Alyssa Medwynter: Black Languages and “Internet Speech”

About Me

Hi Everyone! I’m Alyssa, a rising senior majoring in Linguistics and minoring in Neuroscience and Africana Studies. I grew up in East Stroudsburg, PA, a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. On campus, I’m the current president of the Pan-Caribbean Alliance (PCA) as well as a BRIDGES undergraduate peer mentor. I’ve also been on the executive board of the African Students Organization (ASO) as the Co-Events Manager for the 2020-21 year. Outside of campus, you can find me trying to get through my “to be read” pile or creating social media content for The Insighters – a platform that matches healthcare users (patients, healthcare providers, and caregivers) to paid research opportunities.

After undergrad, I plan on going into a clinical audiology program and I’ve just started the application process. Even though my project and career goals are not closely related, the Brackenridge Fellowship will still provide the foundation in self-driven research that I need. Additionally, I’m looking forward to learning from other students in different fields than my own.

Black Languages and “Internet Speech”

For my project, I will be examining Black language use on social media platforms. With the guidance of Dr. Shelome Gooden, I will be looking at who uses Black language phrases, how these phrases are used, why people use them, and if they know they are Black language phrases in the first place. More specifically, I’m interested in seeing if race, age, and/or location affect the use at all. This project is deeply personal to me because I have seen the impact co-opting Black language has on society. Black people are often ridiculed for how they speak until it becomes “trendy” to do so or. There are a lot of opinion pieces on Black language use on social media, but I want to be able to see the data for myself. My hope with this research is to be able to see if Black languages are being credited for their contributions to “internet speech.” Now more than ever, it is important to uplift Black voices and this project will act as a way to expose Anti-Blackness on social media.

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