What is undergraduate sociolinguistic research?

Most research starts small. For example, it’s a project that makes a small update to an existing study, or tries to replicate the study. Or it could be a project that begins with a very tiny linguistic observation from your everyday life, and the question: “Who does that, and how often do they do it?” In this sense, undergraduate sociolinguistics research is no different from any other kind of research. 

Undergraduates in the Sociolinguistics Lab have run experiments, searched corpora (large collections of writing, speech, or sign), audio-recorded people in their homes, and much more. They’ve examined everything from how vowels are pronounced in a specific city, to why people think they’ve heard someone say like when they didn’t, to the best way to categorize participants by social factors like their educational background. 

We’re deeply committed to getting undergraduates involved in sociolinguistics research. There are lots of ways to get involved!

How to get involved

Undergraduates at MSU

Undergraduates elsewhere

What our students have presented

Our students typically present at MSU’s annual UURAF (University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum) conference. Students describe their project and their findings on 3′ x 4′ posters, which are displayed around the venue. Visitors — including faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students — listen to the students give a quick verbal summary of their research, using the poster as a visual accompaniment, after which they ask questions and offer suggestions. And there are prizes! 

Students from our lab have also presented at MSU’s summer Mid-SURE conference, and at external conferences including the American Dialect Society‘s annual meeting, Methods in Dialectology, Discourse-Pragmatic Variation and Change (DiPVaC), and VALing, among others.

For a full list of undergraduate presentations associated with the lab’s MI Diaries project, check out the project’s research outputs page.

Sample UURAF presentations and posters

  • Kuta, Whitney. 2023. Insults in League of Legends. MSU UURAF.
  • Thompson, Mikayla. 2023. Stories of identity: Ethnic identity and heritage language learning. MSU UURAF.
  • Kelbley, Newt. 2023. “Tell me.” Vs “Could you tell me?”: Obligatory force in diary prompts. MSU UURAF.
  • Kaczor, Jared and Travis Coppernoll. 2019. Football, church, and free breakfast: Doing sociolinguistic research in rural communities around Lansing. MSU UURAF.
  • Feeley, Savannah and Jared Kaczor. 2018. That’s like what she said, or was it? A study of ‘remarkable like‘ hallucinations in undergraduates. MSU UURAF.
  • Skupin, Emily. 2017. Ethnic identity construction: The interlocutor effect on the GOOSE vowel in Chinese American English. MSU UURAF.