Fall 2015 course offerings

Behold the blurbs for my Fall 2015 courses:

LING 481: Sociolinguistic Variation (graduate/advanced undergraduate)

Language varies: within speakers, across speakers, and over time. This course is a theoretical and practical introduction to variationist sociolinguistics, the subfield of linguistics concerned with understanding the relationship between variation and language change and with describing and accounting for variation in terms of the linguistic and social factors which underlie it. What are the objects of study in sociolinguistic research? What kinds of questions can we ask about the relationship between language and society, and how do we go about addressing these quantitatively? We’ll pursue answers to these foundational questions by reading classic and contemporary papers in the field – about old fishermen, Harlem teens, Cajun women, nerd girls, frat guys, New Zealanders with attitudes, Polish migrants in Manchester, and other remarkable language users– and apply what we’ve learned to group and individual projects exploring particular cases of variation. 

LING 776: Language Variation and Change Over the Lifespan (graduate seminar)

This seminar will focus on the acquisition and development of intraspeaker variation through the lifespan, from child acquisition of the linguistic and social constraints on variation (and the influence of caretakers and peers on this process), to the adolescent peak of vernacular features (particularly within the context of high school, which Eckert 1997 has described as a "hothouse" for the construction of identities via language and other semiotic resources), the post-adolescent retreat from the vernacular, the relatively unexplored stretch of "middle age", and variation later in life. We will also explore the changes that occur when speakers come into sustained contact with new language varieties, and consider how changes over the lifespan reflect the changing social milieu of the speaker and what those changes may tell us about the underlying linguistic system. Over the course of the semester, each student will design and pilot a study related to the course topic based on their own research interests, setting the stage for a more complete project that may serve as the basis for a QP or a dissertation proposal.