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research projects

 

 

I am a quantitative variationist sociolinguist, trained in the Labovian paradigm. Linguistic heterogeneity fascinates me, even more so for its systematicity; uniformity (in the sense of Guy 1980) is mind-blowing stuff.

 

I’m currently involved in a number of research projects, so visiting the SLRL (Sociolinguistics Research Lab) page will give you an idea of some of the other work that is currently been done, both here at UVic and collaboratively with other labs.

 

 

Only time will tell (aka, Kids Talk)

 

The Kids Talk project aims to address one of the most longstanding and central questions in the study of language change: How does change advance across successive generations of speakers? Because children must speak differently from their parents for any change to both survive and progress, only real time observation of the same speakers can provide answers to this question. Language change is constant and integral to living languages; this project explicitly sets out to observe the onset and early progression of change in order to track the diachronic evolution of specific linguistic features. Children will be recorded at home, with their caregivers, to give a picture of the immersive language context from which they begin. Past research has engaged in post-hoc theorizing about the continuous advancement of change but it has never addressed it directly. This project zeroes in on the period when children begin to participate in change by shifting their language model along an apparently pre-set direction of change. In doing so, it will add to our understanding of language change and, by extension, of human language in general. It will impact theory and practice within linguistics, informing current understanding of when speakers begin to participate in change, whether they start with their parents’ model or not, whether girls and boys participate in the same way, and whether or not change is continuous. In short, the project will sketch out the early stages of participation in change, ultimately addressing one of the most perplexing challenges in the field. Kids Talk will inform theory about the language model that children are directly exposed to at home, and about the model they adapt to when interacting with their peers.

 

This project was recently featured in The Ring: UVic linguist tunes in to kids for new study’

 

This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

 

 

The Victoria English Project: development and current state

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Photo by Nik West, shot on location at the Empress Hotel, Victoria.

 

 

‘Plain, unpretentious Canadian is a lost language in Victoria.’  W.E. Walsh, 1923, The Canadian Forum

 

This project was recently named one of UVic’s Top Stories of 2011 (‘UVic linguist traces Victoria’s fabled British roots’).

 

This research is fundamentally about where, and how, Victorian English speakers fit into the matrix of Standard Canadian English (SCE) speakers more generally. Why should this matter? The answer is multifaceted and can be summarized by the three main objectives of the project: (1) to contribute to the knowledge base of English in Canada; (2) to elucidate the pathway of change in an urban variety of Canadian English that is demographically distinct from other major urban contexts (e.g. Toronto, Vancouver); and (3) to document English in Victoria, from its origins to the present day.

 

* Press: Read the article by Peigi McGillivray in The Times Colonist (Nov 27 2011, p.C05): click here.

* Press: Hear the interview with Jo-Ann Roberts on All Points West, CBC Radio One (Nov 30 2011): click here (it starts at minute 17.36).

* Press: Read the article by Lindsay Kines in The Times Colonist (Dec 2 2011, p.A01): click here.

* Press: There was also an article by Natalie North in The Saanich News (Dec 5 2011).

 

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

 

 

Variationist perspectives on discourse: focus on 'like'

 

One of the things I'm really interested in is where discourse features such as 'like' come from and how they're used (e.g. Like, Pat is like so cool). These types of linguistic devices aren't usually subjected to traditional variationist methodology, and one of the fundamental questions underlying my research into 'like' is: What insights can be gained from looking at this feature in a framework that considers not just those places where it is used, but also those where it isn't? I'm also curious about who uses it, how they use it, and how old a person has to be to use 'like' in one way or another. One of the most important things I've found is that despite appearances, 'like' is absolutely not random. If we look at what's been going on over the past 200 years or so, we find that it has actually developed very systematically, following regular syntactic parameters. 80, 45, or 15 years old, we all have a lot in common when it comes to 'like'.

 

See my publications page, the abstract from my doctoral dissertation (Like: syntax and development, University of Toronto, 2005), or email me for more information.

 

* Press: See the article by Mark Peters in Psychology Today (May/June 2008)

* Press: See the column by Elizabeth Osmers Gordon in The Press (Nov 8 2008)

* Press: Watch the story by Bill Weir on Good Morning America, Weekend Edition (April 19 2009)

* Press: Hear the interview on Answerman, hosted by Erik White as part of CBC Radio Sudbury’s Morning North with Markus Schwabe (August 18 2010): click <here>.

* Press: See post by Neal Whitman (or listen to the podcast read by Mignon Fogarty) on Grammar Girl (December 5 2014)

* Press: See post by on Gretchen McCulloch on All Things Linguistic (February 4 2015)

* Press: See the column by Mark Peters in The Boston Globe (January 22 2017)

 

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and I have book in press with John Benjamins, Discourse-Pragmatic Variation in Context: Eight-Hundred Years of ‘like’. Watch this space!

 

 

Constructing dialogue in time and space

 

An ongoing focus of my research concerns verbs of quotation and the system in which they operate. Here I am interested in regional, national, and ethnic factors, as well as in longitudinal changes that might be taking place within the system. The past ten years have witnessed an unprecedented amount of interest in the English quotative system. The reasons are two-fold. One, the system has been the site of recent and rapid change. The innovative collocation be like has made substantial inroads since its genesis in the early 1980s. Concomitantly, speakers have been shifting toward higher rates of reported inner monologue while increased use of more traditional forms such as the null form, think, and go has also been reported. In other words, what we appear to be witnessing is whole-scale reorganization of the way in which dialogue is constructed in discourse. Two, since the early 1990s, be like has been diffusing vigorously across varieties of English worldwide (Romaine & Lange 1991). This renders the form a prime test case for investigating processes of globalization and, in particular, the linguistic processes that operate at the nexus of global forms and their local indigenization.

 

If you would like to know more about this project, please feel free to contact me.

 

This research was supported by the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics and by the College of Arts at the University of Canterbury.

 

The paper that resulted from this work was published in Language Variation and Change in 2012 (The diachrony of quotation: Evidence from New Zealand English). I also collaborated on a project with Sali Tagliamonte and Celeste Rodriguez Louro that tackles the global development of be like. That work, supported by a Research Collaboration Award from the University of Western Australia, appeared in Language in late 2016.

 

 

Other research

 

I also engage with collaborators both here and overseas (see my publications page). My past and current collaborators include:

 

Isabelle Buchstaller (Universität Leipzig)

Derek Denis (University of Toronto, now a SSHRC Post-Doc at UVic)

Bill Haddican (CUNY)

Sky Onosson (University of Victoria)

Celeste Rodriguez Louro (University of Western Australia)

Rebecca Roeder (UNC Charlotte)

Nicole Rosen (University of Manitoba)

Sali Tagliamonte (University of Toronto)

Ann Taylor (University of York)

Martina Wiltschko (University of British Columbia)

 

 

photo: Sali Tagliamonte (left), Alex D’Arcy (right) at NWAV 39,

University of Texas at San Antonio, November 2010

[photo credit: Patricia Cukor-Avila]

 

 

Think you’d like to work with me? I am keen to supervise research in the following areas:

 

Š      language variation and change

Š      mechanism of linguistic change, especially incrementation

Š      internet linguistics (and ethics)

Š      historical sociolinguistics

Š      grammaticalization

 

For more details, visit my teaching page.