What kinds of stereotypes do we have about how people speak? Do these stereotypes differ across different regions? In Engl 476, American English, we practice methods developed by Dennis Preston (on a smaller scale) to explore how Kansans think about linguistic diversity. We use this exercise to discuss how linguistic subordination works within a regional context. Check out our results below!
Most classroom environments include a rich range of voices representing a myriad of cultural histories. How do teachers work with students to make the most of this resource? We’ll develop portraits of our linguistic heritages, discuss the myths and facts of language diversity, and build strategies for creating an inclusive classroom. Please join us Monday, February 22! This event is free and open to the public.
Flyer for Mary Kohn Lecture
Ever wonder why English spelling is so strange? Check out this great video for the quick version. Want to learn more? Try taking a History of the English language class! I’ll be offering ENGL 490 in the fall where we get to explore the story of how English became so wonderfully weird!
How does the school you attended and neighborhood you grew up in impact your linguistic behavior? More specifically, does community or school segregation impact how changes to language spread? Our (myself and Charlie Farrington) recent research indicates that segregation may have a big role in shaping how you sound as you grow up. Specifically, using data from the Frank Porter Graham project and the Southeast Raleigh project, we found that students in highly segregated majority-minority schools were less likely to participate in sound changes associated with immigration caused by the IBM tech boom in the Research Triangle of North Carolina. Since the tech boom of the 60s and 70s, Robin Dodsworth found that this region was sounding less Southern. Yet, this pattern does not extend to students attending majority-minority schools. The correlation can be seen in the chart below. Generally, the incoming sound change results in pronouncing the sounds in words like TRAP and DRESS with the tongue lower in the mouth. However, students in majority African American schools retain the more traditional raised-tongue pronunciation. The effect is so strong that the vowel in DRESS words for students in majority European American schools sounds similar to the vowel in TRAP words for students in majority African American schools. This study provides yet another look into how societal structures impact the language we use every day! Learn more from the full article Here (article forthcoming in LAVIS IV proceedings through UNC Press).
Thanks to Adrienne LaFrance for helping us dispel the myth that teens are ruining language! Check out her article here! While this article focuses on slang, an important tool that all social groups use to form bonds and create identity, many of these same lessons can be applied to other aspects of language change. There is certainly good evidence that important changes to language can be advanced during middle childhood and adolescence, but not all teens, nor all communities of teens push the envelope of language change. Further, in communities where rapid language changes are occurring, teens may be at the end stage of such advancements, meaning that their younger siblings are in the active process of restructuring their language. Linguists are also now turning to other key life stages to explore the impact of changing social networks and social aspirations on language. While emerging adults in their early twenties may be less linguistically flexible than they were as children, dramatic changes to friendship networks that occur when they enter college, the military, or the workforce, are likely to impact linguistic behavior as well. At ‘Kansas Speaks,’ we are excited to contribute to research that tracks how language changes and why!