Below is a small sampling of the many CLASP related projects, collaborations, and initiatives that are ongoing at CU-Boulder. If you are a student or faculty member and would like to add information about other research projects or working groups to this page, please contact the CLASP Director, Kira Hall, at kira.hall@colorado.edu.

Faculty in CU's Department of Communication regularly sponsor bimonthly data sessions. As the name suggests, these sessions are designed for graduate students and faculty to examine language data together. Most participants choose to share video or audio data plus a transcript, but they can also bring in interview excerpts, electronic texts, or written institutional documents of some kind. The goal of these informal and lively sessions is to build everyone's abilities to notice, name, and argue about features of talk and texts. For more information, contact Professor David Boromisza-Habashi at david.boromisza@colorado.edu or Professor Karen Tracy at karen.tracy@colorado.edu.

There has been a recent surge of scholarly interest by CLASP-related researchers at CU into how people utilize, coordinate, and think about different modalities of human interaction and general communication. Modalities are sensory channels that are specific to the human condition, utilized as semiotic domains for the development of resources of expression and interactional conduct so central to human sociality. For example, the oral/aural modality is the domain for speech, manual/visual for gesture, body/visual for posture, and graphic/visual for texting. Multimodality is a catchword for the preference of people to simultaneously engage in multiple modalities and the increased semiotic possibilities of doing so.

As a component of research on language and interaction at CU, multimodality has meant a theoretical and methodological commitment to a broader potential of language production than just speech. Dr. Barbara Fox (CU Linguistics), for example, works to uncover how grammatical structure, as opposed to being a disembodied set of facts, rather emerges through the multimodal coordination of interactional participants as they co-organize a sequence of social actions. Currently, Dr. Fox is advising a dissertation by PhD Candidate Nina Jagtiani that includes how multimodality is central to the management of disagreements in German TV news interviews. In another example, Dr. Andrew Cowell (CU Linguistics) has underscored the importance of attending to multimodality through his language-documentation efforts, especially in developing the Arapaho Conversational Database, one of the largest video-based interactional corpora of an endangered language.

For other CU language research, a focus on multimodality has meant giving certain prominence to gesture. For many linguists, it is important to consider gesture because gesture, like speech, is a privileged resource for language users. Thus, through a diversity of interactional and sociocultural practices, there are various ways in which language users employ gesture and speech not only together but also in reflection of one another. For example, work by Dr. Kira Hall (CU Linguistics) and MA student Matt Ingram has shown that in the United States the limp wrist gesture has been strategically used in the media to portray gay men as a strategy to subvert proscriptions against homophobic speech. In another line of research, PhD Candidate Rich Sandoval, under the advise of Dr. Cowell, is examining the large variety of conventional gestures used by Arapaho speakers and the interactional practices the speakers have for combining gestures with speech. The scholarly interest and efforts that such CLASP researchers have put into understanding multimodality underscores the broad programmatic commitment of CLASP to exploring the entire spectrum of semiotic possibility in the social lives of people.

Members of this working group meet on a regular basis to showcase their work in collaborative data sessions. For more information, contact PhD candidate Rich Sandoval at richard.sandoval@colorado.edu.

Students and faculty in the CLASP program at the University of Colorado are involved in diverse forms of research on the subject of language, gender, and sexuality. Whether analyzing the sociophonetics of gay speech or the faith narratives of Muslim American women on a college campus, CLASP researchers pursue theoretical and methodological approaches to the discursive study of gender and sexuality that are at once interdisciplinary and informative. To date, the CLASP program has sponsored over ten theses and dissertations that have gender and/or sexuality as their primary focus. This concentration of research is supported by strong course offerings in feminist and queer theory across the CU campus.

Members of this working group meet on a regular basis to showcase their work in collaborative data sessions. For more information, contact Professor Kira Hall at kira.hall@colorado.edu.

The dialects spoken in Colorado are in many ways richer than even most locals realize. For instance, sociolinguistic research on language attitudes Colorado English has revealed that Colorado English is perceived by people from other regions as among the “best” forms of English spoken in the United States. At the same time, the way that Coloradoans talk has long been recognized by sociolinguists as distinct from the English spoken in other parts of the West and Midwest. Further, there is no single type of Colorado English, as the Rocky Mountain region is home to numerous dialects, some of which have remained relatively isolated since settlement during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush in the mid-1800s.

The state of Colorado in fact demonstrates profound linguistic diversity. For instance, the English spoken in the Front Range Urban Corridor is phonologically and lexically distinct from the English spoken in the Colorado Eastern Plains, and both of these varieties are distinct from the “mountain” varieties of English historically associated with high-elevation towns in the Colorado Mineral Belt and beyond. Graduate student researchers in the Department of Linguistics have begun to conduct sociolinguistic research on the metropolitan center of Denver, finding that the language used in specific areas of the city is suggestive of a burgeoning “Denver dialect.”

Finally, Colorado’s important role in the early American West also set the stage for interaction among speakers of a number of different languages. In addition to different varieties of English, Colorado is home to indigenous languages like Arapaho and the special dialects of Spanish and English spoken in southwestern communities founded before the arrival of English-speaking settlers. Indeed, the city of Denver, as home to diverse communities of non-English speaking immigrant groups, begs for comprehensive sociolinguistic exploration.

Despite Colorado’s fascinating linguistic history, very little linguistic research has focused specifically on language trends across the state. Scholars in the Department of Linguistics have therefore created a research initiative called the Colorado Language Trends Project (CLTP) in order to learn more about what makes Colorado dialects unique. Plans are currently being made to begin a program of advanced audio-visual data collection and establish a multimedia library that will document past and present linguistic developments in Colorado.

For more information about this research initiative, contact Professor Kira Hall at kira.hall@colorado.edu.

Many of our CLASP graduate students are engaged in the administration of LING 1900: The Literacy Practicum. The Literacy Practicum is an outreach program that works with at-risk readers in the Colorado Front Range community to provide resources and support to improve literacy skills. CU students enrolled in LING 1000 (Language in US Society) have the opportunity to earn an extra credit hour while helping these at-risk readers, many from immigrant families where English is not spoken as the native language. LING 1900 participants visit one of our community partners on a weekly basis to volunteer as a “reading buddy” for children or adults within the Boulder area.

Students who have participated in the LING 1900 Literacy Practicum have found it extremely rewarding to discover that they can have a profound impact on the lives of developing children and adult learners. Illiteracy, as well as limited command of the English language, restricts opportunities both economically and politically for many people living and working in the United States. Therefore, students participating in the Literacy Practicum not only learn the theory behind the social problem of illiteracy, they also learn to be part of the solution.

For more information about this teaching initiative, visit the LING 1900 website or contact Professor Kira Hall at kira.hall@colorado.edu.