Last week, I was at the LSA/ADS conferences in Denver, and it occurred to me that ten years ago this week is when I decided I wanted to be an academic.
In the summer of 2011, I went on a study abroad to Ecuador with my now-colleague Janis Nuckolls. It was a fantastic experience and really got me excited about linguistics. Afterwards, me and two other students started meeting with her as a research group. Over the next year we met weekly as we worked on the phonology of Kichwa ideophones, research that would eventually lead to our 2016 publication in IJAL.That paper may forever be my most cited publication, which is weird because it’s not at all what I do for research now!
We got the point where Janis was ready to submit the research to a conference. So, we wrote up the abstract and submitted it to the SSILA conference, which meets concurrently with LSA, ADS, and a few other sister societies. And we got in!
At first, I wasn’t planning on going. I was engaged and the conference was less than two weeks after my wedding. I decided last minute that I really should go though. My wife helped me pick out some conference clothes (I still wear the green shirt I got then as a homage to my first conference!), I managed to get some funds from the department, and after a red-eye flight that included layovers in Denver and Philadelphia, I made it to Boston.
Our presentation was in the very first session on that Thursday, and I remember being pretty nervous as I read my section. I didn’t look up from my script once. But because the talk was over with soon after arriving to the conference, I was able to spend the the next two days wandering around attending whatever talks looked interesting.
I’m pretty sure I ended up spending most of my time at the ADS sessions. I was still an undergrad, but I had already applied to some graduate schools with the intent of studying sociolinguistics, so I actually recognized some of the names there and I was able to put faces to names. According to my program book from that year, here are a few things I saw:
- Joseph Hill presented, in ASL, about the influence of African American English on African American Sign Language.
- Nicole Rosen presented on the difference between Latter-day Saints and non-Latter-day Saints in Alberta.
- Dan Villarreal (and my now-colleague, Grant Eckstein) presented on intonation patterns of Latter-day Saints compared to non-Latter-day Saints when reading scripture.
- Bill Kretzschmar presented on computational approaches to dialect mapping. (Little did I know I’d be his RA for four years!)
- Lisa Davidson and Daniel Erker presented on hiatus resolution in American English.
- Livia Oushiro and Ronald Mendes presented on nasal /e/ in Brazilian Portuguese
- Patricia Cukor-Avila on Texans’ perceptions of regional variation
- David Durian on what we now call the LBMS in Ohio.
It’s really interesting to look through the booklet and see what talks I didn’t consider but would definitely see today. It’s also interesting to see where people I now know were ten years ago.
Anyway, by the end of the conference, I had caught the bug. I knew that that is where I wanted to be. Those were my people. In fact, it was at the next LSA/ADS I went to, which was two years later in Portland, that I got the idea for my dissertation topic. The story for that will have to wait for another blog post.