Once I took my first linguistics class, I had a moment where I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this is what I've been thinking about my entire life; I just didn't know it had a name.'

Jamie Risdal '19
Jamie Risdal '19 in the linguistics lab.
Photo by Emily Paine, Division of Communications

"I first learned about Bucknell through volleyball. I came to campus for an official visit with the team, and I fell in love. Beyond the team and the campus, I found that I was very passionate about the College of Arts & Sciences and initially saw myself heading down a biology and pre-med path. After enrolling in Phonetics and Phonology during my first year, I found my path shifting. I had always been fascinated by the idea of linguistics, but I didn't fully know what it was. Once in that class, I had a moment where I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this is what I've been thinking about my entire life; I just didn't know it had a name.'

"My love for linguistics spread into higher level courses and eventually into research. While enrolled in Psycholinguistics, Professor Lorimor approached me about the prospect of becoming part of her research team, and I quickly agreed to join. There was a steep learning curve, but I recognized something new I had never considered or thought about every week.  

"The general study in the lab right now is focused on agreement between subject and verb and whether or not you can change a person's ability to match subject and verb. This is done by giving the participants different combinations of plural and singular nouns and seeing if, based on what position the noun and the verb are in, they will make more mistakes.  

"Prior to that, we were working on another project that examined if it is possible to change the way a person speaks dialectically. We were looking specifically at whether or not we could get people to speak in more passive sentences and how long the altered speech lasts, which helps us better understand how many exposures to a new structure a person needs before it is entirely habituated and used naturally. It also gives insight into how long our minds keep track of, and are influenced by, unusual grammar.  

"Adding my psychology major seemed like a great way to substantiate my linguistics studies. The two majors overlap in the psycholinguistics context, but linguistics also crops up in psychology in more sporadic ways. A lot of examples in my psychology classes are linguistics examples that just aren't labeled as such.  

"My daily schedule revolves around volleyball practice, classes, homework and lab work. The day-to-day structure helps connect each component of my Bucknell experience. I have had the opportunity to use what I am learning in my psychology and linguistics classes to understand team dynamics. Having the academic background in those areas makes it easier to notice certain things, like our team's emphasis on being open to mistakes and reiterating that our skills and mindsets are not fixed."

Jamie is from Houston, Texas

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Posted on 6/9/2017

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