Hi, I'm Jessi
I’m an associate professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan. I work on Black Language—in all its incarnations—with the goal of better understanding the role that Black Language plays in Black identity, and in so doing, understand how to use that knowledge to sustain Black community.
My first book, The Black Side of the River: Language, Race and Belonging in Washington, D.C., is available from Georgetown University Press.
I’m a sociolinguist, which means I specialize in the ways that language affects, and is affected by, our fundamental human urge to create and maintain social identities and social ties. I do this in a number of different ways: looking at everything from how we use big, overarching parts of our language (discourse analysis) to the most minute differences in the ways we use individual sounds (sociophonetics). I focus especially on the language variety called African American Language—the grammatically-patterned language variety used by many, but not all, and not exclusively, African Americans in the United States.
I received my Ph.D. from Georgetown University, and have held faculty appointments at the University of Tennessee and the University of Michigan.
I speak regularly to academic and public audiences about language, language change, race, and why more people need to know more about linguistics.
I research African American Language in order to understand how Black Language use creates and sustains Black community.
I use sociophonetics, the study of socially meaningful variation in sound, to understand the identity moves we make as speakers.
Nowhere is language changing more rapidly than it is online. I study these changes and how online language shapes us.