Some of the lab’s ongoing research into sound change in the Lansing area has been published as a chapter in The Low Back Merger Shift: Uniting the Canadian Vowel Shift, the California Vowel Shift, and Short Front Vowel Shifts across North America, edited by Kara Becker. Our chapter is titled “A tale of two shifts: Movement toward the Low Back Merger Shift in Lansing, Michigan“, and it’s authored by Monica Nesbitt, Suzanne Evans Wagner and Alexander Mason. We provide a preliminary sketch of the advance of the Low Back Merger Shift (what we have previously called the ‘Elsewhere Shift’ in other work) among Lansing speakers born in the 1900s through the 1990s.
Socio Lab member Yongqing Ye was the winner of yesterday’s lightning talk competition at CALMS (Careers, Alumni & Linguistics at Michigan State). Competing against students and professors, Yongqing’s talk Pointing to the past in Mandarin Chinese was a funny and easy-to-follow explanation of deictic de. Giving a five minute talk is hard enough, but giving a short talk on an abstract topic is even harder! Not only that, but Yongqing stepped in at the 11th hour when another student was unable to present as planned. The judge, Dr. Ai Taniguchi (PhD Linguistics 2017) praised Yongqing’s accessible approach. Ai herself won the 2019 Linguistic Society of America’s 5-Minute Linguist competition, and we were glad to have her expert eye on the proceedings.
Another Socio Lab member, Dr. Irina Zaykovskaya, explained How I learned to stop worrying and love the word like. Her talk got an honorable mention from Ai. Irina used an array of colorful images and lots of humor to show how people bring social judgments about e.g. “party girls” and “nerd girls” to their judgments of discourse particle like.
Congratulations to Monica Nesbitt, who successfully defended her doctoral dissertation Changing their minds: The impact of internal social change on local phonology on August 24th.
Monica has been a wonderful contributor to the Sociolinguistics Lab, as a student, lab manager, mentor and collaborator. We’ll all miss her very much. Monica is starting a prestigious three-year postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth College, where she’ll be working with Dr. Jim Stanford, who is also a 2007 alumnus of the MSU Linguistics PhD program!
Congratulations to the following students, who graduated this weekend:
- Irina Zaykovskaya, PhD. Technically a PhD student in the MSU Second Language Studies program, Irina took LIN 871 Advanced Sociolinguistics in her first year, and didn’t look back. She spent the next four years attending the Sociolinguistics Lab and mentoring undergraduate students Scott Nelson, Savannah Feeley and Jared Kaczor on transcription and experimental projects. Irina’s dissertation looks at the acquisition of “remarkable LIKE” (i.e. vernacular functions of like including approximatives, quotatives, discourse markers/particles) by graduate student non-native speakers of English. She finds that despite high levels of interspeaker variation with respect to overall frequency of use, they have largely acquired the complex syntactic constraints on the discourse particle, and many of remarkable LIKE’s social meanings. Committed to maintaining a foot in the SLA and LVC worlds, Irina is co-organizing a panel at SLRF in September that will showcase research on second language acquisition of language variation and change.
- Sayako Uehara, PhD. Like Irina, Saya has also maintained dual interests, in this case in phonology and sociolinguistics. Her PhD Linguistics dissertation explores the tension between language-universal and language-specific cues that speakers of Japanese and English use when segmenting novel words. However, Saya plans to also expand her work on vocalic outliers and sound change, which she presented at NWAV in 2017.
- Emily Skupin, BA. As a freshman, Emily joined the Sociolinguistics Lab as a volunteer, transcribing sociolinguistic interviews. By her second year, she was working with Mingzhe Zheng (PhD Linguistics 2018) on his doctoral project, and was supported by a College of Arts and Letters Undergraduate Research Initiative (CAL-URI) grant. Emily conducted sociolinguistic interviews with fellow students from the Troy, MI area, transcribed them, and learned how to carry out acoustic analysis. She presented a subset of the results at the Michigan State University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) in 2017. Emily’s senior thesis provided a critical review of the literature on standardized testing and the ways in which speakers of African American Vernacular English are linguistically disadvantaged in those tests. Emily focused in particular on consonant cluster reduction (e.g. test > tes’) and the specific ways in which high rates of reduction in AAVE can lead to misunderstandings in oral tests. This fall, Emily begins an MSc in Communication Disorders at Columbia University.
- Danielle Brown, BA. For two years, Danielle has been attending Sociolinguistics Lab meetings, where occasional light-hearted arguments broke out about the meaning of adverbial low-key (e.g. Who else is low-key hating ioS?). Intrigued, Danielle focused her senior thesis on utterance-initial low-key (e.g. Low-key hope that Megan’s baby is a girl). She designed and ran an online survey that gathered participant judgments about low-keyin sentences in two conditions: ‘secret’, where the utterer expresses an unpopular opinion, and ‘other’, where the utterer expresses a widely-accepted fact. Danielle found that in the ‘other’ condition, respondents were more likely to say that low-key was meaningless, or could be replaced by e.g. ‘hey’, suggesting that in initial position in non-secret contexts, low-key is becoming a semantically-bleached discourse marker.
- Lucy Angers, BA. Lucy’s senior thesis examined the history and pragmatics of emojis and other pragmatic phenomena in computer-mediated communication (CMC). She looked especially at the ways in which politeness is expressed in CMC, and its intersection with user gender. Lucy’s thesis included many examples of emoji use from her own CMC, demonstrating how emoji pragmatics are richer and more complex than those of their predecessors: emoticons like ;-).
PhD Linguistics student Monica Nesbitt was one of five MSU graduate students nominated for a 2019 Emerging Leader award by the University’s chapter of the Black Faculty, Staff and Administrators Association (BFSAA). At an event on April 8, Monica was recognized for her peer mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students in the Linguistics program. Monica has been a manager of the Sociolinguistics Lab, has supervised many undergraduate transcribers and researcherse, and is currently a Graduate School Writing Fellow who convenes weekly writing/accountability meetings in the lab. It was a moving ceremony that also recognized the decades-long contributions of five Black faculty, staff and adminstrators, some of whom had first joined the University as students at time when there were very few Black faces on campus.