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.
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.
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 ;-).
PhD Linguistics student Monica Nesbitt was one of five MSU graduate students nominated for a 2019 Emerging Leader award by the University’s chapter of the Black Faculty, Staff and Administrators Association (BFSAA). At an event on April 8, Monica was recognized for her peer mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students in the Linguistics program. Monica has been a manager of the Sociolinguistics Lab, has supervised many undergraduate transcribers and researcherse, and is currently a Graduate School Writing Fellow who convenes weekly writing/accountability meetings in the lab. It was a moving ceremony that also recognized the decades-long contributions of five Black faculty, staff and adminstrators, some of whom had first joined the University as students at time when there were very few Black faces on campus.
On April 5th, undergraduate sociolinguists Jared Kaczor and Travis Coppernoll presented their poster Football, Church and Free Breakfast: Doing Sociolinguistic Research in Rural Communities Around Lansing at the 2019 Michigan State University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF). The project, which has been running since August, focuses on two small communities in a rural part of mid-Michigan. Jared and Travis have been developing an ethnography via trips to football games, church coffee mornings and local cafés. They have just begun to record sociolinguistic interviews with residents. The goal of the project is to compare rural speech with the Sociolinguistics Lab’s existing corpus of urban speech.
The Linguistics program‘s latest Colloquium speaker was Rebecca Roeder (UNC Charlotte). Roeder graduated with a PhD in Linguistics from MSU in 2006, under the direction of Dennis Preston. Her colloquium talk was titled “The role of PALM in the low back merger: Theory and evidence”. We were lucky to also get some time with Becky in the Sociolinguistics Lab, where we talked about the phonology and sociolinguistics of the Canadian Shift/Third Dialect Shift/Elsewhere Shift/etc, which Becky has been studying in the Canadian context, while we’ve been tracking it here in Michigan.
It was great to have Becky back at Michigan State!
Suzanne Wagner has received two awards of $1000 each from the College of Arts and Letters Undergraduate Research Initiative (CAL-URI). One of the awards will support undergraduate Linguistics majors Jared Kaczor and Travis Coppernoll, who are carrying out ethnographic and sociolinguistic fieldwork in two rural communities in the Lansing area. The other award will support Linguistics PhD student Matt Savage and his collaborators to design and implement a series of online language attitudes surveys. Matt’s team will include at least one undergraduate programmer.
Both projects support the lab’s ongoing investigation of sound change in the English vowel system in the Lansing, Michigan area. Here are a few of our recent related publications:
There will be no Sociolinguistics Lab meeting this week, due to GLEAMS (Graduate Linguistics Expo At Michigan State), although all are welcome to attend any and all GLEAMS sessions! A special congratulations goes to Alex Mason and Matt Savage for their talk Style and Attitude: The Social Evaluation of the BET Vowel, which they presented at NWAV earlier this month. If you missed their talk in New York, your chance to see their encore performance is Saturday, November 3, 2018 at 3:55pm in Wells Hall, B-342.
GLEAMS is open to the public, and begins Friday, November 2, 2018 at 1:00pm (Wells Hall B-342)
The next sociolinguistics lab meeting will be on November 9, 2018 at our regular time (2:00pm), where attendees of NWAV 47 Workshops will present synopses of the sessions they attended. Presentations are scheduled to run as follows:
2:00 – 2:20 Computational sociolinguistics and eye-tracking for sociolinguistics
MSU Sociolinguists had a fun and productive time at NWAV 47 this past weekend at New York University! If you missed out on the party and want to hear about the best talks, posters, and events, or just want to congratulate our presenters, please feel free to attend our annual NWAV Debriefing Meeting this Friday, October 26, 2018 at 2pm in B-411 Wells Hall. All are welcome!