Rebecca L. Starr

About Me

Thanks for visiting! I am a linguist specializing in language variation, change, and acquisition in multilingual contexts, the sociophonetic construction of style, and discourse in media. After receiving my PhD from Stanford in Linguistics with a designation in Cognitive Science in 2012, I served as an A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2013, I  moved to Singapore to join the Department of English, Linguistics, and Theatre Studies at the National University of Singapore, where I am now an Associate Professor. I work on variation phenomena in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese, with a bit of Korean now and then.

My CV (April, 2022)

Email: rstarr at

Twitter: @RLSLinguistics


Singapore Multilingual Corpus

The SMC is a project seeking to document and investigate the speech of multilinguals in Singapore, including speakers of Singapore's many heritage languages, such as Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese, Kristang, Baba Malay, and others. Learn more about the project or sign up to participate here.

Voices of Children in Singapore

VOCS is a project I began in 2015 that explores the sociolinguistic development of Singaporean and 'expat' children growing up in Singapore. You can learn more about the English perception aspect of VOCS in our paper in Language in Society, and English acquisition patterns in my article in Language Variation and Change; a chapter on Mandarin acquisition and perception is in progress for an edited volume for John Benjamins.

Sociolinguistic variation in two-way language immersion

My book on children's sociolinguistic development in Mandarin-English two-way language immersion was published by Multilingual Matters in 2017. 

The book is based on year-long ethnography I conducted in an American primary school, focusing on how children learn about sociolinguistic variation within each language in a two-way immersion environment in which the teachers do not speak the varieties being targeted by the school. The book also includes an analysis of teacher variation across different classroom situations (e.g., scolding, admin, teaching), and takes a look at corrections in the classroom, including teachers correcting students, students correcting peers, and students correcting teachers. Overall, I demonstrate that children learning a second language in this environment can exploit metalinguistic information and patterns of sociolinguistic variation in their environment to target and acquire a more standard version of a language than that used by their teachers and native-speaker peers.

Other language variation and change projects

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Suprasegmental features of ASMR

I have pursued a few projects related to the sociophonetics of the registers used by ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) performers. ASMR performance is an intriguing area of study for sociolinguists, because, as a newly-enregistered sensory experience, we can examine its social construction as it develops across communities and languages. The focus of ASMR on the experience of the human voice, and somatosensory reactions to the voice, also prompts us to reevaluate the extent to which the social meaning of the voice is a wholly ideological construct.

Other voice quality and style projects

Discourse projects

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My PhD Students

My MA Students