To explore my concentration in Cultural Dynamics, I studied global cultures as they relate to language and media. In my language-focused classes, I investigated global linguistic issues such as linguistic discrimination, language policy, and language contact and change. These classes helped taught me how to connect my own linguistics research to social, political, and economic issues. My theater, film, and art classes allowed me to explore my interests in art and media through the lens of global studies. Through these classes, I learned the practice of looking at cultural objects through the context in which they are created, a critical tool for all researchers.

Coursework Descriptions

Introduction to Global Studies gave me the tools I needed to approach topics both local and international from a global perspective. I learned to think about political, economic, and social systems in new ways, focusing on their connections and the ways they influence each other. We learned about how global issues have changed over time and the ways that people have created change or failed to create change. For my final essay, I wrote about my ideal global future, reflecting on economic, political, cultural, and ecological issues and ways to potentially solve them.

In World Theatre, we learned about the history of theatre practices and performance, and connected those histories to the broader social, political, and economic contexts. Many of the works we focused on were viewed as subversive when they were first performed, and pushed back against social norms as well as racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. For the group project and my final essay, we looked at Anna Deveare Smith’s documentary play Twilight: Los Angeles, focused on the 1992 Rodney King beating and the ensuing protests. I learned more about the history of police brutality in the United States as well as the issues and discussions surrounding this particular piece.

This class gave a broad overview of the history of film as well as introductions to various world cinemas and film movements. I discovered a lot of films I really love and probably wouldn’t have watched otherwise, including Chungking Express, Record of a Tenement Gentleman, and The 400 Blows. We explored the historical and social contexts in which films and film movements existed, and the way that films can inspire and call for change. For my final essay, I wrote about Soviet Montage film Man with a Movie Camera, one of my favorites. I investigated the ways in which this film was a product of the director Dziga Vertov’s communist and constructivist views.

In Documentary Film, we learned about history and world issues through the lens of documentary films, as well as learning how to look at documentaries and all “objective” presentations of information with a critical eye. Some of the things we focused on were documentaries as propaganda, documentaries as political advocacy, and documentaries as political engagement. Many of the movies we watched were very difficult to view, especially the ones about World War II, but I feel that it was important for me to have seen them in order to understand the true toll of war and oppression.

History and Politics of English was one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taken. Dr. Matway first gave a broad overview of the history of the English language, and then we delved into the issues surrounding English in the present day. We primarily focused on language politics from an educational lens, and how these issues impact children in the United States – English-speaking and not.

We read from 4 different books: Making Sense of Language: Readings in Culture and Communication edited by Susan Blum, Bad Language: Are Some Words Better than Others? by Edwin L. Battistella, The Skin that We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom edited by Lisa Delpit and Joanne Kilgore Dowdy, and Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli. I genuinely do refer back to all of these books on a regular basis – each one of them made me think about language, politics, social structures, and discrimination in new and different ways. We connected the issues of language within the United States to global systems of power and the ways language is stigmatized and policed all around the world.

I also feel like I gained a great deal from looking at my field, linguistics, in a class that was language-focused but not a linguistics class. I intend to pursue a career in academia, and writing thoughtfully and in a way that is accessible and understandable to all is important to me. Dr. Matway’s guidance and the class’s writing assignments helped me grow and develop as a writer. For our final essay, I wrote about “Prescriptivism on the Global Scale”: how prescriptivist attitudes, which are focused on policing language and making speakers adhere to a “standard” that is often based on the grammar of the hegemony, impact people all over the English-speaking world.

Intro to Linguistics introduced me to the different subfields of linguistics, overviewed some of the main linguistic theories and theoretical debates, and solidified my interest in linguistics and my desire to research language. We learned about phonetics, phonology, morphology, and syntax, as well as looking a little bit into computational linguistics and psycholinguistics at the end of the course. Having a good basis for my linguistic knowledge was critical in the rest of my core classes as well as my research.

I took Language, Culture, and Society while studying abroad in Bolivia, during Summer 2018. This course focused on the languages and cultures of the Andes region of South America. We learned about the current status of indigenous peoples and languages as well as Spanish, and how these languages were and continue to be impacted by colonialism and neo-imperialism. Though focused on one region, the issues impacting indigenous people in the Andes have many similarities to the struggles of indigenous peoples all around the world.

This class helped me personally with my research, which is on the phonetics of Quechua, the most commonly spoken indigenous language in Bolivia. I gained context on Quechua’s situation by looking at the language through a sociolinguistic lens, as well as connecting it to economic and political systems. For my final paper and presentation, I began analyzing the data I collected for my undergraduate thesis – I compared use of loanwords to use of Quechua-origin words, and examined the social backgrounds of my participants. It was a great headstart on my thesis and a way to get initial feedback from my professor and my peers.

In Intro to World Art, we explored the meaning of “art”, art from a wide range of time periods and movements, and the underlying themes that inspire art from all across the world. We connected art pieces and movements to the historical and social context in which they were created. The class didn’t move through time in a linear fashion, instead connecting art pieces from different historical periods to make thematic connections. For my final project, I had the opportunity to explore the ways in which art and technology connect to create visions of the future.

The Global Studies Capstone served as a thesis writing bootcamp and an opportunity to expand my global knowledge by learning about my fellow Global Studies BPhil classmates’ research. I wrote the introduction and conclusion to my BPhil thesis, and workshopped my writing in collaboration with my classmates and professors. This class was critical for my thesis writing process. It helped me add a global perspective to my research, and work in theories from outside of linguistics to contextualize my work.

I learned so much about my classmates’ fields of research, including economics, political science, and anthropology. Our research sites spanned the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. We discussed immigration, climate change, neoliberalism, and many other global issues. The class culminated with a practice presentation for our BPhil defense. The feedback I received was very helpful, and I was able to use some of the slides from my presentation in my actual defense.


Other Relevant Courses

Aspects of Sociolinguistics helped connect my global studies coursework and my linguistics coursework together. In this course, I examined language variation and how it relates to race, ethnicity, gender, and other social identities. This course helped me understand the ways in which cultural dynamics shape linguistic issues such as linguistic discrimination and linguistic supremacy. For my final project, I researched attitudes towards Yiddish in the American Jewish community. For the first time, I explored my own identity through a linguistic lens. My final project helped me gain a more personal connection to sociolinguistic research.

In my Grant Writing course, I learned about the process of writing and submitting a grant. For my semester-long project, I wrote a complete grant application on behalf of the Less-Commonly-Taught Languages Center here at Pitt. This class, while not directly related to either of my majors, will be crucial for helping me continue my research. Research needs to be funded, and now I have the tools to apply for and receive funding.

In Summer 2017, I attended the Summer Linguistics Institute, organized by the LSA (Linguistic Society of America) and hosted by the University of Kentucky. Two of the month-long mini courses I took at the institute were Dialectology and Field Methods. Dialectology was my introduction to connecting linguistic variation and change to social groups, such as race and ethnicity, as well as histories of language contact. In Field Methods, I studied Kalaallisut, spoken in Greenland. Through this class, I learned best practices for field research, analysis, and more.