The Ohio State University
OSU Linguistics

Research interests

My primary field of specialization is sociolinguistics, more specifically sociolinguistic variation--different ways of "saying the same thing." I'm primarily interested in how people use variation to communicate indexical information, that is information that points (like an index finger!) to something about the situation, like an identity ("professor", "popular kid" or "Christian"), a stance ("angry", "expert") or a speech setting ("lecture", "gossip session"). I want to find out more about how people learn and use these indexical connections between language forms and social "stuff" and how the work of understanding language meaning on one hand and indexical social meaning on the other interact.

A lot of my research has looked at how individual variables, especially the English variable (ING) (working/workin'), influence social perceptions of people. More recently, I've been drawing on research from social cognition to find tools to better understand how automatic sociolinguistic processes work. I've been adapting the Implicit Association Task to look at implicit awareness of sociolinguistic meanings and sociolinguistic variation itself. I've also gotten very interested in enregisterment discourses and their relationship to individual cognition. As part of that project, I'm trying to better understand how people in Ohio think about accents: who has one, who doesn't? And does thinking someone does or doesn't have an accent change the way you hear them?

Recent Publications (See my CV for a full list):

  • 2011. "Intersecting variables and perceived sexual orientation in men". American Speech 86(1):52-68.
  • 2011. "The sociolinguistic variant as a carrier of social meaning". Language Variation and Change 22(3):423-441.
  • 2009. "The nature of sociolinguistic perceptions". Language Variation and Change 21(1):135-156.
  • 2008. "I'll be the judge of that: Diversity in social perceptions of (ING)". Language in Society 37(5):637-659.
  • 2007. "Accent, (ING), and the Social Logic of Listener Perceptions". American Speech 82(1):32-64.

    My dissertation (PDF, table of contents, informal summary) was on the English variable (ING) (working/workin') and how it changes our reactions to people. It was based on the Matched Guise Technique (MGT), using pairs of recordings manipulated with the computer to differ only in tokens of (ING). As many dissertations do, it has a pretty thorough literature review, so if you're looking for references to learn about the MGT, check out the first half of chapter 3.

    A bit off my primary research interests, I've also written a handout, ``Why don't they hear what I say?'' for the website www.FairerScience.org. It's an informal introduction to the concept of gender ideology.