A self-described “word nerd,” Linguistics PhD candidate Alicia Stevers has always loved learning languages. While in college, for instance, she taught herself the International Phonetic Alphabet... just for fun.

Other unorthodox study habits also surfaced, particularly since Alicia was pursuing an undergraduate major in biology at the time: “I procrastinated studying for biochem tests by trying to teach myself Norwegian in my dorm room,” she recalls.

Eventually, however, Alicia received her Bachelor’s degree in biology from San Diego Christian College. Fast forward several years to a different college campus during recruitment week, a growing uneasiness, and an aha moment:

“I applied for a PhD program in immunology but had a panic attack at my campus visit because I realized it wasn’t for me,” says Alicia. “I knew I liked learning languages, though, so I applied for a linguistics Master’s program from my hotel room. I had never taken a linguistics class before, but I figured I’d like it more than biology.”

Her instincts proved accurate. After being accepted into the Linguistics Master’s program at San Diego State University, Alicia says she knew she had found the right field for her. She soon discovered a keen interest in understanding how the meaning of spoken and written discourse is related to its context. “I fell in love with discourse pragmatics, largely thanks to my MA advisor, Dr. Jeff Kaplan. I came to Michigan when I finished my Master’s two years later, and am so glad I trusted my instincts and took a chance.”

While attending the Linguistics Summer Institute at U-M in 2013, Alicia was impressed with what she learned about the Linguistics department and the University itself and applied for the PhD program.

Alicia is now in her fifth year at U-M and is currently working on her dissertation--a diachronic study, corpus analysis, and social meaning experiment on the discourse marker said (when used as a determiner) in English and dicho in Spanish. Her academic advisors are Linguistics Professors Marlyse Baptista and Ezra Keshet.

Among the highlights of her time at U-M, Alicia and her husband, Dan, welcomed their first son four years ago. The three recently moved home to San Diego to be near family, while Alicia writes her dissertation. A second highlight? Alicia and Dan welcomed their second son on March 1!

Looking ahead, Alicia says she loves teaching and hopes to one day teach at one of the many colleges and universities in San Diego. She also hopes to focus her future research on languages in the San Diego/Tijuana border region.