The purpose of this course is twofold: first, to immerse students in the (perhaps surprisingly) rich linguistic setting of Vermont and its immediate neighbors, and, second, to introduce them to the basic methodologies of field research in sociolinguistics and related disciplines. Thematically, the course will consider language diversity at three different scales. We will begin by examining the numerous languages used both presently and historically in Vermont, New York, Quebec and the New England states, and will progress to study aspects of linguistic variation between members the region’s wide community of English users. Third, we will also become familiar with patterns of variability within the speech of individual Vermonters as they adapt to new situations, topics, and interlocutors. Throughout this process, we will especially highlight questions of language access and language equity, and students will continually work to better understand their own positionality and agentivity regarding such issues at individual and societal levels.
In addition to the above, students will also be introduced to essential principles of experimental design in language research, the specific practice of the sociolinguistic interview, and modes of qualitative and quantitative analysis in the study of naturalistic language data. These skills will be applied in the form of a collaborative class field project addressing questions of sociolinguistic behavior in the Bennington community.