Convocation, Profile

June 11, 2020

An early interest in Sociolinguistics paves the path to a PhD

Noortje de Weers took an early interest in the social implications of language use. When she discovered that the study of language was an actual field of study she was over the moon. After taking a Sociolinguistics course in her undergraduate degree, Noortje quickly set her sights on pursuing a PhD in Sociolinguistics.

And she has done just that. This Spring, Noortje is graduating with a PhD in Linguistics. Her PhD dissertation titled “A critical (re-)assessment of the effect of speaker ethnicity on speech processing and evaluation,” investigates how physical appearance and accented speech can influence perceptions of spoken language.

When it came to deciding where to do her PhD, Noortje wanted to attend a school that took an interdisciplinary approach to Linguistics. The Department of Linguistics at Simon Fraser University (SFU) ticked that box, and also recognized Sociolinguistics as its own area of research within Linguistics.

One of the highlights of her time at SFU was teaching Linguistics 160 – Language, Culture and Society. “I was truly in my element teaching LING 160,” says Noortje, “the course covered the very subject material that got me into Linguistics.”

Noortje took pride in creating assignments that required group discussion and critical evaluation of the course topics. The positive feedback from students at the end of the semester made the hard work worth it.

Now that she has completed her PhD, Noortje is considering the different career paths ahead of her. She is currently enjoying her work as a data analyst for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at SFU, but knows that she would also enjoy work in a field outside of academia that combines her experience as a teacher and a linguist.

  1. Apply to as many scholarships as you can find! There is a lot of unclaimed money out there, so if in doubt: just apply! Do make sure you have an above-average GPA, as a large number of scholarships have this as their base requirement.
  2. Think long and hard about your research, and try to have a ready-made answer to the question: ‘so what?’ If you can answer that question and explain the purpose of your research to a wider audience, you are already halfway there (and it will make your life so much easier when applying for funding too!)
  3. Become active in student governance at SFU. I wish I had done this sooner. As a director for the Graduate Student Society, I developed a long list of new skills, gained experience with student leadership and policy, and it helped me build connections and feel more at home at SFU.

Spring 2020 Featured Graduates

This spring convocation, the Department of Linguistics is recognizing a small group of graduating students for their accomplishments in the department.