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Could the Pandemic Change How We Speak?

Could the Pandemic Change How We Speak?

Could the Pandemic Change How We Speak?

That’s the question being asked by a team of researchers at Michigan State University, led by Associate Professor Suzanne Wagner and Assistant Professor Betsy Sneller.

They’re studying how social distancing is changing the way we speak and the stories we tell.

The MI COVID Diaries project, run by MSU’s Sociolinguistics Lab, has been collecting recorded speech from Michigan residents since April to track changes to language during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Part of what we want to do is measure how language is changing in real time,” Sneller said.

“By getting recordings from people at the beginning of this crisis and then throughout, we can see how their speech has changed.”

Historically, events like natural disasters and war have proven to have big impacts on language. Wagner and Sneller expect the coronavirus pandemic will have an impact too.

The MI COVID Diaries project is supported by funding from MSU’s College of Arts & Letters, the MSU Sociolinguistics Lab and a summer faculty fellowship to Wagner. Speech-to-text processing is supported by a Google Cloud research grant to Sneller.

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