[Colloquium] Open House Colloquium

The linguistic construction of "straight white boys"

on Tumblr and Twitter as social critique

 Kendra Calhoun

 In this talk I analyze how people on the social media platforms Tumblr and Twitter linguistically construct the “straight white boy” (SWB) as a distinctly undesirable white persona. Through text-based description and voicing of SWBs, social media users make critical commentary about social privilege based on race, gender, sexuality, class and other characteristics, and how the behavior of people who embody positions of privilege are perceived by and affect others. The SWB persona challenges ideologies that frame whiteness as unremarkable and characteristics associated with whiteness as necessarily socially desirable.


Tonogenesis in Northeastern Tibeto-Burman


Nathaniel A. Sims

 Tonogenesis is a topic of perennial interest in Sino-Tibetan linguistics. The phonetic origins of the tones of the many languages in the family, such as Tibetan (Huang 1995), Burmese (Nishi 1999), and Chinese (Sagart 1999) are relatively well understood. However, the phonetic origins of tone in many subgroups remains an open question. There has been a paucity of work describing the origins of tone in the so-called ‘Qiangic’ subgroup of Tibeto-Burman. Using evidence from Written Tibetan (7th century-present) and Old Burmese (12-16th centuries), I give an account of tonogenesis in three tonal subgroups: Rma and Prinmi, two modern subgroups, along with Tangut, a mediaeval Tibeto-Burman language (11th – 16th centuries) that is no longer spoken but well documented, including tone. Historically smooth syllables (i.e. open or with resonant codas) yielded high tones (1), whereas checked syllables (i.e. with obstruent codas) induced low-rising tones (2).


(1)        ‘hundred’

Rma tʂhi55

            Prinmi ʂi55

            Tangut  .jir 2.72 < *rja

            Written Tibetan བརྒྱ་ bgrya < *p-rja

            Old Burmese ရာ ryɑ̄


(2)        ‘eight’

            Rma tʂhe³³

            Prinmi ʂuɛ¹³

            Tangut  .jar 1.82 < *rjat

            Written Tibetan བརྒྱད་ brgyad < *p-rjat

            Old Burmese ဟေတ် rhyat (cf. Nishi 1999: 47)


While some have suggested that tone may have emerged in these groups through contact with Chinese alone, with no phonetic basis (Evans 2001), this study finds that tonogenesis in these groups parallels the processes typically found in other East Asian language groups (Haudricourt 1954).


Edgy prosody: Boundaries and pitch accent in Japanese 

Karen Tsai 

Constriction gestures at phrase boundaries are longer, larger and slower. Previous work on stress languages suggests that lexical prominence interacts with the scope of these effects, i.e., the stretch of speech affected. This Electromagnetic Articulography study uses kinematic data to examine the amount and scope of temporal phrase-final effects as a function of lexical pitch accent position in Japanese.