How does commuting influence language change?

Will you help this curious linguist fund her MA by Research (Linguistics) at the University of York?

How does commuting influence language change?
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    pledged of £4,197

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Completion Date: Wed 28 Oct 2015

I'm raising funds to carry out a sociolinguistics project at the University of York.

A view of Central Hall and the York campus lake (complete with ducks!)

Who aM I and why Am I doing this campaign?

I'm Myriam Day, a curious linguist and an aspiring lecturer/researcher. I graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) in Linguistics with Spanish in July, and I am really happy to be offered a place for a Masters by Research (MRes) at the Department of Language and Linguistic Science. The Linguistics department at York is an amazing place to study, and I have a research proposal for a project that I am longing to start! More info about the campaign and the project below...

I'm going to do this project on a part-time basis over two years and work to cover my living costs, but funding is extremely limited for postgraduate students (I applied for research council funding earlier in the year, but I lost out as it's highly competitive and there was only one funded place available) and I have very few options. Unfortunately I'm not earning enough to pay the project fees, taking out further loans isn't an option (Student Finance only covers undergraduate degrees) and if I worked full-time, I wouldn't be able to carry out this research. 

The Masters by Research will allow me to investigate language, accent and dialect change in the York area. Not only will this project hopefully uncover some fascinating data, but it will also help me take the next step to my ultimate goal of working as a linguist and researcher in the sub-field of sociolinguistics, i.e. the study of language in society. I am so enthusiastic about this research and I really want to find a way to make it happen; hence, this campaign!

So, What's the project about?

This project is research-based and at the end of the project, I'll complete a 20,000 - 25,000 word dissertation/thesis. I think it's a really interesting project and I hope you will too! Here's a condensed version of my research proposal:

The city of York is a hub for employment, education and recreation. During the tourist season, it attracts people from across the globe. It's a busy place: there are students arriving and departing from university, people commuting to and from the city, and tourists travelling to spend time in the historic city. As you can imagine, with such a diverse and fluid population, there is a lot of language and dialect contact. 

A view of York Minster (The copyright on this image is owned by Lisa Jarvis 

and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license).

When people with different varieties (the term "variety" is an umbrella word that covers forms of a language such as accent and dialect) interact, this can result in language change as a result of dialect mixing

What kind of change, you ask? 

Dialect levelling, which is when dialects lose some of their distinctive regional features, is one change that commonly happens. Geographical diffusion, when changes spread from one area to another, is also frequent. And these changes can often be linked to social changes, e.g. urbanisation, globalisation and increasing mobility.

York itself has been the focus of many linguistic investigations into the varieties spoken there, so my project is going to do something different: I'm going to investigate whether commuting influences language change. There are many small towns and rural villages near York, which are linked to the city as commuters flow from rural to urban (and vice versa at the end of their working day).

One of the questions that is ripe for research in this area of the UK is the effect of linguistic interactions between urban and rural dwellers, brought about by commuting.

If we look at some data from the Office for National Statistics, in 2011 a total of eleven million, two hundred and sixty thousand, three hundred and thirty-six people commuted to work from one local authority area to another.

That's a massive amount of people moving in a kind of temporary migration every day – and it involves a lot of language contact! In York alone, around 25,734 people commute inwards to the city.

Language doesn't stand still! By undertaking this project, I aim to provide a unique and original insight into the dialect landscape of North Yorkshire and to contribute to our understanding of the impact of commuting and mobility on language varieties, dialects and accents.

Why is this project important, and what impact will your pledges have?

- This project will help us understand how our urbanised society affects the language we speak and hear around us

- It's not just a case of looking at the dialect and accents of a particular area, it's looking at the changes that are brought about because of commuting and using census data alongside linguistic analysis.

- Two reasons (they're big reasons!) why sociolinguistics is important:

  • It documents language varieties at a certain point in time. This provides a record of accents and dialects, which will then be available for future generations.

  • It sheds light on the effects of society (e.g. urbanisation, human geography, social class...) on language use and language change.

- Your pledges will make it possible for me to carry out this exciting new research! All your pledges will go directly to the project.

- As part of the project, I'll write a regular newsletter with my latest findings and update you with the progress of my research.

Where will the money go?

- If I hit my minimum of £500, it will go to the university to cover the first instalment of fees. Hubbub works on an all-or-nothing principle, so I have to hit the minimum before any money actually goes to the university, and the minimum has to be reached for pledges to become donations.

- If the incredible happens and I hit the full target, it will cover all the fees (£4052) for my project. 

- In short, the money, if raised, goes directly to the university. Term starts in October, so I have less than two months to raise project funds.

- Other project creators sometimes ask for donations for living expenses while they're working on their projects. However, this is not something that I'd feel comfortable doing; I will be working throughout my MA to cover my living costs. 

Total course fees (for the two-year, part-time MRes): £4052

Any additional funds raised will go towards PayPal and Stripe processing fees for donations received: ~£145

Total: £4197


- If you pledge and I reach my minimum target, I have some fun rewards to say a special thank you for your generosity. Check them out -- they're listed on the right-hand side of the page.

- If the project is successful and reaches the minimum target, you'll receive your rewards after this campaign finishes (with the exception of my Masters thesis -- I'll have to send that later as it obviously hasn't been written yet!)

  Where can i find out more?

  - If you'd like to know more about me, the university's graduate Press Office recently interviewed me about my undergraduate experience at York. 

  - As part of my final undergraduate year, I carried out a small research project in the North York Moors. After the project was complete, I wrote an article for Unravel (an online linguistics magazine designed for people who don't need to have prior knowledge of linguistics), reflecting on the project and sociolinguistics in general. You can read it here: Diary of a Student Sociolinguist.

 - Follow me on Facebook and Twitter to find out how I'm doing, ask any questions you might have and to get regular updates on my fundraising campaign. I'll also post updates here on my Hubbub campaign page.

 - You can find out more about sociolinguistics by reading this excellent and very readable piece by the well-respected linguist, Walt Wolfram.

Please help mE succeed!

- You don't need to give money to help this project succeed (although it would be very much appreciated!) If you can't pledge, please share a link to my project with anyone you think would support me – on Twitter (use the hashtag #curiouslinguist), Facebook, LinkedIn, by email, telephone, in a chat over the fence, or on your blog.

- Please sponsor me and help make this project happen! Thank you -- your help means a lot!