Category Archives: Linguistics News

URCA Award Winners in FLL for 2015-16


Three students in FLL were supported in their scholarly projects with Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Awards for 2015-16:

  • Aenia Amin, a triple major in Neuroscience, Psychology and Hispanic Studies, who is doing a Neuroscience project with Dr. Tuan Tran
  • Spencer Jackson, a double major in Biology and French who is doing a project with Dr. Yan-Hua Chen of the Department of Anatomy and Cell-Physiology in the Brody School of Medicine; and
  • Anna Lawrence, a double major in Hispanic Studies and Anthropology, pictured above with her mentor, Dr. Stephen Fafulas of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

Anna’s project, which is supported by the Department’s SoCIOLingLab is entitled, “Morphosyntactic variation in an emerging dialect of Spanish in eastern North Carolina”. Her work aims to discover the unique characteristics of spoken Spanish in the Hispanic communities of our region:

“For the past several decades, the Spanish-speaking population in eastern North Carolina (eNC) has been increasing rapidly. While much is known of other Spanish varieties spoken in major cities in the US, little is known about the formation of Spanish communities in the rural south. This project aims to fill that void by: 1) documenting the socio-demographic and linguistic characteristics of this specific population through sociolinguistic interviews and participant questionnaires, and 2) analyzing the forthcoming results in order to add to our knowledge of Spanish morphosyntax by noting specific properties that make this emerging Spanish community’s dialect different than other bilingual Spanish varieties around the US. Methodology for the study include: (a) collection of speech samples through sociolinguistic interviews, (b) targeted narrations of Mayer’s “Frog, Where Are You?” picture book, and (c) participant profiles through a Background Language Proficiency (BLP) Questionnaire.”

Stephen Fafulas Co-PI of Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Award

Stephen Fafulas will be Co-principal investigator for a collaborative interdisciplinary investigation on “Assessing levels of nasality among children whose primary language is Spanish.” The PI will be Jamie Perry, Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the College of Allied Health Sciences. They are joined by Lucia Mendez and Yolanda Holt, also of CAHS.

The Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Award is sponsored by the Division of Research and Graduate Studies in partnership with the Divisions of Academic Affairs and Health Sciences to promote collaborations among faculty with complementary expertise that may lead to proposals that will attract extra-mural funding from major grants.

Two Way Immersion Programs

Pitt County Schools is launching a dual language immersion program at Belvoir Elementary School in the fall, where 48% of students are native Hispanic speakers. The program, with rotating instruction in Spanish and English, will be offered to all incoming kindergartners with parent approval.
Pitt County Schools World Language Coordinator, Ann Borisoff, says research shows there are scholastic benefits to bilingual instruction. “What happens is that a different part of the brain is accessed when you are working with a bilingual situation. Actually, learning in a lot of cases goes a lot faster and students obtain the same or better results on academic achievement tests as do their monolingual peers,” Borisoff.

»» WNCT Story

(Last year’s post from 3/21/14):
Pitt County Schools is doing a feasibility study on two-way immersion programs to start in 2015-16. In such programs the entire curriculum is taught partially in Spanish and partially in English. Prof. Ann Borisoff who has just completed a dissertation on this subject was featured in an article in The Daily Reflector on March 4, discussing the benefits of such an approach in Pitt County where schools like Belvoir Elementary are 48% Hispanic.
Borisoff said that not only do all the students become bilingual and biliterate, but achievement improves and students develop cross-cultural competence. Data from programs such as the dual immersion program in Greene County have shown that students in such language immersion programs not only learn the standard curriculum despite the language challenges, but actually perform equal or better on grade level tests than their mono-lingual peers. A sample classroom might be an equal mix of native-Spanish and native-English speakers on an alternate day schedule in which the same curriculum is taught exclusively in Spanish one day and in English the next.

Linguistics discovery of common ancestor tongue

Linguists have traced the roots of English, Hindi, Greek and all Indo-European languages to a common ancestor tongue first spoken on the Russian steppes as much as 6,500 years ago.

New research from the University of California-Berkeley emerged after linguists analyzed reconstructed vocabulary, including words such as “I am,” “bear,” and “wood” from more than 150 living and dead languages, as well as archaeological data.

»» Read more

May 28, 2014. Visit by a National Expert on Dual Language Immersion


On Wednesday, May 28th, Dr. Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, Prof. Emerita San Diego State, was able to sit in on a discussion involving representatives from several departments at ECU concerning Dual Language Immersion programs. Included were possible steps for implementation and how DLI programs in schools would change the way we prepare educators to teach children through dual language education. She then gave a presentation to community members and school superintendents of Eastern North Carolina interested entitled “Benefits and Challenges of Dual Language Programs. Research and Implications.” She shared her findings about DLI effectiveness in student learning for both English-speakers and Spanish-speakers. She answered questions concerning this research, and participated in a discussion with several groups interested in learning more about this topic.

Thursday, May 29th, and Friday, May 30th, were spent visiting 2 different school settings in the area. First, we visited Greene County schools, a district which was a pioneer in our region, having implemented a DLI, the Los Puentes program, over ten years ago. With Dr. Lindholm-Leary, we observed classes at the elementary and intermediate level to assess the strengths of the program, as well as areas for growth and further development. On her last day here, Dr. Lindholm-Leary visited Pink Hill Elementary School in Lenoir County, to speak to teachers and administrators about dual language research, and gave a presentation to show concrete findings in the positive effects of this type of education.

Having Dr. Lindholm-Leary present with us for a few days gave us an additional perspective on our current and previous work on the Engagement and Outreach Scholars’ Academy project, along with an opportunity to reach out to the community and start a meaningful conversation on Dual-Language Immersion programs in our schools.

— Stephen Fafulas