About the lab

The CU Boulder CLASP program in Culture, Language, and Social Practice is home to a state-of-the-art laboratory for the analysis of discourse in sociocultural context. Our PhD students work on diverse topics that include interaction and identity formation on hockey teams (Sarah Adams), normativity in political social media campaigns (Kate Arnold-Murray), neurodiversity advocacy and community building in digital spaces (Emma Bornheimer), social politics of multilingualism and linguistic hybridity in Singapore (Velda Khoo), modernity and class in digital media in Pakistan (Jacob Henry), white nationalism in alt-right discourses (Maureen Kosse), causation and indexicality in mental illness narratives (Ayden Parish), and sociophonetic variation and sexual modernity in Beijing (Andy Ting).

Featured projects (1)

Research in this project attends to the role of embodiment in everyday interaction, seeking to describe and theorize the body’s potential for producing social meaning.

Featured research (13)

This article provides a multimodal semiotic analysis of the word cuck as used in online white supremacist spaces. A fundamental belief of the white supremacist ‘alt-right’ movement is an anti-Semitic narrative that positions Jewish people as a ‘global elite’ that seeks to oppress and eliminate white populations. Central to this belief is that Jewish people actively manipulate populations of colour, Black people in particular, to overtake white populations in a process known as ‘white genocide’ or ‘the great replacement’. Based on a digital ethnography of alt-right communities on Voat, Twitter and Reddit, this article demonstrates how the memeified word ‘cuck’, a pejorative term for ‘weak’ men on the US political right wing, draws from and reproduces this white nationalist conspiracy theory through allusions to interracial cuckold pornography. While disguised as innocuous, expressions like ‘cuck’ provide insight into how the alt-right weaponises misogynist and racist humour in its radicalisation efforts.
This article reviews accounts of “hugging” across evolutionary paradigms to expose how understandings of gesture are shaped by scientific theorizations of the ways humans and animals differ. The divergent roles assigned to gesture in human communication by Vygotskian and Chomskyan researchers can be traced to research on human exceptionalism during key historical periods in the Soviet Union and United States. When Vygotsky introduced his sociocultural theory of cognitive development during the early Soviet period, human exceptionalism was tested through reproductive crossbreeding. When Chomsky hypothesized a language acquisition device for the human brain during the Civil Rights era, human exceptionalism was tested through interspecies communication. These scientific histories inspired critically different approaches to gestural meaning. Taking a fresh look at the great ape language debates of the 1970s, the article attributes the dismissal of ethnography in late twentieth- century human language study to a developing experimental protocol that required gesture’s eviction. Access at: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/715754
This paper investigates the body’s role in grammar in argument sequences. Drawing from a database of public disputes on language use, we document the work of the palm-up gesture in action formation. Using conversation analysis and interactional linguistics, we show how this gesture is an interactional resource that indexes a particular epistemic stance—namely to cast the proposition being advanced as obvious. In this report, we focus on instances in which participants reach what we refer to as an ‘impasse’, at which point the palm up gesture becomes a resource for reasserting and pursuing a prior position, now laminated with an embodied claim of ‘obviousness’ that is grounded in the sequentiality of the interaction. As we show, the palm up gesture appears with and in response to a variety of syntactic and grammatical structures, and moreover can also function with no accompanying verbal utterance at all. This empirical observation challenges the assumption that a focus on grammar-in-interaction should begin with, or otherwise be examined in relation to, ‘standard’ verbal-only grammatical categories (e.g., imperative, declarative). We conclude by considering the gestural practice we focus on alongside verbal grammatical resources (specifically, particles) from typologically distinct languages, which we offer as a contribution to ongoing discussions regarding an embodied conceptualization of grammar—in this case, epistemicity.
This paper considers the PULL A PROPER NAME (PAPN) construction in English. The bulk of onomastic research in linguistics present proper names as a word class with 'unique reference', often comparing them to deictic expressions (cf. Searle 1969). Unlike deictics, however, names are interpretable beyond the immediate linguistic context. Accounts from sociocultural and cognitive linguistics dispute the notion of unique reference, instead arguing that proper names vary in everyday use. Proper names typically invoke specific persons; however, the data provided here indicates that names are frequently used as metonymic framing devices for specific events, generic scenarios, and hypothetical figures of personhood (Agha 2007, Dancygier 2011, Ainiala and Östman 2017). Using examples from Twitter, this preliminary analysis compares tokens of pull a Britney [Spears] and pull a Karen along their constructional and conceptual qualities. While tokens of pull a Britney evoke a specific person and event in time (Spears' well-known mental breakdown in 2007), tokens of pull a Karen are generic in nature and index a broad array of attitudes, personality traits and behaviors. The findings of this paper support Dancygier's (2011) claim that onomastic study should center the constructional qualities of proper names as used in real-life examples from discourse.

Lab head

Kira Hall
  • Linguistics and Anthropology
About Kira Hall
  • Much of my work as a linguistic anthropologist and sociolinguist seeks to expose the complex ways in which language is formative to sociocultural understandings of gender and sexuality, whether located in institutions such as media and government or in the interactional practices of everyday life. Central to this undertaking is my ethnographic work on the language practices of Hindi-speaking communities identifying with non-normative systems of gender and sexuality in northern India. More recently, my work has turned to topics that include embodied sociolinguistics, language and gesture in contemporary US politics, and language and sociality in autism.

Members (8)

Katherine Arnold-Murray
  • University of Colorado Boulder
Maureen Kosse
  • University of Colorado Boulder
Velda Khoo
  • University of Colorado Boulder
Ayden Parish
  • University of Colorado Boulder
Sarah Adams
  • University of Colorado Boulder
Andrew W. Ting
  • University of Colorado Boulder
Emma Bornheimer
  • University of Colorado Boulder
Jacob Henry
  • University of Colorado Boulder

Alumni (15)

Lal Zimman
  • University of California, Santa Barbara
Chad Nilep
  • Nagoya University
Joshua Raclaw
  • West Chester University
Jenny L. Davis
  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign