Falling into linguistics

Vicky Watson is about to start the Masters of Linguistics (MLING) programme. In this post she talks about her journey into Linguistics at UC, and some of the opportunities that came her way as a result.


vicky

Like most people, I didn’t know a lot about Linguistics until I started studying it.

I left high school with my heart set on studying my favourite subjects: History, French and Classics (which included learning to read Latin and Greek). The first thing I did before study was the classic Kiwi OE. I went to France and England and found myself fascinated not only in their cultures, but in the dialectal variation occurring across different countries and languages. I never thought I’d have to explain the word ‘capsicum’ or ‘chilly bin’ to a native speaker of English, but that was only the beginning of my increasing awareness of Linguistics. My exploration of historical locations in Europe fueled my curiosity about how languages and accents worked. How do people understand each other when ‘languages’ are so different? And why does every single person have a different conception of ‘correct’ pronunciation, spelling or meaning of certain words?

I came across the field of Linguistics when I was planning my enrolment while reading the prospectus for UC. At that point, I’d decided my interest in Classics and History was to remain a hobby, as I wanted to focus on modern language research – research that pushed the edge of our collective knowledge. I was quite ambitious as I also wanted to continue learning French, but also pick up German at the same time (I had my eyes on Spanish as well, once I’d oh-so-easily mastered German – I was clearly still unaware of the complexities of learning languages!).

My first day in LING101 clinched it for me – I loved this field!  By the end of my first year I’d enrolled in every linguistics course available to me. Opportunities flooded in during my second year as I threw myself into finding out what I could do with Linguistics. On the suggestion of a lecturer I applied and successfully gained a position as a research assistant position at the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour (NZILBB) where I got to help with some syntactic research for Professor Jen Hay from our department and Professor Joan Bresnan from Stanford University. This was an incredible insight to some of the ideas and research processes going on at the NZILBB. Further to this, I also applied and was accepted for a fully funded program which involved 120 hours of German grammar classes over summer … in Germany! This trip gave me a chance to observe multilingualism in the centre of Europe, and through a roundabout way I started learning conversational Portuguese through my fellow classmates.

Last year, through LING310, I had the chance to submit a poster to the New Zealand English/English in New Zealand Conference held at UC. In preparation for the conference, several people from my class worked quite closely together in getting our projects ready. Many staff and researchers from NZILBB helped us, especially in learning how to use the statistical modelling programme R (which I enjoyed so much I promptly went and enrolled myself in an introduction to programming course). It was such a great experience – both the preparation and getting the chance to meet professional and distinguished linguists. A few weeks later, my classmate and I went to meet some of the linguists at the Victoria University of Wellington campus for morning tea. In November, we presented at another New Zealand conference in Wellington and shared a really great experience with other researchers from around the country.

While studying, something else I’ve been involved with is the UC Linguistics Society. When I joined, I was one of the only undergraduates, but was warmly welcomed by all of the current postgraduate students and staff. This was an incredible way to meet people in the department and to hear about all the amazing research going on at UC. In 2015, I joined the exec and last year, I stepped up to take on the role of President. It’s been amazing working towards creating a diverse community, where linguistics student from any level can meet others to collaborate on projects, share research, and have fun during our social events. Whether they are interested in Psychology, Computer Science, Statistics, Forensics, Education, Speech language therapy (or indeed a mixture), UC Ling is a great organisation to share and discuss their interests. So far our attendance numbers are increasing, a trend that I hope continues (if you’re interesting in joining the UC Ling society, get in touch with me!).

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‘kakokako’ about Motu in LING407

To finish off this year’s Linguistics Field Methods course (LING407), the class invited members of the Christchurch PNG and wider Pasifika community to the Undercroft 101, to share food and present findings from their research projects on the Oceanic language Motu, which is spoken in Papua New Guinea. Iskandar Davis talked about Motu vowels and interesting phonetic reduction processes; Sidney Wong discussed the distribution and morphological properties of adjectives in Motu; Nikita Sutrave provided an overview of Motu adpositions and demonstrated data elicitation with cat pictures; Esther Peach examined how tense and aspect are expressed in verbal affixes and subject markers; and Zsenai Logan compared word order patterns in Motu content questions and corresponding declaratives. A conference poster that the whole class had produced in collaboration with our Pacific language consultant Raho Kila was also on display. The poster (Let’s ‘kakokako’ about Motu) summarises key findings from everybody’s research projects and was presented at the Linguistic Society of New Zealand Conference in Wellington on 20-21 November.

Well done to all the students for preparing engaging presentations that made their findings accessible to a general audience!

We are most grateful to all community members who came to hear the presentations and shared their own insights on Motu and other languages spoken in PNG and the Pacific. A big thank you also to our wonderful Motu language consultant Raho Kila and her mother for teaching us so much about the Motu language and culture throughout the semester.

LING407 Field Methods was taught by Dr Heidi Quinn, and Raho Kila’s language consultant work was supported by the College of Arts Pacific Language Consultant Award and the Pacific Development Team.

Linguistics 407, Papua New Guinean Motu language, Linguistics students reporting on their research, 1.12.16

Linguistics 407, Papua New Guinean Motu language, Linguistics students reporting on their research, 1.12.16

ling407motuposter

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Master of Linguistics – Scholarship

Department of Linguistics

Master of Linguistics (MLING)

 A College of Arts Postgraduate Strategic Award

We are pleased to be able to offer a UC College of Arts Postgraduate Strategic Award, covering fees at the domestic student rate for the Masters of Linguistics (MLING) programme run by the Department of Linguistics at the University of Canterbury.

The MLING is a 12 month programme (full time) and includes three taught courses and a 25,000 word research thesis. Taught courses typically run in Semesters 1 and 2 (Feb-Jun; July-Oct) and the thesis runs for a 12 month period (e.g. Feb – Feb; July – July). Students are eligible to apply to enter the MLING direct from a Bachelor’s degree (i.e. an Honours degree is not required – see admission criteria below).

The scholarship covers fees for the three taught courses and the thesis component of the MLING, at the domestic student rate, representing a saving of approximately $10,500 for the successful applicant.

Thesis research: ‘The Linguistics/Sociolinguistics of New Zealand English’

The successful applicant is required to write a thesis within the broad theme of ‘The Linguistics/Sociolinguistics of New Zealand English’. This is an area of research strength for the UC Department of Linguistics and the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour. The theme is intentionally broad and would include (but not be limited to) projects in areas such as: language production and perception, language variation and change, corpus sociophonetics, and the relationship between language variation and syntactic or phonological theory. It is likely, but not required, that the scholarship recipient would utilise one of the unique corpora held at UC, such as the ONZE (Origins of New Zealand English) corpus, or the QuakeBox corpus.

Scholarship requirements

Applicants for the scholarship are required to write a short research proposal, outlining their ideas for their research project. This should be no longer than 2000 words, and should include: a brief introduction to the research project, a summary of key literature, and the key question(s) to be asked. Applicants are advised to consult the research areas of the members of staff in the Department of Linguistics, in order to identify potential supervisors (http://www.arts.canterbury.ac.nz/linguistics/people/index.shtml)

There are no restrictions on the taught courses which can be taken, although of course the recipient of the scholarship would need to demonstrate appropriate academic background for each course.

The successful applicant would begin the MLING programme in February 2017. Courses available in 2017 are: LING403 Syntactic Theory; LING615 World Englishes; LING407 Field Methods; LING410 Variation and Theory; LING412 Sociophonetic Research. (Note: at least four of these courses will run, but the exact combination depends on student numbers – if you have questions about specific courses, please contact the Postgraduate Co-ordinator Dr Heidi Quinn, heidi.quinn@canterbury.ac.nz).

 

MLING admission criteria

A candidate for the MLING needs to have either:

  • qualified for a Bachelor’s degree with a major in Linguistics, with at least a B+ average in 60 points in Linguistics at 300 level; OR
  • qualified for a Bachelor’s degree and completed a Graduate Diploma in Arts in Linguistics with at least a B+ average in 60 points in Linguistics at 300 level; OR
  • qualified for a Bachelor’s degree with a major in Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Philosophy, Computer Science, a language, or a different major approved by the Head of Department of Linguistics, with at least a B+ average or better in 60 points of 300-level courses in the majoring subject, AND achieved at least a B+ in LING400 English Structures (a distance-learning course which runs over the summer); OR
  • been admitted under the Regulations for admission ad eundem statum as entitled to enrol for the Degree of Master of Linguistics.

In addition, all candidates must have met UC’s English Language requirements. See here: http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/future-students/apply-and-enrol/english-language-requirements/

Application process

There are two steps: applicants should apply for the scholarship to the Department of Linguistics, and at the same time apply to the University of Canterbury for admission to the MLING programme.

Applying to the Department of Linguistics for the scholarship

Send the following documents to Dr Kevin Watson, Head of Department, by email (kevin.watson@canterbury.ac.nz):

  • covering letter, providing details about your current academic programme (e.g. your major, minor (if applicable), any postgraduate qualifications, whether you have already graduated or will graduate soon), and whether you have any research experience and/or outputs (e.g. work as a research assistance, presenting work at academic conferences, publications)
  • A current academic transcript, detailing your grades
  • A short research proposal, outlining the work you wish to undertake in your MLING thesis (see above for more detailed instructions)
  • The names and contact details of two academic referees, who may be contacted during the application process.

Applying to the University of Canterbury for admission to the MLING

Information about applying to UC can be found  here:

http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/future-students/apply-and-enrol/apply-for-graduate-and-postgraduate-qualifications/

Applications are processed via MyUC, the University of Canterbury’s online portal. After registering with the system, applicants can apply for UC programmes and are guided through the process online. MyUC can be found here: https://myuc.canterbury.ac.nz/

Key dates

31 October: Application deadline (Department application and UC application)

18 November: Decisions announced

5 December: Final date for successful applicant to accept award and complete all required paperwork

Important note

To be awarded the scholarship, the successful applicant must have submitted all paperwork and accepted the offer of a place on the MLING by 5 December 2016. Failure to do this will result in a forfeit of the award.

Have questions? Ask Kevin Watson (kevin.watson@canterbury.ac.nz)

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PhD scholarships – deadline 15th Oct

PhD Scholarships, University of Canterbury
Department of Linguistics, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
http://www.arts.canterbury.ac.nz/linguistics/
Deadline: 15th October 2016

We are pleased to announce the availability of University of Canterbury Doctoral Scholarships, which are tenable in the University of Canterbury Department of Linguistics in Christchurch, New Zealand. Staff in Linguistics at UC have expertise in phonetics & phonology, syntax, sociophonetics & language variation and change, as well as other areas (see below). The Linguistics Department is part of the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour (NZILBB), and as such, presents substantial opportunities for multi-disciplinary research (see http://www.nzilbb.canterbury.ac.nz). NZILBB also houses a variety of state-of-the-art equipment, including Ultrasound, Electromagnetic Articulography, EEG, and 3D motion tracking. We also have several large corpora, including the ONZE corpus (Origins of New Zealand English), the QuakeBox corpus, and the OLIVE corpus (Origins of Liverpool English). Any of these resources would be available to the successful candidate(s) for PhD research.

UC Scholarships provide NZ$21,000/year for three years, plus cover the university fees. There are no restrictions on regional origin of the applicants. The application deadline is October 15th (NZ time).

The PhD at the University of Canterbury is by thesis only, and interested candidates should, in the first instance, make contact with a potential supervisor in the Linguistics Department to discuss their research ideas. The currently available supervisors in the Linguistics Department are: Lynn Clark, Donald Derrick, Jen Hay, Beth Hume, Heidi Quinn and Kevin Watson.

  • Lynn Clark – language variation & change, sociophonetics, usage-based models of language
  • Donald Derrick – speech production and perception, articulatory phonetics, including ultrasound
  • Jen Hay – sociophonetics, laboratory phonology, morphology, lexical representation, NZ English
  • Beth Hume – phonology, phonetics/phonology interface, language variation, language change
  • Heidi Quinn – syntax, languages of the Pacific
  • Kevin Watson – sociophonetics, sociolinguistics, varieties of English

Faculty contact details are available here: http://www.arts.canterbury.ac.nz/linguistics/people/index.shtml

Following discussion with a potential supervisors, applicants should apply both for admission to the University of Canterbury PhD programme, and for the scholarship. Both applications must be made before the scholarship deadline. Applications are processed via MyUC, the University of Canterbury’s online portal. After registering with the system, applicants can apply for UC programmes and are guided through the process online. MyUC can be found here: https://myuc.canterbury.ac.nz/

For further information about the scholarship:  http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/scholarshipsearch/ScholarshipDetails.aspx?ScholarshipID=6935.127

If you have questions, contact: Kevin Watson kevin.watson@canterbury.ac.nz

 

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LING101/ENLA101 ‘The English Language’ available in Summer School

LING101-16SU2(D) and ENLA101-16SU2(D)

The English Language

Distance learning summer school programme

14 November – 22 December 2016

Enrol from October 4th via MyUC

This course is designed to introduce you to the study of the linguistic structure of the English language.  The aim of the course is to show you how the English language works.  Throughout the course, we will be guided by the following over-arching question: when a baby learns English as its first language, what aspects of the linguistic system does it have to master if it is to have a successful conversation? To answer this question, we start by examining single speech sounds, and then think about how they are combined to make words. Then we consider how words combine to make phrases, and finally we examine the structure of whole sentences.

In the first half of the course, we focus on how English speech is pronounced. How do we move our speech articulators when we produce sounds? How does the International Phonetic Alphabet work? How is a Kiwi accent similar to and different from accents from elsewhere? What tools do you need to analyse pronunciation properly? In the second half of the course, we focus on the structure of English sentences. As well as practicing how to identify different word types (nouns, verbs, adverbs, etc), we examine how words are structured into phrases, clauses and sentences, and explore how we combine words in different ways to generate new and complex meanings.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will:

  1. be able to understand the basic technical terms used by linguists to describe the various systems of which languages are composed: sounds, morphemes and words, phrases and clauses.
  2. be able to phonetically transcribe a section of written English, using the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
  3. be able to understand how to analyse the structure of words into syllables and morphemes,
  4. be able to understand how to analyse the structure of sentences into their grammatical constituents.

 

How does the course work?

This summer school version of LING101/ENLA101 is a distance learning course. It can be studied from anywhere – there is no need to be physically present on the University of Canterbury campus. The course works like this: it’s a six week course, with the equivalent of 3 online lectures each week. These are videos, which are uploaded in blocks, so you can watch them whenever is convenient for you in a given week. All online content for the first half of the course will be available in week 1, and all content for the second half of the course will be available in week 3. This should help you plan your workload. There will also be tutorial exercises, designed to help you practice the analytical skills we learn. By completing these tasks, you will develop the skills you need for the course assessments. Help and advice will be given via the online forum for the course, and via email.101pic

What is the assessment?

  • There will be four online quizzes, administered via Learn (5% each, due in week 1, 2, 4, 5)
  • There will be one piece of phonetic transcription (10%; due week 4) and one piece of phonetic analysis (20%; due week 3).
  • There will be one syntax tree diagram (10%; due week 5) and one piece of syntactic analysis (20%; due week 6)
  •  There will be a final piece of phonetic and grammatical analysis (30%; final piece of assessment)
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Sidney Wong wins a research prize for work on New Zealand English

Last semester, Sidney Wong won a prize for a research project on New Zealand English (as part of LING310). Here he reflects on his experiences of studying Linguistics at UC.


Sidney Wong, Speech and Language Pathology student.

Sidney Wong

My Linguistics journey began at the end of High School when all my mates chose to leave Lower Hutt, for study away from home in cities like Dunedin and Auckland. I wanted to do something different, and I wanted to do something in terms of Speech and Language Science but I’ve never been exposed to that field at school besides studying Japanese. I chose to move down to Christchurch a year or two after the earthquakes. At the time, the University was very generous with scholarships so I began my tertiary career studying towards a Bachelor of Speech and Language Pathology not knowing what I was getting myself into.

I guess I’ve always had an interest in language – I thought it was incredible how there were so many ways people could communicate by putting different sounds together, and how you can change your identity just by making adjustments to the way you speak. I remember buying my first book about Linguistics (How Language Works by David Crystal) from an OpShop in Wellington not long after starting High School. Growing up as a minority in a bicultural multi-ethnic Aotearoa, I realised that the languages I speak is a very important part of my identity – my language allows me to connect with my heritage, and my language justifies my place in the community.

In my first year of study I was exposed to a wide range of topics: phonetics & syntax in LING101, anatomy and physiology of speech in CMDS161, sociolinguistics in LING102, developmental and acquired communication disorders in CMDS111 and CMDS112, and a whole heap of Psychology in PSYC105 and PSYC106. Although I thought that eventually I’d be specialised in communication disorders, I always toyed with the idea of switching to Linguistics.

It was in the middle of my second year at UC when I made the switch to Linguistics. At the time it felt more drastic going from a highly specialised area of study to a more general degree, and leaving behind all the friends that I’ve made in the BSLP programme. And to be honest, it doesn’t have to be. I think the most important skill you can learn when you leave home is to be comfortable with change, and learn to adapt to your environment. If you have an interest you should pursue it, and if there is an opportunity you should most definitely take it.

Around the same time, I found a job settling earthquake claims at a private insurer where I ended up working for over two-and-a-half years. It was a difficult job dealing with highly sensitive issues. It was at this job that I realised I can tailor the way I communicate with my customers depending on their needs (drawing from my brief experience in Communication Disorders, Linguistics, and second-language abilities). In 2015, I took the opportunity to work full-time in this role, studying part-time. It was then I realised how much I enjoy exploring the many facets of Linguistics.

The highlight of my degree was definitely the opportunity to present my findings on phonological feature priming in Southland (I was investigating the burr) at the New Zealand English and English in New Zealand Conference earlier this year. This was work I’d done as a research project in LING310 ‘New Zealand English’. It was an incredible experience, and I had the opportunity to speak with Linguistic experts from all over New Zealand. I could not find a better way to finish my undergraduate degree. Coming to Christchurch to study at the University of Canterbury is by far the most fulfilling investment I’ve made leaving High School – I can’t wait to do more Linguistics research at postgrad level.

Don’t be afraid of change, and be prepared for the opportunities to come.

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Hello from PhD student Arshad Ali

Arshad Ali is a PhD candidate in the Department of Linguistics, under the supervision of Dr Kevin Watson and Dr Lynn Clark. In this guest post, he introduces himself and his interesting research.


AALIHi, I am Arshad Ali, originally from Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan.  I did BA (Hons) in English language and literature followed by a Masters in English from International Islamic University Islamabad. After that, I completed my Masters of Philosophy in Linguistics with a special focus on Phonetics and Sociolinguistics from the Air University Islamabad. I also worked as visiting research scholar at the University of North Texas where I got an opportunity to interact with academics from departments of English and Linguistics.

Before coming to Christchurch, I worked for 10 years as a Lecturer and then Assistant Professor at Department of English Language and Linguistics, National University of Modern Languages (NUML) Islamabad Pakistan. Besides being a full time academic at NUML, I also served as visiting Faculty member at International Islamic University, Bahria University and COMSATS Institute of Information Technology Islamabad. Besides teaching, I have served as script writer, voice over artist and guest speaker with some media production houses and TV channels in Pakistan.

My current research plans deal with the study of phonetic features using variationist methods. Much of the work carried out on the sociolinguistics of English deals with people who either are native speakers of English or 2nd language speakers of English who are living in an English dominant country. We know much less about how social factors might influence the pronunciation of L2 speakers of English in their home countries. My research project explores the impact of social and demographic factors on the speech of English speakers in Pakistan.

I have been here at University of Canterbury since October 2015 for my PhD studies in linguistics working with my supervisors, Dr Kevin Watson and Dr Lynn Clark. I am thankful to them for their contribution in the development of my PhD project. I would also extend my thanks to all the marvelous members of linguistics community especially Professor Jan Hay, Professor Beth Hume, Associate Professor Una Cunningham, Associate Professor Jeannette king , Dr. Clay Beckner and Dr Ksenia Gnevsheva for their valuable feedback during my presentations.

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