During my PURM project I monitored several experiments that involved modeling real world pressures on language in the lab. In these experiments, participants learned artificial languages and played communicative games with them under a variety of different social and communicative pressures. The effect of these pressures on the participants’ language use was then observed. The goal of these experiments was ultimately to use the results to be able to predict how language will change in real word scenarios.
My research experience taught me a lot about the process of designing experiments. This process is not as straightforward as I once thought – it involves honing a particular research question, continuous drafting and optimization of design, and evaluation of the significance of potential results. In other words, good research requires adaptability and the ability to balance a complex research question with a simple but elegant design. Furthermore, my research taught me how to analyze graphs of data and make sense of patterns in the results.
This PURM research project certainly gave me much more in depth and hands-on experience than my educational experience during the year. In researching such a specific topic, I was guided by my mentor towards important research texts, and in reading them I gained a lot of vocabulary that is essential to the field of linguistics. What’s more, my project allowed me to contextualize what I had learned in my linguistics classes during the year and access very recently updated research in my field.
Overall, my project helped me gain intimate knowledge of a sub-field of linguistics while also allowing me to gain skills that are universally applicable.