language documentation and maintenance
Just south of UC Santa Barbara is a large agricultural community that is home to thousands of speakers of indigenous Mexican languages. In this context, I work with speakers of Tu'un Savi (Mixtec), a group of understudied Otomanguean languages from Oaxaca and Guerrero.
The community I work in is home to at least a dozen distinct varieties of Tu'un Savi, which are in contact with each other, Spanish, English, and other indigenous languages like Zapotec. I'm currently undertaking a basic sociolinguistic description of variation within Tu'un Savi, with the eventual goal of understanding this complex multilingual and multidialectal diasporic contact situation from both a structural and a sociocultural perspective.
As part of my research, I also work in tandem with community-led language-focused projects, such as medical interpreters' networks, Mixtec literacy classes, and a local group for indigenous youth.
language and social power
Another strand of my research focuses on using linguistic tools, theories and methodologies to understand the tumultuous political world we all live in: how it came to be, and how we can transform it. I'm especially interested in the ways that powerful groups use linguistic resources to construct discourses of their own marginalization.
One of my papers, which was recently published in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, analyzes the construction of supposed "reverse racism" against white people, focusing on the euphemization of cracker as the C-word (Bax 2018). A shorter version of this paper was awarded the 2017 Society for Linguistic Anthropology Graduate Student Paper Prize.
I also have a manuscript in progress about gendered interpretive agency in heterosexual online dating practices, specifically examining interactions in which a woman's non-response to a man is interpreted as a deliberate affront.
linguistics and education
A third strand of my work is focused on linguistics pedagogy, particularly as a tool for effecting social change. This research (and outreach) has been conducted as part of UC Santa Barbara's SKILLS (School Kids Investigating Language in Life and Society) program. With the SKILLS program, I've been teaching linguistics in local public high schools and community centers for five years.
In my Master's thesis, I studied the effects of the SKILLS curriculum on high school seniors' language attitudes toward marginalized and hegemonic varieties of English. This study found that the program significantly improved participants' attitudes toward African American English. The paper is currently being revised for publication.
With Juan Sebastian Ferrada, I've also written a reflexive piece about my experience teaching in the SKILLS program, was recently published in Feeling It: Language, Race, and Affect in Latinx Youth Learning (Routledge), edited by Mary Bucholtz, Dolores Inés Casillas, and Jin Sook Lee (Bax and Ferrada 2018).
In my past life, I was a generative syntactician. (I now take a more discourse-functional approach to structural linguistic analysis.) With Michael Diercks, a professor at Pomona College, I coauthored a paper about object marking in Manyika (Bantu), based on data collected in my undergraduate Field Methods class.