Dave Ogden grew up with parents who were “language people.” They lived in Germany for several years, his father even translated intercepted Soviet Russian communication in the army. A roommate during his first year of college, who was majoring in Linguistics, helped him realize that there was a field of study dedicated to what he had always been subliminally interested in. A seed of interest that was likely planted by his parents.

Dave was intending to major in Neuroscience before his roommate piqued his interest with Linguistics course materials. The following year he took his first Linguistics class. The subject matter, coupled with spectacular people, sealed the deal.

When deciding which graduate program to attend, Dave visited U-M Linguistics to get a better feel for the department, “it seemed like the department was ready and willing to accept someone whose interests are as broad as mine. The department works to be broad, multi-disciplinary, and interactive. I also sensed a collegiality among the faculty and graduate students that made me feel very comfortable. There’s very little competitiveness here.”

Dave is drawn to the real-world implications, and the possibility of improving lives, that research on multilingualism and language acquisition can provide. Beyond that, he sees his specific research interests as very broad, “I’m interested in experimental and large-scale data research that is socially informed. In terms of traditional domains, I study acquisition and multilingualism, especially the acquisition of linguistic categories and speech perception.”

Professor Pam Beddor’s introductory phonetics course reminded Dave of his love of sound, his term paper for that course became his QRP. That focus on sound, and the importance of social implications of accents, brought Dave to his current avenue, “lots of people in the department work in bilingualism and think deeply about the social situation of language as a cognitive process, and that helped me when I was searching for something that would help and appeal to non-linguists.”

Nick Ellis, Carmel O’Shannessy, and Pam Beddor have all advised and mentored Dave throughout his time at U-M. “Nick and I collaborated on a corpus research project analyzing the distributional and semantic characteristics of the verbs young children and parents use in verb-argument constructions. It was an excellent opportunity to get hands-on experience with data analysis and presenting at conferences. Carmel and Pam were my QRP readers, and I’ve worked with Carmel for two semesters now looking at the phonetics and phonology of Light Warlpiri, and how those compare to and interact with Light Warlpiri speakers’ English and Warlpiri phonology. It feels great to help document rare and fascinating languages and hopefully add to the community’s appreciation of their language. Pam is my dissertation committee chair, and has really encouraged me to find and pursue research that I care about. She’s been a phenomenal mentor and helped me through some really tough times. All three of them have given me a great deal of advice and direction navigating the PhD program. The hardest thing about a PhD, for me, is that I’m doing almost everything for the first time, and my advisors have understood that and helped me with their experience and perspective.”

U-M stands out because of the “extraordinarily caring and invested faculty. I have benefited from working and talking with many faculty members outside of classes and personal advising. At U-M, the department bureaucracy works extremely well. This comes from both the competence and commitment of the faculty and, from my perspective, their willingness to include students in the life of the department,” said Dave.

After U-M, Dave would ideally like to work in diversity training and development around issues of language in either industry or public sector. He’s also interested in companies that work in language teaching, translation, and data science. He has been the recipient of several fellowships and grants from the Rackham Graduate School and the Department of Linguistics.

Find out more about Dave and his research