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College of Arts and Sciences

Graham Cohen

Class of 2020

 Graham Cohen

Hometown: Northbrook, IL

What is your College Scholar project?
My project explores bringing computational linguistic tools to the analysis of Spanish. As of now, I intend to primarily focus on Caribbean varieties, but that may shift over time.

I’m particularly interested in the topic of perceptual dialectology - what speakers of certain dialects think of speakers of other dialects. I want to know why positive and negative attitudes towards dialects exist, and what it takes to change them. I think that linguistic investigation may reveal that certain Spanish varieties are much more similar than speakers believe, and perhaps this knowledge could lead to increased intercultural camaraderie. 

My linguistic and sociolinguistic investigations will be aided by computational tools needed to build and search large-scale spoken corpora. Written data is already easily searchable, but audio data is much more difficult to study. And that’s unfortunate, since the computational analysis of audio data has boundless potential applications for dictation, real-time translation, and much more. 

I’m not exactly sure where my project will lead me, but I’m very excited to be taking classes across many departments to gain expertise in my interdisciplinary course of study. 

What are your most important extra-curricular activities?
On campus, I’m involved with a fairly wide array of organizations. I’m chair of the Pilot Programs Committee of the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board, which means I’m in charge of implementing new projects that aim to promote and enhance undergraduate research. I also help out in a research laboratory in the Psychology department. Aside from research-related activities, I’m a brother of Pi Sigma Epsilon, a professional business fraternity. And less academically speaking, I’m a member of the Cornell Buds Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team.

Talk about any summer internships or programs you’ve attended?
The summer program most relevant to my College Scholar project actually came prior to my arrival at Cornell. Right before my senior year of high school, I spent seven weeks living with a host family in the Dominican Republic. The Dominicans in my community spoke Spanish completely differently than I had ever heard, and I was fascinated by the linguistic phenomena I was witnessing firsthand. I’ve since learned quite a bit more about Spanish dialects, and my interest in them has only grown.

What do you dream of doing after graduation?
I’m just happy to have finally found the major that’s right for me - I plan to think about careers a bit later on!