Rachel Steindel Burdin
Rachel Steindel Burdin is an assistant professor of linguistics in the English department and the women’s and gender studies department at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), where she began working in 2016. Her areas of specialization are sociophonetics, linguistic variation, and intonation. Hayden Stinson had been Dr. Burdin’s advisee since he started at UNH, and he went on to work as a research assistant for her. When he received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) for the summer of 2020, they successfully negotiated the logistical challenges of starting up his independent research near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its important safety protocols. Dr. Burdin notes that learning to work with the COVID-19 challenges in the spring of 2020 helped her set up for mentoring other students during the subsequent fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. Hayden’s research project on gay male speech was a natural spin-off from Dr. Burdin’s ongoing project on language change and variation in New Hampshire. She explains that the field of linguistics is relatively obscure, though linguists strive to answer questions we all find fascinating: “How do children learn language? Why do different people have different accents? Why is it so hard to get a computer to understand what I'm asking?” Dr. Burdin describes writing for Inquiry as good experience for Hayden to practice communicating what linguistics is and to let the public know there are researchers exploring these intriguing questions.