Achieving candidacy is an important milestone in the progress towards earning a PhD, and two of our graduate students have reached this milestone over the past year. Batia Snir and Hayley Heaton both completed outstanding QRP's, and only a dissertation now stands between them and the PhD. Congratulations to both Batia and Hayley! The titles and abstracts of their QRP's are given below.
Modified Proper Names and the Structure of the Individual (Batia Snir)
Though much work has been given to defining the exact nature of the proper name, most semantic theories assume some atomic element in the domain corresponding to the unique referent of the name (cf. Matushansky 2004; Izumi 2012). However, the appearance of proper names in restrictive attributive constructions, such as drunk Joan or the Jewish Saul show that further division of this "atomic" individual is possible. Whereas previous accounts for these data have relied on spatiotemporal divisions, I introduce a new subclass of examples using inherent properties that suggest that a more complex notion of the individual fractured along property or persona lines, is necessary.
Case Closed?: Authenticity in Media Portrayals of Southern Dialects in The Closer and CSI: Miami (Hayley Heaton)
Authenticity has shifted from a static to a dynamic sociolinguistic construct in recent years. With this shift has come a plethora of studies of authenticity through discourse. The sociophonetic analysis presented here offers a quantitative approach to authenticity to supplement qualitative discourse studies. Blommaert and Varis (2011) introduce quantification by asserting that a key role in authenticity is “enoughness,” when an individual uses enough “emblematic features” of a group to be considered an authentic member. The present study complements the idea of enoughness by examining its opposite: too much. Instead of looking at the effect of having enough features, I examine a case in which there may be too much variation.
To do this, I focus on the Southern accents of two Southern television characters: Brenda Johnson (The Closer) and Calleigh Duquesne (CSI: Miami). Informal surveys of fans reveal polarized feelings towards the authenticity of Brenda's Southern dialect. While some approve of the dialect, others express strong opinions of inauthenticity. This project explores the source of some of these polarized responses. I explore differences between Brenda and Calleigh's performed accents through an acoustic analysis of their vowels and an impressionistic study of Brenda's style-shifting.
Looking across multiple seasons, I propose three components in a model of authentication: exaggeration (highlighting the presence of a vernacular feature), unexpected features (features that are not part of the Southern dialect but are in the character's repertoire), and consistency (whether the characters speak similarly across seasons). Brenda has more exaggerated Southern features (both in frequency and degree of implementation), more unexpected features, and is equal or less consistent compared to Calleigh across multiple seasons. Brenda also shows evidence of style-shifting. This shifting could be taken as a feature meant to contribute positively to authentication, but the extremity of the shifts may, in fact, have a negative effect. Overall, characters must have enough variation, but not too much.