My research focuses on what perception and production of sociolinguistic variation reveals about the cognitive structure of language, the mental relationships between linguistic and social knowledge, and the mechanisms underlying the inception and progression of sound change


I received my Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020 and my Master's in Sociolinguistics from North Carolina State University in 2015. 

My primary research interests include:

  • language variation and change

  • sociolinguistic cognition

  • sociophonetics/phonology

  • production-perception relationships

I am affiliated with the Language Variation and Cognition Lab and the Cultural Evolution of Language Lab at Penn. 

Recent News

April 24, 2020

Doctoral Dissertation Defense

I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation, entitled "The Linguistic and the social intertwined: Linguistic convergence toward Southern speech"

January 5, 2020

LSA Talks

I presented some of my dissertation research showing that "Speakers converge toward variants they haven't heard: The case of Southern monophthongal /ay/" at the LSA annual meeting.

October 10, 2019

NWAV Talks

Wei Lai will be presenting on Tamminga, Wade & Lai: "The search for predictors of individual differences in VOT imitation." I'll be presenting a talk on my project with Gareth Roberts: "Accommodation to observed vs. expected behavior in a laboratory experiment"

June 17, 2019


I was awarded an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant for my dissertation, "Linguistic Accommodation to Southern Speech"