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.

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

Monica Nesbitt strong candidate for LSA travel award

Monica Nesbitt, PhD candidate in Linguistics, was shortlisted for a travel award to the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in Salt Lake City, January 2018. Awards are granted by the LSA’s Committee on Ethnic Diversity in Linguistics (CEDL)

In a recent news announcement, the committee named five student recipients of the awards. Monica received an “honorable mention” for what the committee called her “high caliber application”. Congratulations, Monica, and good luck with your application next year!