Xiaomei Wang defends Ph.D. dissertation

Xiaomei Wang successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation, titled Local Identity and Language Attitude in Standardization: Evidence from Tianjin Chinese, on December 12. Her project involved ongoing language change in Tianjin Chinese, in which she identified both loss of traditional dialect features and, surprisingly, revival of another traditional feature. She linked this to economic change in the city as well as the in-migration of thousands of people from rural areas. Congratulations Xiaomei on a successful defense!

Yongqing Ye wins CALMS 5-minute linguist competition

Ai Taniguchi presents the prize to Yongqing Ye

Socio Lab member Yongqing Ye was the winner of yesterday’s lightning talk competition at CALMS (Careers, Alumni & Linguistics at Michigan State). Competing against students and professors, Yongqing’s talk Pointing to the past in Mandarin Chinese was a funny and easy-to-follow explanation of deictic de. Giving a five minute talk is hard enough, but giving a short talk on an abstract topic is even harder! Not only that, but Yongqing stepped in at the 11th hour when another student was unable to present as planned. The judge, Dr. Ai Taniguchi (PhD Linguistics 2017) praised Yongqing’s accessible approach. Ai herself won the 2019 Linguistic Society of America’s 5-Minute Linguist competition, and we were glad to have her expert eye on the proceedings.

Another Socio Lab member, Dr. Irina Zaykovskaya, explained How I learned to stop worrying and love the word like. Her talk got an honorable mention from Ai. Irina used an array of colorful images and lots of humor to show how people bring social judgments about e.g. “party girls” and “nerd girls” to their judgments of discourse particle like.

Irina Zaykovskaya explains in five minutes why “like” is, like…. cool!

MSU Socio people at NWAV 48

Current and former Michigan State sociolinguists were recently at the NWAV 48 (New Ways of Analyzing Variation) conference, October 10-12. The Eugene, Oregon location meant that not everyone could make the long trip, but presenters included:

Former MSU Sociolinguistics students Monica Nesbitt (now a post-doc at Dartmouth College) and James Stanford were also there, along with former faculty Dennis Preston and Marisa Brook. We enjoyed a great MSU+affiliates dinner on the Friday night.

Thanks to the members of the lab who gave us valuable feedback on our practice presentations!

SLA meets LVC: Second language acquisition of sociolinguistic variation at SLRF conference

Irina Zaykovskaya (PhD 2019) and Suzanne Evans Wagner are co-convening a colloquium at this week’s Second Language Research Forum (SLRF) conference, hosted by Michigan State University’s Second Language Studies program. The colloquium, held on Friday, September 20th, is titled: Catching interlanguage in action: When SLA meets language variation and changeThe goal is to bring together researchers who study second language acquisition of sociolinguistic variation, using quantitative (and often also qualitative) methods.

Irina’s PhD studies were in the Second Language Studies program, but she took a graduate course in sociolinguistics with Suzanne in 2014, and subsequently decided to take a variationist sociolinguistic approach to her work. Suzanne became her co-advisor, and Irina defended her dissertation (on L2 acquisition of US English vernacular like) in 2019. Researchers like Irina, who work at the interface of SLA and LVC, are still quite rare. SLRF seemed to be a good opportunity to inform other SLA scholars about the insights afforded by LVC approaches. To further support this initiative, Irina has created an online resource hub for people interested in SLA+LVC.

The other panelists include Xiaoshi Li (MSU), Kimberley Geeslin (Indiana University-Bloomington) and Matthew Kanwit (University of Pittsburgh). 

ELAN basics workshop, Sep 11

Screenshot provided by ELAN website.

We’re running a workshop to introduce people to the basics of using ELAN transcription and annotation software. It’s a free, flexible and widely-used tool for creating time-aligned transcriptions of audio and video recordings. You can also add multiple tiers of annotation, which is very helpful for various kinds of linguistic coding. It’s become a standard tool in sociolinguistics. 

If you are affiliated with MSU and you’d like to join us, please use this link to indicate your interest. The workshop will be held on Wednesday, September 11th, 2:15 – 3:45pm in B-125 Wells Hall. The room has Windows computers for your use, or you can bring your own laptop. 

Socio Lab meetings this semester

Thanks to everyone who came to our organizational meeting this morning! We’ve tentatively settled on Wednesdays, 2:10pm – 3:45pm as our regular fall semester 2019 weekly meeting time. Friday afternoons will be our backup time in weeks when we need an additional meeting, or can’t meet on Wednesday.

To keep up to date with our meeting schedule and topics, you can subscribe to our mailing list, and check our calendar.

First fall Socio Lab meeting, 8/28

Interested in what we do in the Sociolinguistics Lab?

Come along to our first meeting of the 2019-2020 year on Wednesday, August 28th, 9am – 10am in B-411 Wells Hall. We’re open to faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in language and society, language variation and language change. If you can’t come this time, make sure you’re on our Socio Lab mailing list so that you get announcements about future meetings.

Monica Nesbitt dissertation defense

Monica with her advisor, Suzanne Wagner.

Monica with mentor and committee member, Karthik Durvasula.

 

Congratulations to Monica Nesbitt, who successfully defended her doctoral dissertation Changing their minds: The impact of internal social change on local phonology on August 24th.

Monica has been a wonderful contributor to the Sociolinguistics Lab, as a student, lab manager, mentor and collaborator. We’ll all miss her very much. Monica is starting a prestigious three-year postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth College, where she’ll be working with Dr. Jim Stanford, who is also a 2007 alumnus of the MSU Linguistics PhD program!

Summer accountability

Summer goals: Our kanban board.

It’s that time of year again. The Socio Lab is hosting a weekly summer accountability meeting for any students or faculty in Linguistics or in programs related to Linguistics. Summer can be a tough time: You think you’ve got tons of time to get things done, but it goes by very quickly, and can feel very isolating. Our group aims to build continuity, community and accountability in a low-pressure way. We lay out our goals for the summer on sticky notes, and watch them move across our kanban board from week to week. It’s fun to hear what other people are working on (we have so many amazingly productive students!) and what non-work goals they have. Last year’s non-work goals included “Catch all the Pokemon” and “Learn to make a really good latte”. This year’s include “KonMari my whole apartment” and “Finally finish making my sister’s Christmas present.” If you’d like to join us, you can find us in B-411 Wells every Thursday, 10am – 11am.

Graduations!

Congratulations to the following students, who graduated this weekend:

  • Irina Zaykovskaya, PhD. Technically a PhD student in the MSU Second Language Studies program, Irina took LIN 871 Advanced Sociolinguistics in her first year, and didn’t look back. She spent the next four years attending the Sociolinguistics Lab and mentoring undergraduate students Scott Nelson, Savannah Feeley and Jared Kaczor on transcription and experimental projects. Irina’s dissertation looks at the acquisition of “remarkable LIKE” (i.e. vernacular functions of like including approximatives, quotatives, discourse markers/particles) by graduate student non-native speakers of English. She finds that despite high levels of interspeaker variation with respect to overall frequency of use, they have largely acquired the complex syntactic constraints on the discourse particle, and many of remarkable LIKE’s social meanings. Committed to maintaining a foot in the SLA and LVC worlds, Irina is co-organizing a panel at SLRF in September that will showcase research on second language acquisition of language variation and change.
  • Sayako Uehara, PhD. Like Irina, Saya has also maintained dual interests, in this case in phonology and sociolinguistics. Her PhD Linguistics dissertation explores the tension between language-universal and language-specific cues that speakers of Japanese and English use when segmenting novel words. However, Saya plans to also expand her work on vocalic outliers and sound change, which she presented at NWAV in 2017.
  • Emily Skupin, BA. As a freshman, Emily joined the Sociolinguistics Lab as a volunteer, transcribing sociolinguistic interviews. By her second year, she was working with Mingzhe Zheng (PhD Linguistics 2018) on his doctoral project, and was supported by a College of Arts and Letters Undergraduate Research Initiative (CAL-URI) grant. Emily conducted sociolinguistic interviews with fellow students from the Troy, MI area, transcribed them, and learned how to carry out acoustic analysis. She presented a subset of the results at the Michigan State University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) in 2017. Emily’s senior thesis provided a critical review of the literature on standardized testing and the ways in which speakers of African American Vernacular English are linguistically disadvantaged in those tests. Emily focused in particular on consonant cluster reduction (e.g. test > tes’) and the specific ways in which high rates of reduction in AAVE can lead to misunderstandings in oral tests. This fall, Emily begins an MSc in Communication Disorders at Columbia University.
  • Danielle Brown, BA. For two years, Danielle has been attending Sociolinguistics Lab meetings, where occasional light-hearted arguments broke out about the meaning of adverbial low-key (e.g. Who else is low-key hating ioS?). Intrigued, Danielle focused her senior thesis on utterance-initial low-key (e.g. Low-key hope that Megan’s baby is a girl). She designed and ran an online survey that gathered participant judgments about low-keyin sentences in two conditions: ‘secret’, where the utterer expresses an unpopular opinion, and ‘other’, where the utterer expresses a widely-accepted fact. Danielle found that in the ‘other’ condition, respondents were more likely to say that low-key was meaningless, or could be replaced by e.g. ‘hey’, suggesting that in initial position in non-secret contexts, low-key is becoming a semantically-bleached discourse marker.
  • Lucy Angers, BA. Lucy’s senior thesis examined the history and pragmatics of emojis and other pragmatic phenomena in computer-mediated communication (CMC). She looked especially at the ways in which politeness is expressed in CMC, and its intersection with user gender. Lucy’s thesis included many examples of emoji use from her own CMC, demonstrating how emoji pragmatics are richer and more complex than those of their predecessors: emoticons like ;-).