The MSU Sociolinguistics Lab was well represented at the NWAV 51 conference at Queens College, New York, October 13-15, 2023. We had presentations on some of our first analyses of linguistic data from the MI Diaries project: Dr. Betsy Sneller presented as first author on a talk about Michigan English vowel change in apparent time, and Linguistics PhD students Adam Barnhardt and Yongqing Ye presented their doctoral qualifying paper research on adolescent stance-taking and vowel nasalization respectively. In addition, we had a poster that described our experience of building the MI Diaries ‘brand’ over the last three years. We were pleased to include new first year Second Language Studies student Shannon Harasta, who presented her MA thesis research (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale) on queer individuals’ sense of (dis)comfort with various audiences. And it would not be NWAV without a gathering of MSU Socio Lab alumni and associates, such as Dr. Monica Nesbitt (U Indiana Bloomington), Jack Rechsteiner (U Pittsburgh), Chun-Yi Peng (Borough of Manhattan Community College) and Jayce Garner (Pomona College and MI Diaries NSF-REU 2022).
Five current and former members of the Sociolinguistics Lab have had papers accepted to NWAV 51, the premier North American conference on language variation and change! NWAV 51 will take place October 13-15 at Queens College, CUNY. * indicates a graduate student
Jack Rechsteiner (Linguistics M.A.) and Betsy Sneller recently had a paper accepted to ICPhS (International Congress of Phonetic Sciences) for a poster presentation. The paper is titled “The impact of social information on VOT shadowing by nonbinary speakers”. The conference will be hosted in Prague, Czech Republic on August 7-11, 2023.
Congratulations, Jack and Betsy!
On April 14th, undergraduate Sociolinguistics Lab members Caroline Zackerman, Whitney Kuta, Mikayla Thompson, Newt Kelbley and Zach Sebree presented their posters at the 2023 Michigan State University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF). Our presenters discussed their projects with a general audience, interacted with visitors, and answered questions about their research. Congratulations to our UURAF presenters!
A couple of summers ago, members of the Socio Lab got into a heated side-discussion about the pragmatics of adverbial lowkey, as in:
- I lowkey like pineapple on pizza.
- Lowkey I’m hoping the Cavs will lose.
There was debate about whether sentences like this were grammatical for each of us (they mostly weren’t for anyone over 30), and whether the lowkey meant ‘secret’, ‘kinda’, or a whole bunch of other things (here the group split even more finely, undergrads vs grads). Danielle Brown, an undergraduate at the time, decided to investigate further for her senior thesis. She learned that there was no published research on adverbial lowkey, but that undergraduates at two other institutions had conducted some investigations of their own. By coincidence, they were the students of MSU PhD alumni Ai Taniguchi (Carleton University) and Greg Johnson (then at Louisiana State University). Danielle built on their work and fielded a judgment survey to friends and family in her social network. Respondents were presented with sentences like (1) and (2) above, and given a list of possible adverbial substitutions for lowkey such as honestly and discourse particles such as well. Danielle discovered that when lowkey is in sentence-initial position, as in (2) above, people often selected discourse particle substititons. This aligned with an intuition expressed by some students in the lab that low key in sentence-initial position is already becoming semantically bleached, becoming similar to sentence-initial like e.g. Like I’m hoping the Cavs will lose.
After her BA graduation, Danielle teamed up with MA Linguistics student Morgan Momberg to refine her survey and field it to a much larger number of respondents. This time they considered the effect of the ‘popularity’ on the interpretation of lowkey. They presented their results in a talk titled Lowkey opinion or lowkey fact: Exploring the acceptability of sentence-initial lowkey at the annual meeting of the American Dialect Society in New Orleans in January 2020. As they report in their abstract,
The emerging adverbial use of lowkey has received little attention, especially in sentence-initial position. In a judgment survey (N=52), respondents rated the felicitousness of sentence-initial lowkey in fictional scenarios across three conditions we call ‘unpopular’, ‘popular’ and ‘factual’. As hypothesized, lowkey was most felicitous with unpopular opinions, e.g. Lowkey this lasagna tastes awful in a scenario where everyone eats lasagna, followed by popular opinions e.g. Lowkey this lasagna tastes amazing, and factual statements e.g. Lowkey everyone is eating lasagna. Our survey results suggests possible pragmatic variance in the use of sentence-initial lowkey.