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). 

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 caf├ęs. 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:

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’.