Faculty and graduate students in the Department pursue a variety of language and culture-related research topics.

Faculty research includes general and applied linguistics, language documentation, typological/ areal linguistics, empirical & experimental linguistics, heritage and minority language maintenance in Canada and abroad, language teaching and language acquisition, second/ additional/ foreign/ child language acquisition, sociolinguistics, tense & aspect, phonetics, phonology, language and culture interactions, discourse analysis and pragmatics, corpus linguistics, morphology, syntax, and computational linguistics.

Our recent research studies have focused on the Chicham language family, Chinese and Russian languages in Canada, Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), corpus linguistics, dictionary design & lexicography, documentation of Media Lengua, English as an academic lingua franca (EALF), fieldwork methodologies, German morphology, grammar of Inuktitut, grammaticalization, language contact and areal typology, language teaching methodologies, maintenance of Ukrainian, online language tools, phonetics and phonology of language contact, Quichua and Spanish dialects, response processing, and the Russian language of Canadian Doukhobors.

Graduate and Honours students undertake analysis of languages spoken or signed across the globe and closer to home in Saskatchewan and Canada. Recent topics dealt with L2 production, computational approaches to vocabulary list design, discourse analysis of texts describing depression, Doukhobor language and culture, extracurricular activities in university language classes, gender representation, intonation, language attitudes and ethnic identity of Iranian immigrants in Saskatchewan, language attitudes of Ukrainian speakers in Saskatchewan, language requirements of international students in Saskatchewan, maintenance of Mandarin Chinese and Russian in the families of immigrants in Saskatchewan, non-verbal communication in aquatic environments, Saskatchewan vowels, the acquisition of gender systems, and the effects of neologisms.

Research Supervisors

Martin Kohlberger Language documentation and description; languages of the Americas; Chicham languages; language contact; areal typology; variation and language change; grammaticalization; phonetics; phonology; morphology; syntax
Zhi Li Applied linguistics; computational linguistics; language assessment; second language acquisition; technologies for language teaching and learning; text mining
Olga Lovick Dene languages, Language documentation & description, Anthropological linguistics, Language maintenance, Indigenous languages, requests & politeness
Veronika Makarova Bilingualism and multilingualism, immigrant languages and cultures of Canada, immigrant adaptation and language maintenance, Russian and Ukrainian as immigrant languages of Canada, Japanese, German, sociolinguistics, applied linguistics, Doukhobor Russian (Spirit Wrestlers) studies in Canada, Russian linguistics, cross-cultural studies, Speech Acts, Politeness Theory, Discourse Analysis.
Braj Sinha Buddhism; India; culture; religion
Bettina Spreng Indigenous; Inuit; ergativity; first language acquisition; language documentation; language revitalisation; object case alternations; understudied languages; voice alternations
Jesse Stewart Acoustic Phonetics; Auditory (Perceptual) Phonetics; Computational linguistics (statistical modeling, parsers, web-based language revitalization tools); Empirical & Experimental Linguistics; Language Contact; Language Documentation; Languages of Latin America; Media Lengua; Mixed Languages; Morphonology; Nasality; Phonology; Psycholinguistics; Quechuan Languages; Romance Languas

Faculty Research Projects

Olga Lovick from the University of Saskatchewan is the PI of a research project in partnership with the Clearwater River Dene School and the University of Zurich. The goal of the project is strengthen the Dene language, which remains strong in Northern Saskatchewan. We aim to record 100 speakers of different age groups from Clearwater River Dene Nation and La Loche in order to better understand which factors affect linguistic variation in these two communities.

The research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

If you want to read more about the study, check out this link.

Olga is also a partner on a Partnership grant housed at the University of Alberta. In response to the well-documented threats to Indigenous cultures and languages, this Partnership project will support the revitalization and sustained daily use of multiple Indigenous languages by developing modern technological tools and resources for these languages in collaboration with their respective communities. This project is built on a foundation of active involvement by Indigenous communities, ensuring that the development of language technological applications will be driven by their needs. Olga works on developing tools for Upper Tanana Dene, spoken in Alaska.

Usask Language Tools is a new website decided to hosting a variety of online language tools that can be used by community members and researchers alike. The purpose of this site it to provide free access to dictionaries, parsers, verb conjugators, and other online applications that can be used for language teaching, research, and language revitalization. As of writing, we are currently hosting beta versions of applications for Media Lengua and Imbabura Quichua; however, we hope to expand this to any language or language dialect that could benefit from a free online space for language applications.

Students wanting to work on such projects should have a basic knowledge of Javascript, HTML, JSON, and CSS.

 Please contact Jesse Stewart, PhD for further inquiries.

Doukhobor Heritage Research and Maintenance Project is devoted to the studies of Doukhobor culture, religious practice and language. It also provides the community with tools of maintaining the Doukhobor heritage by providing audio records of religious services (molen'ia) conducted in Saskatchewan since 2010 and samples of spoken Doukhobor Russian.

Some results of the project have been inlcuded in RLST 255.3 Doukhobo Culture in Canada course taught by the principal investigator Veronika Makarova.

This project focuses on English language learners’ responding processes (such as responding progression patterns and answer-changing behaviors) in a high-stakes computer-based English listening test. In language testing contexts, test takers’ responses to comprehension questions are used to judge their success in listening comprehension. While the process of listening comprehension cannot be observed directly, test takers’ responding processes during a computer-based listening comprehension test may be captured as timestamped behavioral data. Investigating how test takers responded to comprehension questions can contribute to our understanding of test takers’ cognitive processes in listening comprehension and shed light on the meaning of test scores from the perspective of test validation.

There are two major related parts in this project: Mapping test takers’ responding progression patterns to individual items and Tracking their answer-changing behaviors. The former addresses how test takers of different proficiency levels proceeded in answering questions in relation to the cued information in a listening test. The latter is concerned with how test takers changed their answers and what direct consequences of these changes might be. This project is conducted with Dr. Michelle Chen (Paragon Testing Enterprises) and Dr. Jayanti Banerjee.  

Zhi Li, PhD

This project explores the possible influence of English as an academic lingua franca (EALF) on academic writing. More specifically, we are interested in whether locations of journal publishers and author affiliations in terms of Kachru’s three circles of world English would influence the writing styles of published research articles. We started at the section of limitations in research articles because of its unique roles in academic writing.  The limitations sections guide readers to properly interpret research findings and position authors as critical evaluators/researchers in the academic discourse community (Swales & Feak, 2012). However, only a few studies have touched upon limitation writing as a part of a rhetorical move in the discussion/conclusion sections (Peacock, 2002; Yang & Alison, 2003). How authors framed limitations is still under-investigated.

This corpus-based project draws on two groups of empirical research articles in applied linguistics published between 2010 and 2018 are collected. The corpus includes 40 articles written by the authors from the Inner Circle countries and published in these countries (Canada, the UK, and the USA) and 40 locally published articles by the authors in the Outer Circle (Hong Kong) and the Expanding Circle (China, Korea, and Japan). The statements of limitations are compared based on the features of stance (hedges and attitude markers) and engagement (directives and shared knowledge) (Hyland, 2015). This project is conducted with Ms. Alexandra Smirnova and Ms. Olga Kriukova, two MA students in the program of Applied Linguistics. 

Zhi Li, PhD

My work deals with how tense and aspect semantics are expressed in different languages and how they relate to syntactic structures, especially case and agreement.

At the moment, I am working on a study on the Progressive in Swabian, an Alemannic dialect of German closely related to Swiss German. While German is often assumed not to have a progressive construction like English, it can be shown that this is in fact not true. My research has shown that progressive constructions are not restricted to certain dialects. Furthermore, it can be shown that dialects closer related to Standard German have a higher and more varied use of progressive constructions than the Swabian dialect.

My other current project addresses aspectual and tense semantics in relative constructions in Inuktitut as spoken in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. Relative constructions are not exclusively clauses in Inuktun and there are various constructions that fulfill the function of relative clauses. Since relative constructions are non-finite, tense marking may be different from tense marking in regular main clauses. I am especially interested in comparing tense and aspect marking in Rankin Inlet Inuktitut to the better-studied Eastern Inuktitut variants.

Bettina Spreng, PhD

This on-going research explores how the phonological systems of extreme contact languages, often referred to as 'mixed languages', differ from or compare to those of more conventionalized forms of language contact. While lexical and morphosyntactic descriptions of mixed languages abound, and are often cited in the language contact and creole literatures, the details of their phonological systems remain largely unknown since impressionistic descriptions of contact language phonologies are often over simplified. A key strategy in my research is the identification and analysis of conflicting areas of phonological convergence in the sound systems from two or more languages. For analysis, I rely on acoustic measurements to describe the production aspect of such sounds while carrying out psycholinguistic experiments to describe how they are perceived cognitively. I approach these issues empirically and often make use of statistical analyses to describe phenomena which are often not available through impressionistic observations or lay outside current theoretical frameworks. While my research primarily focuses on Media Lengua and Quichua (languages of Ecuador), I am currently working colleagues on describing the phonological system of Michif (a Cree-French mixed language spoken in Canada) and Gurindji Kriol (an English Creole-Gurindji mixed language spoken in Northern Territory, Australia).

Media Lengua samples

My other projects include (1) a new method for measuring a specific phonological feature known as nasality and (2) discourse aspects of American Sign Language, specifically lengthening and disfluencies. Nasality is notoriously difficult to measure in the field; therefore, we have developed a method to simplify the collection of primary nasal data through a cost effective and accurate technique known as the Earbuds Method (paper link). We have collected nasality data from over a dozen languages and we have multiple projects in the works that make use of this method.

Fieldwork in Ecuador!

Jesse Stewart, PhD

The primary activity of this project involves the collection, transcription, and translation of recorded language data gathered through interviews and conversations with speakers of a rare 'mixed language' known as Media Lengua, spoken in Ecuador. These audio and video recordings along with their respective transcriptions and translations will be archived in the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA), a long-term language repository with the purpose of preserving languages of South America for present and future generations of community members, language workers, linguistics, anthropologists. 

This project is a community-based initiative and will involve the training of native speakers of the language to assist in recording, transcribing, and translating their language. By the end of the project, we aim to deliver an easily accessible and interactive version of the repository databases for community members. This database will be complete with basic search functions, translations, and audio samples based on data collected from 2009-present. Funding has been provided for scholarships, salary work, RA work, and transcription work for collaborators who fluently speak Media Lengua, Quichua, and Spanish. 

Si vosteka chaupi shimitami hablangui y ese proyectowanmi trabajana kiringui, uno correota mandawapaylla! stewart.jesse@usask.ca
Si kikinka kichwatami rimangui y chay proyectowanmi llankana munangui, shuk correota kachawapangui: stewart.jesse@usask.ca 
Si le interesa trabajar en este proyecto y usted habla español y kichwa/ media lengua fluidamente, contáctese con Jesse Stewart a stewart.jesse@usask.ca.

Jesse Stewart, PhD

This is a recently completed research project that involved the creation of the first dictionary of the Media Lengua language. Media Lengua is an endangered 'mixed language' spoken by approximately 2,000 people in the Ecuadorian Andes. This project was a collaborative effort with community members, linguists, and technology specialists that resulted in the following published dictionary (online version, print version).

This project represented a unique opportunity for graduate and undergraduate linguistic students with a working knowledge of Spanish to immerse themselves in real linguistic data analysis and travel to Ecuador to work with community members on translations.

Jesse Stewart, PhD