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I'm about to enter an undergrad linguistics program in the fall (yay!), but I'm already thinking about grad school. Is it true that there aren't really any research opportunities for linguistics undergrads? If so, what would be the alternative, since research is usually seen as so important when applying to grad school?
It is not true! Although research opportunities will vary from school to school, linguistics is typically a very undergrad-friendly field. There are several conferences dedicated to undergrad research, even!
Moreover, many faculty members (at least in my experience) are excited to hire or mentor undergrads who are interested in pursuing research. Although my own alma mater did not have any department-internal opportunities for me, my advisor got me in touch with some amazing researchers at a nearby school. I volunteered there as an RA for a year, and it was fantastic! At my current school, the faculty actively try to hire undergrads as RAs, and offer RAships as independent study classes. All of my cohort, in fact, did research in linguistics as undergrads, even though only two of us were coming from linguistics departments.
There are always opportunities to do research as an undergraduate student, even though you may have to search them out. They may not be in your home department, but linguistics overlaps with philosophy, computer science, communication and auditory disorder science, psychology, physics (acoustics), anthropology, sociology, and literature (to name a few!!). If you are really having trouble finding an RAship or faculty member willing to hire you, you can also propose your own research.
So, in short: Put the time and energy into searching out faculty who share your interests and show willingness to mentor you. Don’t limit yourself to your department or even your own school, if opportunities are limited. Research collaborations are often international, so these types of relationships are common. But mostly, be enthusiastic. There’s nothing more satisfying than working with someone who is enthusiastic about a topic, and that can be a great way to convince someone to mentor you!
Although I’ve stopped posting regular sets of links to great reading, I haven’t stopped collecting great blog posts and articles that I want to share with you. Here are some of my favourites from the last few months if you’re looking for some entertaining linguistics reading over the Easter break!
The Inky Fool explains why you need to have been an adolescent to commit adultery. Fritinancy’s post on normcore suddenly gave a name to my partner’s shopping style. The Lexiculture Papers from Stephen Chrisomalis’s student research are also great reads and include research on words like vanilla, punk and bromance. If you have some time on your hands you can use your own word-hunting skills to help the OED find earlier sources for words, or if you have an afternoon to spare, Stan Carey talks about Dmitry Golubovskiy reading a single word that’s 3 1/2 hours long. Geoffrey Pullum is in fine form in this post, pointing out that differences between UK and US English are, all things considered, relatively trivial. On Dialect Blog we see an example of how this can be manipulated for an easy trick to make something sound more British (get people to say ‘oi’ and ‘bollocks’ a lot). Also, since this XKCD post about the Baby Name Wizard Blog I’ve been learning a lot about naming practices in the USA.
If you’re looking further afield than English, That Munanga Linguist has a beautiful post about the power of owning language in schools. After announcing he was leaving ELAR, David Nathan wrote a post at the Paradisec blog about the tension between open access and language documentation. This inspired much of the discussion at a recent LIP event blogged by Ruth Singer.
A while ago we shared with you The Great Language Game. The game’s creator has gone back to look at the data and there are some interesting results looking at which languages are most likely to be confused. WugLife and others have a great collective Tumblr post about the results.
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