Summer Research Opportunities

MI Diaries Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) 2023

Are you interested in how people tell the stories of their community? 

Or in how the pandemic might have affected the way people speak?

Do you want to gain some research experience?

Apply to join us in summer 2023 at Michigan State Sociolinguistics Lab!

Click here for more information about the MI Diaries Summer 2023 Research Experience for Undergraduates on our project website!

Click here to watch the informal webinar with a presentation by Dr. Betsy Sneller on the details of the MI Diaries Summer 2023 Research Experience for Undergraduates — what it is, how to apply, and Q&A.

NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

For students looking for a full-time paid experience, we offer a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). MI Diaries is a National Science Foundation funded project. We especially encourage students from historically underrepresented groups and/or minority-serving institutions to apply.

  • Location: The Sociolinguistics Lab at Michigan State University‘s East Lansing, MI campus.
  • Eligibility: US citizens registered as undergraduate students in Summer 2023 (depending on the institution, this may include incoming freshmen).
  • Duration: 8 weeks in the summer (June 5 – July 28, 2023).
  • Pay: $600 per week for 30 hours work per week.
  • Background: Students do not need prior linguistics experience to apply!
Continue Reading Summer Research Opportunities

Paper on nonbinary speech accepted to ICPHs

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!

Jack shared more details about this paper:

The research in this paper builds upon my previous research on the sociophonetics of nonbinary speakers and offers potential insight into the role that the perception of another’s identity has on a speaker’s likelihood to phonetically converge with the other speaker. The results suggest that nonbinary participants align their speech most closely to a model talker who is explicitly identified as sharing a nonbinary identity, which we interpret as showing that participants who are in an explicitly queer virtual setting, even a very low-interaction one, converge towards a shared nonbinary speech norm.


Social information can impact the degree to which one speaker phonetically converges with another speaker. There is also evidence that nonbinary speakers alter their speech due to their social environment, specifically in environments where there is a threat of being misgendered. In this paper, we investigate whether nonbinary speakers’ convergence toward extended voice onset time (VOT) in word-initial English /p, t, k/ is impacted by whether they believe they are listening to another nonbinary speaker or to a cis speaker. We tested 15 speakers in an online VOT shadowing input-driven elicitation task, and we found that nonbinary speakers show statistically significant greater divergence away from the cis-labeled voice than in other conditions. These results suggest that the threat of being misgendered is a primary motivation for nonbinary speakers shifting their linguistic productions in differing social contexts.

Continue Reading Paper on nonbinary speech accepted to ICPHs

Betsy joins panel discussion on COVID-era research

On April 11th, 2023, Dr. Betsy Sneller, co-director of the Sociolinguistics Lab and MI Diaries project lead, gave a talk as one of the panelists for the Honors College public series, Sharper Focus/Wider Lens. The talk is titled “COVID: Looking Back, Looking Forward”. She was joined by other panelists discussing research developed during COVID-19. Betsy’s talk discussed how MI Diaries grew as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

This talk is rescheduled for the fall semester (FS23). Stay tuned!

Continue Reading Betsy joins panel discussion on COVID-era research

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!

All the posters are in the Linguistics, Languages, and Speech category.

  • How to speak Michigander: Evaluating speakers’ self-perception of their accent   Zackerman, Caroline
  • Insults in League of Legends – Whitney Kuta
  • Stories of identity: Ethnic identity and heritage language learning – Mikayla Thompson
  • “Tell me.” Vs “Could you tell me?”: Obligatory force in diary prompts – Kelbley, Newt
  • Demographic coding in MI Diaries – Sebree, Zach
Caroline Zackerman in front of her poster
Whitney Kuta talking to Jack Rechsteiner
Mikayla Thompson talking to a visitor
Newt Kelbley in front of their poster
Zach Sebree talking to visitors
2023 UURAF Poster Session from above at the Breslin Center 

Continue Reading Undergraduate Sociolinguists present at MSU undergraduate conference UURAF

Dr. Gareth Roberts Colloquium Talk on Investigating Sociolinguistic Indexicality

Dr. Gareth Roberts was invited to give an in-person talk on Thursday, March 16th as part of the Linguistics colloquium series this year. Dr. Gareth is an associate professor in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania and a former co-author of Dr. Sneller, one of the Socio Lab co-directors here at MSU. It was great to have Dr. Gareth here!

You can find title and abstract of the talk below.

Social meaning in alien languages: Investigating linguistic indexicality in the laboratory

Linguistic utterances convey more than just propositional meaning. They also convey information about the producer of the utterance, indexing a variety of social features, often in complex and dynamic ways. This also occurs at different timescales: Over the course of an interaction, language users will adapt their language to index different social features, often in response to their interlocutors, or even individuals who are not present. Over multiple interactions, language users form new associations that feed into their comprehension of indexical relations. Sometimes this influences the trajectory of language change. But how does this all happen? Such processes can be, and have been, observed in natural language behavior. But investigating such processes with experimental control can be hard. Here I present a set of experimental studies designed to sidestep such difficulties by investigating the dynamics of sociolinguistic indexicality in artificial “alien” languages in the lab.

Continue Reading Dr. Gareth Roberts Colloquium Talk on Investigating Sociolinguistic Indexicality

MI Diaries at 2023 MSU Science Festival

MI Diaries, run by the Sociolinguistics Lab at MSU, partnered with Inquiry Arts as part of the STEAM Expo Day at the MSU Science Festival on April 1st and 2nd, 2023. We invited Michigan residents and visitors to reflect on their lives, curiosities, and hopes for the future while learning about sociolinguistic research. In addition to providing information about MI Diaries, we shared some of our featured participant stories with with Science Festival attendees and welcomed them to record their own stories!

You can read more about this story and see some photos from the event here on the MI Diaries project website.

Continue Reading MI Diaries at 2023 MSU Science Festival

Dr. Suzanne Wagner received a grant to visit University of Duisberg-Essen

One of our lab co-directors, Dr. Suzanne Wagner, received a grant to spend a month in University of Duisberg-Essen in Germany. Congratulations Suzanne!

Sociolinguistics Lab at University of Duisberg-Essen

Dr. Suzanne Wagner will be visiting the Sociolinguistics Lab at the University of Duisberg-Essen and language change across the lifespan project team from April 28-May 22. She will also be giving some talks and guest lectures during the visit. The visit is supported by a grant from the university to the host, Dr. Isabelle Buchstaller, Professor of English Linguistics and director of the Sociolinguistics Lab at the University of Duisberg-Essen. Dr. Buchstaller and Dr. Wagner are the co-editors of the book series Routledge Studies in Language Change and of the series volume Panel Studies of Variation and Change

Dr. Wagner shared more details about her visit:

Dr. Buchstaller is a renowned expert on language change across the lifespan. I’ll be consulting with Dr. Buchstaller as I work on a manuscript for a monograph on this topic, provisionally titled Language Change from Adolescence to Adulthood, to be published by Routledge. The book will be about on my longitudinal study of young women in Philadelphia (e.g. Wagner 2012, 2013). I’ll also consult with other scholars in the lab, especially Dr. James Grama, whose expertise in sociophonetics will be helpful to my project. 

Continue Reading Dr. Suzanne Wagner received a grant to visit University of Duisberg-Essen

Paper on Impact of Sample Sizes on Calculating Pillai Scores in Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

One of our lab co-directors, Dr. Betsy Sneller, recently had a paper published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The article is titled “Sample size matters in calculating Pillai scores”, and it is authored by Joey Stanley (Brigham Young University) and Betsy Sneller.

“The article takes a look at how sociolinguists measure mergers in pronunciation (like when people pronounce “Don” and “Dawn” the same). We provide some suggestions for how to handle datasets of different sizes, including running through a small case study analyzing vowel mergers in conversational speech compared with a word list.”

Betsy Sneller

Continue Reading Paper on Impact of Sample Sizes on Calculating Pillai Scores in Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Jack Rechsteiner accepted into the Linguistics PhD program at Pittsburgh University

Jack Rechsteiner (MA Linguistics) has accepted a funded PhD position in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh, starting Fall 2023.

Jack received their B.A. in Linguistics at Michigan State University in 2021, and is currently a 2nd year MA student in the Linguistics program at MSU. Their research focuses primarily on sociophonetic variation in nonbinary speakers.

Jack’s interest lies in many fields — sociolinguistics, data analysis, and natural language processing. They are particularly passionate about understanding the inner workings of language and the interplay between language and society, as well as how insights into these topics can be applied to other areas.

Jack shared some thoughts on why they chose the program at University of Pittsburgh and their goals in the coming years:

I’m excited to study linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh because its linguistics department considers applied and descriptive methods to be equally important in examining the intersections of language, culture, and society. My research focuses on applying linguistic theory to identity and gender, and studying at the University of Pittsburgh would allow me to learn from linguists who have done great work on gender identity in language and the ways that social meanings become attached to linguistic variation. My goal is to become a researcher and professor who works to support a diverse range of backgrounds in academia while producing societally relevant research and communicating it with the community at large, and the University of Pittsburgh presents a great opportunity for pursuing that path. 

In addition, Jack has also received a grant from the MSU Multilingual Lab to attend the Lavender Languages Institute this summer.

Congratulations, Jack!

Continue Reading Jack Rechsteiner accepted into the Linguistics PhD program at Pittsburgh University

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