The MSU sociolinguists were well represented at NWAV 46 this year. We also had a great time catching up with the many MSU alumni and associates who were there, and hearing the work of many of the senior researchers in the field. Congratulations to everyone from MSU for some really good papers!
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.
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....
Congratulations to the stalwart undergraduate researchers who graduated this May! Pictured here from left to right are Jessie Hong, Kathryn VerPlanck, Alyssa Webster and Heidi Little. Collectively, these students are responsible for 4 UURAF posters, 3 international conference presentations, 1 conference proceedings chapter and an invited chapter. They have worked on general extenders, quotatives, intensifiers, sound change, outreach in schools and more. We're going to miss them!!
Also celebrating this month was Ashley Hesson (r), who walked in the May graduate commencement, where she was 'hooded' by her advisor Suzanne Wagner (l). Ashley will defend her doctoral dissertation in mid-June.
Congratulations to Linguistics PhD student Ashley Hesson, whose paper "Medically speaking: Mandative adjective extraposition in physician speech" has just been accepted for publication in Journal of Sociolinguistics! Here's the abstract:
Clinical recommendations are central features of physician-patient interaction. Mandative adjective extraposition (MAE, e.g., it’s important to…) is one of many linguistic forms used by physicians in providing recommendations. This study decomposes MAE, a relatively unexplored sociolinguistic variable, into features that contribute to its interpretation as a deontic semi-modal. It establishes, through the use of a clinically framed judgment task, that MAE’s component features convey different degrees of illocutionary force, whereby some forms are perceived to be more compelling (i.e., stronger) than others. Utilizing a large US-wide corpus of medical consultations (90,000+ recordings), it demonstrates that physicians use stronger MAE forms as they gain professional experience, suggesting an age-graded process. Within specific practice settings, physicians’ use of strong MAE forms is additionally constrained by patients’ medical severity. Collectively, this evidence points to socialization into medical practice as the major social force impacting MAE variation across physicians’ professional lifespans.
The second half of fall semester 2012 has been fun and busy. Here are some of the highlights:
Congratulations to Dr. J. Daniel Hasty, who successfully defended his dissertation on Friday, May 11th! Daniel's dissertation looks at a syntactic construction that is part of his own native Tennessee dialect: the double modal construction. Daniel provided a novel syntactic analysis of double modals, and then described their social distribution, using grammaticality judgements, corpus linguistics and language attitude experiments. Daniel argued that double modal sentences such as You might should think about losing some weight provide evidence that double modals are used as a politeness device in face-threatening situations. This may account for their greater acceptability among women, despite the fact that they are not part of Standard US English grammar.
Daniel will soon be moving to the Myrtle Beach, SC area to take up a position at Coastal Carolina University in the fall. Daniel will be an assistant professor in the English department, working alongside Becky Childs, who is a well-known variationist sociolinguist and former student of Walt Wolfram's.
(The photo above shows Daniel at his graduation ceremony, with advisor Suzanne Evans Wagner.)
The MSU Sociolinguistics Lab, along with the rest of the Linguistics & Languages department, is moving from its home in A-618 Wells Hall in late May. Here are the students who helped with the cleaning up and packing. Pizza and ice-cream helped to keep our spirits up! Watch this space for details of our new address in the soon-to-be-opened Wells Hall addition.
Kali Bybel is one of three winners of the Michigan State University Somers Excellence in Teaching award. The Somers Award recognizes teaching assistants who have exhibited a commitment to excellence, innovation and creativity in undergraduate teaching. The intention of the Award is to honor teachers for distinguished practice and to encourage others to follow their examples.
Kali was nominated for this award by her students in IAH 231c Roles of Language in Society, and subsequently selected by a university committee. Congratulations, Kali!
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.