Linguistics 220: Language and Society

Fall 2017


Quantitative Analysis Assignment (20%)

Part 1: Survey Data Collection and Workshop (5%) Due in class Thursday, October 5

Part 2: Paper (15%) Due by 5 p.m. Monday, October 16

In this project, you will conduct a quantitative analysis of a sociolinguistic variable. You'll collect data via a questionnaire. Then, you'll select a few variables and analyze sociolinguistic variation using the full class dataset.


Part 1: Variation Survey and Workshop
(Results must be entered in the Google Doc by beginning of class 10/5, workshop in class)


The Survey: You will need to collect data by administering the Variation Survey to at least 5 of your peers. Print hard copies from the link. We will be looking at phonological mergers, pronunciation variation, lexical variation, morphosyntactic intuitions, and self-reported usage of a slang word/phrase we chose in class survey.


Participants: To introduce a degree of control in our analyses, please only survey native English speakers who have lived in the United States since at least the age of 8 years old. To control further for age and current location, speakers should be undergraduates at Northwestern.


Administering the Survey: Introduce the survey using the instructions at the top of the survey, making sure to emphasize that there are no right or wrong answers. Tell participants that this will take about 10 minutes of their time, and that their responses will be anonymous. If the participants are curious about why we're studying these things, explain only after they've completed the survey (no "hints" or explanations during data collection). Then, give the survey to your speakers to have them fill out themselves, but be present to answer any questions they have. Do not read any of the merger words out loud yourself. Make sure to note for yourself any interesting commentary they have that might not be reflected on the survey. Be sure to enter your name on the last page under "researcher name," as well as the date and time you conducted the survey. Bring hard copies to class on Thursday 10/5.


Entering Data: All responses need to be entered into the Google Doc by the beginning of class Thursday 10/5. Be sure to fill out each tab completely, with one participant per line. An example line is provided at the top of each sheet. Codes to use for responses are included in the header. For open-ended responses, text should be entered verbatim. Also, include any additional notes you have (comments made or things you noticed) in the notes column for each section.


Workshop: The workshop (Thursday 10/5) must be attended as part of your assignment grade. In the workshop, we will discuss data collection and how to conduct variationist analysis on the data. You'll select variables to use for your write-up, and we'll talk about the conclusions that we can (and cannot) draw from the data. You'll have an opportunity to start your analysis in class as well.

Analysis:
Download a copy of the data from the Google Doc as an Excel spreadsheet, or make a copy of the Google Sheet in your own Drive. Please do not work directly from the master sheet!
You will pick one participant social factor (gender, race, major, location, etc.) to analyze as your independent variable. You will look at the influence of this social factor on five different variables. You will pick one variable from each section: 1 (mergers), 2 (pronunciation variation), 3 (lexical items), 4 (syntactic structures), 5 (slang term/phrase usage). You should analyze how this one social factor conditions variation of each of your selected variables. You may choose to group the self-reported social information data into broader categories on your own, but you must describe and justify your choices for these groupings in your paper.

You should report proportions as well as raw counts in a table or tables, and proportions in a chart. Instructions from the analysis workshop for creating pivot tables can be found here, though you are welcome to calculate proportions another way, if you prefer. You are welcome to perform statistical analysis to assess whether the differences you observe are significant, but you are not required to.


Part 2: Write-up (approximately 5 pages, double spaced)
(due via Canvas Monday 10/16 by 5 p.m.)

For the paper portion of the assignment, you will be writing up your variationist analysis.

To complete this part of the assignment, you will need to:

  1. Identify your social factor, the possible levels in this factor, and how you decided to group participants into the levels. Briefly describe the methods used to collect and analyze data (1-2 paragraphs).
  2. Present each of your results in a separate paragraph. Begin each paragraph by describing what variable you analyzed, and what the possible variants are. Then describe what you found. Include a table (showing proportions and raw numbers) for each variable, and at least one visualization (graph) in your paper (you can graph the results for one variable, or include multiple graphs for multiple variables). You should explain in prose each of your findings in a clear and organized manner, referring to the tables and graph(s). (5 paragraphs; one for each variable)
  3. Briefly interpret your results in light of what we've learned in class so far (what can these patterns tell us about language and your social factor?). (1 paragraph)

Your write-up should be in prose, addressing the above information. You may label each section if you wish, but do not present your results as bullet points or notes. Use the studies we've read so far as a guide to presenting results. In your interpretation, be sure to only make claims that you can substantiate with the data we have. You may draw upon the readings and/or concepts we have discussed in class to interpret your findings.

This paper will likely be approximately 5 pages double-spaced, not including tables/charts (though length is not as important to us as it is that you complete all of the above requirements). Submit your finished paper as a PDF file or word doc in the Assignments tab in Canvas by 5 p.m., Monday October 16.