Welcome to Betsy Sneller!

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.

Betsy Sneller

Betsy received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. Her primary advisor was William Labov, and her committee members included Meredith Tamminga and Josef Fruehwald. During her time at Penn, Betsy also collaborated and co-published with Gareth Roberts and Charles Yang, among others. For the last two years, Betsy has been a post-doctoral scholar in Elissa Newport‘s Learning and Development Lab at Georgetown University. She will join Michigan State University in August 2020.

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!

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