Nov. 2 – Starting the Conversation* with Rachel McGraw

Relationships, respect, and listening in sociolinguistic research with Totonac communities in Mexico

Rachel McGraw, Sessional Lecturer CCGS, PhD Candidate in Linguistics University of Alberta

Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023

3:00 to 4:00 pm (pdt)

In Person: Arts 368 (ICER) or via Zoom. Please email: for the link


In this discussion I explore the importance of relationships for conducting sociolinguistic research with the Totonac communities of Ozelonacaxtla and Huehuetla, Puebla, Mexico. My research explores language vitality of Totonac and multilingualism in Totonac and Spanish. I understand language vitality as underlyingly ideological, which means in order to assess vitality, it is essential to talk to people and listen carefully to them. This focus on listening requires establishing and maintaining respectful relationships with people throughout the research process: respecting and engaging in community protocols and social networks, using flexible and responsive interview methods, analyzing and writing in a way that reflects and respects people’s voices, and theorizing language vitality through a community informed perspective. I consider the importance of listening for establishing respectful relationships and for practicing community engagement throughout the research process.


Rachel McGraw is a PhD Candidate and SSHRC Doctoral winner in Linguistics at the University of Alberta, and a sessional lecturer in Linguistic Anthropology and Indigenous Revitalization in CCGS. Rachel has an MA in Spanish Applied Linguistics and has presented her research at a range of international conferences including the Canadian Anthropology Society, the American Anthropological Association, and the Society for Linguistic Anthropology.

*Starting the Conversation is a speaker’s series hosted by the Institute for Community Engaged Research. The talks are meant to be more informal, and offer opportunities to think out loud, explore and exchange ideas.  Everyone is welcome to attend.