. We understand that not everyone uses Microsoft products.
  • The role of the 2nd reader is to enhance the final product. As such, the 1st and 2nd readers will consult about any possible substantive changes before communicating with the student. 
  • The paper must be approved and accepted by the 1st and 2nd readers by the last day of the term (last day of finals).
  • Any minor edits must be completed and the absolute final version will be submitted to both readers, Lisa Falconer, and the library prior to the Comps Symposium. The final version will be in PDF format and will be added to both the Comps Archive in the college library and to the department’s comps repository.
  • All students will be eligible to be considered for distinction.

The Linguistics Comps Symposium

The Linguistics Comps Symposium is a celebration of the research accomplishments of our senior class! It will be held toward the beginning of spring term (exact date and location TBD) and will be organized like a linguistics mini-conference. In addition to the faculty, sophomore and junior majors are also expected to attend the symposium. Students are welcome to invite parents, partners, friends, teammates, etc. to attend either in person or virtually.

  • Sessions will be organized by topic and a junior major will chair each session. The session chair will introduce each speaker, keep time, and manage the Q&A portion.
  • Each student will have a 35-minute block. The student will present for 20 minutes. There will be 10 minutes for questions from the two readers and 5 minutes for audience questions. There will be 5 minutes of transition time between each talk.
  • Special Cases: For students graduating at the end of winter term, they will submit a full draft of their comps to the 2nd reader by the Monday morning of Week 8. We will schedule a special defense date before winter term ends.
    • If someone in the cohort is graduating early and, therefore, defending in the winter, a student who is not graduating early may opt to defend on that date instead of during the regular comps symposium in spring.

Comps That Received Distinction

Below is a selection of comprehensive exercises in linguistics that have earned distinction in the past decade.

  • Daa gweyn Aa gweyn: Focus constructions in the Belizean creole [2009]
  • Pragmatic particles in colloquial Malaysian English: Description and analysis in a Politeness Theory framework [2010]
  • A two-pronged attack: Acquisition of ask and tell in Mandarin [2010]
  • Focus too and conjunction too: The syntax and semantics of Japanese mo-coordination [2013]
  • Syntax and semantics in representational noun phrases: Sense selection of representational noun affects binding behavior [2014]
  • Clitics and suffixes are different: Accounting for one side of Turkish suspended affixation [2014]
  • Appealing to a higher projection: Determining the possibility of a unified analysis of Algonquian relative clauses [2015]
  • Ladino copular variation: A case study of Ladino heritage speakers [2016]
  • What’s with why? On the non-existence of why-clefts in Nukuoro [2017]
  • Backward control in Minangkabau [2018]
  • Lexical acquisition and existing language knowledge in bilingual kindergartners [2018]
  • Role of orthography in spoken word recognition by L1 vs. L2 speakers of English [2018]
  • All of our [dʌdz] in a row: Individual differences in the effects of intervening vowels on consonant assimilation [2018]
  • Reanalyzing the past: An experimental study on non-standard -ed in Singapore Colloquial English [2019]
  • A syntactic account of tense, mood, and aspect in the Haitian Creole preverbal marker system [2019]
  • Reflexive constructions in Maltese [2019]
  • Radical multilingualism in Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao [2019]
  • The effect of proficiency on the L2 acquisition of Case Particle Ellipsis in Korean [2020]
  • A syntactic analysis of focus concord constructions in Okinawan and Ikema [2020]
  • Creative Strategy and the Linguistics Repertoire: Manifestations of Multiglossia in the Music of Fairuz [2021]
  • A Minimalist Approach to Causative Structures in Dakota [2021]
  • The Semantics of Dative Affixes in Dakota [2021]
  • Tukted Taku Uƞ He? or “What is Where?”: Dakota T-Questions and Intervention Effects [2021]

*If you’d like to read these, or other, linguistics comps, please contact the department chair, Cherlon Ussery (