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Julia Mendelsohn

Field: Linguistics

Majors/minor: Linguistics, Computer Science, German Studies

Host: Leibniz-Zentrum für allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)

Duration: 3 months in summer 2018

Job title: Phonetics Intern


Job description:Kiezdeutsch, or "Hood German", is a German variety spoken by young people in multicultural urban areas. As of now, there is relatively little work on distinctive features of Kiezdeutsch. My summer project involved comparing Kiezdeutsch and Berlinerisch speakers, and I specifically looked to see if there are differences in vowel (diphthong) acoustics.

At the beginning of the summer, I accompanied my supervisor on a fieldwork trip, where we interviewed teenagers in Wedding and had them read a list of stimulus sentences out loud. I attempted to transcribe the interviews, but that proved to be too difficult as a non-fluent German speaker. Instead, I labeled diphthongs (which means setting precise boundaries on the vowel start and end) from the reading list as well as from older interviews that Stefanie conducted several years ago. Because we need a lot of tokens to have a robust statistical analysis, this took a large portion of the summer.

After labeling all of the diphthongs (which was done in a phonetics software called Praat), I wrote and ran some scripts to extract important linguistic information from the acoustic signal. I then used Excel to manage all of these measurements as well as participant metadata, and built up giant datasheets for statistical analysis. In the final few days of the internship, I ran statistical analyses on the data in R and created plots. I hope to complete this work for a future conference presentation or paper, so I also wrote up preliminary methods, results, and discussion sections.

I have gained more experience with independent research, although I appreciate that I had a strong support structure at ZAS. I also gained experience using various tools for linguistics research, such as Praat, Excel, and R. Initially, I found labeling data to be quite time-consuming and boring, but it is an essential and unavoidable part of phonetics research. Furthermore, I noticed that I was able to label data much more quickly and efficiently as the summer progressed, so I'm happy that I could improve those skills.

I found getting to know the other students in the lab to be extremely rewarding. I learned a lot about a large variety of research areas from them, and it was great to hear perspectives on academia and life from students outside of Stanford.

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