Director, Sociolinguistics Laboratory

University of Washington, Department of Linguistics

Box 352425

Seattle, WA 98195-2425

Email: wassink @

Linguistics main office:

4th Floor Guggenheim Hall


I'm a professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Washington. I am also an external reader in Linguistic Phonetics at the University of the West Indies, Mona, in Kingston Jamaica.

As a Sociophonetician, I conduct research at the intersection between Sociolinguistics (the study of the interrelationships between social structure and linguistic structure) and Linguistic Phonetics (the physical properties of the speech signal and sensorimotor processes governing the production and perception of speech). My current research projects investigate the acoustic properties of vowels (and how changes in vowel dynamics are perceived), dialect contact in the American Pacific Northwest, racial bias in speech recognition systems and variation and change in linguistic varieties of speech used in understudied communities. I combine acoustic measures and techniques, particularly those focused on analysis of time-varying spectral information, with analytical techniques from social network analysis and variationist sociolinguistics.

My BA is from Houghton College, where I majored in Communication, Creative Writing, and Spanish. My PhD is from the University of Michigan, where Patrice Speeter Beddor and A. Lesley Milroy co-supervised my 1999 dissertation, A Sociophonetic Analysis of Jamaican Vowels . For a brief period of time as an undergraduate, I completed coursework toward majors in Psychology and Computer Science. I was actively searching for a field of study that would allow me to investigate the structure in language (particularly in sound systems), and fit my interests in quantitative analysis. Growing up in a household where Jamaican Creole, African American English and Mainstream American English were all used, I was fascinated from an early age in how groups of speakers react to the sound systems of others, and imbue the variation they hear in language with social significance.