February 24, 2020

Big SFU presence at undergraduate research conference

The fourth annual Language Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference (LSURC) held February 7 - 8 at the University of British Columbia (UBC) saw a huge turnout from our undergraduate students. 

For many of the students, it was their first academic conference. Last semetser's LING 282W students—Jarrick Pang, Amanda James, and Kevin Tyson—didn't consider participating in LSURC but upon encouragement from lecturer Heather Bliss, they decided to present a poster based on their final paper. 

Kevin Tyson and Irina Presnyakova
Canadian raising in slang


It was a valuable experience, as I was given insightful feedback on my study while learning lots about other interesting research. I also made a few connections who I plan on keeping in touch with.

I did not have any experience in presenting in an academic environment prior to LSURC. However, if you are open to gaining (or improving) those abilities, I would suggest making it clear to your instructors because they are more than willing to help you achieve your goal. 


Kevin Tyson collaborated with PhD student Irina Presnyakova who was the teaching assistant for Bliss' LING 282W class last semester. Their poster described the preliminary findings of their active study that is investigating the effects that slang has on the properties of Canadian raising when produced by youth. 

Jarrick Pang
How we determine the lexical categories of the internet slang Pog

: The process was fun, the research was fun, and meeting new people was even more fun. The entire process is not something you learn from taking classes and it really makes you think about the bigger picture with what you are learning in those classes. I don't think I will ever forget this feeling of accomplishment. ;

Pang's poster studied the phenomenon of emojis turning into words, and how we can determine the lexical categories for these new words.

As for advice to other undergraduate students, Pang says, "Don't overthink things, my poster compared to the many other presenters was riddled with memes, but it was what made the research fun for me and fun for those who I was presenting to. As long as you are passionate about your work, you are bound to find someone at the conference who shares that same drive."

Amanda James
Xe went to the store: Are gender-neutral pronouns breaking into a closed syntactic category?


I can't wait for the next conference! The speakers and the other posters presented interesting research on a huge variety of topics that really got me thinking. I also had some great conversations while I was presenting my poster and made connections with people who are interested in syntax and queer linguistics (which is a field I didn't even know existed before this project!).

If you already have to write a term paper for a class, you've already done most of the work—why not go for it? Even if you don't want to present, I would absolutely recommend volunteering or attending just to get the experience.


James' poster examined the neopronoun set xe, xem, and xyr, to see whether these new words follow pronoun rules and more importantly, what factors might impact whether they become a more permanent part of the English pronoun category.

Clarissa Montgomery
Neonatal imitation and language preference

As part of the conference's speaker line-up, Montgomery presented the research that she worked on during her Mitacs-funded research term at Paris Nanterre University in France. The study investigates the relationship between newborn preference for familiar languages and likelihood of facial imitation. Data collection is still ongoing but preliminary results show that newborns are more likely to imitate a face speaking a familiar language.

Paula Correa
Temporal modifications in infant-directed speech: A cross-cultural comparison of Lenakel and English

: Having been a part of LSURC this year and in 2019 not only has provided me with the interpersonal skills and confidence to present future research work, but it has also broadened my horizons about current research in the field. Most importantly, my experience at conferences has inspired me to pursue more research in the future! ;

Correa presented a poster on a research project that she has been working on at the LangDev Lab. By examining the infant-directed speech (IDS) used by mothers in Tanna, Vanuatu and mothers in Vancouver, Canada, this cross-cultural comparison study hopes to determine whether IDS is “universal” across different societies.

Larissa Melville
PhoN: The Phonology of Flapping in Non-words

: The opportunity to present my research at UBC was too good to pass up. I could meet UBC and SFU students and hear both about their own research and their take on mine. Also, being around other linguists was invigorating; everyone’s questions were interested and sincere. I just cannot seem to find shared enthusiasm about phonology with anyone else. ;

Melville presented a poster on an ongoing Phonological Processing Lab project which investigates how listeners interpret medial flaps. She started this project last year while working as a research assistant for the lab, and programmed it into an online study that students can access from anywhere. 

Bingqing Yu
An Optimality Theory Analysis of Diminutive Suffixation of Chengdu Mandarin

MA student Bingqing Yu presented a poster on her research which presents the first OT analysis of diminutive suffixation of Chengdu Mandarin based on data by Duanmu (1990). 

Duanmu, S. (1990). A formal study of syllable, tone, stress and domain in Chinese languages (Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology).