Rising Stars

Rising Stars: Meet Carlotta Hübener

Dear Readers,

For several years, we have featured linguists with established careers and interesting stories to tell. This year, we will also be highlighting “Rising Stars” throughout our Fund Drive, undergraduates who were nominated by their mentors for their exceptional interest in linguistics and eager participation in the global community of language researchers.

Selected nominees were asked to share their view of the field of linguistics: what topics they see emerging as important or especially interesting, what role they see the field filling in the coming decades, and how they plan to contribute. We hope you will enjoy the perspectives of these students, who represent the bright future of our field.

Today, we are featuring Carlotta Hübener, a senior at the University of Hamburg. She is most interested in morphology and syntax, having written her BA thesis on the German linking element -s- and its role in disambiguating compounds.

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Carlotta Hübener

The importance of language

Language has fascinated me ever since I started to talk; however, the immense importance of language did not become clear to me until I started my university studies. Human language is an incredibly valuable asset, particularly with regards to its cognitive, social, cultural and historical aspects. Language allows us to make inferences about how human thinking is organized. Syntactic regularities often reflect human priorities. A striking example of this is the influence of the animacy hierarchy in various grammatical areas. Frequently, animate or even human referents assume a special grammatical role, for example, they may be preferred to inanimate referents in syntactic orders. (Conventionalized) metaphors are another example for the interplay of language and cognition. It is believed that they reflect existing presumptions or human thinking, and vice versa, shape human perception.

My personal interest: Grammar

So far, my studies have been focused on grammar from a diachronic and a synchronic perspective. My particular interests are morphology and syntax, together with their interfaces. Empirical methods are indispensable to investigate these subjects. It is invigorating to learn more about the way people use linguistic structures, how they are modified over time and how people generalize over them or render them unproductive. In addition, linguistically doubtful cases are highly appealing to me as they often indicate language change, and point out limitations to the production and processing of language.

I would like, with my work, to contribute to bringing syntactic irregularities into sharper focus. In this way, new perspectives may be opened on linguistic phenomena which were previously neglected or even considered as fully discussed. It is really exciting to investigate how prototypically transitive scenarios are morphologically reflected. In my undergraduate thesis, I was able to show, with the use of a questionnaire, that the linking-s in newly coined German compounds has a disambiguating effect because it supports transitive interpretations.

Perspectives to linguistics

The ever-increasing production of written language data, such as online magazines, forum discussions, chats etc. will extend the possibilities of corpus linguistics. These empiric resources will allow researchers to use digital corpora more comprehensively than before. Advances in computational linguistics will hopefully allow automatic tagging systems to be improved. This will, in turn, simplify the processing of large amounts of linguistic data. Large and current corpora will allow the change in language to be recognized faster and to be described more accurately. This may also serve as a starting point to examine rare linguistic phenomena, which may otherwise have been overlooked.

Interactive end devices are, increasingly, becoming a part of daily life. Their use leads to an increasing demand on communication. The most immediate form of communication still is human language, hence, computational linguistics is increasingly being challenged to simplify natural man-machine communication, i.e. making it as easy as communicating with other humans. To this end, language must be represented digitally. Like that, digital avatars and machine-translation systems could be substantially improved.

As a whole, linguistic research and its subdisciplines encompass countless interesting possibilities. Surely, interdisciplinary research will become increasingly important for further progress. Science and particularly language belong to the general public. Access to current scientific results must be simplified. This includes digital provisioning of results as well as matching their formal complexity to the needs of the general public. Naturally, this should lead to an increasing exchange of ideas between researchers and the interested public. In this way, linguistics will continue to contribute to enlightenment and hinder potential misuse of the force of language as commonly found in hate speeches and fake news.

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If you have a student who you believe is a “Rising Star” in linguistics, we would love to hear about them! We are still accepting nominations for exceptional young linguists. Please see the call for nominations for more information.

If you have not yet–please visit our Fund Drive page to learn more about us and why we need your help! The LINGUIST List relies on your generous donations to continue it support of linguists around the world.

https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/

Gratefully,

The LINGUIST List Team

Rising Stars: Meet Victoria Melgarejo

For several years, we have featured linguists with established careers and interesting stories to tell. This year, we will also be highlighting “Rising Stars” throughout our Fund Drive, undergraduates who were nominated by their mentors for their exceptional interest in linguistics and eager participation in the global community of language researchers.

Selected nominees were asked to share their view of the field of linguistics: what topics they see emerging as important or especially interesting, what role they see the field filling in the coming decades, and how they plan to contribute. We hope you will enjoy the perspectives of these students, who represent the bright future of our field.

Today, we are excited to share the perspective of Victoria Melgarejo, a senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has conducted several research projects on bilingual classroom interaction, code-switching on television, and language attitudes of monolingual and bilingual Latinx persons.

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Victoria Melgarejo

We are constantly immersed in language whether we notice it or not. It is present in everything from conversations, to signs, text, and speeches. As linguists we love to think about the language that surrounds us as we go about our lives. Today, with the rise in the use of social media platforms, I can see the field of linguistics growing and expanding to focus on online discourse. With millions of people making a footprint online it is interesting and exciting to understand the different linguistic varieties and linguistic practices that take place in this platform. Different communities of practice utilize language online in unique and exciting ways, and I see this becoming a hot area of interest in the near future. Younger generations are utilizing social media platforms for activism, to spread information, and to build communities. This is largely new, as just a couple years ago this was not the case. As youth in America become more and more politically active online, I believe that focusing on online youth political discourse will be an exciting area of study.

Linguists are often conversing about language; however, it is imperative that we analyze language and its ties to the larger social issues. I first became interested in research in linguistics when I began reading about linguistics as a tool to deconstruct and help fight some of the social issues of our times. I was able to use my research to highlight and raise awareness to some of the problems in our society that I felt needed to be discussed more.

Therefore, I believe it is important that we teach our students about linguistic diversity in our classrooms, and as a society, that we learn to appreciate diversity. I envision linguistics and language studies taking a more active role socio-politically to solve current and future problems. I can see linguists taking a central role on national debates because it is our duty to analyze language in all different forms and contexts in order to advocate for sociolinguistic justice. We need to denounce discrimination and injustices because this is how we as linguists can contribute to improving our society.

Reading literature in the field of linguistics has allowed me to see where research has focused and what needs to be researched more. I have conducted research on translanguaging in the classroom, linguistic representation of Latinxs in media and currently on the linguistic attitudes, biases, and insecurities of bilingual and English-dominant Latinxs. My goal is to continue my education this fall by pursuing a Ph.D. in Education in the Race, Inequalities, and Language in Education program (RILE) at Stanford University. I plan to keep contributing to the field of linguistics and in the community of researchers by continuing my research in sociocultural linguistics. I am interested in bilingualism and English Language Learners and I am passionate to conduct innovative research in the way language is used in the classroom to improve classroom participation and student achievement. My dream is to become a full-time professor and researcher.

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If you have a student who you believe is a “Rising Star” in linguistics, we would love to hear about them! We are still accepting nominations for exceptional young linguists. Please see the call for nominations for more information.

If you have not yet–please visit our Fund Drive page to learn more about us and why we need your help! The LINGUIST List relies on your generous donations to continue it support of linguists around the world.

Rising Stars: Meet Michelle Michimani Leyva

For several years, we have featured linguists with established careers and interesting stories to tell. This year, we will also be highlighting “Rising Stars” throughout our Fund Drive, undergraduates who were nominated by their mentors for their exceptional interest in linguistics and eager participation in the global community of language researchers.

Selected nominees were asked to share their view of the field of linguistics: what topics they see emerging as important or especially interesting, what role they see the field filling in the coming decades, and how they plan to contribute. We hope you will enjoy the perspectives of these students, who represent the bright future of our field.

Today, we are happy to share the thoughts of Michelle Michimani Leyva, a senior at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. She is majoring in both English-Communication Arts and Spanish, and is especially interested in applying her knowledge of lexicology to advertising and reaching minority Spanish-speaking populations. You can learn more about her research on her portfolio.

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Michelle Michimani Leyva

The role of language in cultural identity is often overlooked. However, acknowledging the connections between cultural and linguistic identities contributes to a fuller understanding of societies. Deepening our understanding of linguistics helps prevent miscommunication between dialects, fosters a sense of belonging through common linguistic features, and counteracts stigmas associated with variations between dialects. Knowledge of linguistic identities helps us understand communities and individuals better and helps us accept and cherish our unique linguistic attributes.

As an advertiser and linguist, I hope that the intersection of these fields emerges as a “hot topic.” Linguistics has been explored in media, but its application to advertising specifically has not been explored in as much depth. Advertising is about communicating, whether it is through art or through its copy; but if advertisement’s main point is to create a customized ad specific to a target audience, why is copy language so generalized? I am personally interested in the topic of using Spanish dialects in copy since Spanish has a vast lexical bank throughout its many dialects. During my internship as media planner at Wavemaker (formally known as MEC) in New York City, I was able to see the advertising industry’s push for placing the right advertisement in front of the right person. However, there seems to be an oversight on the affect linguistics has on an advertisements’ performance. For example, in 2004 Hershey partnered with Thalia Sodi to create a “Hispanic inspired” candy line. The new candy bar was called “Cajeta Elegancita.” “Cajeta” in Mexico is defined as a caramel sauce made of goat’s milk, but in Argentina, “cajeta” is a slang term used to describe a part of the female anatomy. Linguistic knowledge helps optimize creative advertising and branding, and it helps advertisers craft ads that resonate with various audiences. Gloria Anzaldúa wrote, “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity.” Being able to portray various linguistic identities in advertising would help remediate the issues of non-representation and misrepresentation of minorities in advertising.

This year, I finished my research study, Lexical Variation in Spanish Speakers, and presented it at the Third International Conference on Heritage/Community Languages in the University of California, Los Angeles. My research surveyed the lexical bank of Spanish speakers in the United States and compared the results to the lexical bank provided in five 1st and 2nd year Spanish textbooks for college students. The results of my research indicated that Spanish heritage speakers lexical bank varied significantly from standard Spanish. My conclusion focused on the lexical variety in Spanish speakers and the stigmas among variations that are not the norma culta or standard Spanish.

While I work in the advertising field, I hope to contribute to linguistics research by completing an extension of my study. In this future research, I would like to examine lexical variation in Spanish speakers and its application to Spanish advertising. Through my research and my work, I hope to create awareness of the importance of linguistics features that makes language so unique. Eventually I would like to attend graduate school for linguistics and dream of creating my own multi-cultural advertising agency that embodies linguistics in advertising in order to represent the beautiful diversity in language.

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If you have a student who you believe is a “Rising Star” in linguistics, we would love to hear about them! We are still accepting nominations for exceptional young linguists. Please see the call for nominations for more information.

If you have not yet–please visit our Fund Drive page to learn more about us and why we need your help! The LINGUIST List relies on your generous donations to continue it support of linguists around the world.