The Socio Lab is currently running an online survey to gather people's reactions to a short speech excerpt. We distributed the link via the MSU Registrar's Office, so if you didn't receive this link, you're not currently in the demographic pool that we're looking for. This may change! Many thanks to the hundreds of students who have already completed the survey. Look back here at the end of the semester for some information on our results.
This semester we'll be joining up with the Phono Group to hold combined meetings on Fridays, 2pm - 3:30pm in UPDATE: a location to be announced (there were too many of us in B-442 at the first meeting!). Faculty moderators include Suzanne Wagner, Karthik Durvasula and Yen-Hwei Lin. We look forward to exploring a wide range of issues in phonetics, phonology, sociolinguistics and their intersections. The meetings will be convened primarily to serve graduate students in Linguistics, but all are welcome to join us. We expect to see a mix of practice talks for conferences and defenses; presentation of ongoing work; tutorials in methods and software; and more. To keep up with changes to meeting content and dates, join the Socio Lab mailing list.
Research on listeners' evaluations of discourse marker like (e.g. I was like so happy) conducted by Ashley Hesson and Maddie Shellgren has been featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle's Lingua Franca blog ran an entry on July 24 by Allan Metcalf entitled "Revealing American Speech". It provides a short summary of the pair's innovative study, which was recently published by the journal American Speech.
Hesson and Shellgren's paper "Discourse marker like in real time: Characterizing the time-course of sociolinguistic impression formation" is available from the journal's website. Here's the abstract:
Discourse marker like (DML) is recognized as a highly stigmatized feature of American English, one with strong ideological ties to inarticulate, "Valley Girl" speech. Previous work suggests that individual listeners form impressions that both reference and perpetuate DML's status, as DML-containing speech is judged as friendlier and less intelligent than controls. Though informative, such studies cannot speak to the magnitude and/or stability of DML-based impressions nor to the potential interactions between said effects and individual processing styles. The current study continuously measures real-time listener evaluations of speech samples differing only by a single use of DML using a dynamic motion-capture interface. It also integrates a measure of participants' social interaction preferences and cognitive flexibility, thus assessing the influence of individual differences on participants' moment-by-moment impression formation. Our results indicate that DML has an initial negative effect on both FRIENDLINESS and INTELLIGENCE ratings. While the "unfriendly" perception is relatively transient, the "unintelligent" evaluation persists and intensifies over time. Individuals with relatively high levels of social aptitude and/or cognitive flexibility are largely responsible for these trends. Collectively, these results offer a preliminary characterization of the sociocognitive interplay between individual, interpersonal, and societal influences on attitude formation.
Once again, Michigan State will have a large presence at the annual NWAV (New Ways of Analyzing Variation) conference this year. NWAV 44 will be held in Toronto, Canada from Thursday October 22nd to Sunday October 25th. Since Toronto is only about 5 hours' drive from East Lansing, we'll probably be heading across the border in a minivan, as we've done in previous years. There will be about a dozen of us -- and possibly more -- at the conference, so look out for us Spartans! You can find our abstracts here.
We had a great time teaching grandparents and their 8-12 year old grandchildren about English dialects, using the Harry Potter books and movies as a gateway! We ran two sessions on July 1, as part of Michigan State's Grandparents University event. Families can stay in a dorm on campus, and get to experience university life, including fun sessions and activities like ours. Participants were initially grouped into houses (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and of course Slytherin) with the help of the Sorting Hat. The houses competed for points in their Potions, Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts activities, before settling down for a History of Magic lecture at the end. Along the way, participants were exposed to some British English vocabulary; used the International Phonetic Alphabet; and learned how to identify some British regional accents, as exemplified by Harry Potter characters such as Hagrid and Seamus. Everyone left with some English biscuits (cookies) and a packet of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans.
Thank you to all the participants, and to our helpers: Chantal Tetreault, Monica Nesbitt, Stacey Rowland, Vanessa Jackson, Amelia Pauly and Toby Wagner. We're looking forward to more fun at Grandparents University next year!
Photos are courtesy of the official Grandparents University Flickr photostream.
MSU sociolinguists have been busy this summer already! Here are a few updates, with more to follow.
Summer I course: LIN 225/WS 225 Language and Gender
May 18 - July 7
Mon, Tue, Wed, 10:20-12:10am
217 Berkey Hall
Do men and women use language differently? What about LGBT speakers and straight speakers? How do people use language to perform their gender or sexual orientation? If there are differences between groups, what causes them and how can we study them? In an inclusive, informal class, we will share experiences, conduct exploratory projects, and look at some key studies from a range of places and situations around the world. The course is assessed via exam, quizzes, and participation in discussion and projects.
This course assumes no prior familiarity with linguistics or gender studies. There are no course pre-requisites.
For more information, contact the faculty of record, Dr Suzanne Wagner,firstname.lastname@example.org
Once again, we're offering a session at MSU Grandparents University that will introduce 8-12 year olds and their grandparents to the sounds and varieties of English through the medium of the Harry Potter books and movies. The session, Harry Potter and the Secrets of British English will take place on July 1, 2015. It'll be led by Dr Suzanne Evans Wagner, with support from Dr Chantal Tetreault, Anna Perrin and Stacey Rowland. Other volunteers are encouraged to contact Dr Wagner (wagnersu AT msu.edu). Registration for participants in Grandparents University opens March 18, and our session is likely to book up very quickly, so don't miss it!
Undergraduate students in LIN 471 Sociolinguistics today heard a guest lecture from Dr Carol Myers-Scotton, emerita professor of Linguistics at Michigan State. The theme in class this week was multilingualism. Dr Myers-Scotton is a world-renowned scholar of code-switching: the practice of switching between languages across social contexts and utterances and within sentences. Students heard about her experiences collecting data in Uganda and Kenya, and learned from many interesting naturalistic examples about the social motivations for code-switching. We saw speakers switching between English, Swahili and other languages to create or close social distance; assert authority; gain privileges; show respect; deliberately offend, and much more. Many thanks to Dr Myers-Scotton for giving us her time today!
The 43rd NWAV (New Ways of Analyzing Variation) featured six workshops, three keynote addresses, a poster session, eight blocks of oral paper session and the showing of Walt Wolfram’s Cherokee revitalization documentary.
This year's conference honored Walt Wolfram for his dedication to his students, the field of linguistics and teaching linguistic awareness to the masses. A festschrift in honor of Shana Poplack was dedicated by her students and colleagues. The last dedication was in honor of Bill Labov, via serenade by conference participants, on the occasion of his non-retirement!
There were many innovative studies presented during the 4-day long conference. Of particular interest to the MSU Sociolinguistics Lab, was the overwhelming number of presentations dedicated to the NCS. These studies ranged in scope from NCS production, attitudes toward the shift and attempts at pinpointing the origin of the NCS. During a panel presentation, Bill Labov introduced some of the current NCS studies being conducted in the field and offered a suggestion that the NCS may be in retraction in some parts of the United States. He concluded his talk with an ominous cliff-hanger: "Is the sun rising or setting on the Northern Cities Shift?”.
The Northern Cities Shift, while interesting, was not the only topic of discussion among NWAVers. Many talks centered around language attitudes, some offered physiological accounts of sociolinguistic phenomenon and a few (including Madeline Shellgren's panel discussion) proposed new techniques for future sociolinguistic analysis.
Ms. Shellgren was among several MSU faculty and students presenting at this year's NWAV. Other presenting Spartans included Dr. Gabriela Alfaraz (Spanish), Dr. Suzanne Evans Wagner (Linguistics), Ashley Hesson (PhD Linguistics) and Dr. Denise Troutman (Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures and Linguistics).
Many thanks to all who attended this year's NWAV. Pictures from the conference can be found in our gallery.
NWAV 44, will be in Toronto next year (October 2015). We hope to represent MSU in full force!
Who we are
We are faculty and students interested in language variation and change at Michigan State University in the departments of Linguistics & Languages, Romance & Classical Studies, Anthropology, Education and beyond.