Language and Societies abstracts, vol. 3 (Spring 2011)

The links below lead to abstracts of papers from the 2011 edition of my course, Language and Societies, posted at the course blog of the same name. The authors are junior scholars at Wayne State University, including both undergraduate and graduate students. Comments and questions are extremely welcome, especially at the critical juncture over the next week, when the authors will be making final revisions to their papers.

Marius Sidau
A Linguistic Approach to the Authorship of the Book of Mormon

Brent Collins III
An investigation of contributing factors that lead to social fragmentation between Black-Americans, Africans, Caribbeans and West Indians

Jean Calkins
African American Vernacular English in the Classroom

The cultural and linguistic relevance of naming practices

Isra El-beshir
Women’s Language and its Legal Implications

Ashley Phifer
Eskimo or Inuit: What ethnonym do museums use in displaying art and material culture?

Lauren Schleicher
Physicians’ use of persuasive techniques as a verbal tool to increase colorectal cancer screening adherence

Jennifer Meyer
The Antonine Plague: A Linguistic Analysis

Molly Hilton
Thick: Social Censorship in an Empathetic Online Community

Daniel Harrison
From sauvage to salvage: a quantitative analysis of European-Algonkian vocabularies from contact to the mid-19th century

E.J. Stone
The Power of Rumor: Blood Libel in the Modern World

Amy C. Krull
From Grits to Corn Chips: An Invention of Tradition

Zein Kalaj
The historical, linguistic, and social stigma of leadership titles

Sofía Syntaxx
Live by the drum: exploring linguistic expressions of pan-Indian ethnic identity in contemporary indigenous music

Rachel Doyle
Gesture: An Integral Component of Language Acquisition and Learning

Krystal Athena Hubbard
Rice and Gullah: Linguistic Resistance and Economic Growth on Antebellum South Carolina Rice Plantations

Summar Saad
The Changing Linguistics of the Organic Food Market

Yasmin Habib
Code-switching among Arab-American speakers


Slightly less interesting than numerals

Fiona Jordan, an evolutionary anthropologist who does some fascinating work on numerals and numeral classifiers, has blogged about some of her research on an only slightly less interesting topic: The Contextual Vulva.

Howarth, Sommer, and Jordan (2010) compared three genres of images (medical illustrations, feminist publications, and internet pornography) to investigate differences in the visual representation of female genitalia (PDF available here). They found significant differences between the three sets of measurements (e.g. in the size of labial protuberance), and further showed that of the three, the porn showed much less overall variability than the other two. While I think it is impossible to write about this topic without a chuckle (Fiona’s report of her request to her IT people to have access to porn sites at work is highly amusing!), this is serious stuff insofar as it suggests ways in which our perception of bodies, particularly female bodies, is influenced by skewed representations of actual morphological variability, and as a contributing factor to social constructions of what constitutes ‘normal’.

Howarth, H., Sommer, V. and Jordan, F.M. 2010. Visual depictions of female genitalia differ depending on source. Medical Humanities 36: 75-79.