October 3, 2014

Spotlight on undergraduate research

Undergraduate students in our department are doing noteworthy research alongside faculty. Here are testimonies from three of the undergrads who worked with Naomi Nagy over the past year.

Michael Iannozzi (Independent Study, Summer 2014)
My research project centred on an analysis of pro-drop among heritage speakers of Faetar. This analysis was done in order to compare and contrast the results with those of homeland Faetar speakers and heritage Italian speakers, as part of the Heritage Language Variation and Change project. It was an amazing opportunity to be involved in every part of an academic study. I was able to code for the dependent and independent variables, convert those tokens into analyzable data, run the data using multi-variate analysis software, and put the results together in an academic paper. Also, through participating in CILLDI, I learned valuable language documentation skills which I am using to help support Faetar through web resources like a dictionary and vocabulary-building flashcards. I was able to gain valuable skills learning how to use many software programs that are essential to doing sociolinguistic work, as well as organizing my thoughts in an academic way. The culmination will be presenting it at NWAV in Chicago this fall. This experience will be extremely valuable as I continue with my studies to the graduate level.

*Mariana Kouzela (Research Assistant, The Heritage Language Variation and Change Project http://projects.chass.utoronto.ca/ngn/HLVC)
Working on the HLVC project has been a very rewarding and interesting experience for me. I feel that while I am contributing to the project as a research assistant for the Ukrainian language portion of it, I am also gaining a tremendous amount of insight and knowledge about the Ukrainian language in return by working on it. It is really quite intriguing and valuable to me, as a second-generation speaker myself, to see how the language changes among the generations. The HLVC project has enabled me to understand and notice the differences that exist in my heritage language, and to appreciate it more than ever before. After being a part of such a research project, I believe it is truly vital to continue such research as a means of further developing an understanding of how languages change from generation to generation, and perhaps serving as a teaching tool on how to preserve heritage languages among successive generations.
*Mariana’s research was funded by the Shevchenko Foundation

Minyi Zhu (Research Opportunity Program)
It was a great experience for me working with professors and other students in the department of Linguistics, under the Research  Opportunity Program. My research topic, The Variation in Vowels between Cantonese and English in the Greater Toronto Area, interested me a lot. Not only because I am was a bilingual student but also I was given the chance of using various kinds of software (ELAN, Praat,   Forced-Aligner, Ploknik) to analyze data and observe interesting results. Professor Naomi is a very well-organized and approachable instructor. Although I am not a Linguistic student and found some materials too abstract, I benefited from her thoughtful explanations and discussions with other team members.

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