Nola M. Stephens

Nola Stephens

Associate Professor of Linguistics
On faculty since 2012


706.820.2165 (Fax)



PhD, Stanford University, 2010

BA, Indiana University, 2005


Professional Interests

I’m fascinated by many aspects of human language, but my primary interests lie in the areas of child language development, psycholinguistics, lexical semantics, and sociolinguistics. During graduate school, my studies were focused on preschoolers’ language development, especially how they learn to order words in a sentence.


Since coming to Covenant, my research interests have shifted more toward sociolinguistics and the intersection of language and religion. For example, I’m particularly interested in understanding how religious beliefs and doctrinal commitments influence Christians’ language attitudes, as well as how beliefs about language influence how Christians view God and their fellow image bearers.


Covenant Activities

I serve as the faculty advisor for the Covenant College Linguistics Club and the Speech and Debate Society. I’ve also been known to play basketball against our tallest economist, Dr. Brian Fikkert.


Selected Recent Publications
  • “Dative constructions and givenness in the speech of four-year-olds.” Linguistics, 2015, vol. 53(3), 405-442.
  • “Country talk.” [Lauren Hall-Lew and Nola Stephens] Journal of English Linguistics, 2012, vol. 40(3), 256-280.


Selected Recent Presentations

  • “Grammar next to Godliness: A linguist’s look at the intersection of prescriptivism and theology.” The Prescriptivism Conference, June, 2017.

  • “‘Really? You were homeschooled?’: Persona construction, educational background, and the quotative system of young adults.” [Nola Stephens, Lauren Hall-Lew, and Vickie Ellis] The Annual Meeting of the American Dialect Society, January, 2017.


Dr. Nola Stephens

Dr. Stephens discusses the importance of language in Scripture and describes the excitement of studying linguistics as a believer.

Lydia Holt

"I really love the faculty in the English department. All the professors are wise and caring, and they do an excellent job of connecting the study of the English language to faith and calling. In addition, as an English major, there are so many opportunities for work and service that will open up for me because of the well-rounded and rigorous training I’m receiving in the various branches of English."
 - Lydia Holt '19

Louis Metcalfe

"If I had to pick one, I would say Dr. Barham. He is one of the kindest people I have ever met, and is also one of the smartest. While Dr. Barham is brilliant, he teaches in a way that makes you feel smart, like you are one of his peers. If you have not taken a class from him, I would highly recommend it."
 - English major Louis Metcalfe '18

Evan Lecksell

"I’m really interested in my Introduction to Literary Studies course. It is the first class I’ve had that actually got me excited about poetry, and if you have to have class at 8 a.m., Dr. Barham is the best professor to transition you from being asleep 5 minutes ago to being energized and excited about what you study. Dr. Barham’s love for literature is contagious, and you find yourself happily engaged in types of literature you never thought you would care about."
 - Evan Lecksell '19
Emmett reflects on the process of putting classroom learning into practice as he pursues a writing career.