A Day in the Life is a Campus Times series highlighting the studies and lives of UR students. Answers have been lightly edited for grammar, clarity, and/or style.
Kylie Pitt is a junior double majoring in American Sign Language and Linguistics with a minor in Psychology.
A Typical Thursday:
- 11:05 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.: ASLA 202 class (History and Culture of the American Deaf Community
- 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.: LING 217 class (Language & Psycholinguistics)
- 2:00 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.: LING 110 Workshop Leader (Intro to Linguistic Analysis)
- 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.: Break
- 6:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: LING 225 workshop (Intro to Semantic Analysis)
Bonus: Tuesday and Wednesday Research Meetings
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I have research meetings in the morning. On Tuesday morning, it’s with Professor Maya Abtahian. We’re working on a project about how COVID-19 and quarantine has affected language in multilingual students, which is kind of interesting. Then Wednesday mornings I go to a joint lab meeting with Professor Grimm and Professor Abtahian. They talk with other undergraduates and graduate students about our individual research projects. The two professors have individual projects that they kind of want us to weigh in on and discuss next steps with them.
Why ASL and Linguistics?
Well, I went into my college search interested in ASL because when I was in high school, there was a show on Broadway called Spring Awakening. It was put on by this production company called Deaf West. It incorporated deaf actors and sign language into a show that already existed without those things. I just thought the language was beautiful and really wanted to learn it. But my town and high school didn’t offer any classes. I feel like I took a leap in choosing a school based on ASL programs. In my first semester freshman year, I took an intro ASL class, and I’m really glad I loved it and stuck with it. But I was never planning on taking linguistics. I honestly didn’t know, really, what linguistics even entailed until my [first] year. Someone in my hall said that she was taking a class and I joined her because I didn’t have any plans, really. I’m also really glad I [took the class] because I really loved it.
What are your favorite classes?
In my ASL classes, the professors are just such great people, so any class with any of them is really fun. I really enjoyed my sociolinguistics class last semester. It was really cool because we looked at dialects from different places, and the attitudes people have towards the way others speak, if they speak differently than you. What are some prejudices, and how [they’re] kind of built into the system as well, in the court system and everything like that. And we also look at slang. It’s just really interesting to me how other people talk and why they talk that way and people’s attitudes towards that. So I really enjoyed that class.
What is challenging about ASL and Linguistics?
I feel ASL is kind of daunting because in the intro classes, the first day, there’s an interpreter for the professor and the students, but after that you don’t have the interpreter. It’s a completely immersed experience. It’s silent, there’s no talking. You can only communicate through signs, writing something down, or like gestures to communicate. But you can’t talk. It’s really, at first, kind of an intimidating, immersive atmosphere. But I think that it has caused so much growth in the past two years. For me, it’s crazy thinking about how much I’ve learned. It’s really cool. And with linguistics, something interesting is there are many different fields of linguistics. So everyone kind of has their own interest. I’m really interested in social linguistics, which is what my research is on. And so every linguistics major has to take basic intro level classes for each of these different fields. So I, like some people, really excel at semantics and some people don’t. So it’s kind of fun, like it’s a little tight-knit group of people and we all help each other.
What is something you want people to know about ASL and Linguistics?
I would say, first of all, ASL is totally doable. A lot of people are intimidated by it. I’ve had many friends tell me, no, I just couldn’t do that. And I want to say to people, don’t sell yourself short. I would desperately ask you to try it. It’s such a supportive atmosphere. The professors are so understanding that you literally have never done sign language before in your life. So I would say, if you’re interested in it, go for it. Don’t be intimidated. And also something about linguistics, I would say, a lot of people just don’t know about linguistics. So a lot of times people ask me, how many languages do you know? And linguistics is not about learning languages, it’s about the study of language. So we don’t know different languages, what we study is how they come to be.
Editor’s Note (10/6/2021): At the time of publication, October 2nd, 2021, Professors Abtahian and Grimm’s names were incorrect. It should have been Professor Grimm instead of Grahm and Professor Abtahian instead of Ravindranath.