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TESOL | Working Papers

This special issue of the AU TESOL Working Papers highlights work done by our students on the structural workings of the English language. The papers were produced in a variety of TESOL courses taught over the past several years by Professors Naomi Baron and Robin Barr. The contributions address a wide swath of issues, from Caribbean Creole English and contemporary use of “like”, to semantic shift in slang and syntactic conversions from nouns to verb.

We hasten to say that these papers are but a sampling of the fine work on the structure of English that students in AU TESOL courses have produced. We hope you enjoy this present collection. 

Naomi S. Baron
Professor of Linguistics

Robin Barr


Working Papers

Ingrid Rodrick Beiler and Cynthia Hatch's paper Dialect Variation in Number Agreement with Collective Nouns in English was written for Prof. Baron's 2009 Structure of English class.

Megan Calvert's paper Weirding the Language: How Grammatical Conversions Impact English discusses the transition of some words in English from one part of speech to another, and the effects this process has on the English language.The paper was written for Prof. Baron's 2009 Structure of English class.

Connie Gelb's paper Do-support: Historical Roots and Current Usages examines the role of the word do in questions, negations, and other phrases. Her paper was written for Prof. Barr's 2008 Structure of English class.

Rebecca Karli and Brynna Larsen's paper: Caribbean Creole in Class examines how use of Caribbean Creole affects several high school students in an ESL classroom. The paper notes the phonological and lexical differences between Standard American English and Caribbean Creole English. It was written for Prof. Baron's 2010 Structure of English Class.

Philippa Kirby's paper: Double and Multiple Negatives describes the historical and currently accepted use of double negatives, and describes the stigma this phenomenon has acquired in modern usage, despite its history in the language. The paper was written for Prof. Baron's 2009 Structure of English class.

Samantha Parkes and Rebecca Wilner's paper: Has Our Wickedness Made Us Sick?: A Study of Semantic Shift in Slang Usage explores the increasingly prevalent use of formerly negative words such as sick and wicked in a positive sense.The paper was written for Prof. Baron's 2009 Structure of English class.

John Petersen's paper: Semantic and syntactic language intervention was written for Prof. Barr's 2008 Structure of English class. The paper reports the results of action research done in a 6th grade classroom in the D.C. Public School system regarding the use of prototypical and atypical nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and how to make learning parts of speech easier for students.

Jacqueline Schenkel and Janice Prucker's paper: A verray parfit word? was written for Prof. Baron's 2010 structure of English class. It examines the historical and current use of adjectives such as sincere, round, or correct, which are often considered non-gradable in prescriptive grammars.

Huijin Yan's paper: Contemporary use of like and its effects on non-native English speakersexplores the use of the word like in native and non-native speakers of English, and discusses the different ways the word is used in speech and writing. The paper was written for Prof. Barr's 2008 Structure of English class.


Author Biographies


Ingrid Rodrick Beiler received her MA in TESOL in May 2010. She has taught pre-academic and adult ESL, and she previously coordinated ESOL programs at Linkages to Learning in Montgomery County, MD.


Megan Calvert received her MA in TESOL from American University in 2009. She currently teaches in an adult refugee English program at Montgomery College. Her teaching experience includes a year of teaching EFL as a Fulbright-selected French Government Teaching Assistant, a year as financial educator and AmeriCorps volunteer at the International Rescue Committee, and two years of teaching EFL as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan.


Connie Gelb is an AU TESOL Master's candidate. She has a special interest in second language writing and works as a writing counselor in AU's Writing Lab. She also holds a Master's in journalism from Columbia University and has worked professionally as a reporter and multimedia editor. She received her undergraduate degree in English and Creative Writing from Hampshire College.


Cynthia Hatch is originally from Australia, but recently became a U.S. citizen. She holds a BEd in 19th century English language and literature. After working in educational publishing as a managing editor for twelve years, she decided to change careers and return to teaching. Cynthia is currently completing her MA in TESOL at American University and is teaching adult ESL students. She lives in Arlington with her husband, Josh, daughter, Sammy, and wonderdog, Milo.


Rebecca Karli graduated from James Madison University with a BA in Economics and Spanish. She is currently a second year 9th grade ESL teacher at Roosevelt Senior High School in Washington, D.C. She will graduate with a Master of Arts in TESOL from American University in August of 2010. She looks forward to many more years of teaching ESL students from around the world and improving her teaching strategies to meet the needs of her Caribbean Creole English speakers.


The daughter of an American diplomat, Philippa Kirby grew up overseas and spoke French before she spoke English. She attended English schools, then attended Colby College in the U.S. She worked in New York City for many years as an editor and writer and is currently in the MA TESOL program at American University.


Brynna Larsen graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BA in International Studies and Political Science. After graduating, she lived and worked in Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently, Brynna teaches ELL at Roosevelt Senior High School in Washington, D.C. In August, 2010, she will graduate from American University with a Master of Arts in Teaching in ESOL.


Samantha Parkes earned her MA in Language, Literature and Composition at the University of Kansas. While at KU she taught Composition and Literature courses and enjoyed climbing the only mountain in Kansas every day to get to class. She then migrated to the former Soviet Republic of Moldova where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years. While in Moldova, she taught American and British Culture at the State University of Cahul, directed a national English Camp, and learned how to take care of pigs. She received her MA in TESOL from American University in December 2009, and is currently teaching at NOVA Alexandria.


John Petersen is currently a representative for Chancellor Michelle Rhee, on the Critical Response Team in DC Public Schools (DCPS). He also teaches Language Assessment as an adjunct professor at American University. Before moving to an administrative role, John taught English Language Arts and ESL at two bilingual schools in DCPS. He holds an MAT from American University and a B.A. in English from Yale University.


Janice Prucker recently graduated from the TESOL Certificate Program at AU and is currently enrolled in the MA TESOL at American University. She hopes to eventually teach English in Egypt.


Jacqueline Schenkel is a candidate for an MA in TESOL at American University, where she received her Certificate in TESOL in December, 2009. In addition to teaching at NOVA, she is working on combining her cultural background (a citizen of France and the United States) and previous corporate world and academic background (BA in international affairs and MBA-finance at The George Washington University) to teach English for Specific Purposes.


Rebecca Wilner graduated in 2004 from the University of Rochester with a BA in Psychology. She then moved to Madrid, Spain, where she taught English in companies and academies around the city for four years. She received her MA in TESOL from American University in December 2009 and is working as an Administrative Assistant in the AU TESOL Program office, as well as teaching ESL at Montgomery College in both the AELP and non-credit programs.


Huijin Yan, MA graduate in TESOL at American Univeristy. Huijin Yan received her BA at Beijing International Studies University in 2003. She then taught English to secondary students in Beijing for four years before moving to the U.S. During her MA study, Hujin has the opportunity to teach Chinese at college level and teach English to adult students in an ESL setting, which enrich her teaching experiences and lead her to her current interests of research: a comparison study of the advantages and disadvantages of being a native language teacher and a non-native language teacher. Huijin finished an intensive program in teaching Chinese as a foreign language hosted by the STARTALK at Indiana University in summer 2009 and is applying all the Chinese pedagogy to her current Chinese class at Sidwell Friends Middle School.