Specific questions about sociophonology can best be answered by a variety of methods. I use a diverse range of methodology, to best answer the theoretical questions I'm investigating -- this includes large scale corpus data, ethnographic research, experimental methods, and computational simulations.

Corpus Work

Large corpora of sound files is, for me, one of the most exciting aspects of being a sociophonologist today. Big data sets allow us to identify broad patterns of change across communities over time, and ask more nuanced questions about sound change and variation. Identifying the broad dialect-specific patterns of variation and change also provides a critical backdrop for fine-grained investigations into how language variation contributes to social meaning. In my corpus work, I've made use of existing corpora (like ONZE and the PNC), as well constructed a new large-scale corpus (IHELP).

  • Betsy Sneller. 2018. Mechanisms of Phonological Change. PhD Thesis, University of Pennsylvania. [read]
  • William Labov, Sabriya Fisher, Duna Gylfadottir, Anita Henderson and Betsy Sneller. 2016. Competing Systems in Philadelphia phonology. Language Variation and Change 28(3): 273--305. [pdf]
  • Sabriya Fisher, Hilary Prichard and Betsy Sneller. 2015. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree: Incremental change in Philadelphia families. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 21.2. [pdf]
  • Betsy Sneller and Sabriya Fisher. 2015. When GET got noticed: The emerging salience of GET-passives. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 20.1. [pdf]

Ethnographic Research

Language is a highly complex social behavior. This means that an important part of understanding language variation means also understanding how real people actually use language, and how their language variation interacts with, informs, and contributes to localized social meaning. In my ethnographic sociolinguistic research, I seek to identify not only what speakers produce, but also how their linguistic production fits into the norms and social meaning of their own local community.

  • Betsy Sneller. (Under Revision) Phonological rule spreading across hostile lines: (TH)-fronting in Grays Ferry.
  • Betsy Sneller. Antagonistic contact and inverse affiliation: Appropriation of (TH)-fronting by White speakers in Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 20.2. [pdf]

Laboratory Experiments

Researching natural language, both in large-scale corpora work and in ethnographic community-based work, gives rise to hypotheses about how language variation and change actually works that may not be readily testable using ethnographic or corpus methods. This is where linguistic experiments come in! My work with artificial language games has enabled me to test hypotheses of language learning, dialect contact, and signalling convergence that would otherwise be impossible to test in real world situations.

  • Betsy Sneller and Gareth Roberts. 2018. Why some behaviors spread while others don't: A laboratory simulation of dialect contact. Cognition 170: 289--311. [pdf]
  • Betsy Sneller and Gareth Roberts. 2016. Alien species and alienable traits: An artificial language game investigating the spread of cultural variants between antagonistic groups. In Papafragou, A., Grodner, D., Mirman, D., and Trueswell, J.C. (Eds.). Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.