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Theme Sessions

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM1. Phonetics, Phonology, Orthography
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM2. Our students’ writing: status, agency, and development
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM 3. Language & Technology
4. Language under special circumstances
NOTE: Sessions 3 and 4 are both scheduled to start at 11 am and unfold concurrently.
2:20 pm -3:20 pm5. Teaching a diverse student body
4:20 pm – 5:20 pm6. From inner speech to messaging the world

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Theme Session 1: Phonetics, Phonology, Orthography

Chair: Shoba Bandi-Rao (Borough of Manhattan Community College)

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9:00 AM – 9:20 AM

Francisco Montaño (Lehman College)

Consonant cluster licensing in early French ecclesiastic and intellectual loanwords: Phonological adaptation and innovation

Ecclesiastic and intellectual loanwords borrowed from Latin into Old (11-13c.) and Middle French (14-16c.) provide significant systemic insights into constraints on consonant clusters in French diachrony. During the Latin-French diglossia in religious and intellectual domains in Medieval and Renaissance France (Wright 1976, 1993; Chaurand 1999), Latin loanwords entering French undergo adaptation according to native phonological constraints and, in later Middle and Renaissance French, reveal critical divergences from native phonotactics. Whereas most earlier borrowings exhibit adaptation (ordine(m) > ordre ‘order’, diaconu(m) > diacre ‘deacon’, apostolu(m) > apostre > apôtre ‘apostle’), later Middle and Renaissance borrowings tolerate and preserve previously-illicit clusters, including word-internal sibilant- obstruent clusters (esclandre < scandalu(m) ‘scandal’, escommunier < excommunicare ‘excommunicate’, blasphème ‘blasphemy’ [Pope 1952] vs. native te < earlier feste ‘party’, âne < earlier asne ‘donkey’ [Gess 1999]).

Such innovative cluster licensing discriminates amongst different non-native sequences, demonstrating degrees of non-nativeness (Ito & Mester 2002). While word-internal sibilant- obstruent clusters are tolerated in Middle French loanwords like esclandre, word-initial sibilant- obstruent clusters remain unharmonic and adapt via prothesis (escl…), conforming to well- established generalizations regarding markedness (phonological complexity), with less marked adapting before more marked structures. Later, Renaissance French shows the innovative progression advanced to include even more highly-marked sequences, as word-initial sibilant- obstruent clusters (spirituel, special) become attested and gain traction in the lexicon (Pope 1952).

Alongside my phonological analysis, I claim the lexical diffusion and acquisition by French monolinguals of these loanwords ultimately led to the re-integration of previously illicit cluster types (Gess 1999; Hartkemeyer 2000; Passino 2013), a case of phonological restructuring. I cite the sociolinguistic dynamics between Latin-French bilinguals, the agents of lexical borrowing, and French monolinguals, whose motivation to emulate high-prestige Latinate speech patterns likely provided novel acquisitional input to subsequent generations of French monolinguals. Once re-analyzed as “native” and accommodated during acquisition, high- frequency loanwords would prompt learners to posit a new, qualitatively different phonological system for French.

9:20 AM – 9:40 AM

Jon Nissenbaum (Brooklyn College) & Qian Min Feng (Brooklyn College)

Modified Sinewave Speech and Pitch Perception: A Case Study With Cantonese Tone

Sine wave speech (SWS), which consists only of frequency-modulated sinusoids representing vocal tract formants, can elicit perception of words and sentences despite its sparse acoustic structure. For this reason SWS has proven useful as a tool for investigating the perceptual primitives of phonetic segments. However, SWS contains no information relevant for pitch perception, making it unsuitable for investigating prosody or tone languages. We describe a new method for creating SWS, modified to add a minimal but powerful cue for pitch, thereby expanding the range of phenomena that SWS is capable of probing to include tone/prosody. To achieve this, we discard the lowest sinusoid of the traditional SWS replica (representing the first formant, F1), and  replace it with a two-component “tone glide” formed by intersecting two upper harmonics (at any given timepoint) of a “missing fundamental” tone, with a narrow spectral envelope whose center frequency tracks F1. The envelope is wide enough at any timepoint for exactly two harmonics of an experimentally specified fundamental frequency (f0) contour. This method creates a perceived pitch effect without actually including any f0 component; the two-component tone replacing F1 creates simultaneous perception of harmonic direction and F1 direction. The physical stimulus is only minimally different from traditional SWS, consisting of four rather than three sinusoids at any time. We report an experiment showing that the modified SWS is sufficient to elicit perception of lexical tone in Cantonese, a language with 6 distinct tones that distinguish otherwise identical syllables. We synthesized words varying the implied f0, and embedded them in modified SWS carrier sentences in randomized order. Listeners were asked to identify which word they heard at the target syllable. We show that listeners successfully heard the implied f0 in identifying the target words. We conclude by describing implications and further extensions.

9:40 AM – 10:00 AM

Maria Elizabeth Garza (CUNY Graduate Center)

A supervised machine learning approach to Spanish diacritic restoration

A supervised machine-learning system was designed to restore diacritics to Spanish tokens like está/is that can be easily trained on any properly diacriticized text. This system could be used as a practical application to normalize Spanish text typed on devices that don’t easily have the means to restore diacritics. The most challenging part of Spanish diacritic restoration entails the disambiguation of mellizas, a term of art used in this presentation to describe tokens like esta/this-está/is that would look orthographically identical if they were spelled without diacritics. More specifically, mellizas are disambiguated by using Naïve Bayes classifiers trained on a small amount of labeled data, and by referring to a set of grammatical rules. In order to restore diacritics to invariantly diacriticized tokens like pañales/diapers, the system must perform a basic dictionary look-up in a dictionary built during the training phase, which contains entries of these token types that were extracted from the training data. Overall, the macro-averaged token accuracy for this system is 96.08%, with a relative error reduction of 14.24% over a baseline model which picks the most common class for each melliza. Error analysis reveals that while these classifiers are quite adept at disambiguating mellizas (accuracy=93.91%), surprisingly, the system struggles when it comes to restoring diacritics to
invariantly diacriticized tokens like pañales (accuracy=71.90%). In a system like this, restoring diacritics to these tokens will always be a challenge because it is impossible to build a dictionary during the training phase that is robust enough to account for all such tokens that may appear in the test set. To lessen the system’s dependence on this dictionary, we outline a proposal for the design of a new classifier that will focus mainly on the vowel features of invariantly diacriticized tokens.

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10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Theme Session 2: Our students’ writing: status, agency, and development

Chair: Megan Dunphy Gregoire (BMCC)

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10:00 AM – 10:20 AM

Saige Stortz (CUNY Graduate Center), Nicole Marie Amada (CUNY Graduate Center), Tanzina Ahmed (Kingsborough Community College) & Jacob Shane (Brooklyn College)

A Narrative Analysis of Youth’s Writing on Status and Opportunity in American Society

In an era of increasing inequality (OECD, 2015), it is important to understand how American youth communicate about the social, economic, and behavioral factors that affect their sense of socio-economic status (SES). Young peoples’ writing of SES may be affected by their sense of what factors determine SES in modern-day American (Heckhausen & Shane, 2015) as well as their sense of whether they are doing relatively better or worse than others (Smith, Pettigrew, Pippin & Bialosiewicz, 2012). To explore this topic, we present findings from an experimental-qualitative study on how 278 ethnically and socioeconomically diverse university students wrote about SES, opportunities and outcomes in American society. Participants were randomly assigned to an upward comparison condition, where they compared their life to someone who had a higher SES, or a downward comparison condition, where they compared their life to someone who had a lower SES. We used narrative values analysis to examine how students’ writing of socioeconomic status and opportunity differed across upward versus downward comparison conditions. Our findings suggest that when writing of socioeconomic status and opportunity, young people were most likely to refer to academic experiences, family interactions, and financial affordances. Participants in the upward-comparison condition were more likely to acknowledge their relative lack of privilege by stressing how their education and family status may afforded them fewer opportunities to succeed. Meanwhile, participants in the downward-comparison condition were more likely to emphasize the role that more controllable mental factors (such as internal traits and motivations) play in determining their status and giving them opportunities to succeed. Ultimately, young people flexibly and adaptively wrote about socioeconomic status differences by emphasizing positive over negative implications for themselves; they also often reframed the determinants of status to make themselves feel more comfortable with being of higher or lower status than others.

10:20 AM – 10:40 AM

Tanzina Ahmed (Kingsborough Community College)

Writing Your Story: Genres as Tools for Communication and Development in Community College

Although community colleges are important entry points into higher education for ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse American students, few studies have focused on how these students engage with different genres — the shifting expressive structures they draw upon when writing for diverse purposes and audiences (Berkenkotter & Huckin, 1995; Miller, 1984; Tardy, 2016). Students can draw upon both classroom and narrative genres to integrate their past and developing knowledge and skills, to communicate with important partners, and to achieve important sociocultural goals (Bawarshii & Reiff, 2010; Bazerman, 1997; Devitt, 2008; Driscoll, Paszek, Gorzelsky, Hayes, & Jones, 2020; Paré, 2002). Yet community college students often come from underserved populations and their struggle to master writing within genres may impair their academic progress (Stout & Magnatto, 1998; Tinberg & Nadeau, 2010; VanOra, 2012; 2014). In this study, 104 ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse community college students reported on their experiences with classroom genres (such as essays and lab reports) and narrative genres (the Letter, Best Experience, and Worst Experience genres). We discovered that students often reported developing in their knowledge of and facility with classroom genres as they attended community college. Moreover, when students wrote across narrative genres, they reflected on college in varied ways in order to achieve differing sociocultural goals with distinct audiences. Minority students might derive a special benefit from narrating within the relational Letter genre, as that genre allows them to perform college for their close partners. Finally, students’ use of both classroom and narrative genres predicts their year-end GPA, implying that students’ facility with genres signals and even influences their academic success. These findings demonstrate the importance of allowing diverse community college students to write with multiple genres throughout their academic career. Ultimately, students can use genres as tools for both communication and personal development.

10:40 AM – 11:00 AM

Marcela Ossa Parra (Queens College)

Multilingual Novice Writers’ Agency in Constructing Their Textual Voices

This presentation focuses on an initial iteration of an action research study on content-integrated writing instruction in a Social Foundations of Education undergraduate course. This action research responds to the need for more classroom-based research examining pedagogical approaches for supporting multilingual students in gaining awareness and control over their textual voices (Canagarajah, 2015; Zacharias, 2020). The Engagement System (Martin & White, 2005) was used as a lens for analyzing how a multilingual student constructed her textual voice in her essays. This analysis revealed her agency and raised awareness of the relevance of recognizing the voices that students bring into the classroom. As other researchers propose, writing pedagogies for multilingual students should consider how they may be supported in negotiating the academic genres’ expectations and their voices (Canagarajah, 2015). This paper illustrates how the Engagement System may be used as a framework for unpacking students’ agency in constructing their voices. Instructional implications for how this framework may be used for elucidating the language features of the voices valued in academia and gaining a deeper understanding of students’ textual voices are proposed.

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11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Theme Session 3: Language & Technology

Chair: Alyse Keller (Kingsborough Community College)

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11:00 AM – 11:20 AM

Stefanie Reed (CUNY Graduate Center)

Correcting corrections: Solutions to language rights violations in jail and prison digital communication systems

Correspondence is a lifeline to the outside world for incarcerated individuals. Longitudinal studies examining correction outcomes show that inmates that maintain contact with loved ones exhibit improved mental health while serving their sentences and significantly lower recidivism rates after release, suggesting that these interactions contribute to making reintegration and rehabilitation more successful. With the advent of the internet, jails and prisons nationwide have been moving toward computer-mediated communication systems, such as email, rather than traditional handwritten letters. While the implementation of these technologies has lifted some of the burdens that using postage and couriers entails, these automated electronic messaging interfaces have excluded some of the inmate population from participating in the democratization of human interaction. Incarcerated individuals who are sent electronic messages in a language other than English likely see characters such as ��������� or “√ɬ° ¬ºk√ɬ∂r¬≥¬©p’” instead of what was intended by the sender. Due to the encoding and font settings of these messaging services, alphabets, alphasyllabaries, and writing systems with logographic components cannot be represented as text, therefore, many inmates, who are already racial and ethnic minorities in these establishments, are restricted from exercising the same privileges as their English-speaking peers. In this work, I examine the technical and linguistic aspects of text encoding in computer-mediated communication, its effects on inmate messaging systems, and the intersection of this phenomenon with the psycho-social and legal outcomes for individuals who are affected by these exclusionary practices. I will focus on the Who’s in Jail messaging service and propose an actionable strategy to diagnose and correct the errors to allow for multilingual correspondence in these settings.

11:20 AM – 11:40 AM

Deema Farraj (Brooklyn College) & Jonathan Nissenbaum (Brooklyn College)

Identifying Sex: Using Modified Sine Wave Speech to Test Listener Perception of Voices

Listeners have little difficulty identifying the sex of speakers’ voices, but how this happens remains poorly understood. Adult male and female voices differ in two prominent ways: fundamental frequency (f0) and formant frequencies (due to vocal fold size and vocal tract length, respectively.) Because these two properties ordinarily occur together in the same individual, it is unknown whether either one would have an effect independently of the other in listeners’ ability to identify the sex of a speaker. If either of these features were neutralized, would the other influence sex identification on its own? We report two experiments that neutralize f0 and formants (independently) to determine whether listeners make use of either feature in isolation in their perception of speaker sex. Listeners were presented with synthesized speech where either f0 or formant ranges varied, and judged whether the token sounded ‘more male’ or ‘more female’. In one experiment, listeners heard a set of stimuli with ‘ambiguous’ formants in between the typical male and female ranges. The f0 contours, however, varied in nine steps from the male (85-120 Hz) to the female range (170 to 240 Hz.) In the second experiment, the f0 was kept in a constant, ambiguous region, between male and female ranges, while formants varied in 9 steps. The stimuli were synthesized using a modified protocol for Sinewave Speech that adds a perceptual cue for pitch. The results of experiment 1 indicated that when formants were kept constant, lower f0 values resulted in clear judgements that the voice was ‘male’ while higher values resulted in judgements of ‘female’. When f0 was neutralized (experiment 2), judgments of speaker sex partially correlated with formant ranges. These results suggest that pitch has a stronger influence than formant frequencies on judgments of speaker sex, but that formants also play a role.

11:40 AM – 12:00 PM

Deniz Gokcora (Borough of Manhattan Community College), Ann Gold (New York University) & Melissa Sabal (Borough of Manhattan Community College)

Genderlect Discussion Based on TV Commercials and Text Message Emojis

Based on D. Tannen’s work on Gender and Discourse, two studies discuss genderlect in two different contexts. The first study investigates the gendered language in the media- TV commercials. In this small study, one commercial featured only female, the second one only male, and the third one features both genders. The all-male commercial revealed evidence of socialization of boys to have a group leader rather than building ‘rapport’. All female commercial related to sensitivity. Evidence provided from a variety of commercials revealed that scripts for women are often portray ‘feminine’ characteristic, while the scripts for men often include linguistic freedom and dominance. The second analysis focuses on emojis used in several text messages used by African American men and women. The analysis of emojis revealed that contrary to the common belief, men are as capable and willing to express their emotions as women, using text messages and emojis. Tannen, D. (1994). Gender and discourse. Oxford University Press.

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11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Theme Session 4: Language under special circumstances

Chair: Lili Shi (Kingsborough Community College)

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11:00 AM – 11:20 AM

Cristina Diaz (Borough of Manhattan Community College), Kylie Lance (Hunter College), Chloe Friedman (Borough of Manhattan Community College) & Maureen Matarese (Borough of Manhattan Community College)

The Linguistic Landscape of Covid-19 Mask-Wearing Responsibility in New York City

In December 2019 a new coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China and by Spring 2020 New York became the epicenter for the SARS-CoV-2. Better known as COVID-19, by late October 2020, 494,874 total cases had been reported in NYC and 22,022 people had died (NY Times, 22/10/2020). As the city began to awake again, owners placed signs on doors and windows to enforce New York State mandated mask law. This study uses a linguistic landscape approach (Landry & Bourhis, 1997; Shohamy & Gorter, 2009) to examine the complex interplay between constructions of responsibility and risk in storefront signage across New York City. Beginning September 2020, photographic data was collected from signage in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx. Machin and Mayr’s (2012) Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis and a modified SPEAKING model is used to analyze the data. Currently under detailed linguistic analysis, our brief findings suggest COVID Cultural Symbols hold great semiotic meaning, including blue masks, 6ft signs/arrows and the colors purple and yellow. While some signs are merely educational and other prohibitive, some are combinations of the two, and what counts as educational can range from explicitly pedagogical to modeling mask wearing behavior. Unofficial signs range from printed signs with graphics and fonts to handwritten signs, which may indicate class/access differences or the urgency of sign use. Through the signs you can observe the owner’s beliefs on COVID, including their beliefs on the severity of the virus. The presentation concludes by theorizing the positionally of these signs vis-à-vis research on institutional interaction. COVID-19 mask signage, generally encountered prior to entering the stores and shops, exist in a liminal, hybrid space between institutional interaction and the everyday, as the language is presented by the institution as a prerequisite for institutional engagement and the intended recipient needs to opt-in to the responsibilities in order to participate in institutional interaction.

11:20 AM – 11:40 AM

Julia M. Morris (Kingsborough Community College)

Languages of Loneliness: The Creative Construction of Self and World Inside Oral Narratives and Participation Tales for Children

The emotional state of loneliness has the potential to be an essential creative force in our lives. Nevertheless, unwanted solitude is disparaged and feared in our culture. Certainly, in this past year of social isolation due to the COVID pandemic, we have all become acquainted, in different ways, with this solitary sphere — and it has not been an easy journey. But what might temporary loneliness teach us about communication and language? Might there be new forms of artistic and performative expression that come to the fore when the soul is in desperate need of the companionship of others?  

This study explores the multiple modes of communication that live inside the oral narratives and children’s tales in which Loneliness plays a central role. The isolated orphan or banished outsider lost within the wilds of narrative creatively ‘makes’ and enriches her emergent world using the tools of speech, bodily communication, and imaginative language. Utilizing such modalities as lyrical storytelling and dramatic play, inventive companions and elaborate landscapes are constructed which succeed in soothing and expanding the child’s psyche. Loneliness — and specifically, ‘Childhood Loneliness’– has much to teach us about about the ways in which we might move beyond our suffering and express ourselves differently.  

Employing an interdisciplinary approach, this study combines the fields of child psychology, social-linguistics, and play-based philosophies. Within the sphere of Story, the folkloric oral tradition is highlighted because of the artform’s ability to foster direct and interactive linguistic audience responses. Further areas of focus are the role of the adult ‘language expert’ in solitary geographies and the transitional object as a vital compass for communication.

11:40 AM – 12:00 PM

Ho Yan Wong (Kingsborough Community College), Saniah William (Kingsborough Community College), Destiny Rivera (Kingsborough Community College), Amadella Clarke (Kingsborough Community College), Talha Naves (Kingsborough Community College), Tanzina Ahmed (Kingsborough Community College), Glenda Ullauri (Kingsborough Community College), & Rositsa T. Ilieva (School of Professional Studies)

Combating Silence and Starting Conversation about Food Insecurity at Kingsborough Community College

In recent years, food insecurity (i.e., people’s inability to access healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food on a regular basis) in higher education has become a topic of growing concern. Community college students may be especially vulnerable to food insecurity and their struggles may be linked to difficulties with their health, GPA, and college retention (Goldrick-Rab, Baker-Smith, Coca, Looker, & Williams, 2019; Freudenberg, Watnick, Jones, & Lamerson, 2018). In response, institutions such as Kingsborough Community College have created a wide range of campus-based food programs meant to support students’ health and wellbeing. However, students often forgo using these programs due to their lack of knowledge or experience of shame in using these programs (Ilieva, Ahmed, & Yan, 2018). Thus, these programs are often underutilized by students. In the Fall 2019 semester, our team of Kingsborough students, faculty, and staff members created a food security program meant to combat stigma and silence regarding food insecurity experiences and support systems within our college. Through a combination of written brochures, in-class presentations, on-the-spot program interventions, and a research- and gaming- panel during our campus’ annual Food Day conference, we spoke out about food insecurity in order to bolster students’ understanding of this issue on our campus. Drawing from our personal experiences and the development of our student-led food security club, as well as students’ written and survey-based responses to our Food Day panel, we describe how our work led to more critical analysis of and conversations regarding food justice within our institution. Our work demonstrates the importance of communicating a combination of personal experiences, research-based realities, and program knowledge directly to students affected by food insecurity. Our results also demonstrate how such a form of communication may serve the whole student community by developing new venues for student activism.

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2:20 PM – 3:20 PM

Theme Session 5: Teaching a diverse student body

Chair: Marcela Ossa Parra (Queens College)

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2:20 PM – 2:40 PM

Tomonori Nagano (LaGuardia Community College)

Demographics of Heritage Language Speakers in the U.S. and Implications for Community Colleges

Heritage language (HL) speakers are those who have acquired a minority language at home and whose primary language has shifted from the minority (home) language to the majority language (English in the U.S.) through schooling and other social contact. In this talk, I first present regional and chronological changes in the demographics of HL speakers in the U.S. between 1980 and 2010 using the U.S. Census data. The census data show that the number of HL speakers grew at a considerably faster rate (26.98% per decade) than the average growth of the U.S. population (10.88% per decade). However, the growth rates differ radically from state to state and from language to language. In some states and for some languages, there was even a decline in the number of HL speakers during the same time period. For example, while HL speakers of new immigrant languages (such as Arabic, Hindi, and Vietnamese) experienced substantial growth between 1980-2010, HL speakers of former immigrant languages such as French, German, and Italian saw rapid declines. These differences by region and language suggest that social contexts for individual HL speakers are rather complex and should not be assumed similar each other. The second part of the talk presents data on HL speakers at community colleges. The increase in HL students in higher education is particularly noticeable at community colleges, which are more likely to accommodate immigrants and children of immigrants. According to the survey-based national study that I conducted in 2015, as many as 42% of community college students in modern language classrooms are identified as HL speakers. The survey data indicate, however, nearly 50% of HL speakers are not actively seeking to maintain their HL through modern language classes. I will present some possible reasons.

2:40 PM – 3:00 PM

Stacey Cooper (Hostos Community College)

Going From Deficit to Asset: How Ethnic Minority Immigrant College Students Reframe their Learning Identities via Counternarratives

This presentation examines how a group of ethnic minority immigrant students employ linguistic resources to make sense of their experiences as first- and second-generation immigrants and as first-generation college students. Much of the research on Black and Latino first-generation college students, in particular research about English learners takes a deficit orientation, focusing on the resources that immigrant households lack rather than those they possess. This creates a singular story that casts immigrants as having inadequate home socialization, limited intelligence and lack of desire to pursue higher education. In contrast, the students in this study utilize digital storytelling via images, drawings and, written and oral narratives to construct learning identities and cultural funds of knowledge to counteract negative societal perceptions, and reframe their lived experiences as an asset rather than a deficit. This presentation will discuss how the classroom can become a space for fostering asset-based learning and identity development and will focus on three central themes: recognition, validation and agency. The findings from this study suggest broader implications for research in higher education and related fields.

3:00 PM – 3:20 PM

Cheryl Comeau-Kirschner (Borough of Manhattan Community College) & Jed Shahar (Queensborough Community College)

A Developmental Writing Experiment: Mixing ELL and NES Student Writers

This paper discusses a collaborative writing intervention in one CUNY community college that examined the effectiveness of mixing of English language learners (ELL) and native English speakers (NES) in advanced-level developmental writing courses. We describe the curriculum and the intervention, which included a translingual approach and promising practices in developmental education. Reflections on the collaboration and the outcomes for the students are paired with a quantitative analysis, allowing each of these tools to inform the other, as well as an opportunity to consider the limits of single-measure analysis of students and programs. The instructors found the mixing of ELL and NES fostered a more collaborative, less segregated classroom with student work and language development progressing more than in non-mixed classes. A statistical analysis confirmed these impressions, showing that in the writing classes, statistically significant differences in pass rates between the ELL and NES population disappeared during the program, with ELLs showing significant improvement in the writing pass rate. Furthermore, there was no corresponding drop in NES performance and a correlation was found in the writing data between adjusted placement score and exit score, suggesting a relatively predictable outcome for this intervention. The experiment influenced several changes in departmental and instructor practices that are laid out in the conclusion.

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4:20 PM – 5:20 PM

Theme Session 6: From inner speech to messaging the world

Chair: Poppy Slocum (LaGuardia Community College)

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4:20 PM – 4:40 PM

Jeremy E. Sawyer (Kingsborough Community College)

Can private speech reduce egocentrism? Evidence for perspective taking in preschoolers’ self-talk

Vygotsky (1934) famously critiqued Piaget’s interpretation of children’s ‘egocentric speech’. Piaget had proposed that children’s egocentric monologues, spoken aloud seemingly to nobody, reflected “autistic” asocial cognition, and faded over time as fully socialized speech replaced egocentric speech. Vygotsky countered that children’s speech is thoroughly social from the beginning but passes through a phase of self-directed (‘egocentric’) speech used for cognitive purposes before becoming internalized as inner speech, or verbal thinking. Decades after Vygotsky’s death, Piaget (1962) made the rather stunning admission that Vygotsky was entirely correct about the social origins, cognitive functions, and developmental arc of egocentric speech. This audible self-talk is better known today as private speech, due to widespread acceptance of Vygotsky’s critique. However, Piaget also criticized Vygotsky’s work as having little relevance to the important phenomenon of egocentrism itself — young children’s inability to differentiate and shift cognitive perspectives. In this presentation, I argue that while Vygotsky did not directly egocentrism directly, recent neo-Vygotskian work on private speech opens possibilities for engaging productively with egocentrism from a Vygotskian framework. While classic Piagetian theory precludes the possibility of perspective taking in egocentric speech, I contend that from a neo-Vygotskian vantage private speech is more likely to promote perspective-taking and the reduction of egocentrism. I conducted an empirical study that explored emergent forms of perspective taking in the private speech used by 47 preschoolers while solving puzzles and playing a fishing game. The preschoolers demonstrated substantial perspective taking within their private speech, with approximately 17% of all utterances indicating a shift in perspective. These changes in perspective occurred via questions that children posed to themselves (and often answered) and playful modes of private speech. Results suggest that, rather than a remnant of egocentrism, private speech may be a cultural tool through which children creatively engage multiple perspectives in their everyday activity.

4:40 PM – 5:00 PM

Gabriella Morvay (Borough of Manhattan Community College)

Spanish-English T-shirt inscriptions: The humor and stereotypes in bilingual puns and wordplays

Putting various messages, company slogans and clichés (e.g. Keep calm and carry on; Just Do It etc.) on commercial items such as mugs, tote bags and clothing items, makes a lot of sense in the marketing world. Putting a twist on these messages to create humor is even a bigger seller (e.g. Now panic and freak out; Just Do It Later etc.). In the ever-growing Latino community in the US, some clever businesses have discovered the potential of a vast market for bilingual, Spanish-English merchandise. The most obvious item that can integrate into the transient linguistic landscape of any American city is Americans’ wardrobe staple, the printed T-shirt. This presentation attempts to analyze and categorize T-shirt inscriptions containing bilingual puns, and other forms of wordplay according to the interplay between intertextuality and humor. According to Lamarre (2014) “bilingual winks and bilingual wordplay are humorous transgressions, examples of one language sneaking or crossing over into the domain of another” (p. 137). Bilingual puns are defined as puns created by a word or a phrase in one language sounding similar to a different word or phrase in another language. Catching a bilingual pun or wordplay requires a recognition that language has been played with, that there has been a messing around with things, and perhaps more than just language. When interpreting a humorous inscription, recipients evoke a specific script, namely certain previous experiences and knowledge of the world to make sense of the humorous material at hand. In the case of bilingual puns, those who lack the linguistic/cultural skills will inevitably miss the humor, and as Kuipers (2009) reminds us, this linguistic and cultural knowledge may be unevenly distributed among interlocutors, or in this case T-shirt wearers and the recipients, or the audience.

5:00 PM – 5:20 PM

Kenneth J. Yin (LaGuardia Community College)

Communicative and Cultural Aspects of the Dungan Folk Narrative Tradition of Central Asia

A Central Asian ethnic minority descended from the Hui of China, the Dungans have developed a rich oral tradition since their first migration to the Russian Empire following the suppression of the Dungan Revolt (1862-1877) under the Qing dynasty. This presentation first examines some of the salient features of traditional Dungan storytelling as a communicative medium. It then proceeds to discuss the cultural aspects of Dungan folk stories based on the findings of an in-depth structural and comparative analysis of Dungan oral narratives published in 1977 by a team of leading Soviet scholars comprising Russian sinologist Boris Riftin, Dungan writer and literary scholar Makhmud Khasanov, and Dungan historian Il′ias Iusupov.

While contributing to Dungan vernacular literature, Dungan storytellers have always served an important communicative function by conveying culture and knowledge in an uncomplicated and entertaining way. In addition to the verbal repertoire, the Dungan storyteller communicates through body language taking the form of hand gestures, body movements, movements of the legs, and face expressions — all of which appear to play a crucial role in supporting the storyteller’s mnemonic skill. 

The analysis of the Dungan folk narratives identifies general features regarding tale typology, origins, narrative time, physical landscape, common character-types, individual motifs, plots, and color and number symbolism. The tale types analyzed include wonder tales, animal tales, novelistic tales, folk anecdotes, adventure stories, legends, historical tales, and colloquial narratives. The study indicates that Dungan folk stories are deeply rooted in Chinese storytelling traditions but also exhibit substantial Middle Eastern, East Asian, and Central Asian influence. Under the title Dungan Folktales and Legends, detailed findings of the study and the full texts of seventy-eight folk narratives, with annotations, will be available in July 2021 in an English-language volume (see https://www.peterlang.com/view/title/74364).

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