Research Interests

I'm broadly interested in how phonetic features play into the ways that we understand and create the social world around us. I am particularly interested in how we use social information to understand spoken language, and how we use linguistic styles to form ideas about who other people are, both consciously and automatically.

In my research, I aim to connect a) what we know about the use of linguistic variation as a socially meaningful resource in interactions with b) what we know about how speech is perceived at automatic and controlled levels. This allows me to think about how linguistic styles are represented cognitively, and how they're connected with social constructs like personae.

To address these questions, much of my work has focused on vowels involved in regional variation in the U.S. I explore these features from as many angles as I can: how they pattern macro-socially and how they shift over time, how they're used in ideological performances like parodies, and how they're perceived by listeners at different levels of awareness. Bringing together these perspectives, I think about what, exactly, it means for someone sound like a "Chicagoan," or a "Californian," or a "Valley Girl," and how we use these associations when listening and speaking.

The Chicagoland Language Project

Through the Chicagoland Language Project, my students and I are conducting ongoing fieldwork in the city of Chicago and surrounding areas in collaboration with Dr. Sharese King at the University of Chicago. Our goal is to better understand how Chicagoans use language, and how language use is connected to the diversity of lived experiences in the area.

In 2017 and 2018, we focused on the neighborhoods of Beverly and Morgan Park on the Southwest Side of Chicago. Check out local coverage of the project in the Villager, the Beverly Area Planning Association's monthly publication! Academic publications and presentations resulting from this work can be found below.

In 2020, we received a Collaborative Research award from the National Science Foundation to continue our fieldwork in two additional Chicago field sites. The Northwestern team is currently interviewing Chicagoans from Jefferson Park/Edison Park, and the U Chicago team is interviewing Chicagoans from Bronzeville.

Learn more at the project website, check us out on Facebook.


If you'd like to see a paper but can't access it via the link below, shoot me an e-mail - I'm happy to send you a copy.