Two more days of class, you guys! Slowly and surely, the questions that I’ve had all semester are being answered, and finally (finally!) things are starting to make sense. For example, I took half of a class that’s not required this semester, just for kicks and giggles. It afforded many of those until partway through the semester, when someone implied that I would fail the course because I had only signed up for half of it. Not only is that not the case, but also my #1 choice to make up the rest of the course (in Russia, fingers crossed) was approved by the head of the department. In fact, my #1 choices for everything were approved.

An equally great weight was removed from all of our shoulders on Monday, when the dreaded Syntax final took place. You’ve all occasionally had updates from this class, which was characterized by the (admittedly well-meaning) professor saying things like “I don’t want to be rude, but my 5th-grader is learning this right now” and “It’s all in the book” (without specifying which of his several 400+ page books on this topic he was referring to–sometimes he turned out to be referring to books that were not yet published or even listed on the ‘in press’ section of his CV). Our favorite, though, was this: “Stop complaining about the exam. I told you at the beginning of the semester you could do regular exercises instead, and no one did them. So now you can’t complain about having to take the test. True, I never assigned any exercises…”. As it turned out, though, the test wasn’t bad.

It was pass-fail, with pass being a 50/100. Some of the questions were really easy, such as a set of sentences, one in Danish, one in German, one in Icelandic, and one in Yiddish, in which our task was simply to mark the one in Icelandic. Others were mystifyingly vague (“Provide an analysis of the passive voice in either German or Icelandic”). The strangest thing, though, was two questions that were almost exactly the same. I don’t remember exactly, but it went something like this:

7. Provide an analysis (tree structure and valency markers) of the following sentences (10 points):
a) dass ich ihm das Buch gebe. [German for “…that I give him the book”]
b) I give him the book.
c) At eg giver ham bogen. [the same sentence in Danish]

8. Provide an analysis (tree structure and valency markers) of the following sentences (45 points):
a) Ich gebe ihm das Buch. [same as above, but a coordinate clause instead of a subordinate one]
b) I give him the book.
c) Eg giver ham bogen. [ditto]

As you can see, the only difference between (7) and (8) is that you have to move “gebe” in (8a) to the front. And yet (8) is worth over 4 times as much as (7). Because of the way it was graded, in fact, you could actually pass the exam by doing question 8 and leaving the entire rest of the 90-minute-long test blank. The jury’s still out on whether this grading system is madness or genius.

Once the directionless syntax preparation had come to its underwhelming conclusion, it was time to turn to the future. The course schedule for next semester had finally been posted, and by some miracle, everything fits together. And unless something changes, the days that I have to go to the Humboldt Universität are days that I have no classes at the Freie Universität, so there won’t be any more of the mad-dashing and leaving class early and chowing down a Corny for lunch-supper while waiting for the train. On the downside (which highlights somewhat of a continental divide between my sister and me), all my classes start after noon. Which means I finish sometime between 4 PM and 8 PM. I’m pretty miffed about that, but it could be way worse–one of my classmates isn’t going to be able to take any of her (three) required foreign languages next semester due to schedule conflicts.

All of this is very exciting, as it all amounts to having some amount of understanding of/control over my life again, which hasn’t really been the case since I got here. Now I just have to write a socks-knocking-off term paper. How am I going to do that? I’m so glad you asked. If you are a native English speaker who has 5 minutes free and wishes to join me in the pursuit of statistical significance, click this link and make your contribution to the field of linguistics! And help me achieve P values that make my professors smile!

Seriously, though, if you would take the study I would really appreciate it. I’ll probably wind up asking each of you individually as well, so you can save yourself some time by just clicking that link and answering 10 questions. I know it’s a weird study. You can send me a message when you’re done if you want to know what it’s about.

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