The stories behind the languages I've studied

There’s a trend on linguistics Twitter right now where people are sharing the ages that they started studying/learning whatever languages they know. As I thought about the ones I know, I realized that there’s a story behind each one, and like many linguists, I have a list of languages and a few-word summary of their fluency at the bottom of my CV. But the stories are much more than I’d like to explain on my CV or in a tweet. So, here are some of those stories behind the languages I’ve studied. Read more


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Today, I’m in Champaign, Illinois at the 5th Sociolinguistics Symposium (SoSy) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I’m with a student of mine, Katya Kravchenko, and we’re here presenting her research project, “Surzhyk: Attitudes and Usage among Ukrainian People.” You can view the slides here. Read more

New publication in Linguistics Vanguard

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I’m happy to announce that a paper of mine has been published in Linguistics Vanguard. It’s called “Interpreting the order of operations in sociophonetic analysis” and it’s a direct follow-up to a paper I wrote for the Penn Working Papers in Linguistics a couple months ago. While the PWPL paper showed that Order of Operations (OoO) matters, that we should be talking about it more, and that we should do our best to interpret others’ OoOs, it didn’t give any help as to how to interpret them. The main contribution for this follow-up paper then is to 1) arm researchers with knowledge of how to interpret order of operations and 2) justify the order I recommended in the PWPL paper. Read more

Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah English Survey Results

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Between April and July, I distributed a survey to people in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah, asking them to record themselves reading a bunch of words and answering some open-ended questions about language. The results from this study will be published in more academic venues, but for now I wanted to explain in non-academic terms what the basic, preliminary results are from that study. Read more

New publication in the Penn Working Papers in Linguistics

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I’ve just been informed that a manuscript I submitted to the Penn Working Papers in Linguistics has been published! It’s called “Order of Operations in Sociophonetic Analysis” and is available here. In a nutshell, I discuss the various processing steps that are typical of a sociophonetic analysis an I show that changing the order that you run them can have a non-negligible impact on the overall results. I end the paper with a recommended order that we can use. Read more

Using Phonic for Collecting Sociophonetic Data


A few months ago, I was looking for ways to collect audio within a Qualtrics survey and I stumbled upon this answer which lead me to It looked good, so I decided to try it out for a new project. I’m happy to report that I’m overall very satisfied with how it all turned out. In this post, I’ll explain how to use Phonic, tell about some of my experiences with using it, and give you some tips. Read more

Animating Formant Trajectories

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Last week, I presented some work that Lisa Johnson and I have been working on. We discussed ways that vowel formant trajectories can help us learn more about vowel mergers. What seemed to get the most attention though were the data visuals that I created for the talk. I haven't done a cool tutorial for a while, so I thought it might make for a good one. So, in this blog post, I'll show you my step-by-step process for how I made that animation. Hopefully you can make it too with your own data! Read more


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I’m at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 49 online right now! Other than an quick online satellite session of LabPhon last summer, I haven’t attended a conference since November 2019 when we hosted LCUGA at UGA. Anyway, I’m excited to be conferencing again and while I miss seeing colleagues in-person, this online format isn’t bad. Anyway, on this page you’ll find links to the slides and YouTube videos of my two talks. Read more

#365 Papers (Update)

At the beginning of 2018, I set the ambitious goal of reading 365 papers during that year. I tweeted about it and blogged about it, but ultimately didn’t achieve my goal. Turns out 365 is a lot. Well, after 1338 days, I can finally say I’ve ready 365 papers! So here’s just some visuals to see what kinds of things I’ve been reading. Read more

Kohler Tapes


So, I just acquired a goldmine of data that I can use for linguistic analysis. Sitting in my office are 452 cassette tapes, each containing at least 30 minutes of recorded interviews with an older folks from Heber City, Utah. And that’s about half of the collection: the other half is with a historian in Midway, Utah. So, I’m looking at roughly 400–500 hours of audio. Not sure how I’m going to process it all, but I wanted to kick off the beginning of this long-term project with a blog post describing the history of the tapes, why I’m interested in them, and speculations about the future. Read more

Pillai scores don't change after normalization

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I was playing around with some data the other day and I discovered that if you calculate the pillai score on raw data you get the same result as if you calculated it on normalized data. This might be common knowledge among sociophoneticians who work with this kind of data, and now that I think about how normalization works, it makes sense. But it’s new to me so I thought I’d write about it and illustrate it. Read more

10 Years of Linguistics

On this day, ten years ago, I decided to major in linguistics. Today, I’m an assistant professor. To celebrate this decade of linguistics, I thought I’d write a little bit about where I came from and how I came to the decision to go into linguistics. Read more


Earlier this week, I tweeted about a data visualization that I made. The data, which comes from a paper I'm working on, is difficult to visualize because the vast majority of the responses is clustered around zero while the rest is spread out a bit. I got lots and lots of comments from people and people's thoughts were all over the board. Some said it's great; others said they didn't like it. And there were a handful that had very strongly mixed feelings of loving it and hating it. It's a new kind of plot, so interpretation isn't super straightforward, but it's funny, silly, surprising, intersting, and memorable, which is why I think it's a good one. Read more

New publication in the latest PADS volume

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This week I finally got to lay my hands on a physical copy of my latest publication! It’s called “The Absence of a Religiolect among Latter-day Saints in Southwest Washington” and it’s in the latest Publication of the American Dialect Society, Speech in the Western States Volume III: Understudied Dialects by Valerie Fridland, Alicia Wassink, Lauren Hall-Lew, & Tyler Kendall. The physical copy was delivered to my office about two weeks ago, but my wife and daughter had just tested positive for covid-19 (they’re fine—very mild symptoms) so I was only just now able to see it now that my two-week quarantine is over. Read more

generations: Convert birth years to generation names

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I’m happy to announce the release of another R package, generations! I’ve apparently caught the creating-R-packages bug because this is my fourth one this year (futurevisions, barktools, joeysvowels, and now generations). This one provides some functions to easily convert years to generational cohorts (Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, Gen Z, etc.). Read more

joeysvowels: An R package of vowel data

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I’ve just released my third R package, joeysvowels. It provides a handful of datasets, some subsets of others, that contain formant measurements and other information about the vowels in my own speech. The purpose of the package is to make vowel data easily accessible for demonstrating code snippets when demonstrating how to work with sociophonetic data. There are no functions contained in joeysvowels; it’s a data-only package. Read more

barktools: Functions to help when working with Barks

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I’m happy to announce that I’ve just released another small R package called barktools. Now that I’ve got one R package out there already, I’ve sort of caught the bug and realized it’s kinda fun to put these small packages out there. This one is just a lightweight little guy that I thought up a few days ago while falling asleep that’ll help me when working with Barks. You can download the package from my GitHub. Read more

futurevisions: My first R package!

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Today I released my first complete, functional, R package! It’s called futurevisions and it’s available on my github. It’s just a little one that contains about 20 different color palettes. I’ve had the idea to work on it for a few months and this week, I decided to go ahead and do it! The rest of this post is the README file for that package and explains the posters the palettes were based on, installation, usage, the list of palettes, and some background. Read more

Full house at my first LaTeX workshop!

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Today I had the opportunity to teach LaTeX for the first time. Caleb Crumley, an RA for the DigiLab at UGA, has been working on a dissertation template in LaTeX that conforms with UGA’s formatting check. He finished it, and it’s got the stamp of approval from the Graduate School. To advertise the template, Caleb, Jonathan Crum, and I put on a three-part series to introduce the template and teach a little LaTeX as well. Read more

Extending Wells' Lexical Set to Prelateral Vowels


At some point in the past few years, I’ve analyzed pretty much every English vowel before laterals. They’re pretty cool because they’re understudied, they’re somewhat infrequent, and they’re involved in a lot of different mergers in different parts of the country. When referring to these prelateral vowels, several labels have been used in the past, but none do the job quite right. So, I think prelaterals should get a standardized set of Wells-style labels. The problem is figuring out what they should be. In this post, I explain why existing labels aren’t great and then propose a complete set of new labels for prelateral vowels. Read more

Thoughts on Allophonic Extensions to Wells' Lexical Sets


In a previous post, I wrote a little bit about the Wells Lexical sets, a competing set, and why I think Wells' original labels are better. In this post, I continue my musings on Wells' inspired labels for lexical sets, only this time I focus on those used for specific allophones of vowels. I point out several issues that have arisen over the years and offer some solutions that may make future papers more consistent and less confusing. Read more


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I’m happy to report that I successfully defended my dissertation today! The defense was held in the DigiLab (300 Main Library). The study itself is called “Vowel Dynamics of the Elsewhere Shift: A sociophonetic analysis of English in Cowlitz County, Washington.” Read more

Reshaping Vowel Formant Data with tidyr 1.0

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Vowel trajectory data can be tricky to work with in R. Sometimes I need to reshape my data into specific format to make a particular type of visual, run some test, or calculate some number. And it can be frustrating. While it has always been possible to accomplish this task in R, with the pivot_longer function from latest version of tidyr, all this reshaping can be done in a single line of code! This post shows you how. Read more

Animating Mergers

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I’ve dabbled with creating animations in R, but since the newest version of gganimate came out, I’ve been trying to find a useful way to use it. (I don’t know if visualizing simulations of Chutes and Ladders counts as “useful”…) But as I was putting together a lecture on mergers last semester, it occured to me that the best way to illustrate them would be with animations! So I took the opportunity and created some fun visuals. Read more

Why do people use BAT instead of TRAP?


In English sociolinguistics, you'll often see vowel phonemes represented by a single word in small caps. For example, TRAP represents /æ/. However, in a lot of American dialectology papers, you'll see authors use the label BAT instead. In this post, I explain why I think these competing labels are used… and why I prefer TRAP over BAT. Read more


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I presented at the 6th annual Linguistics Conference at UGA today! My presentation, which was called "Real Time Vowel Shifts in Georgia English" compared Georgians born around the 1890s to those born in the 1990s—100 years of change! The main finding is that is that nearly every vowel has changed, and it seems like the trajectory of that change is in the direction of the Elsewhere Shift, rather than just a simple recession of Southern features." Read more

3D Vowel Plots with Rayshader

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So Tyler Morgan-Wall has recently come out with the rayshader package and the R and data science Twitter community has been buzzing. I’ve seen people post some absolutely amazing 3D plots and animations. I haven’t seen any linguists using it though, so I’m hopping on that bandwagon—a little late in the game—to show what kinds of 3D visuals we can produce using vowel data. Read more

Thank You

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Some of you may have noticed that at the bottom of a lot of the pages on my website, I've got this button. I've created an account on, which is a platform that, in their words, provides "a friendly way for fans to support your work for the price of a coffee." To put it more bluntly, I've created a way for people to give me money for my tutorials and stuff. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I'll brag for just a little bit before geeking out about the new books I've gotten because of that little button. Read more

Jealousy List 3

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This is the third iteration of my Jealousy List, which is a list of articles so good I wish I had been the one to write them. My first two lists were posted about a year ago (see the list of lists here) and this one is long overdue, so I apologize for some of the posts being a little less recent. Regardless, here are a list of posts I’ve found in the past few weeks and months that I found exceptional in some way, entertaining, informative, or just plain cool. Read more

DH 2019

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At the Digital Humanities 2019 conference in Utrecht, the Netherlands, I presented with Bill Kretzschmar on ways to visualize a lot of phonetic data. The first half of the presentation was essentially me showcasing the Gazetteer of Southern Vowels (or GSV), a website I created in Shiny to help visualize 1.3 million acoustic measurements from the Digital Archive of Southern Speech. In the talk I spend most of the time showing how you can interact with the data. Read more

You're a Statistician, Harry!

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The job hunt was not successful this year. I applied to about two dozen positions, got interviewed for five of them (yay!) but ultimately got zero offers (boo…). I’m disappointed, sure, but it’s probably for the best anyway: it took longer to write my dissertation than I anticipated, so it probably wouldn’t have been feasible to finish it and graduate by August. Plus, I have funding for one more year. But, the funny thing is I’m now in this weird position where the bulk of my dissertation has been written, but I have about another year left as a student. What can I during this time? I considered a lot of options, but I think I’ve settled on something fun: I’m going to try and get an M.S. in Statistics! Read more

Simulating Werewolf

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I really enjoy the party game called Werewolf. When I was an undergrad, I played it many, many times but unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to play it for several years. After successfully simulating an easier game like Chutes and Ladders a few weeks ago, I thought I’d try moving on to something more difficult. Here are the results of a bunch of simulations of simple Werewolf games. Read more

Simulating Chutes and Ladders

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We tried teaching our little almost-three-year-old Chutes and Ladders today. She wasn’t very good at counting tiles. But, as I was sitting there climbing up and sliding down over and over, I wondered what the average number of turns it would take to finish the game. So I decided to take a stab at simulating the game. So here’s a post on a simple simulation of Chutes and Ladders that demonstrates absolutely nothing about linguistics and instead shows off some R skills. Read more

Vowel overlap in R: More advanced topics

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This is a continuation of my previous tutorial on how to calculate Pillai scores and Bhattacharyya’s Affinity in R for the purposes of measuring vowel overlap. It occurred to me as I was putting the previous one together though that I had a lot of things to say and the tutorial got really long and complicated. So I moved all the more advanced topics to this one to keep the main one a little lighter and more approachable. Read more