New Study Looks at Language and Identity  

The Roots of Linguistic Identity team, composed of language scientists from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, is running a study to learn about how caregivers of Black children between ages 5 and 10 years think about childhood, language, and identity. The team is looking for Beverly/Morgan Park residents who are interested in participating.  

According to study team member Dr. Marisa Casillas, Assistant Professor of Comparative Human Development at University of Chicago, sessions typically take 60 to 90 minutes and take place over video chat (Zoom). Sessions entail a conversation during which a member of the team will ask some questions. They ask permission for conversations to be recorded so the team can review them later. Compensation is $25 per hour.  

The study team is aiming to combine an understanding of language with an understanding of culture and community. Culture and community are important to Chicago neighborhoods and 

influence the way people in these communities speak.  

Despite this, some language researchers have separated culture from language when studying the speech of minority communities, and the project aims to reform this. Members of the study team are interested in understanding how children learn language, and a key aspect of that is understanding what they are hearing at home. 

That’s where Beverly/Morgan Park neighbors come in. 

What’s special about the way we speak?  

The words we use contain a lot of information outside of the normal dictionary definitions, according to the study team. People use words to relate to others and show people aspects of their identities. For example, if you tell a friend to “meet you in The Loop,” you’re asking them to meet you somewhere, but you also signal to others that you are a “Chicagoan.” This is why the study members want to interview children from our community.  

The study team is recruiting new participants this summer. If you are interested in learning more, email the study team at chatterlab@uchicago.edu or call 773-702-1216.  

Learn more about the project and team at neubauercollegium.uchicago.edu/research/roots-of-linguistic-identity.  

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