By Andries W. Coetzee
Sep 15, 2012
We are fortunate to have wonderful graduate students who go on to do great things in the world. We will periodically feature some of them here on our news blog. We start out with Professor Alicia Beckford Wassink.
Professor Wassink completed her dissertation, “A Sociophonetic Analysis of Jamaican Vowels” in 1999 with Professors Pam Beddor and Lesley Milroy as co-chairs. Since graduating from Michigan, she has been on the Department of Linguistics faculty at the University of Washington, where she is currently associate professor and Director of the Sociolinguistics Laboratory, and a former affiliate member of the Center for Mind, Brain and Learning. Professor Wassink is an example of a linguist who truly crosses sub-disciplinary boundaries. She is equally at home in the fields of sociolinguistics, phonetic theory, language acquisition, and Pidgins and Creoles. She embodies the vision of our Department by seamlessly crossing the divide between the more socially oriented and more cognitively oriented approaches to language. In 2007, she was named Howard and Frances Nostrand Endowed Professor of Language and Cultural Competence, an award dedicated to the idea that linguistic competence and cultural competence can go together. Her research shows that these two approaches are not in opposition to each other, but rather augment and enrich each other. This perspective is one she largely credits to the Michigan Linguistics environment in which she was trained. “I came to Michigan with a clear desire to work on language attitudes and on phonetic variation. But I remember worrying that I’d have to give up one interest to focus on the other. I was thrilled to find that Lesley and Pam were willing to co-direct my dissertation. This was a significant model to me of collaboration across sub-disciplinary boundaries. I think the growth of Linguistics as a field depends in part on this type of cross-fertilization. And, Pam and Lesley worked so well together. I regard them as incredible scholars…incredible women.”
Professor Wassink publishes widely in some of the most prestigious journals in the field (Journal of Phonetics, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, The International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Journal of English Linguistics, Language in Society, Language Variation and Change, American Speech) on topics ranging from Jamaican Creole, to African American English, to bilingual and monolingual language acquisition, to acoustic theory. She was one of the invited contributors to the new Routledge textbook, Sociophonetics: a Student’s Guide. She is also a popular invited speaker at many colloquia, conferences and workshops. She will be teaching a course on the development of sociolinguistic competence in children at the 2013 LSA Summer Institute here at U of M.
Professor Wassink’s teaching similarly reflects her wide interests and expertise. In addition to general introductory classes, she regularly teaches classes at both undergraduate and graduate levels on topics such as Sociolinguistic Theory, Pidgin and Creole Languages, Social Network Theory, and Phonetic Theory. She has won two awards for excellence in teaching, and is also a sought after advisor and mentor for both graduate and undergraduate students.
We are proud to count Professor Wassink as an alumna of our Department. Her contributions to the field of linguistics and to the society at large are immeasurable.
Professor Wassink lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband and son. She has fond memories of her time spent at Michigan.