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Colloquium Speaker: Anissa Neal

Cornerstone Esports Theater
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s):
Anissa Neal, PhD Candidate, University of Massachusetts

Title: Speaker Identity and Syntactic Expectations


A lot of research has been devoted to understanding how speakers of multiple languages, multilinguals, use their knowledge of multiple languages to interpret language in context. But less is known about how speakers who know different varieties of a single language (‘dialects’) accomplish this. In this current project, the researchers investigate African American Language (AAL), a variety of English spoken primarily, but not exclusively, by African Americans. The current work plans to investigate how speakers of AAL understand sentences that use linguistic features that are present in AAL but not present in Mainstream American English (MAE), the ‘standard’ dialect spoken across the US. AAL and MAE overlap significantly, but there are specific grammatical constructions where the two diverge. This project investigates when and how AAL speakers use these variety-specific constructions in different contexts. Research into how AAL speakers use context to do this will shed light on how language processing proceeds in more naturalistic contexts, and will also shed light on the usage of a variety of English spoken by a significant portion of the US population.

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