Sociolinguistics Lab co-director Suzanne Evans Wagner was featured in Michigan State University’s main news publication, MSU Today, at the end of May.
The story, “Understanding the language of change through linguistics” is an introductory overview of what sociolinguistics is, how Dr. Wagner came to join the field, and a little bit about some of the work we’ve done in the lab on sound change in Michigan. The short video captures only a tiny part of the bigger picture, but the main takeaway is that sociolinguists seek to understand how speakers use language to reflect and construct their identities, and that these actions contribute to language change over time.
Incoming co-director of the lab, Dr. Betsy Sneller, was quoted in this story published May 11, 2020 in The Daily Telegraph, a Sydney-based Australian newspaper. Titled Do you know your lockdown lingo? Test yourself,the piece explores “coronavirus slang” like coronacation, covidiot and social distancing. But why should the pandemic have introduced new words and phrases to the English language?
“Part of the reason for this is that people’s patterns of interactions change drastically and this changes language,” [Sneller] said. She pointed to previous social upheaval caused by wars, mass migrations, disasters and plagues that also made a mark on our language. “The Dutch had a history of ‘pox’-related insults thought to date back to the Black Death.”
The Linguistics program at Michigan State University has hired a new Assistant Professor of sociolinguistics, Dr. Betsy Sneller. Welcome, Betsy!
Betsy’s research seeks to understand the mechanisms of language variation and language change. She’s especially interested in children’s acquisition of phonological variation, including its sociolinguistic patterns, and more generally in how individuals mentally represent and reproduce phonological changes occurring in their speech communities. Her work has employed an unusually broad range of methods, from ethnography to experiments to computational modeling. She has published multiple times in Language Variation and Change, as well as in Language Dynamics and Change and Cognition.
A native of Holland, MI, Betsy is looking forward to collecting and analyzing speech data in her home state. Her MA thesis (2012, University of Essex), was titled “Aw man! The effect of hometown affiliation on NCS shifting in Holland, Michigan”. Betsy then carried out ethnographic, corpus and experimental research in Philadelphia. Some of the publications resulting from this effort include “Phonological rule spreading across hostile lines” (just published in Language Variation and Change) and “Competing systems in Philadelphia phonology” (also in LVC, with William Labov and other co-authors). With Gareth Roberts, Betsy has conducted artificial language learning experiments to test sociolinguistic predictions (“Why some behaviors spread while others don’t“), and she has continued to use this paradigm with children in her Georgetown-based research.
We look forward to welcoming Betsy to the Sociolinguistics Lab later this year!
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.
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 calendarfor 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