Fall 2018

LING 283: Language and Society (undergraduate). In this course, we will investigate how language shapes and is shaped by society. We will discuss the role of language in shaping social relations at many levels of social organization (from nation, to neighborhood, to individual). Students will discover and discuss in depth how social organization governs and shapes language use at all levels of linguistic structure (from pronunciations, to conversations, to entire languages), and how production and perception of language in everyday situations intersects with systems of power, prejudice and opportunity. Students will become familiar with major theoretical and methodological approaches in sociolinguistics and gain experience in data collection and analysis.

LING 739: Seminar in Sociophonetics (graduate). The field of sociophonetics is concerned with ‘identifying, and ultimately explaining, the sources, loci, patterns, and communicative functions of socially structured variation in speech’ (Foulkes et al. 2010: 704). Sociophonetic research shows how nuances of pronunciation are used by speakers to convey social information and by listeners to draw conclusions about the social identity of their interlocutors. Researchers in this field also bring the empirical facts of variation to bear on questions of phonetic and phonological theory, using speech production and perception data to inform accounts of how sounds and words are learned, represented, processed, and linked to social information.  The goal of this course is to address key issues in phonetics and phonology by critically reviewing relevant sociophonetic literature, identifying conflicts as well as common threads across this research, sketching the overall picture of the phonological and phonetic system that is implied by this work, and presenting avenues for future research that can fill in the gaps. Topics that will be discussed include contrast & the phonemic inventory, phonotactics and alternations, the perception/production relationship, representations vs processes as the locus of variation, L1 acquisition, and language change.

Other courses at Georgetown

LING 001: Introduction to Language (undergraduate) Our department's entry-level course in linguistics for majors and others, surveying topics including phonetics, phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, discourse analysis, variation, and acquisition.

LING 215: Sounds of Language (undergraduate) An introduction to phonetics and phonology, the linguistic subfields concerned with describing and explaining how speech sounds are made, used, heard, and mentally organized.

LING 400 (undergraduate) Senior thesis seminar.

LING 414: Sociophonetics (graduate/undergraduate) Everyone has an accent. Moreover, everyone’s accent varies depending on who they are talking to, what they are talking about, what kind of personal identity they want to convey, and other contextual factors, and listeners accordingly attribute social meaning to the variation that they hear. In this course students will learn how sociophonetic variation in production and perception can be systematically studied to answer questions about language, social meaning, and the link between them. The first part of the course will focus on the acoustic analysis of conversational speech. The second part will turn to the experimental study of speech perception and social meaning and the implications of sociophonetic variation for phonological theory. Students will develop skills throughout this course that will enable them to 1) make appropriate methodological choices when planning research projects in sociophonetics, 2) use tools such as ELAN, PRAAT, FAVE, NORM, and R to facilitate data processing, and 3) critically evaluate (socio)phonetic studies of language.

LING 481: Sociolinguistic Variation (graduate/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 use quantitative methods to find their answers? We'll address these foundational issues, read classic and contemporary papers in the field (about old fishermen, Harlem teens, high school cliques, salespeople, frat guys, politicians, and other remarkable language users) and apply what we've learned to group and individual projects exploring particular cases of variation.

LING 581: Variation Analysis (graduate)

LING 712: Phonological Variation in Optimality Theory (graduate seminar)

LING 776: Language Variation and Change Over the Lifespan (graduate seminar) In this seminar, we will focus on the acquisition and development of intraspeaker variation through the lifespan, from child acquisition of the linguistic and social constraints on variation 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 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. We will also explore the changes that occur when speakers come into sustained contact with new language varieties. 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.

LING 777: Style and Stylistic Variation (graduate seminar) Sociolinguists of all kinds are interested in stylistic variation and language style – that is, variation within the speech of the individual, and individual ways of using language. Labovians focusing on language change analyze style-shifting to uncover community norms and the motivations for change, while ‘third wave’ scholars view stylistic variation as a means of shaping and presenting dynamic social identity. In this course, we will critically examine a range of approaches to language style, chiefly from the perspective of variationist sociolinguistics, but also drawing on anthropological, ethnographic, interactional sociolinguistic, and corpus linguistic approaches.

 

2015 LSA Summer Institute: Sociophonetics (with Lauren Hall-Lew)