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.
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.
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.
Sociolinguistics Lab co-director Suzanne Evans Wagner was featured in Michigan State University’s main news publication, MSU Today, at the end of May.
The story, “Understanding the language of change through linguistics” is an introductory overview of what sociolinguistics is, how Dr. Wagner came to join the field, and a little bit about some of the work we’ve done in the lab on sound change in Michigan. The short video captures only a tiny part of the bigger picture, but the main takeaway is that sociolinguists seek to understand how speakers use language to reflect and construct their identities, and that these actions contribute to language change over time.
Incoming co-director of the lab, Dr. Betsy Sneller, was quoted in this story published May 11, 2020 in The Daily Telegraph, a Sydney-based Australian newspaper. Titled Do you know your lockdown lingo? Test yourself,the piece explores “coronavirus slang” like coronacation, covidiot and social distancing. But why should the pandemic have introduced new words and phrases to the English language?
“Part of the reason for this is that people’s patterns of interactions change drastically and this changes language,” [Sneller] said. She pointed to previous social upheaval caused by wars, mass migrations, disasters and plagues that also made a mark on our language. “The Dutch had a history of ‘pox’-related insults thought to date back to the Black Death.”
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.
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!
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.
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 calendarfor 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