Sabriya Fisher

Diana Chapman Walsh Assistant Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences

Research interests include sociolinguistics, language variation & change, varieties of English, and the language varieties of the African diaspora. 

My research is broadly focused on language variation and change, with a particular focus on varieties of English and the language varieties of the African Diaspora. My most recent work, funded by an NSF grant, examines syntactic change in the negation system of African American English in Philadelphia. Other projects I have worked on explore the perception and acquisition of sociolinguistic variation, changes in the sound system of Philadelphia English(es), and syntactic change in both general American English and French Guyanais Creole.

I use a variety of methodological tools to study linguistic phenomena, including traditional sociolinguistic fieldwork, corpus linguistics, and experimental methods. I’m currently in the process of setting up a Sociolinguistics Lab at Wellesley. The Lab will offer the opportunity to mentor students in sociolinguistic research.

At the introductory/intermediate level, I teach Introduction to Linguistics (Ling 114), Sociolinguistics (Ling 238), and Language: Form and Meaning (Ling 244). At the advanced level, I teach a seminar on African American English (Ling 338). This course explores the linguistic features, history, and current social context of the second most spoken variety of English in the U.S. As a new faculty member, I look forward to developing courses at Wellesley that will explore the intersection of language and society, how language varies, and how it changes over time.

My professional interests include promoting diversity and inclusion in the field of linguistics. In turn, I use linguistic research to promote an appreciation for linguistic diversity and the inclusion of marginalized speech communities within the discipline. I’m an active member of the Linguistic Society of America. In the past, I have participated in the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics and the Caribbean Society for Linguistics.

Outside of linguistics, I enjoy running, listening to and playing music, travelling, cooking (eating more so), learning how to make wine, and spending time laughing with friends and family.

Education

  • B.A., Binghamton University
  • M.S., University of Lyon
  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Current and upcoming courses

  • Designed to familiarize students with some of the essential concepts of linguistic analysis. Suitable problem sets in English and in other languages will provide opportunities to study the basic systems of language organization-phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. Additional topics include introductions to language organization in the brain, child language acquisition, language change, and language in society.
  • This course will consider some basic questions about language: What do we actually know when we know a language? How is the structure of language best described? Are there properties which all languages share, and what do those properties tell us about language itself? We will look at specific problems in morphology, syntax, and semantics, and the strengths and weaknesses of different linguistic theories will be considered. While many of the problems considered in this class will involve English, we will also be looking at other languages, both European and non-European.
  • The application of linguistics to the analysis of sociocultural variation in language. We will examine the way information about age, gender, social class, region, and ethnicity is conveyed by variations in the structural and semantic organization of language. We will also examine language attitude and language planning in multilingual societies.