Talk on language choice in Ukraine

The lab’s Visiting Research Scholar, Dr. Irina Zaykoskaya, gave a talk at MSU on April 18, 2022 titled When native language is a matter of choice: The linguistic situation in Ukraine before and during the War. Irina provided some background on multilingualism in Ukraine, historical and 21st century attitudes to the Ukrainian language, and closed by discussing the phenomenon of language rejection. Anecdotal evidence suggests that since Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, some Ukrainians have symbolically given up speaking Russian through resistance or disgust. Irina compared this with German-speaking Holocaust refugees in the early 20th century who similarly gave up their language and in some cases lost it altogether. Irina touched on the ethics of gathering data from traumatized individuals, and cautioned that we cannot know the true linguistic situation in Ukraine at this time.

The talk was co-hosted by the MSU Sociolinguistics Lab and the MSU Language Policy and Practice Lab. It was delivered in a hybrid format. We were delighted that so many people could join via Zoom, in addition to the audience in Wells Hall. The talk abstract is below, and the slides can be found here.


Ukraine is a large and multilingual country, with Ukrainian and Russian especially dominating its linguistic landscape for decades. However, not only are the statuses of these languages different (i.e., Ukrainian being the official state language and Russian currently not having any formal status), but the attitudes towards them among the Ukrainian people differ as well. Even before the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Ukrainians, including those from the Eastern, historically considered Russian-speaking parts of the country, would demonstrate symbolic preference for Ukrainian over Russian: for example, in a 2020 poll, only 21.8% of Eastern Ukrainians admitted speaking Ukrainian at home but 44.3% of the same respondents named it as their native language, which implies the view of one’s native language as a matter of choice rather than a matter of chance. Now, Russian-speaking Twitter is getting flooded by tweets like “I want lightning to strike me so that I forget the Russian language”. This talk will present an overview of historical events and policies that led to the current linguistic situation in Ukraine as compared to a few other post-Soviet countries, such as Belarus and Latvia. It will also attempt to capture the ongoing shift in attitudes among Ukrainians, from recognizing Russian as the language the enemies speak to perceiving it as the essence of the enemy.

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MI Diaries app gets NEH grant to go open-source

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Betsy Sneller, Assistant Professor of Linguistics and co-Director of the Sociolinguistics Lab, was awarded a $99,908 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Digital Humanities Advancement Grant (DHAG) program. The new project, “Building and Disseminating an App for Ethnographic Remote Audio Recording”, is an innovative extension of the MI Diaries project. The goal is to provide other researchers with a convenient and accessible method of collecting speech data. In order to do that, Dr. Sneller’s team will develop an open-source code that anyone would be able to use to create a self-recording mobile app for their project. 

The inspiration for the project came from the successful adaptation of the MI Diaries app for the study of Judaism through cultural arts led by Laura Yares, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at MSU, who will serve on the advisory council for the DHAG grant. Co-Director of the Sociolinguistics Lab, Dr. Suzanne Evans Wagner, is also a faculty advisor to the project.

Continue ReadingMI Diaries app gets NEH grant to go open-source

Socio Lab meetings in Spring 2022

Once again the lab is meeting on a reduced schedule, to accommodate all of the work members are doing on the MI Diaries project. But we still have some important sessions, so we invite everyone to join us! Meetings will be held virtually via Zoom unless otherwise advertised. Please contact Dr. Suzanne Wagner ( if you would like to have the Zoom details, and/or join the lab’s e-mail list,

Here’s our line-up so far. The meetings are 3:00-4:00pm, Eastern time.

Monday, February 14th, 2022

Yongqing Ye and Adam Barnhardt. Practice talk for Illinois Language & Linguistics Society.

Monday, February 28th, 2022

Suzanne Wagner. Practice talk for CLARe 5.

Monday, March 18th, 2022

Jack Rechsteiner. Practice talk for Penn Linguistics Colloquium.

Monday, March 28th, 2022

Arlo Kaczor. MA thesis project.

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Visiting Research Scholar: Irina Zaykovskaya

Head and shoulders of Irina Zaykovskaya, looking at camera and smiling
Dr. Irina Zaykovskaya

We’re delighted to welcome Dr. Irina Zaykovskaya back to the MSU Sociolinguistics Lab as a Visiting Research Scholar!

Irina holds a Ph.D. in Second Language Studies from Michigan State University. Because her research interests lie at the intersection of second language acquisition and sociolinguistics, she was an active SocioLab member during her time at MSU, stayed in touch with the Lab after graduation, and even participated in the MI Diaries project in its early days as a Facebook page manager. 

Irina’s dissertation project revolved around the acquisition of variation: specifically, the acquisition of discourse pragmatics by non-native speakers of English.  Using a combination of interviews/surveys and experimental methods, Irina investigated how speakers from various L1 backgrounds use remarkable (vernacular) like, what beliefs about and attitudes towards it they possess, and whether they pattern with native speakers in judging the naturalness of like in different syntactic positions. Her most recent paper is to appear in Multifunctionality in English: Corpora, Language and Academic Literacy Pedagogy.

During her upcoming SocioLab sojourn, Irina is planning to continue her work on variation in the second language, join the MI Diaries project team, and hold regular office hours (online and offline) to offer help and mentorship to all sociolinguistics students.

You can read more about Irina on her personal website.

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The interdisciplinary water cooler

Flyer for Yares and Sneller 2021 University Interdisciplinary Colloquium talk

Sociolinguistics Lab co-director Dr. Betsy Sneller will give a high-profile, university-wide talk on November 5th that is open to the public. Her co-presenter, Dr. Laura Yares, met Dr. Sneller at an informal College of Arts and Letters workshop in October 2020 about pivoting research to remote methods in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Yares and her collaborators were looking for a way to capture participants’ reactions to a popular Netflix show, Shtisel. Upon learning about the MI Diaries project’s mobile app for self-recorded audio entries, Dr. Yares met with Dr. Sneller and co-investigator Dr. Suzanne Wagner to talk about adapting it for her project. Come and hear about this serendipitous cross-disciplinary conversation, and its broader implications, courtesy of the MSU Center for Interdisciplinarity.


Can common research technologies serve diverse disciplinary needs? Even disciplines that seem on the surface to have little in common can benefit from casual conversations about the challenges and methods that they might share. In this talk, we show how a simple smartphone app developed for a project analyzing language during the pandemic (MI Diaries) was successfully adapted for a Religious Studies project examining learning about Judaism through the cultural arts (Shtisel Diary). By reflecting on these two case-studies we highlight how the tools that we use to conduct research can be just as interdisciplinary as research projects themselves. 


Friday, November 5, 2021
12PM-1PM EDT via Zoom

Zoom Link
Passcode: msuc4i

Continue ReadingThe interdisciplinary water cooler