Emma Thompson

Pope Francis is driven through the crowd in his popemobile in St. Peter’s Square for his inauguration Mass at the Vatican, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

During the conclave to select a new leader of the Roman Catholic Church, several UT students joined crowds of tourists at the Vatican hoping to snap a picture or grab a souvenir to commemorate the event.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina was selected as the new pope of the Catholic Church on March 13, taking the name Francis. He is the first Jesuit priest to be named pope and replaces Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned from the position in February.

Social work sophomore Emma Thompson, who was raised Catholic, was visiting Italy for spring break at the time of the conclave.

“Being at the Vatican during conclave is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Thompson said.

Thompson said she is optimistic that Pope Francis will be able to inspire Catholics.

“I hope that he is an engaging leader who can unite the diversity and huge numbers that are in the Catholic Church,” Thompson said.

History sophomore Julianne Staine, who joined Thompson, said there were large crowds of visitors throughout the conclave during the historic event.

“The atmosphere in Rome was pretty crazy,” Staine said. “When we got to the Vatican the media presence was insane. There were hundreds of cameras and photographers and newscasters, and it added considerably to the excitement of the whole thing.”

Religious studies and history professor Virginia Garrard-Burnett said since there have not been any non-European popes in modern times, selecting Francis from Argentina will be a significant change for the church.

“The selection of a Latin American pope is an acknowledgement of the fact that the center of gravity has shifted for the Roman Catholic Church from Europe to the developing world,” Garrard-Burnett said. “The Catholic Church remains very strong in Latin America and Africa, but it is no longer strong in Europe, where people tend to be very secular these days.”

Garrard-Burnett said the Catholic Church has been losing members in Latin America over the past three decades to evangelical Protestantism, and naming a Latin American pontiff may help to slow the movement of Latin Americans leaving the church.

Francis’ new role will not only affect Latin American Catholics but will also have a global impact, according to Garrard-Burnett.

“The selection of any new pope impacts Catholics in every part of the world,” Garrard-Burnett said. “Pope Francis does not seem to differ from the previous pope on social [and] church issues such as abortion, gay marriage, priestly celibacy or the ordination of women. That probably will not change. However, he is deeply interested in the interests of the poor and he’s made that clear already. That’s a departure from the Pope Benedict.”

Journalism sophomore Claire Hogan, who traveled with Thompson, said although she is not Catholic she could see the impact the conclave had on those in the Vatican.

“When we ventured to St. Peter’s [Basilica], it was almost overwhelming how much excitement there was on the matter,” Hogan said. “People had traveled from all different parts of Europe and the world to witness this piece of religious and cultural history.”

Published on March 20, 2013 as "UT students experience Vatican during conclave". 

In Texas, it isn't unusual to hear a “y'all” tossed around in casual conversation, but the tone of language we use differs depending on whom we're talking to, according to a new study.

Linguistics graduate student Kathleen Points examined differences in dialect through her project “Language Use in East Austin,” in which she researched language use and examines how it relates to identity. She looked at different ethnic groups that make up East Austin to determine what causes these subtle changes.

“I was interested in researching language and how people use language at a local level,” Points said. “I looked at how we use accents selectively to highlight our identity.”

Points said differences in the way certain groups speak are subtle but produce different kinds of sounds.

“I'm observing what could be the beginning of larger sound change — it's the vowel in the word ‘goose,’” Points said. “In Texas and the South, it's the traditional stereotypical Southern sound. In Hispanic English, the sound is typically more backed, where the tongue is more in the back of the mouth.”

Points said these differences in dialect change depending on simple subject matters.

“It's related to the topic of conversation,” she said. “When people are talking about negative things, their tongues are in the backs of their mouths. When they talk about things close to their heart, like cooking with their grandmother, they use the traditional white-Anglo sound.”

Linguistics professor Nora England said there's a strong tendency to try to alter our speech slightly to sound more like those we admire.

“If you look at communities of speakers and how speech changes, there's a correlation of how people talk and how other people talk that they hold in esteem,” England said.

“We have powerful motivation to speak in ways that put us in the middle of the group we want to be part of.”

Social work freshman Emma Thompson said she speaks differently when she's at home in Texas than she does when she ventures elsewhere.

“When I go out-of-state I definitely talk in a thicker accent, because people think the accent is cool,” Thompson said.

She also said talking to others that have the signature Texas twang helps to bring out her own.

“If I'm talking to someone who has a really thick accent then my accent tends to come out more,” she said.

Printed on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 as: Graduate student examine classic Texas twang accent