Nonbinary/Genderqueer Pronouns

I’ve been working on nonbinary pronouns for most of my career, starting with my undergraduate thesis and continuing up through my doctoral dissertation.

For my undergraduate thesis, Neopronouns in Contemporary English: Language Change in Progress, I conducted online community survey of neopronoun use among 200 genderqueer and nonbinary participants to discover most popular neopronouns. I also analyzed typological pa‹tterns of neopronouns given, as well as patt‹erns of use and reasons for selection. I found that most genderqueer and nonbinary participants wanted a pronoun that “sounds like me”, and that they typically only used their pronouns in areas where they had high control over the company they were keeping.

For my doctoral dissertation, From Ey to Ze: Gender-Neutral Pronouns as Pronominal Change, I conducted a processing/production study of the pronoun strategies nonbinary people use to express their gender. No processing cost was found for singular they or animate it, but a small processing cost was found for neopronouns. A foundational usage survey establishing pronoun behaviors among the target group was conducted and used to build the processing/production study. This reinforced the finding of the above study, that nonbinary people tend to use their pronouns only in places where they have high control over their company.

Singular They

Work I have done on singular they includes my second qualifying paper, A Wise Man Always Watches Their Words: Acceptability Variation in Singular They and a course paper, Everybody and His Hamster: Indefinite Uses of 3SA Pronouns.

The first one was an acceptability judgement task in which participant shared their judgements on the naturalness of six different types of singular they (indefinite pronouns, gendered nouns, nongendered nouns, titles, internet nicknames, and names). Participants found the names and gendered nouns most unnatural, but still found these items more natural than deliberately ungrammatical sentences such as “my friend doesn’t likes birds”.

The second one was a corpus study of which indefinite possessive pronouns most commonly appeared coindexed to animate nouns. Singular they was the most common across multiple source types (academic, fiction, news, magazines, and spoken), but especially so with spoken. Generic he was usually the next most common, aside from in academic sources, where he or she was the next most common. Generic she was rare in all source types.

Welsh English

My first qualifying paper was on aspiration in Welsh English. I transcribed BBC interviews of Welsh speakers and analyzed the VOT of each voiceless stop in Praat. I found that speakers who were from areas of high Welsh fluency had VOTs longer than other speakers, which is a feature that has been observed in the literature but never quantified.

Adjectives of Beauty

This project, set to be published in the upcoming 2021 edition of UGA Working Papers in Linguistics, was a corpus (Corpus of Historical American English) search of which adjectives of beauty occur most frequently in different eras and for different noun types. Certain adjectives of beauty came in and out of fashion during different eras (for example, handsome during the late 1800s) but for the most part, different adjectives were used for different item types. Male animate referents received different adjectives (e.g. handsome, good-looking) than female and inanimate referents (e.g. beautiful, pretty, lovely).