Magine Nation & The ESVA Language and Society Project

About the Owner of Magine Nation, LLC

Born and raised on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Ryan Webb is a young entrepreneur and applied linguist. After graduating from Northampton High School in 2010, he pursued and received (in 2014) a Bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in Linguistics from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. A year later, Mr. Webb enrolled in Old Dominion’s graduate program in Applied Linguistics, this time with an emphasis in Sociolinguistics. After completing two years of advanced coursework in discourse analysis, phonology, syntax, ethnographic fieldwork, acoustic analysis of spoken language, and language variation and change, Ryan earned a Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics (in 2017).

His main research interests in linguistics are the intersections of language, culture and identity. He has written academic papers about stance, identity and sociophonetic variation (i.e. how certain accents give character to one’s speech), promotional discourse in academic job advertisements, the grammaticalization of certain English verbal constructions (i.e. the realization of could have as could’ve or coulda in speech and in informal writing), as well as metaphor and figurative language (i.e. how a speaker’s first language influences their processing of figurative language, such as metaphors, when learning a second language).    

Mr. Webb is a self-described logophile and lover of all things language-related. He completed undergraduate coursework in Latin and Spanish, but his expertise is English and he doesn’t fluently speak another language (currently, but there’s still time to learn). When he’s not nerding out on language, Ryan likes spending time with family, close friends, and his labrador retriever (a.k.a. the Magine-Dog). You’ll likely see him either at the beach or backyard barbeque throwing cornhole, cruising the waters of the Bayside and Seaside aboard a Carolina Skiff, or at local festivals and events this coming summer.

What does Magine Nation do as a company?

Magine Nation researches and scientifically analyzes the dialect and culture of the Eastern Shore by utilizing ethnographic methodologies such as participant observation, designing surveys and conducting sociolinguistic interviews. Ethnography refers to the systematic study of people and cultures, and sociolinguistics can be defined as the scientific, empirical, descriptive study of language use, variation, and change in social contexts. To an applied linguist, any form of spoken or written language can serve as a data source to be analyzed using quantitative or qualitative approaches. Ryan Webb, M.A. in Applied Linguistics from Old Dominion University, researches, analyzes and preserves the Eastern Shore’s authentic, rural coastal dialect as part of an ongoing oral history project. The data gleaned and analyzed in his research is then used to produce informative and engaging content (i.e. articles, blogs, comics, videos, interviews and presentations, etc.) featuring the Eastern Shore’s dialect and culture. Magine Nation also commodifies and further enregisters the Eastern Shore dialect by designing and distributing apparel, gifts and souvenirs that display Eastern Shore language and cultural activities.

How is Magine Nation researching local ESVA speech?

We’re looking at ESVA speech using a combination of approaches. We’re conducting historical research (referring to historical texts and archived work); consulting with other sociolinguists interested in language variation, language change and enregisterment; analyzing newspaper articles, books and radio broadcasts to see how local speech is represented across these media; talking on the phone with local Shorefolks and recording their responses to questions about ESVA accent and vocabulary (to name a few); and conducting face-to-face oral history interviews with local residents.

What is the ESVA Language and Society Project?

Oral history is the systematic collection of living people’s testimony about their own experiences. The project, then, aims to capture and preserve the unique and authentic stories of Eastern Shore residents in their own words. Each participant in the ESVA Language and Society Project receives a high quality digital recording of their interview to be kept alongside other family records such as family trees, photographs, videos, etc. Interviews are conducted and recordings are released at no cost to participants. Interviews take approximately one hour to complete. All participants are required to sign a release form that gives their permission for any recordings and/or photographs made during the project to be used by Magine Nation and the public for educational purposes including publications, exhibitions, World Wide Web, and presentations.

Sample Questions/Topics for the ESVA Language and Society Project

How has life on the Eastern Shore changed since you were a child?

How long has your family lived on the Eastern Shore?

What did your parents do for a living?

What were some of your favorite things to do growing up?

What are the best places to dine on the Eastern Shore?

Do you enjoy living on the Eastern Shore? How would you describe life here?

What are some words or phrases you’ve heard that you think are unique to the Eastern Shore?

Do you think people on the Eastern Shore have an accent? If so, how would you describe it?

Shore folks! Become a participant!

If you would like to sign up as a participant in the ESVA Language and Society Project and receive a free high quality recording of your hour-long interview, please contact Ryan Webb by phone at (757) 678-2241 (call or text), or by e-mail at Interviews will begin being scheduled and conducted in June 2018.