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). 

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!

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 ;-).

Monica Nesbitt nominated for BFSAA Emerging Leader award

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.

Rural fieldwork on display at MSU undergraduate conference UURAF

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.

Welcoming back Rebecca Roeder

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! 

Undergraduate research funding secured

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:

MSU people in the new Penn Working Papers

In time for NWAV 47, the selected papers from NWAV 46 have just been released. Edited by Jordan Kodner and Lacey Wade, University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 24.2: Selected Papers from NWAV 46 includes articles by MSU researchers Monica Nesbitt, Suzanne Evans Wagner and Sayako Uehara:

Both papers explore the sound change in progress we’re observing in Michigan from the Northern Cities Shift to a new vowel system that has various names in the literature, including the Elsewhere Shift, the Low Back Merger Shift and the Third Dialect. 

Congratulations to NWAV 47 Presenters!

The Sociolinguistics lab will be sending many projects to the 47th Annual NWAV Conference at New York University in New York City from October 18-21, 2018, including several talks! Congratulations to Silvina Bongiovanni, Monica Nesbitt, Matt Savage, and Alex Mason for getting accepted!

There will be practice talks in the weeks leading up to the conference, and all are invited to attend lab meetings to learn more and/or provide feedback!

Please see the Sociolinguistics lab calendar for specific dates of each practice talk! 

  • TRAP: The loss of tensing in Michigan (Monica Nesbitt)
  • Style & attitude: The social evaluation of the BET vowel (Matt Savage & Alex Mason)
  • On the relationship between vowel nasalization and nasal weakening: Evidence from a Caribbean and non-Caribbean dialect of Spanish (Silvina Bongiovanni)
  • It’s a TRAP!: The trigger for the Elsewhere Shift in Lansing, Michigan (Alex Mason)
  • Attitudes toward TRAP in Michigan (Monica Nesbitt)
  • “It’s an American Symbol!”: Non-native speakers’ take on remarkable LIKE (Irina Zaykovskaya) – Practice Talk: October 5, 2018; Wells Hall B243; 12:30pm-3:00pm via Skype

Undergraduate Updates!

  • Alichia Crandall and Renaysha Goodebailey graduated from MSU last semester. For her senior thesis, Alichia analyzed a dataset from a rapid and anonymous survey of people’s responses to being thanked (you’re welcome vs no problem vs others), modeled on an activity originated by Dr. Aaron Dinkin of San Diego State University. Renaysha collected word list data from friends and family in her home city of Pittsburgh, to investigate the progress of /u/-fronting in the African American community there. Renaysha’s work follows up on research by Dr. Maeve Eberhardt of the University of Vermont
  • And congratulations to freshman Socio Lab member Jared Kaczor, who is an MSU Citizen Scholar, and who made the Dean’s List last semester! Jared is working this semester with Savannah Feeley on a project run by Irina Zaykovskaya, investigating non-native English speakers’ acquisition of vernacular ‘like’.