Graduate student Tamarae Hildebrandt grew up in the historic community of Faribault, Minnesota, with her parents and twin brother. She attended nearby Carleton College as an undergraduate, earning her B.A. degree in German and Linguistics in 2013.
In writing her undergraduate thesis (advised by UofM Linguistics alum Catherine Fortin (PhD ‘07) and Cherlon Ussery), Tamarae focused on the theoretical syntax of an unfamiliar language—in this case, Turkish—but over time, her linguistic interests broadened. She became interested in language acquisition and honed her practical skills while working with children.
“I was attracted to learning how we as humans acquire language and what are commonalities across languages,” she says.
Following graduation, Tamarae served as a literacy tutor for two different educational AmeriCorps programs in her hometown and in Washington, D.C. In these roles, she advised tutors on curriculum to help K-12 students achieve grade-level skills in reading and math.
Tamarae’s linguistic interests have continued to grow and evolve, particularly since she began the PhD program at the University of Michigan in the Fall 2015. Her research now includes psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics to inform her understanding of syntactic knowledge.
“In my research, I seek to understand how different kinds of online and offline measures connect to an individual’s knowledge of grammar, which in turn provides insights about language,” Tamarae explains. “Through the use of various experimental methodologies and the use of variable language (e.g., minoritized languages and dialects, graded sentence constructions, and prescriptive norms), I aim to assess the nature of the relationship between these online and offline measures to fully understand the nature of our experimental tools.”
Tamarae, who is advised by faculty members Jon Brennan, Acrisio Pires, Marlyse Baptista, and Julie Boland, says that she ultimately seeks to determine how best to use these tools to understand the underlying cognitive differences existing in variable and standardized language varieties.
One research highlight for Tamarae was presenting a plenary talk at the Minnesota Undergraduate Linguistics Symposium in April 2021.
Tamarae married Justin Craft in December of 2020. Outside of Linguistics, Tamarae learned to play Dungeons and Dragons with a group of friends during the pandemic, which became a welcome distraction and a great way to socialize.
She also enjoys traveling and has spent time in Iceland, Norway, and Australia, and says she hopes to continue exploring (post-pandemic): “I'd love to go anywhere that I haven't traveled before: Japan, anywhere in South America, or Portugal.”
Looking ahead, Tamarae was recently offered an internship with Michigan Publishing. She works as an assistant digital product designer for the Fulcrum platform and hopes to learn how the skills she obtained in the Linguistics PhD program can translate into a UX position. “I'm excited to see how that goes,” says Tamarae, “and if this type of job is something I would enjoy doing long term.”