November 6, 2014

Guest speaker: Gerard Van Herk (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

We are pleased to welcome Gerard Van Herk to our department next week. Gerard is a variationist sociolinguist who holds a Canada Research Chair in Regional Language and Oral Text at Memorial University of Newfoundland. His recent work has been centred around investigations of Newfoundland English. Other topics that he has worked on include African-American Vernacular English, Caribbean languages and dialects, and the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. He is also keenly interested in research methodology and education.

His talk will take place on Friday, November 14, in SS 560A, beginning at 3:15 PM. It will be followed by a reception in the department lounge.

Undergraduate big research: Learning and useful data?

Attested pedagogical benefits of undergraduate research include gains in research skills, independence, career preparation and degree completion (Kardash 2000, Seymour et al. 2004, Lopatto 2003, Nagda et al. 1998). But when instructors scale up projects to satisfy quantitative disciplines, we must balance pedagogical needs (student engagement and learning) with research imperatives (producing robust findings).

This talk describes research projects that engage neophyte sociolinguistics students in data collection and analysis, but that can also contribute useful data to the discipline. In intensifier studies, students harvested linguistic data from online sources. In an ongoing survey study (15 classes to date), they conducted professor-designed surveys of language use in Newfoundland and Labrador. In both cases, students coded their data, a professor collated it, and students analyzed an aspect of the findings that interested them.

After reviewing the pedagogical rewards of such projects, which include student attendance, retention, class participation, and on-time submission (Van Herk 2008), the talk will demonstrate the value of the resulting data through multivariate analysis of the linguistic and social constraints on 9446 tokens of intensifiable adjectives (e.g., very slow, really slow) and the social distribution of survey responses for five variables – interdental stopping in voiced and voiceless contexts (dat ting for that thing), non-standard verbal s-marking (I loves it), locative to (Where are you to?), and the traditional lexical item fousty (‘musty, smelly’).

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