I spent a big chunk of this past academic year working on my thesis, as do all seniors at Reed. I studied linguistics here and, when fall semester approached, I knew I wanted to focus on syntax, but I struggled with finding a topic that I really wanted to devote my year to. After much debating, I finally settled on a topic in November—some would say this is kind of late in the game but in the end I was fine. Ergativity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergative–absolutive_language) was one of the topics I was interested in, because I find it fascinating, and I was taking a field methods class, in which we were studying Amdo Tibetan. Tibetan languages are known to have the ergative alignment system, so I decided to study the phenomenon of ergativity in Amdo Tibetan. My advisor suggested that I compare this to the ergative alignment in Lhasa Tibetan, a more widely studied and documented language variety. So that’s what I ended up writing my thesis on. I studied the case-marking structure of two different dialects of Tibetan, described them, and compared them using formal linguistics. The part I enjoyed the most in my thesis process was doing the fieldwork to gather data in Amdo Tibetan. I got to work with a fellow international student who is from Tibet. I would sit with him every week or every other week and collect sentences in Amdo Tibetan to help me analyze its structure.
When I started the writing process, I went straight to LaTeX (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaTeX). I had been using MS Word for the entirety of my life, but I had practiced using LaTeX with some of my assignments earlier in the year, because I knew I wanted to write my thesis in it. And boy, am I glad I did that. Not only did my thesis look so good thanks to the formatting options LaTeX offers, it made my life so much easier, because there are linguistics-specific packages that saved so much time for things like interlinear glossing. I strongly encourage all seniors to use LaTeX.
Well, I spent many late nights in the library, writing and editing my thesis until it was in a form that I was happy with. And I ended up turning it in two days early. After numerous drafts and changing the order of chapters around last minute, I was ready to print a final draft of my thesis to submit it. I excitedly printed a copy of it, went to my advisor for his approval, made four copies for my orals board, got my advisor’s signature, and went to the registrar’s office. I showed them the final product, and they congratulated me and gave me my laurels, which I am wearing in the picture. I felt so free and so accomplished at the same time. In the next week, I defended my thesis in front of four members of my orals board. I made some final changes to the thesis and it was ready to be printed and bound for the library. I did this the very next day after the oral defense and avoided the lines. Copies of my thesis were submitted to the library that same day.
I really enjoyed the thesis process, even though there were some tough moments. If I had to do my undergraduate education all over again, I would definitely choose an option that involves writing a thesis. But for now, I’m ready for graduation…!
-Jinyoung Park ‘11