variation and change
I view variation as an important component of the documentation of a language. Given that most variationist studies are based on larger global languages such as English, my research seeks to expand the typological reach of sociolinguistics by applying quantitative methods to the study of variation and change in under-described contexts. My dissertation documents and analyzes such variation in contemporary Diné bizaad (Navajo) through an investigation of sociophonetic, morphosyntactic, and ideological variation. Specifically, I document three variable features in the speech of bilingual Diné bizaad-English speakers and investigate the linguistic and social factors that condition the variation. I also describe participant perceptions of variation and analyze prominent language ideologies that emerge in discussions about Diné bizaad and English. For my dissertation fieldwork, funded through an NSF DEL dissertation grant, I conducted interviews with 51 bilingual participants. This corpus is publicly available online through the Alaska Native Language Archive.
Given the high degree of bilingualism present in the Diné community, a significant aspect of my work seeks to empirically determine the role of language contact as a factor that conditions variation. In my research, I examine how variable patterns across bilinguals with different linguistic and social backgrounds point to evidence that contact with English, alongside endogenous motivators, is influencing contemporary language usage. I am particularly interested in the ways in which contact-induced innovations arise and diffuse, while other features remain unaffected by increasingly-intense contact with English. I consider empirical analyses of linguistic features alongside discussions of how speakers view the sociocultural and ideological factors that influence their language choices. A recent paper on the changing sounds of Diné voiceless stops is available here, and slides from my NWAV 47 talk on sound change in the Diné lateral affricates are available here.
Language documentation and description
As a documentary linguist, I am interested in contributing to the ongoing documentation and description of Diné grammar topics that have received less scholarly attention. For instance, my master's thesis, an updated version of which was published in Studies in Language, was a corpus-based analysis of the Diné particle lá, a polysemous morpheme marking both mirativity and contrastive focus/interrogatives. I argue that the two pragmatic uses are connected in their function of providing meta-discourse commentary through contrastive focus on the unexpectedness of a proposition, a meaning that potentially developed from an earlier interferential form. A pdf of the thesis can be found here. In another project, I analyzed the realization of prosodic cues in Diné personal narratives. See this handout from SSILA 2017 for more information.