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!
Mouton is officially launching a new online-only journal, Linguistics Vanguard, at the Linguistic Society of America 2015 annual meeting in January. This is a broad-scope journal, covering all areas of linguistics. Suzanne Wagner is area co-editor of the sociolinguistics section with Erez Levon (Queen Mary, University of London). We're already looking for articles! We'll be publishing short (< 4000 wd) pieces that introduce new methods, float new ideas or provide overviews of topics. Articles will typically take fewer than 3 months from initial submission to online publication, making it possible to get innovative work out to readers very quickly. And of course, the online format will allow for the inclusion of audio, video and graphics. If you're interested, contact Suzanne: wagnersu AT msu.edu.
On October 15th, Terrence Wiley (Center for Applied Linguistics) will give a talk entitled Considerations for Linguistic Landscape Analysis in the Midwest (With a Few Lessons Learned from the Southwest) in B-342 Wells Hall at 4pm. This is a public talk sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters, and all are welcome.
Wiley is visiting MSU at the invitation of the MSU sociolinguistics "Global Midwest" collaborative team, headed by Peter De Costa (Second Language Studies) and Camelia Suleiman (Arabic). The team, who received seed funding from the College this summer for a joint exploration of linguistic landscapes in the Chinese-, Arabic- and Nepali-speaking communities in south-east Michigan, are hoping to receive further funding from the Humanities Without Walls Initiative. Terrence Wiley is a consultant to the project. Other collaborators include MSU faculty Russell Lucas (Global Studies), Thomas Padilla (Digital Humanities, MSU Library) and Suzanne Wagner (Linguistics), as well as Suresh Canagarajah (Penn State University) and Mariana Pacheco (University of Wisconsin-Madison).
As Wiley explains in the abstract for his talk, a linguistic landscape approach to the study of heritage languages takes into account the visual world and local space in which those languages are embedded. This is the approach largely taken by the MSU group, so we're hoping to learn a lot more from Prof. Wiley.
Considerations for Linguistic Landscape Analysis in the Midwest
Terrence Wiley, President of the Center for Applied Linguistics
4:00 PM, October 15 2014, B-342 Wells Hall
In recent years, linguistic landscape (LL) analysis has been gaining in application and popularity. LL analysis is particularly valuable in providing visible evidence of heritage and community languages (HLs- CLs) in public spaces, clues regarding the contexts and functions of their use, insights into linguistic social networks, evidence of linguistic vitality, and opportunities to link language teaching in classrooms with real-world language use. This presentation will consider applications of LL analysis for the Midwest and share examples from a recent study involving ‘multilayered representation’ of community-based sites in the southwest that utilized several approaches to LL analysis involving: (1) historical and contemporary mapping and documentation of HL-CL communities; (2) linking mapping tools with census data to explore social networks; (3) analyzing street-level signage and commercial uses of HLs, as well as bottom up messaging in public spaces. The paper will conclude with suggestions for engaging students in LL analysis.
NWAV 43 (New Ways of Analyzing Variation) is coming soon to Chicago! Michigan State will be represented by past and present students and faculty: some presenting and some just coming along to hear the talks.
The current faculty and students presenting are:
Also look for presentations by these former students and faculty:
There was a special session on panel studies at the recent International Conference on Methods in Dialectology XV in Groningen, Netherlands. The session, Panel Studies: Challenges, Food for Thought and Ways Forward, was co-organized by Suzanne Wagner (MSU) and Isabelle Buchstaller (University of Leipzig). Panel studies collect data from the same individuals at multiple time-points, and are a crucial tool for understanding how individual linguistic change intersects with community language change. Yet they are difficult to undertake, presenting a wealth of issues in data collection and analysis.
The participants included Patricia Cukor-Avila, Frans Gregersen, John Rickford, Malcah Yaeger-Dror and many others. Topics ranged from appropriate statistical and acoustic methods, to the changing interviewer-participant relationship, to making use of unexpected sources of data. The contributions to the session will appear in an edited volume to be published by Routledge Ltd, along with other specially commissioned chapters -- one of them from MSU Anthropology professor Chantal Tetreault.
Minnie Annan, formerly of the MSU Linguistics PhD program and now pursuing her doctorate at Gerorgetown University, has been featured in the Washington Post. The story, titled "Is there a DC dialect?" was published July 9, 2014.
Here are some excerpts:
Annan is sitting in a conference room at the Boys & Girls Club on Benning Road NE, listening to her colleague Melissa Ricks talk about growing up in the ’70s and ’80s in a co-op near Columbia Heights... Annan is listening intently, not just to the stories, but to how Ricks is telling them. The words Ricks chooses and the way she pronounces them can tell a story of their own, says Annan, who’s recording the conversation so that she can listen again. Certain vowels, for example, might indicate how much Ricks still feels she belongs to the District, now that she’s in her early 40s and a mother of two living in the suburbs...One of the specific details Annan is listening for is what she calls a “merger” — whether Ricks pronounces “Maryland” a bit like “Muriland,” and “very” like “vury.”
“This area, the D.C. area, has very interesting vowels,” explains Annan, who is project coordinator of the long-term study of D.C. language at Georgetown. The merger she’s looking for, more widespread among whites, is a distinctive feature of African American speech here. “It goes up as far as P.G. County,” Annan says. But not much farther, as far as she can tell. And you won’t hear black folks speaking like that in northern Virginia, she says.
Harry Potter and the Secrets of British English was a session at MSU's Grandparents University offered by Suzanne Wagner in June.
Grandparents University is a 3-day, 2-night event for grandparents and grandchildren to experience life on a college campus together. Children aged 8-12 take part in everything from tours of campus buildings, to mini-golf, to 90-minute sessions on making Lego robots, churning ice-cream in the MSU Dairy and much more.
The 50+ participants in the session:
It was fun for everyone. We're looking forward to Grandparents University 2015!
MSU Linguistics MD-PhD student Ashley Hesson (in white at left) defended her dissertation on June 11. Ashley's project, entitled Medically speaking: Co-variation as stylistic clustering within physician recommendations, is a variationist sociolinguistic examination of syntactic, semantic and prosodic features in physician talk. Her advisor was Suzanne Evans Wagner, and her committee members included Alan Munn, Cristina Schmitt, Robert Smith and Gabriela Alfaraz. An abstract is below.
Ashley is also a 2014 recipient of the Kagan Scholarship, awarded annually to students and faculty engaged in research on communication in healthcare contexts. Congratulations, Ashley!
Ashley will remain at MSU for another two years, in order to complete clinical rotations for her MD qualification.
Sociolinguistics faculty Peter De Costa (Second Language Studies), Camelia Suleiman (Arabic) and Suzanne Evans Wagner (Linguistics) have received seed funding from the MSU College of Arts and Letters as part of the nationwide Humanities Without Walls initiative. The funds will be used this summer to support student fieldworkers as they record interviews of immigrant experience with speakers of Chinese, Arabic and Nepali in south-east Michigan. MA TESOL student Hima Rawal will be working in the Nepali-speaking community; PhD Linguistics student Mingzhe Zheng will work in the Chinese-speaking community; and MSU Arabic Flagship co-ordinator Anas Attal and two undergraduates will work in the Arabic-speaking community. Watch this space....