Socio Lab members present (and win!) at MSU’s UURAF

Undergraduate students from the MSU Sociolinguistics Lab were well represented at the 2024 University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) in April. Gage Landeryou and Caroline Zackerman shared research they conducted for their senior theses in Linguistics under the direction of lab co-director Betsy Sneller. Two other lab students, Drake Howard and Lin Cabada, presented on research that they had conducted for faculty supervisors in French and in Writing respectively.

Gage Landeryou gave a winning presentation on transgender speech

Gage Landeryou’s study was titled ExpressING Gender: The effect of situational comfort on (ing) pronunciation in transgender speech. For this innovative work and for an engaging and professional style, Gage was awarded a prize for best oral presentation in the ‘Social Sciences – General’ category.

Gage Landeryou, an undergraduate student in the Sociolinguistics Lab who won first prize with his senior thesis presentation "
Gage Landeryou, one of the two winners for oral presentation in the Social Sciences – General category.

Students interacted with visitors and judges

UURAF is a huge event. It can be really overwhelming for the in-person, on-site student presenters. According to MSU’s UURAF 2024 website:

The 26th UURAF was held onsite at the Breslin Center and online at Symposium. Over 1,000 students from 12 colleges participated in the event. They were mentored by over 600 faculty, staff, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and government/industry partners. There were over 700 presentations in 32 different subject areas.

We’re proud to report that Drake, Caroline, and Lin did a great job of explaining their posters to the many visitors and judges who came to see them.

Caroline Zackerman talks to a UURAF 2024 visitor about her poster.
Caroline Zackerman explains her poster to a visitor at UURAF 2024.
Drake Howard stands in front of his poster and talks to a visitor.
Drake Howard explains his poster to a UURAF 2024 visitor.

Students’ talks and abstracts

Gage Landeryou

ExpressING Gender: The Effect of Situational Comfort on (ING) Pronunciation in Transgender Speech

This study explores sociolinguistic variation in the speech of binary transgender individuals. My main goal is to investigate how a speaker’s comfort with their own gender expression impacts how much they style shift in their pronunciation of (ING) (e.g., pronouncing “running” either as running or runnin’) between queer-friendly settings (like their home) versus public settings. Following the methodology of Gratton (2016), who found nonbinary individuals style shifting between private and public settings to avoid the threat of misgendering, I conducted sociolinguistic interviews with 4 binary trans individuals. Each person was interviewed first in their home, and then in a public and not explicitly queer-friendly environment (like a coffee shop). Interviews were transcribed and time aligned, and auditorily coded for pronunciation of (ING). The primary research question was: do trans speakers use their pronunciation of (ING) in public settings to mitigate the threat of being misgendered, in the same way that the nonbinary speakers in Gratton (2016) do?Presenter(s):

Mentor: Betsy Sneller (Linguistics)

Caroline Zackerman

Canadian Raising and Metalinguistic Awareness in Michigan English

Canadian Raising is a phonological rule by which the /ay/ diphthong raises before voiceless coda consonants (as in the word PRICE) (Chambers 1973). Speakers of Michigan English do exhibit regular Canadian Raising of /ay/; however, they often consider Canadian Raising to be a uniquely Canadian feature and fail to recognize it in their own speech (Niedzielski 1999; Preston 2005). This study investigates the relationship between a speaker of Michigan English’s degree of Canadian Raising and whether or not they report similarities between Canadian English and Michigan English. Tokens of /ay/ are extracted from 8 speakers aged 22 to 40, all born and raised in Michigan. Participants were then asked whether they think that speakers in Michigan sound Canadian. Responses and data are collected from the MI Diaries Project, which collects responses from participants in the MI Diaries project, which sends weekly prompts to over 1,000 diarists, inviting them to self-record their audio responses. As hypothesized, there is a significant relationship between /ay/ height and a speaker’s response to the Canadian question. All speakers exhibit raised /ay/ before voiceless consonants, but this effect is much stronger, resulting in higher /ay/ values, for speakers that reported thinking that Michigan English sounds Canadian. We therefore conclude that awareness of a feature in one’s dialect is correlated with the production of the feature.

Mentor: Betsy Sneller (Linguistics)

Drake Howard and William McLaren

Difficulties in French learning: How can we help?

When learning a second language, many speakers encounter linguistic differences that interfere with or even inhibit their ability to learn this new language. In this study, we explore what specific hurdles and barriers exist for students learning French at the undergraduate level at MSU. The goal of this study is to obtain a better understanding of what particular aspects of the language are perceived by learners as hurdles or difficulties, what teaching and learning strategies are deemed helpful, and what suggestions they can provide to improve the MSU French curriculum and/or their French learning experience. We look at the responses of students in different levels of French (100, 200, 300, 400) who visited the French Learning Center during the spring semester of 2024, and look for commonalities and differences in their self-reported difficulties in various areas of the language, such as pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. We also examine what teaching and learning techniques are the most and least effective according to students, looking to see if there is a pattern or preferred method(s) to better understand and learn French.

Mentor: Anne Violin-Wigent (French)

Lin Cabada, Alyssa Seville, Giovanni Antonio Ramos Loureiro Kizem Rodrigues, Liam Comrie, Brooklyn Bell

Alleviating Homesickness through Magical Practices involving Culture, Heritage, and Family

This project looked at remedies for homesickness through the lenses of varying cultural beliefs, practices, and superstitions with a focus on magical practices. By examining our personal practices, we explored various remedies that people have used for homesickness throughout different regions and historical periods. With this in mind, we researched indigenous literature, religious practices, and the origins of our own practices and beliefs. Using what we found, we executed a piece of original spell work that encompasses the specific historical, magical practices we researched pertaining to homesickness. This was composed through various representations, such as culturally significant deities, symbols and sigils, religious artifacts, and family heirlooms. Our composition is separated into seven categories that represent the movement of the emotional body through the process of remedying homesickness starting with themes of denial, grief, isolation, and ending with acknowledgment, adaptation, and acceptance. Structured as an offering, the final category represents how in order to fully embrace your new life, you must be willing to leave something behind. These components intentionally span across our intersecting identities as students living away from home, relating to our personal experiences with homesickness.

Mentor: David Watson (Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures)

Continue ReadingSocio Lab members present (and win!) at MSU’s UURAF

Grandparents University 2023

MSU Grandparents University is an opportunity for grandparents and grandchildren (ages 8-12) to come together for a three-day educational experience while spending time together on the MSU campus in the summer. This past summer, MSU Sociolinguistics led two courses.

As usual, we ran Harry Potter and the Secrets of British English, which has been a hit at Grandparents University since 2009! In this session, participants are whisked off to Hogwarts for classes in Potions (British/US English madlibs), Charms (IPA transcription), Defense Against the Dark Arts (British regional accents) and History of Magic (a brief lecture on language change).

And we had a new course: Diary of a Michigan Kid. In this class, we taught participants about keeping an audio diary, pronunciation differences, and generational differences in language. All of the activities and materials were co-designed by faculty and students on the lab’s MI Diaries project team. We think that the “Kids vs Grands” activity was the most fun. See below for some pictures from Diary of a Michigan Kid.

Continue ReadingGrandparents University 2023

Undergraduate Sociolinguists present at MSU undergraduate conference UURAF

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!

Continue ReadingUndergraduate Sociolinguists present at MSU undergraduate conference UURAF

Mikayla Thompson accepted for NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates

Socio Lab member Mikayla Thompson (Linguistics major) has been accepted for a competitive NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) opportunity this summer.

Mikayla will spend 8 weeks at the University of Oregon as part of its initiative “Increasing American Indian/Alaska Native Perspectives in Field and Experimental Linguistics“. The REU includes instruction on topics in descriptive linguistics and experimental linguistics, hands-on research in two labs, and input from local Indigenous educators and researchers.

Mikayla shared why she chose this program and her goals and hopes:

“This opportunity to study language revitalization methods at the University of Oregon stood out to me initially because of the particular nature of the classes and research. The focus on language revitalization processes in relation to my compiled knowledge of linguistics is exactly what I would like to do post-graduation. I intend to utilize the knowledge presented in these classes and fieldwork to better inform myself of methods of preserving and reviving Indigenous American languages. As a descendent of the Cherokee Nation, I know quite intimately the degree to which language repression and subsequent language endangerment has influenced Indigenous communities, and what it means for the future. I hope to apply what is learned at the University of Oregon to my own communities, so that I may more deeply familiarize myself with my ancestral language, Cherokee, and to eventually pass it down to others in my communities.”

Continue ReadingMikayla Thompson accepted for NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates

Newt Kelbley accepted into the Forensic Linguistics MA program at Cardiff University

Socio Lab member Newt Kelbley (BA Linguistics) has been accepted in to the Forensic Linguistics MA program at Cardiff University in Wales. Congratulations, Newt!

Newt is a Linguistics major investigating the syntax of sociolinguistic prompt questions in the MI Diaries project. Newt will start the one-year MA program in the fall of 2023. They shared why they want to study Forensic Linguistics at Cardiff University:

“I want to study there because it is one of the few places that have such a specific degree program, and I want to know more about the interface between language and law. I’m interested in this because this branch of linguistics is still growing and reaching its potential, and the applications seem unlimited. Mostly what’s appealing is what I’ve learned about the work of forensic linguists seeking to critically highlight problems in the judicial system, like comprehension challenges in jury texts, inadequate courtroom translations, or falsified written documents. Using research to inform and enhance the practice of law and make it fairer for the disadvantaged seems like a noble goal.”

Continue ReadingNewt Kelbley accepted into the Forensic Linguistics MA program at Cardiff University