Announcing the 2023 Becker Essay Prize Recipient: Rebekah Wong

May 16, 2023

Congratulations to this year's recipient of the Becker Essay Prize, Rebekah Wong!

Rebekah is an undergraduate student pursuing a joint major in Linguistics and Computing Science. Her winning essay submission, "Manifesting Politeness in Children Cross-Culturally," was written for a linguistics course that she took in the Fall 2022 semester, LING 350: First Language Acquisition, taught by sessional instructor Trevor Block.

According to Rebekah, the course allowed her to explore how children acquire skills relevant to different areas of linguistics. "The pragmatics section stood out to me in particular because I've always found the idea of politeness fascinating even back when I took my introductory linguistics courses."

"Politeness manifests itself in many ways across different languages and cultures," she says, "yet, if politeness is more of a societal expectation than a fundamental necessity to communicate with others, then how do young children develop their language abilities and pragmatic knowledge to be polite?"

Rebekah's essay provides a cross-cultural summary of politeness acquisition in children across a selection of first languages—namely English, Japanese and Turkish.

"I chose [these languages] because I wanted a selection of typologically different languages—English because it is my first language so I am most comfortable with it, Japanese because of my personal interest in the language and culture, and Turkish because I came across many papers pertaining to politeness acquisition in Turkish when I was conducting my research."

The Becker Essay Prize Committee, comprised of Dr. Panayiotis Pappas (Department Chair), Dr. Margaret Grant (Lecturer and Colloquia Chair), Magdalena Ivok (graduate student) and Fenna Herwig (undergraduate student), was impressed by how Rebekah was able to explore this topic from three typologically very different languages, and do so in a way that synthesizes the findings in a coherent narrative. They also liked the insightful suggestions provided for future directions for this type of research.

On May 11, the Department hosted its first annual Yvonne Becker Colloquium to recognize and honour Rebekah as the 2023 recipient of the Becker Essay Prize, followed by a special lecture from guest speaker Teresa Pratt who spoke on the topic of affect and embodiment in sociolinguistics.

Learn more about the Yvonne Becker Colloquium by visiting the website. For more information about next year's submission and event dates, contact