Deanna Gagne

Professional Sketch

Deanne Gagne

A doctoral student at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Developmental Psychology, Deanna is a member of the prestigious Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT). Deanne’s personal goal is to determine “how the spatial modality of sign languages affects how concepts are expressed [and] how those concepts interact with the semantics of the language at large.” A native trilingual of English, Spanish, and American Sign Language, Deanna has been accepted to present a co-authored poster at the upcoming 2014 LSA.

For more about this dedicated student and her professional vision , please read the interview below.

How did you become interested in linguistics?

I became interested in linguistics while I was a double major at Northeastern University in Psychology and ASL - English interpreting. I gravitated to courses that discussed the intricacies of language and language variation. I eventually added Linguistics as a minor and, in my senior year, finally took the required intro to Linguistics courses, even after having previously taken advanced language and linguistics courses.

In what way(s) do you think that linguists can make a substantive contribution to society?

Understanding how we generate and use language across cultures, geographic divides and generations provides clues for what makes us "tick." Linguists investigate the most influential, yet most puzzling human creation - language. Discovering links in languages - possibly even language "universals" helps us understand where we come from, and possibly where we are headed as a species. We can only chip away at this one small question at a time, but we are slowly but surely forming a body of work that has started to speak to these issues.

Where do you see you see yourself in ten years? What are your professional goals?

I see myself conducting interdisciplinary research in a number of avenues: language emergence and language structure in individuals with no language input; the structure and typologies of signed languages; and in psycholinguistics - exploring the language - cognition link.

What special talents do minorities offer academia today?

Above all, I believe minorities offer perspective. Many commonly held theories come from a homogenous perspective. While these theories have been challenged in specific venues, the vast majority of researchers (and thus their perspectives) come from this homogenous, middle- to upper-middle class environment. However, not all their theories need to be refuted. Indeed, many cultural and ethnic groups can add to the strength of previous claims by adding their own evidence in support of these theories. The more diversity we have in the researchers (and thus their perspectives and access to diverse populations), the more confident we can be in the generalizability of results.  

Sharese KingKing

Professional Sketch

Although only in her second year of her doctoral programme in the Department of Linguistics at Stanford University, Sharese King has been accepted to present both a co-authored paper and poster at the 2014 LSA Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Concentrating on the linguistic differences between African American Vernacular English and Mainstream American English, Sharese is interested in determining how dialectal variations in morphosyntactic and phonetic realizations can affect speaker’s reception, particularly but not exclusively within the US criminal justice system. For example, in her scheduled co-presentation, she will be analyzing the influence of AAVE may have affected the 2013 trial of George Zimmerman.

For more on this CEDL Travel Grant Award-winner and her research, please read the interview below:

How did you become interested in linguistics?

As a freshman, I majored in chemistry, but wanted to switch my major. A friend in a creative writing class knew of my interests in both language arts and science. He suggested that I take a linguistics course. I took my first course in my sophomore year and loved it ever since. Additionally, I had inspiring mentors in the linguistics department at the University of Rochester who always encouraged me and had faith in my ideas.

Where do you see you see yourself in ten years? What are your professional goals?

In ten years, I'd like to be a linguistics professor expanding my research interests on bidilaectalism. I look forward to engaging with scholars across the field and publishing plenty of books. I hope that I will have made some contribution to the field of education as well.

What are you most looking forward to when attending the LSA conference?

I'm really excited to receive feedback from a range of scholars on my work. Their criticism can help me improve my skills as a researcher and increase my knowledge of particular topics. I look forward to meeting people with whom I can continue to communicate with beyond the conference.

What special challenges do minorities face in academia today?

One of the challenges minorities face in academia is learning how to create safe spaces where they feel accepted in their academic communities. It can be difficult for students to adjust in an environment where they don't see people who look like them. For instance, graduate school can be a vulnerable process that, at times, can make students feel insecure in their abilities. Lacking a community with which to share these experiences can magnify these insecurities. As a result, I think students can feel isolated or isolate themselves. Additionally, I think that it can be dangerous to assume that your performance speaks for everyone in your entire culture/race, since you're the only one or one of few. Personally, understanding that my experiences reflect only one perspective of the black experience was important to boosting my confidence so that I was not so self-conscious. Often times, this self-consciousness distracted me from realizing my full potential as a scholar.  

Dominique Corley

Professional SketchCorley

A double major in Linguistics and Sociology, Dominique Corley is completing her Bachelor degree at Cornell University. Her particular interest in Linguistics is identifying the ways in which miscommunications can affect decision-making in courtroom environments.

To learn more about how this dynamic student discovered her passion for using her skills to champion of minorities, please read more below:

How did you become interested in linguistics?

Unsure about how languages tied into my studies as a sociologist, I added the linguistics major after a couple of classes that I took to fulfill some graduation requirements piqued my interest. Over the past few semesters of undergrad, I’ve found a way to combine my interests in criminal justice with my passion for language by looking at minority dialects in the legal system.

In what way(s) do you think that linguists can make a substantive contribution to the society?

One way that linguists can make a substantive contribution to society is by educating the public about minority dialects and non-standard English use such as African American English. Too many biases exist about language-use that perpetuate stereotypes. I think that linguists can make huge strides, especially in education and in the criminal justice system, by working against language biases through public awareness.

Where do you see you see yourself in ten year? What are your professional goals?

I hope to be working in some capacity with impoverished, inner-city populations in the future. Ideally, I would like to be an advocate for justice and ensure that language-based biases do not adversely affect the outcomes (esp. in the criminal justice system) of minorities who typically comprise impoverished, inner-city areas.

What special challenges do minorities face in academia today?

One challenge that minority students face today is that they do not see many people who look like them in academia. Reflecting on my experiences so far in undergrad, I have had only two professors that have come from a minority racial background. I think that diversity in higher education will benefit academia as well as greater society as a whole.  

Erica Verde

Professional SketchErica Verde

Erica Verde is in the middle of her Masters programme in English Linguistics at Florida International University. Her specific research interest involves determining how Miami’s English-Spanish bilinguals encode deictic motion events. Her ultimate goal is to use her personal and professional experiences and insights to help develop more psychometrically sound methods of assessing the vocabulary of English-Spanish bilingual children. The upcoming conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota will be the very first (but certainly not the last) time that Erica has attended the LSA.

To learn more about this bright student and her exciting professional goals, please read the interview below:

How did you become interested in linguistics?

My first encounter with linguistics was via a required course towards a graduate degree in foreign language education. I had always enjoyed learning new languages, but I had no idea that there was an entire field dedicated to its study as a regular system. In linguistics I saw an exciting opportunity to marry my love of language with my previous empirical training in the sciences. Because of its interdisciplinary nature, I have been able to pursue varying projects requiring different skill sets into a cohesive body of work.

In what way(s) do you think that linguists can make a substantive contribution to the society?

Linguists are embedded in so many different areas of society but, more often than not, our work is done behind the scenes. Technological innovations used by billions of people every single day, such as Apple’s Siri personal assistant and Google Translate, are made possible through the work of teams that include linguists. Although much attention is often given to areas that lend themselves to more practical applications like natural language processing, I feel that our true contribution to society is through dedication to the highest quality research, regardless of the subfield; solid linguistically informed foundational work sets the stage for seemingly limitless advances in industry, education, medicine and all other areas requiring human language capabilities.

What are you most looking forward to when attending the LSA conference?

As my research focuses on linguistic and psycholinguistic questions of bilingualism and multilingualism, I am particularly looking forward to the sessions on crosslinguistic semantics, multilingualism effects and processing and spoken language processing. Also, the student-centered events, such as the graduate student panel, are sure to provide curated, practical support for this stage of my career.

What special challenges do minorities face in academia today?

I strongly feel that the single biggest hurdle for minorities in academia is (in-)visibility. For students, it is almost impossible to aspire to something for which they have no referent – no role model. This lack of diversity in academia is especially a loss to the field of linguistics, as many minorities are bi/multilingual and also bi/multicultural; it is essential that these multiplicities and their accompanying perspectives and experiences be represented by a body whose goal it is to analyze the most unique, universal human trait, language.