Chelsea Escalante

Assistant Professor



BA in International Relations, Stanford University (2005)

MA in Hispanic Linguistics, University of Arizona (2009)

PhD in Hispanic Linguistics with a Designated Emphasis in Second Language Acquisition, University of California, Davis (2018)

Research Interests

My research is primarily based in the camp of sociolinguistics with extensions to second- and heritage-language acquisition/development, phonetics/phonology, pragmatics, and bilingualism. As a sociolinguist, most of my projects employ a variationist framework and include a statistical analysis with a qualitative component. Although my first research projects were confined to the university context, I have gradually shifted to a community-based approach to data collection.

My research echoes my dedication to the field of sociolinguistics, a field that seeks to validate marginalized language varieties, pursues positive ways for researchers to return linguistic favors to the community, and one that is ultimately interested in promoting human equality through the validation of stigmatized dialects and the communities that use them.

As an engaged scholar, I conceptualize research as a co-creation of knowledge that shifts the position of students and community groups from knowledge consumers to knowledge producers and partners in problem-solving. I believe in generating new knowledge through the combining of academic and community-based expertise and in eliminating a hierarchy and a one-way flow of knowledge outward from the college or university.

Selected past, current, and ongoing projects

The acquisition of a sociolinguistic variable while volunteering abroad: s-weakening among heritage- and L2 speakers in coastal Ecuador. This project lies at the intersection of socio-phonetic variation and second language acquisition (SLA). It tracks longitudinally the acquisition of Spanish of 14 Americans serving an Ecuadorian NGO as humanitarian volunteers with the goal of understanding to what extent they acquire /s/-aspiration (los primos produced as [loh pɾimoh]), a phonological variable characteristic of coastal Ecuadorian Spanish, during their year abroad. It studies how these speakers perceive, process, and produce non-standard forms and how that changes over time based on their linguistic and social experience in-country. The project follows variationist sociolinguistic methodology and includes a substantial statistical analysis as well as a qualitative case-study section on three heritage language speakers included in the participant pool whose use of the non-standard variable differs significantly from the L2 participants. 

Heritage speakers of Spanish in study abroad and immersion contexts (with Rebecca Pozzi and Tracy Quan). Considering the increase in heritage speakers of Spanish going abroad in recent years and the limited number of studies that have explored the topic, this edited collection includes emerging research on heritage speakers of Spanish in immersion contexts. The volume reflects several areas of interest, including sociolinguistic variation, pragmatic development, identity construction, and program design (e.g. service learning). It seeks to represent the diversity of the Spanish heritage speaking population not only regarding their backgrounds and abilities, but also with respect to the length and type of SA programs, the context of instruction, and the host destination. The edited volume concludes with implications for how immersion programs can improve design and policies to better serve the growing Spanish heritage speaker population, as well as future directions in this area of study. 

Teacher attitudes toward language variation in a dual language immersion (DLI) elementary school program. This project explores teacher attitudes toward bilingual, peripheral, and developmental varieties of Spanish in K-3 DLI classes and how children internalize such attitudes. As a community-engaged project, it also provides funds to support Spanish language development and maintenance in the community through community outreach events. 

The impact of long-term international volunteerism at the individual and community level (Funded by the Mellon Foundation and UC Davis Public Scholars Program). This project sought to explore the local Ecuadorian perspective on the long-term effects of international volunteerism in their communities, specifically investigating the impact of one particular NGO located outside of Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Selected publications

Escalante, C. (2018). "The acquisition of a sociolinguistic variable while volunteering abroad: S-weakening among L2 and heritage speakers in coastal Ecuador" (Order No. 10826363). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of California; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (2097263056). Retrieved from

Escalante, C. (2018). "¡Ya pué[h]! Perception of coda-/s/ weakening among L2 and heritage speakers in coastal Ecuador." EuroAmerican Journal of Applied Linguistics and Languages, 5(1), 1-26.

Escalante, C. (2017). "Te lo pido por favor: Estrategias de cortesía de hablantes de herencia del español mexicano." Normas: revista de estudios lingüísticos hispánicos.

Escalante, C. (2016). "Intervocalic voicing and regressive voicing assimilation in L2 Spanish /s/." Divergencias, 14(1).

Kemp, R., Moline, E., Escalante, C., Mendez, A., & Bayley, R. (2016). "‘Where have all the participles went?’ Using Twitter data to teach about language variation and change." American Speech, 91(2).

Escalante, C. (2015). "¿Qué twisteastes tú? Variation in second-person singular preterit –s in Spanish tweets." Entrehojas, 5(1).

Nicholls, C. (2009). "El conocimiento de normas pragmáticas en las peticiones electrónicas: Un estudio comparativo entre hablantes de español como lengua nativa, lengua heredada, y lengua extranjera." M.A. Thesis, The University of Arizona, United States — Arizona. Retrieved August 17, 2009, from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Arizona. (Publication No. AAT 1464645).


Three main educational philosophies guide my teaching practices: the cultivation of a respectful and inclusive classroom community where all voices and backgrounds are welcomed and valued; the creation of meaningful, student-centered and Standards-based learning opportunities that incorporate technology, use genuine, real-world language, and encourage critical thinking; and the incorporation of my own research into the classroom, including topics in in sociolinguistics, bilingualism, pragmatics (language in context), and second language phonology. I have experience teaching Spanish at both R1 and Liberal Arts universities, as well as at the secondary, primary, and preschool levels. As an Undocu-Ally educator, I am committed to supporting students of diverse backgrounds regardless of immigration status. 

Courses taught at the University of Wyoming

SPAN 3030 (Spanish for Heritage Speakers)
SPAN 3060 (Advanced Grammar and Composition)
SPAN 3300 (Introduction to Hispanic Linguistics)
SPAN 4900/5900 (Spanish Phonetics/Phonology)
LANG 5900 (Language Pedagogy – graduate level)

Community Engagement

As an engaged scholar, I believe in creating and sustaining partnerships with local, national, and international community organizations. My goal is that these partnerships can be spaces that challenge the traditional model of how knowledge has historically flowed (from the university to the community in a top-down approach). My goal is that my community-engaged research, teaching, and service projects instead adopt a collaborative approach where knowledge is co-created by both university and community partners and is disseminated equally to academic and local audiences. 

Selected past and current projects include

Engineers Without Borders faculty trip leader for water system implementation international service project, Patulul, Guatemala (2018-current)

Spring Creek Elementary and Indian Paintbrush Elementary dual language immersion (DLI) classroom volunteer (2018-current)

Service learning component in Spanish for Heritage Speakers course (2019-current)

Holy Cross Preschool volunteer Spanish teacher (2017-2018)

Rostro de Cristo long term volunteer, Guayaquil, Ecuador (2005-2006)

Dr. Chelsea Escalante

Chelsea Escalante

Assistant Professor
Hoyt Hall 210

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