Student Research

2023 Linguistics Student Conference

Brook Barton

Applied Linguistics (MA)

When the Shelf Breaks: Narratives of Deconversion in r/exmormon Posts

This paper examines how online users of the Reddit micro-forum r/exmormon narrate processes of deconversion from the Church of Latter Day Saints. Discourse analysis reveals that these posts form a particular narrative genre, the “shelf break deconversion” narrative. In this genre, temporal expressions are creatively used to map users’ changing relationships to particular heretical thoughts. One of the characteristics of the genre is the presence of three types of narrative events: (1) the seed of doubt/guiding question, (2) the spiral, and (3) the shelf break. These events are organized by absolute and relative temporal expressions, which function to chronicle the user’s (un)willingness to think a heretical thought without shame. Analysis of temporal clauses yields two distinctly patterned structures, which are differentiated by shifts in temporal anchoring that signal the initial recognition of the thought’s heretical nature. Each type culminates in a climactic "shelf break,” which is thematically characterized by the acceptance of heretical belief in place of dogma and linguistically marked by constructions that indicate transformation. Considering the social context of ex-Mormon deconversion, these two features position shelf breaks as instances of resistance against LDS ideology; and, further, the two patterns of narrative reflect two different experiences of that power.


Alexandra Caccavo

Applied Linguistics (MA)

Providing adult English language learners with written tasks in a self-study CALL environment—what happens? 

This presentation covers an MA thesis proposal for a mixed methods case study examining student attitudes towards and responses to writing tasks in a commercial English for Specific Purposes (ESP) product. The existing writing tasks are presented within online, self-study business English lessons employing the task-based language teaching (TBLT) methodology. In this presentation, I first describe how this classroom methodology has previously been employed and studied in online language-learning environments. Next, I argue for the use of TBLT in a self-study business English environment and present the challenges faced by both lesson creators and students. Finally, I briefly describe the data to be collected/generated and the methods with which they will be analyzed, specifically: (1) historical data on completion rates of written tasks within TBLT-based lessons compared to other exercises, such as grammaticality judgements and reading comprehension exercises; (2) possible approaches to the analysis of students’ submissions of the tasks; (3) interviews with select students regarding their perceptions of the task and their efforts. The study will be conducted in early 2024.

Nicole Dufour

Anthropology (PhD)

Communities of Practice and Discourses of ‘Dog Care’ in Arctic Distance Mushing

Using the structure of distance mushing in Alaska, this study will examine the practices, unique challenges, and creative thinking that go into year-round dog care and canine wellness, concepts of which are discursively constructed through interactions among humans, canines, the natural environment, and in online environments.  Furthermore, it seeks to determine the various meanings and perceptions of the concepts of canine care and canine wellness among those who work directly with these canine athletes, as well as among those who are indirectly involved with the sport.    This research will be conducted through use of discourse analysis using community of practice as a theoretical framework guiding the research.  This etic framework is based in the functionalist paradigm, which focuses on language use, as opposed to structure.  Within this framework, the results of this study will be readily transferable to situations in which veterinary care and canine wellbeing are necessary in less than optimal, complex environments. It will also highlight the similarities and differences in how canine health and wellbeing are conceptualized by the various factions which make up the larger distance mushing community of practice.

Matt Ford

Applied Linguistics (MA)

Investigating Emotions in a University ESL Writing Class

This presentation will provide a brief overview of an in-progress M.A. thesis centered around teacher emotions in an ESL writing classroom. Prior work has demonstrated a shift in SLA research from a cognitive-centered approach towards one in which emotions are valued as a critical tool in the language classroom. I will begin by using previous studies found in my literature review to define emotions, their relevance to English language learning, and their role in the trajectory of SLA research. I will then discuss my own research design plan to explain how I am observing and analyzing the emotional work I use in my own ESL classroom during critical incidents with my students. This will be followed by an in depth look at my current findings thus far and their relevance to the field of emotions in second language acquisition.

Wetherleigh Griffin

Linguistics (BA)

Majoring in Minecraft: Engaging ESL student in authenitic interactions through virtual escape rooms

According to ACTFL, linguistically functioning in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes is one of the keystone standards for language teaching (2015). Task-based language teaching (TBLT), accommodates these standards in the classroom, fosters students’ interests and encourages authentic interactions within real-life contexts to bridge knowledge gaps (Ellis, 2017). 

An example of a task is completing an escape room, as it provides a real-life context, presents a challenge (or gap) to students’ knowledge and results in an outcome beyond language alone. A canvas for creating context is the video game Minecraft. Minecraft is accessible, versatile and popular, with over 200 million copies sold worldwide. This makes an attractive tool to encourage authentic language interactions in context. While the early literature on the integration of digital games in language classrooms focuses on vocabulary acquisition (Rinalli, 2008), more recent research switches gears to focus on negotiation for meaning and authentic interactions (Baek & Park, 2019). 

In my presentation, the participants will first experience escape room puzzles. Then, the literature on TBLT, authentic interactions and digital games will be discussed. Finally, lesson plans with a focus on how Minecraft can be used to engage students in authentic interaction will be presented.

Sooyoung Kang

Applied Linguistics (MA)

Staying Grounded: Challenges and insights from a Teacher Action Research

In this presentation, I will reflect on the process of data analysis that I have been working on. Introducing the Constructivist Grounded Theory, I will examine what it means to be ‘grounded’ in data. The objective in Grounded Theory is to ‘construct’ an original analysis from data, rather than imposing any theoretical preconceptions. It aims ultimately to generate the concepts through analysis, and to form the foundation of theory by being close to data. My thesis project is a Teacher Action research that takes me, an ESL teacher, as the main object of the study for the purpose of finding the teacher’s role in a language class. As I adopted the Grounded Theory for the data analysis, the data has been being coded. Through this self-reflexive presentation, I will share the challenges and insights I have taken from the coding process, and discuss the significance of the Grounded Theory for credible qualitative research.

Mollie Messick


Sustainability and Language Education: Toward Climate-Responsive Language Curriculum in the Circumpolar North

The ongoing climate crisis requires international cooperation, particularly in the circumpolar context. The proposed study will investigate secondary and postsecondary language teachers’ concepts of sustainability and their views on adapting language teaching and learning to better engage the environmental challenges facing Arctic and Northern communities and to better support ongoing language revitalization efforts. Drawing on research approaches from the fields of Applied Linguistics, Education, Northern Studies, and Indigenous Studies, I will select university-level language teachers from UArctic consortium schools and employ snowball sampling to obtain a larger population that includes secondary language teachers. Participants will respond to a questionnaire designed to elicit teacher beliefs regarding the intersection of sustainability and language teaching in the North. Using the questionnaire data as a foundation, further data will be collected through interviews with a smaller set of selected teachers in the second phase of the study. In analyzing the collected data, I hope to observe patterns in how language educators define the relationship between sustainability and language teaching, and to identify needs for developing more environmentally and culturally responsive language pedagogies that are founded on international commonalities and cooperation in the circumpolar North.

John Ayodeji Odudele

Applied Linguistics (MA)

Overcoming racisim as a racialized ESL Teacher: A study towards critical anti-racist pedagogy

This study critically examines racism in language classrooms, where student expectations about who is a first-language speaker of English often perpetuate racial biases and stereotypes. Kubota (2021) demonstrated that native speakers are commonly perceived as White, and their linguistic expressions are considered standard. Conversely, teachers of color are frequently subjected to linguistic stereotypes, which classify their speech as non-standard. This perception creates an unequal power dynamic in language teaching and learning classrooms (Motha, 2014). Through a qualitative case study (Duff, 2019), I will conduct this research in the ESL program within the linguistics department, University of Alaska Fairbanks. The study will utilize multiple sources of data, including classroom artifacts, interviews with other ESL teachers, the researcher's own teaching journals, and program documents such as brochures. My own reflections will be supplemented with semi-structured interviews conducted with three other practicing teachers from my program. These include two White and one Asian. Of these, one is a first-language speaker of English. Finally, I will use in-class reflections and other classroom artifacts to explore student expectations about who should teach English to them. This study aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of the complexities of racism in language classrooms and identify effective practices for dismantling it. The findings of this study can inform ESL teachers, professional development initiatives, and teacher training programs that wish to build a more inclusive and equal learning environment.

Raquel Ream

Applied Linguistics (MA)

Outsider/Insider Collaboration: Working with a Maya community in developing an English course for tour guides

In the needs analysis stage of an English for specific purposes (ESP) course, the ESP practitioner must learn what each stakeholder is wanting from the course in order to develop the curriculum and create context-specific teaching materials (Anthony, 2018). In my presentation I will be discussing my research on how I have been navigating this stage of developing an English course for tour guides in a Maya community in Mexico. ESP literature in similar communities often gloss over how this part of the process was handled in their unique context, so I hope to add to ESP knowledge by submitting my research as a case study. I am using an action research approach, in which the researcher learns from and works with the community collaboratively toward their goals, in contrast to assuming the role of detached “expert,” who does research on a community (Herr & Anderson, 2005). Indigenous populations around the world have had many negative experiences with outsider researchers and others who enter their communities to “help,” but who might bring about more harm than benefits (Smith, 2012). I will discuss the foundations and steps I have been using to jointly work toward what the community wants for itself.

Morgan Reynolds

Applied Linguistics (MA)

“I don’t listen to foreigner rap”: Discourse Analysis of Japanese Rap Disses Against Mixed-Race Rappers

This presentation will be an overview of an M.A. thesis research proposal on how mixed-race rappers in Japanese rap battles are treated by non-mixed-race rappers during the battles. The research will be a discourse analysis of rap battles involving three known mixed-race rappers, which have been posted online. The discourse of these battles will be contextualized within Japanese history, sociology, and politics. The disses within the raps will be analyzed for themes of nationalism, racism, and xenophobia, and used to shed light on how modern Japanese people conceptualize what constitutes a Japanese person, and who qualifies as such and who does not. The crux of the research will be the linguistic expressions - both explicit and implicit - of these ideologies.

Bryce Tasso

Linguistics (BA)

First-Person pronouns in Japanese: Pragmatics and Personality

This study examines first-person singular pronouns in Japanese and how they pragmatically mark a speaker’s gender and personality. As an avid reader of manga and anime, I seek to understand how college-age native speakers of Japanese perceive the ways in which the choice of first-person pronouns reflect the gender and personality of speakers in real life and in portrayals of characters in manga and anime. Are there any differences in first-person pronoun use between the real world and the world of popular media? If so, what are they? While the literature on Japanese first-person pronouns typically focuses on the noticeably gendered choice of pronoun, Unser-Schutz (2014) suggests that these stereotypical uses by some women may be upended due to the influence of anime and manga, where they are more common. My study analyzes responses from five interviews with college-age native speakers of Japanese and the results mostly support the conclusions from the literature regarding real-life 1SG pronouns. The study’s results also suggest that 1SG pronouns used by characters in anime and manga are more so meant to portray a given character archetype through exaggeration, rather than accurately reflect their use in real-life social situations.

Dulce Villasenor

Linguistics (BA)

Mirror Images? Exploring bilingual identity of a Mexican-American father and American-Mexican daughter

Do bilinguals see themselves as different people when speaking two languages? If so, what does this mean in terms of identity? Bilingual identity can be described as a complex construct that refers to an individual’s sense of self about their proficiency and use of multiple languages (Baker, 2010; Overbeke, 1972; Pavlenko, 2006). This research explores bilingual identity in relation to language insecurity (Gulliver & Titone, 2021). My research will inwill investigate how the perceptions of two bilinguals (my Mexican-born father and myself born in the U.S. with Mexican roots), impact our bilingual identity. I am particularly interested in how these self perceptions interact with language uncertainties, something my father and I experience daily. 

This presentation begins with an introduction to bilingualism. I will briefly elaborate on Baker’s (2011) eight definitions of bilingualism, Overbeke’s (1972) view of bilingual ‘worlds’ and Pavlenko’s (2006) concept of selves. I will then describe my proposed research methodology and discuss my data collection procedures: interviews, journaling, a language silhouette, identity poem and a language awareness questionnaire. I will end with a suggested timeline for this proposed research, ask the audience for input on my suggested methodology and answer any questions at the end of the presentation.