One of the great things about working in academia is the opportunity for international travel. Mostly, this is just to attend conferences, either to present your work or (increasingly less often) just to see what is going on in your field. Meeting people face-to-face, even in the age of FaceTime, Skype, and Google Hangouts, is invaluable and you can just get so much more done whilst sitting together and talking than you can by other means.
Occasionally, we get to travel for reasons other than conferences (but usually because of contacts made at them), and I’ve just come back from one such international trip where I taught a compressed course on language mapping at the University of Kentucky. I was invited by Dr Jennifer Cramer, from the Linguistics programme, with whom I’m also editing a book on perceptual dialectology, due out in Spring next year.
The course stemmed from my use of electronic mapping and GIS in my research on non-linguists’ perceptions of the dialect landscape, and was aimed at any students who wanted to find out more about the technology. Students were taught to use a number of tools to map language variation in the state of Kentucky, and produced over 240 maps between them over the course of the week. If you’re interested in learning more, I’ve posted the materials on my website and you can access them here.
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As well as teaching the fantastic students on the Linguistics programme (as well as others from political science, computer science, and elsewhere) about spatial variation in language and how to map it, I also gave a public lecture and research seminar, met with Faculty members and other staff, and generally had a wonderful time talking about common research interests with staff and students.
The life of an academic is often more stressful than many people imagine, but one of the wonderful things about our jobs is that we get to teach and research things we’re fascinated by, and get the opportunity to visit great places that help us to think about things in new ways.
Interested in dialect and how it is perceived? You can not only check out Chris’ lecture notes here, but you can also watch a video on dialect stigma from our blog post ‘This is what articulate sounds like’ from last week.