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The Honors Program in Linguistics provides students with the in-depth research experience of writing an Honors Thesis under the close supervision of a faculty mentor. Majors who are considering graduate study are strongly encouraged to participate.
Honors Thesis Timeline
The schedule below shows a suggested timeline, with students beginning the honors process in the fall term of their junior year. However, many students have discovered the possibility of doing honors in their major later than that and have still gone on to write excellent senior theses. Please take this timeline as a suggested path only; the first actual deadline is the Oct. 1 date to declare honors. Students wishing to declare honors after that date are required to reach out to email@example.com first to discuss the honors plan.
The timeline below is based on a Winter semester graduation. If you plan to graduate in Fall or Summer, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for an adjusted timeline.
By end of Fall Semester:
- Let the Linguistics Department know you are interested in pursuing an honors thesis via advising appointment or the Honors Interest Form, typically sent out in early December.)
- Read more about the Honors Summer Fellowship program and decide if you would like to apply.
By the end of Winter Semester:
- Find a faculty mentor and identify a proposed title of your project.
During Spring/Summer Semester:
- Register for LING 495 for Fall Term (optional, see “Honors and Course Credit” below)
- At a minimum, work on your thesis abstract and proposed timeline. Some students may choose to conduct thesis research over the summer as well.
Early September (at least two weeks before the Fall Add/Drop deadline):
- Submit Honors Thesis Intention Form if you are planning to register for Fall term honors thesis independent study credits (optional)
- Deadline to submit the Honors Thesis Intention Form. Students wishing to declare honors after that date are required to reach out to email@example.com first to discuss the honors plan.
By the end of Fall Semester:
- Register for LING 495 for Winter Term (optional, see “Honors and Course Credit” below)
- Discuss possible second readers with your faculty advisor and approach a second reader to serve in that role.
- Discuss with your faculty advisor whether or not you plan to meet the April 1 deadline for submission of a near-finished draft of your thesis to be considered for Honors Program and Linguistics thesis awards.
- If you are planning to meet the April 1 deadline, share with your advisor the link to the Honors Award Endorsement form that you will receive by email from the Linguistics Department.
- Deadline to submit thesis for consideration for awards within the Linguistics Department (the Matt Alexander Prize for Outstanding Honors Thesis) as well as LSA Honors Awards.
- The thesis draft you submit for consideration should be near-complete and should have already been submitted to your thesis advisor. You will submit the thesis, along with an unofficial transcript, in a form you will receive from the Linguistics Department in March.
- Submit the final draft of your thesis to your faculty mentor and second reader. Note: you should decide the final deadline for your thesis in consultation with your readers, but please be aware that the readers will need to submit their honors designations to the Linguistics Department by May 1.
- Final deadline to submit thesis. Please email your thesis to firstname.lastname@example.org and CC your faculty advisor and second reader. Your faculty advisor and second reader will receive guidance from the Linguistics Department on grading recommendations for your thesis.
Course Credit, Awards, Resources
Honors and Course Credit
Students writing an Honors Thesis may, but are not required to, register for one or two special independent study courses (LING 495, 1-6 credits). These do count towards the limit of 6 independent study or experiential practice credits allowed for the Linguistics major.
The following awards are available for honors thesis writers. Students who wish to be considered for awards must submit a final or near-final draft of their thesis by April 1. Please see the timeline above for more details.
LSA Honors Awards. The LSA Honors Program awards several scholarships and prizes to thesis-writing students. Please see their website for details.
The Matt Alexander Award. Each year the Linguistics Department awards the Matt Alexander Award to the best Honors Thesis.
Resources for Honors Majors
- If you have any questions about the honors thesis process, please make an appointment to see a Linguistics Department advisor. If you have questions specific to finding a project or learning more about research, consider making an appointment specifically with Prof. Lisa Levinson, Director of Undergraduate Research Experiences for the Department of Linguistics.
The Honors Summer Fellowship program offers peer and monetary support for a small cohort of students starting the honors thesis process during the summer before their senior year. Spaces are limited, and applications are typically due at the beginning of the Winter semester of students’ junior year.
LSA Honors Grants provide funding to thesis-related research, including research-related travel.
Linguistics students are always welcome to apply for research funding from the Department of Linguistics!
Defining Honors at U-M
Honors in Linguistics. The requirements for receiving honors in Linguistics are: (1) being a declared Linguistics major, (2) having a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4, and (3) submitting an approved thesis via the process outlined above. Registration in LING 495 is optional. Students may pursue Honors in Linguistics without previous affiliation with the LSA Honors Program. Upon declaring the honors major, students are affiliated with the Honors Program and have access to all the resources they provide. Students who complete their honors requirements graduate with “honors,” “high honors,” or “highest honors,” which is noted on the diploma and the official transcript. These honors are given by the department based on the quality of the work submitted.
LSA Honors Program. The LSA Honors Program is a four-year academic program divided into two parts: 1) Lower-division honors requirements and the honors core curriculum are completed by students who are admitted to the Honors Program as freshmen. 2) An honors major is completed by students who pursue an honors thesis (regardless of prior enrollment in the Honors Program).
University Honors. The University Honors designation, noted on students' transcripts, is awarded on a term-by-term basis to students who earned a 3.5 grade point average or higher during a given term (at least 14 credits must have been elected that term, at least 12 of which were elected on a graded basis).
Degrees with Distinction. At graduation, degrees with distinction are awarded based on class ranking. Students who have been approved for graduation, have completed at least 45 graded in-residence credits, and rank in the top 3% of their class will receive a degree "with Highest Distinction." Those who rank in the top 10% of their class but not in the top 3% will receive a degree "with High Distinction." Those who rank in the top 25% of their class but not in the top 10% will receive a degree "with Distinction." Distinction levels are noted on the diploma and the official transcript. Degrees with Distinction may be awarded with or without Honors designation.
Past Honors Theses in Linguistics
Grace Brown, Matt Alexander Award recipient; Virginia L. Voss Memorial Award recipient
First Impressions: Influences of Gender Expectations on Perceptions of English Sibilants
Supervisor: Pam Beddor
As the Frensshe Book Saith': Language Contact in Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur
Supervisor: Marlyse Baptista
Syntactic Parsing of L2 verb structural continuation bias by Spanish-English bilinguals
Supervisor: Lisa Levinson
Repetition Reduction Within and Across Topics
Supervisor: Pam Beddor
Kate Zhou, Matt Alexander Award recipient
Supervisor: Ezra Keshet
American English Listeners’ Ability to Perceive Non-Native Sibilant Contrasts in Native-like and Non-Native Vowel Contexts
Supervisor: Pam Beddor
The Effect of Positive and Negative Emotion on Speech Production
Supervisor: Jelena Krivokapic
Yicheng Li, 2020 Matt Alexander Award recipient
Phonetically Gradient and Lexically Diffuse: Ongoing Vowel Mergers in Minjiang Southwestern Mandarin
Supervisor: Andries Coetzee
Annika Topelian, 2020 Matt Alexander Award recipient
Heritage Language Acquisition and Bilingualism: Western Armenian in the Diaspora
Supervisor: Acrisio Pires
Carly Marten, 2019 Matt Alexander Award Recipient, 2019 Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award Recipient
A Case Study of Circumcision Narratives for Women in Addis Abada, Ethiopia
Supervisor: Savi Namboodiripad and Timothy Johnson (Women’s Studies)
Perspectives on Code-Switching in Bilingual Classrooms in the United States
Supervisor: Elaine McNulty
Antipassives in Montana Salish
Supervisor: Sarah Gray Thomason
Deconstructing Verb Particles Constructions
Supervisor: Elaine McNulty
This student was awarded the 2018 Matt Alexander Award for Outstanding Honors Thesis in Linguistics.
Can Truncation in Montana Salish Be Predictable and Prosodic?
Supervisor: Sarah Gray Thomason
The Possible Effects of Formal Second Language Instruction on Conscious Syntactic Knowledge of One's Native Language.
Supervisor: Elaine McNulty.
Taglish in Metro Manila: An Analysis of Tagalog-English Code-Switching.
Supervisor: Marlyse Baptista.
Joseph received the Matt Alexander Award for an outstanding Honors thesis in Linguistics.
No Honors Theses
The Morphosyntax of Case in Cuzco Quechua: Evidence for a New Type of Nominalized Clause
Supervisor: Acrisio Pires, Second Reader: Samuel Epstein
Diachronic Development of Haitian Creole
Supervisor: Marlyse Baptista, Second Reader: Sarah Grey Thomason
Laughing with Letters: A Corpus Investigation of the Use of Written Laughter on Twitter
Supervisor: Deborah Keller-Cohen, Second Reader: Robin Queen
Isabel received the Matt Alexander Award for an outstanding Honors thesis in Linguistics, and from the Honors Program, a Virginia L. Voss Memorial Award for excellence in writing by Honors women
The Influences of Teacher Multilingual Linguistic Response of Spanish-English Bilingual Student Linguistic Output
Supervisor: Carmel O'Shannessy, Second Reader: Marlyse Baptista
Phonetic Transfer in Third Language Acquisition: L2 Spanish Influence on the Production of L3 Portuguese Voiced Stops
Supervisor: Pam Beddor, Second Reader: Nicholas Henriksen.
Sarah received the Matt Alexander Award for an outstanding Honors thesis in Linguistics
Null Subjects in Creole Languages.
Supervisor: Marlyse Baptista, Second Reader: Acrisio Pires.
Rachel received the Matt Alexander Award for an outstanding Honors thesis in Linguistics
An Evaluation of Written Recasts and Metalinguistics Information on Second Language Learner
Uptake Supervisor: Nick Ellis. Second Reader: Carmel O'Shannessy
Gender and Formality Effects on the Production of Vocal Fry.
Supervisor: Carmel O'Shannessy Second Reader: Robin Queen
Semantic Processing of Escher Sentences: Seemingly Null, informatively Full
Supervisor: Jonathan Brennan Second Reader: Samuel Epstein
Frances Morton The Sex Trade: Language Ideology Behind "Sex Work" and "Sex Trafficking" Supervisor: Carmel O'Shannessy Second Reader: Debby Keller-Cohen
Early Linguistic Interactions: Distributional Properties of Verbs in Syntactic Patterns
Supervisor: Nick Ellis, Second Reader: Ezra Keshet.
Liam received the Matt Alexander Award for an outstanding Honors thesis in Linguistics
The Resetting of the Null Subject Parameter in Old and Middle English
Supervisor: Acrisio Pires, Second Reader: Sam Epstein.
Emily received the Matt Alexander Award for an outstanding Honors thesis in Linguistics
An Analysis of Linguistic Discrimination: Undergraduate Reactions to Nonnative Instructors
Supervisor: Robin Queen, Second Reader: Carmel O'Shannessy
A Cultural Comparison of Spatial Metaphors in Chinese and English
Supervisor: Ben Fortson, Second Reader: Ezra Keshet
Gifford Edward Reed Blaylock
The Phonetics of Default Consonant Epenthesis
Supervisor: Patrice Beddor, Second Reader: Andries Coetzee
Jaclyn Zetta Cohen
An Analysis of Classification: A Look at the Semantic Function of Mandarin Classifiers
Supervisor: Ezra Keshet, Second Reader: William Baxter
The L Words: Lesbians and Language Investigating Linguistics Performance of Sexuality on The L Word
Supervisors: Anne Curzan and Robin Queen
The Vitality of Veps: Preserving Language Across Provincial Borders
Supervisor: Steven Abney, Second Reader: Robin Queen.
Bryn received the Matt Alexander Award for an outstanding Honors thesis in Linguistics, and from the Honors Program, a Virginia L. Voss Memorial Award for excellence in writing by senior Honors women
Idhar-Udhar Se: The Use of English in Modern Hindi Cinema
Supervisor: Sally Thomason, Second Reader: Carmel O’Shannessy
A Minimalist Analysis of Chinese wh-Question
Supervisor: Acrisio Pires, Second Reader: Samuel Epstein.
Shang received the Matt Alexander Award for an outstanding honors thesis in Linguistics
J. Lee McMahan
The Processing of English Definite Determiner Phrases & the Eye-tracking Research Methodology
Supervisor: Rick Lewis. Second Reader: Samuel Epstein
Katharine Lee Barcy
Parlez-vous Anglais?: Rhythmic Transfer in French Accented English.
Supervisors: Andries Coetzee & John Swales.
Marcus Paul Berger
Mengarini Revisited: A Translation and Analysis of Selections from Grammatica Linguae Selicae.
Supervisors: Sally Thomason & Ben Fortson.
Lindsay Marie Blackwell
Changing the Possibilities: Narrative Discourse and Conversational Strategies in Instant Messaging.
Supervisors: Robin Queen & Anne Curzan.
Gabriel Palmer Pompilius
The Vowels of Alemannic in Diachrony: The Progression of a German Dialect Through Three Eras.
Supervisors: Robert Kyes & Robin Queen.
"They'll be doing away with those buffalo": Language, Culture, and History in a Salish-Pend d'Oreille Narrative.
Awarded 2009 Virginia Voss Award for excellence in writing by senior honors women.
Charles Fletcher III
La Lengua Rosa: A Sociolinguistic Study of Gay Spanish in Madrid.
Voice Onset Time in Japanese Voiceless Stops: Domain-initial Strengthening and Perceptual Salience.
Awarded 2009 Marshall Sahlins Social Science Award from LSA Honors and 2009 Matt Alexander Award for best honors thesis in Linguistics.
Overcoming the Subset Problem: The Subset Problem and You, or, Maximum Entropy Modeling of L2 Phonotactic Acquisition.
The Loss of Old English Null Expletive 'it': How a Language Can Transform from One that Allows Null Expletives to One that Disallows them.
Awarded the 2008 Matt Alexander Award for best honors thesis in Linguistics and 2008 Virginia Voss Award for best honors thesis by a woman writer.
Song Hee Kim
Various Functions of the Discourse Marker "well" in selected Speech Events from Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English.
Emma Caitlin Schroder
The Status of Loanwords in Wolof.
Emma was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award in Linguistics for her outstanding combination of scholarship and leadership in the undergraduate program.
Justin Ryan Wedes
Bare Necessities: A Quantitative Study of Bare Noun Frequency in Cape Verdean Creole.
The Doctor's Orders: Prescription of Eighteenth-Century Grammarians and the Implications for the Written Language.
2007 Recipient of the Matt Alexander Award for the best honors thesis in Linguistics.
Syntactic Models for Coordination in English and Latin
The Restaurant Workplace as a Discourse Community: A Case Study of Language Contact and Communication Ideology
The Etymology, Use and Perception of Taboo Language
Compound Interest: Applying a Serialization Phrase Structure to Hindi Verbal Compounds
German in the Diaspora: Commonalities in Emigrant Dialects
Joseph F. Sawka
Where Do Leading Questions Lead?: Working Toward a Linguistic Definition of Leading in Courtroom Discourse
Incorporating Reference Time into a Binding Approach to Sequence of Tense
Supervisor: Acrisio Pires, Second Reader: Sam Epstein
Awarded Highest Honors, the Linguistics Outstanding Graduate Senior Award., and the University of Michigan Honors Sidney Fine Teaching Award.
Contact, Malta: The ‘Language Question’ and its Implications for Linguistics Scholarship
A Non-Absolutive and Unified Movement Analysis of Hindi Passives and Ergatives
Supervisor: Acrisio Pires; Second Reader: Sam Epstein.
Awarded Highest Honors, the Matthew Alexander Award for Outstanding Honors Thesis in Linguistics, and the University of Michigan Honors V. Voss Award for Excellence in Academic Writing.
Linguistic Motivations Behind ‘Incorrect’ Pronoun Forms in English Coordinate NPs
A Sociolinguistic Case Study on Bilingual Education in Honduras
Phonological Transfer in Second Language Acquisition
Resultatives gone minimal
Supervisor: Acrisio Pires; Second Reader: Sam Epstein.
Awarded Highest Honors, the University of Michigan Honors V. Voss Award for Excellence in Academic Writing, and Linguistics Outstanding Graduating Senior Award.
The Acquisition of the English Article System by Advanced Korean Learners of English
Nasals and Nasalization in American English: Implications for Theories of Coarticulation
Running head: Speaker Awareness and Prosodic Disambiguation
Sounding Male or Female Online: Perceived Indexes of Gender in Online Communication
Sarah Van Bonn
French and English Journal Article Abstracts from General and Applied Lingusitics: A Comparative Study
The Role of Coarticulation in the Origin of Canadian Raising
Simply Accented or Simply Incomprehensible: A Study of the Factors Involved in the Perception of Accented Speech
A Linguistic Account for Cult Phenomena
An OCP-Based Description of Nasal Harmony in Optimality Theory
The Syntax, Semantics, and Early Acquisition of One
Does subcategorization frequency influence eye movements in a passive listening paradigm?
A Study of the Acquisition of Variable Vowel Systems Among African American Children