Sociolinguistics Lab at Berkeley


Schedules from previous semesters:

Spring 2022

  • February 2: Welcome meeting. Papers and schedule for the semester will be chosen.

  • February 9: Discussion of Rodríguez Louro & Collard 2021

  • February 23: Discussion of Burnett & Pozniak 2021

  • March 9: Discussion of Davidson 2022

  • March 30: Presentation by Chaya R. Nove (UC Berkeley), "Variation and change in the acoustic correlates of a contrast in Yiddish peripheral vowels"

    • Abstract: Among Eastern European Yiddish dialects, the varieties spoken in the sector of the Transcarpathian region known in Yiddish as the Unterland have been the least studied. Scholars that did focus on the Yiddish of this area classified it as Central Yiddish (one of three major Eastern dialects) based on several distinctive features, including a length contrast in the peripheral vowels /i/, /u/, and /a/. It is well known that contrastive length in vowels can manifest phonetically as a difference in duration, quality, or a combination of these. Moreover, phonetic features can shift over time so that, for example, the spectral patterns of vowels previously distinguished by duration may diverge to the point where quality becomes the dominant perceptual cue for identification. I describe a study comparing the acoustic correlates of the length contrast in Yiddish vowels across four generations using audio segments extracted from (i) interviews with fifty-seven New York-born (Hasidic Yiddish) speakers representing three generations; and (ii) Holocaust testimonies by thirteen survivors from the historical Unterland, the ancestral homeland of the New York speakers. The results reveal a relatively weak contrast in the vowels of the European-born speakers, with a significant increase in both the durational and spectral distinctions of the long-short counterparts of the high vowel pairs (/i/ and /u/) between the first and second generations. These vowels continue to diverge in quality across subsequent generations, with the short vowels becoming lower and more centralized in phonetic space. Based on these findings, I suggest that the length contrast in the pre-war Yiddish of the Unterland region was changing and possibly on the verge of collapse. Upon its arrival to New York, contact with English may have reversed or inhibited a merger in the high vowels, with a remapping of length differences on a quality plus quantity dimension parallel to American English {/i/-/ɪ/} and {/u/-/ʊ/}. However, since there was no parallel low vowel contrast with which inherited Yiddish {/aː/-/a/} could be associated, contact did not have the same effect on the low vowels. I discuss the implications of these findings and describe forthcoming research to test hypotheses about contrastive length in Unterland Yiddish vowels.

  • April 13: Practice talk: Marguerite Morlan (UC Berkeley)

  • April 27: Presentation by Ivy Sichel (UC Santa Cruz) and Uri Mor (UC Berkeley & Ben-Gurion University of the Negev), "The Double Standard in Modern Hebrew: The Rise of Modern Vernacular Hebrew in the 1940s and 1950s"

    • Abstract: How did the new native vernacular (NNV) variety of Modern Hebrew eclipse the prestigious prescriptive variety to become a Hebrew standard? We analyze the social meanings associated with the new Hebrew style as a complex positive stance towards NNV, constructed via differentiation from its alternatives. NNV is reflexive, and it speaks for itself: for the authority of experience, as opposed to the traditional authority of the text. We explore this emergent subjectivity as a set of ideological coordinates in relation to language, and specifically, to speech: to be a subject, in this context, is to participate in the enregisterment, by way of speech, of a collective set of ideas about NNV.

Fall 2021

  • September 10: Welcome meeting

  • September 17: Discussion of Holliday & Squires 2021

  • October 1: Practice NWAV talks

    • Isaac L. Bleaman, Katie Cugno, and Annie Helms: "Increased intelligibility (but not formality) in Zoom interviews"

    • Jennifer Kaplan: "Attitudinal effects on vowel fronting among young adults in New York City"

  • October 8: Discussion of Hall 2021

  • October 15: Discussion of Mena & García 2021

  • October 29: Discussion of Mufwene 2002

  • November 5: Presentation by Eyasu Tamene (Addis Ababa), "Overview of African sign languages"

    • Abstract: The purpose of this presentation is two: introduce basic facts about African sign languages and their Deaf communities plus sensitize researchers and scholars to focus their research on documentation of African sign languages. It will cover topics of language use, attitude, Deaf education, challenges and opportunities. It will also introduce a new initiative called African Sign Languages Resource Center (ASLRC) as part of the solution to the prevailing challenges of Deaf education in Africa.

  • November 12: Presentation by Jon Henner (UNC Greensboro), "Putting the Crip in Linguistics"

    • Abstract: The impact of disability on languaging is still often framed as atypical and deviant, with research focused either on identifying the deviancy (e.g. is it an SLI), or repairing it. From this perspective, that means not all variation in languaging is good. This presentation focuses on how linguists use disabled ways of languaging first, to show how languaging can be wrong, and second as foils for theoretical arguments about the nature of language.

  • November 19: Presentation by Cristiana Lucchetti (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich), "Language Attitudes of the Russian-Speaking Diaspora in Israel and Germany"

    • Abstract: The Russian-speaking communities of Israel and Germany are a statistically relevant, yet all too often neglected, population of both countries. With their complex systems of language attitudes and cultural practices, they contribute to shaping the social discourse in Israel and Germany in ways which deserve much broader attention from a political, public and scientific point of view. Studying the phenomenon of language attitude in the context of post-Soviet migration provides not only insights into the immigrants’ language use, but also into their worldviews as well as into the processes of social identity formation. In this presentation, Cristiana will present examples from mixed-method data collected amongst the Russian-speaking communities in Israel and Germany so as to offer a showcase of the potential of language attitudes for studies at the interface of linguistics and social psychology. Amongst other things, this presentation aims at initiating theoretical discussions about the concept of language attitude as well as about the methodological borders of sociolinguistics today.

  • December 3: Practice talks (LSA)

Spring 2021

  • February 3: Manuscript discussion (Bleaman)

  • February 24: Discussion of Calder 2018

  • March 17: Yosiane White (UPenn), "Does workin' prime thinking? Exploring the processing of canonical and non-canonical suffix variants"

  • March 31: Matti Marttinen Larsson (Stockholm U), "Incipient probabilistic grammar change in real time: Language-internal effects on changing functions of locative constructions in European Spanish"

  • April 14: Natalie Povilonis de Vilchez (NYU), "Deconstructing 'standard' in a minority language: Variation in Chanka Quechua" -- joint meeting with the Fieldwork Forum

  • April 28: Katie Carmichael (Virginia Tech) and Aaron Dinkin (San Diego State), "We THOUGHT we knew a LOT about New Orleans English (oh)... But we did NOT"

  • May 5: NWAV abstracts

Fall 2020

Spring 2020

Fall 2019

  • September 10: Inaugural meeting

  • September 24: Practice session for NWAV (Bleaman)

  • October 29: Discussion of Carmichael 2017

  • November 19: Manuscript discussion (Bleaman)

  • December 10: Annie Helms, "Generating Continua in TANDEM-STRAIGHT" (workshop)