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Erika Alpert, PhD

PhD, Linguistic Anthropology, Assistant Professor

Accepting PhD Students

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Personal profile

Research interests

Language not merely a means for representing the world, but also for constructing it and acting within it: in a sense, language is magic. Words do things. 

I'm particularly interested in the relationship between words and social structure, between talk and our relationships to other people. How do we form new relationships? Make friends, fall in love, get married? What is the role of talk in creating emotions, forging social bonds, and creating and sustaining desire? 

My doctoral dissertation focused on Japanese professional matchmakers and their ideologies of conversation. How do you create a good first impression on another person through talk? How do you incite in that other person the desire to see you again, and maybe even marry you? How are these communicative performances gendered—or not? And what kind of marriage relationship do matchmakers and their clients expect to create through talk, from the introductory meeting through to the proposal? In upcoming research, I plan to look at the language strategies used in Japanese online dating profiles, as well as expanding my research to include a comparative focus on other parts of Asia. 

I've also, in the past, written about things like acoustic phonetics and language ideologies in sexual minority communities.

Education/Academic qualification

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Sep 2005May 2014

External positions

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  • 4 Similar Profiles
Japan Social Sciences
marriage Social Sciences
gender Social Sciences
heterosexuality Social Sciences
self-presentation Social Sciences
love Social Sciences
language Social Sciences
Ideologies Social Sciences

Projects 2015 2020

Research Output 2008 2018

  • 5 Paper
  • 1 Article
  • 1 Book/Film/Article review

Matchmaking and the Value of Marriage in Neoliberal Japan

Alpert, E. R., 2018.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

social insurance

Heterosexuality, Gender, and Difference: ‘Love Hunting’ Online in Japan

Alpert, E. R., 2017.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

gender-specific factors

Cool but not Sexy: "Cool Japan" and Demographic Crisis

Alpert, E. R., 2016.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

image of Japan
technical innovation
popular culture

The Personal Is Professional: Learning to Make Matches in Japan

Alpert, E. R., 2015.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper