Author: Sarah Robinson

An Upset in the Universities Challenge!

Dear LINGUIST List readers and supporters,

It’s time for your weekly challenges update! Syntax still leads in the subfields challenge, but there’s been an upheaval in the universities challenge! Can old competitors rise to the challenge?

Syntax defends its lead with $2050.00
Semantics comes in second with $1859.00
Sociolinguistics heads up third with $1195.00

…where are the P-Side subfields? Will they change the trend?

Stanford University takes an awesome lead with $1205.00 (11 donors)
University of South Carolina heads up second place with $835.00 (12 donors)
Southern Illinois University Carbondale takes third with $500.00 (from 1 donor!)

And the leader is…?

The winner of the last two years, University of Washington, has yet to appear in the top three… will they allow Stanford to take the crown?

North America remains in the head with 105 donors
Europe comes second with 81 donors
Asia takes a solid third with 14 donors

United States of America (USA) remains in third with 97 donors
Germany in second boasts 19 donors
Spain comes third with 11 donors

Thanks for playing, and thank you SO much for your consistent support throughout the last (almost) three decades. The LINGUIST List relies heavily on donations in order to keep our services available to academic linguists all around the world. We love our supporters!

–The LL Team

Language, Revitalization, and Documentation… in the Movies!

Dear LINGUIST List Readers,

Hello again! Last year we wrote about language in pop culture, the movies, and other media, and this year we are writing about language documentation and revitalization in honor of our theme of renewal for the 2019 Fund Drive. I… I don’t have a lot of experience in this area of field linguistics, if I’m going to be honest. (My fieldwork courses start next semester, okay?)

Anyway so I’m going to talk about… language in the movies again! This time, language revitalization and documentation in the movies!


Are all Lang Doc efforts in film somehow involve aliens instead of human languages? (This is still a great movie, btw, Whorfianism aside.)

And the minute I started thinking about this blog post, it occurred to me that language documentation and revitalization are not really well-represented topics in most pop culture, film, and other media. The example that came to mind first was 2017’s Arrival, in which linguist Louise Banks performs a variation of Ken Pike’s monolingual demonstration in her efforts to bridge the language gap between humans and aliens. But surely we as a culture have more to say about our own human language gaps, right? As linguists, you are all aware of how fast the world’s languages are becoming endangered, in part as a consequence of increased globalization and the influence of a small handful of dominant cross-cultural linguae francae. So why isn’t this global phenomenon–crisis even–getting more attention?


By Source, Fair use,

In the movies, most instances of “language documentation” occur when explorers or even colonizers encounter indigenous peoples, and it’s more an instance of the explorers learning the language than an instance of someone trying to write it down to ensure its survival. A quick trip down Google lane yields, of course, The Linguists, a documentary about two linguists traveling to various homes of endangered languages and trying to find native speakers, sometimes when there are as few as nine or ten living speakers.



However, things are looking up for endangered languages in film–by now you may have heard of a Canadian movie that was made entirely in an endangered language, a film that aims to be a preservation effort for its language-subject. It’s language documentation/revitalization as art. Which is pretty cool.

The movie is called SGaawaay K’uuna, (‘Edge of the Knife’) and it is performed in Haida, a language spoken fluently by just twenty speakers, the Haida people of British Columbia. According to the article linked above, Haida is a language isolate.

Actor Tyler York in SGaawaay K’uuna. Photograph: Niijang Xyaalas Productions.

Director Gwaai Edenshaw says he is unwilling to accept Haida as somehow unavoidably moribund–and in my experience, many linguists agree. It’s not over for any endangered or sleeping language. Personally, it seems to me like creating Haida art, Haida film, is one of the best ways to vitalize interest in the preservation of Haida against the overwhelming odds of globalization. Read about the film in the link above–we think it’s something linguists the world over would love to see! It premiers in the UK in April.

But don’t let the use of Haida come off like a gimmick–check out the trailer to see how gorgeous the cinematography is (those sweeping landscape shots!) and what a strong sense of mood and place the film seems to have… and to hear some spoken Haida.

The film premiers in the UK in April, but I wasn’t able to determine a premier date for viewers from other parts of the world during my brief Google tour. Nonetheless, I’m going to keep my eye out for showings in my area, and I think all linguists should find a way to support the production of more Haida-language media by finding out where they can see SGaawaay K’uuna!

Thanks again for reading our blog, and for all your support of the LINGUIST List throughout the years! As you know, the 2019 Fund Drive is under way and we have reached just 20% of our goal! We rely on you, our readers and supporters, to keep this service available to the global linguistics community, so if you can, please consider donating here!

Thanks so much for all the support over the last 29(!) years–

The LL Team

Featured Linguist: Patrick Honeybone

The following story was kindly written for us by internationally recognized linguist and editor of the Oxford Handbook of Historical Phonology, Patrick Honeybone!

I think I’ve been very lucky in my career in linguistics. I was lucky that I grew up in a family where it was normal and fun to speak other languages (even though we were landlocked in the East Midlands of England). I was lucky that the schools I attended were big enough and had enough resources to let me take several languages (I’m astonished when I think back that they ran an A-level class in German just for me – I don’t think that would happen in the UK right now). I was lucky that by the time I got to think about where to study, I’d just about figured out that some universities taught linguistic things as part of their languages degrees, and that I should apply to one that did. And I was lucky that, weeks after starting a BA degree in French and German at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, I realised that I really didn’t want to study literature at all, but that Newcastle actually had the perfect degree for me – German and English Language – and they let me swap programmes without any problem.

In the UK, ‘English Language’ means something like ‘the synchronic and diachronic linguistics of English’, and this degree allowed me to study all kinds of things that still fascinate me now: the history and structure of varieties of English and German (and other languages), phonology, other areas of structure like syntax and morphology, sociolinguistics, dialectology, and even the history and philosophy of linguistics. I was lucky that my BA meant I got to spend a year studying in Germany (in Würzburg), where I got properly introduced to the wonders of Germanic-style historical grammars. I was lucky that Newcastle had some exciting lecturers, who showed me all sorts of interesting linguistic ideas, and I was lucky that they introduced an MA programme in Linguistics just as I was trying to figure out what I could do after my BA. I was lucky that I could get funding from the state for an MA, and then for a PhD, and that Newcastle offered the space to think, to combine theoretical and historical phonology, and to figure out that you can make a living out of it all.

I was also lucky that I had some great friends who did degrees at Newcastle at the same time as me, who went with me to my first linguistic conferences, and who made it seem normal to be interested in linguistics. I was lucky to get a job in academia before I finished my PhD. Lucky and stupid: it took another three years to get my PhD after that, but I was lucky to have a kind and helpful set of colleagues at Edge Hill College (now Edge Hill University), who – though we all had a lot to teach – created the space for me to finish my thesis. I was then absurdly lucky to get a job at Edinburgh, where I have found many fantastic colleagues, I have the luxury of teaching just what I want to teach, and where we have managed to set up a group of people interested in historical phonology that is as diverse and interesting as you could hope to find anywhere in the world. My mind is constantly fizzing from the ideas that I get to talk about with colleagues here, and I am also lucky that I’ve supervised some very smart postgraduate students – I’ve learnt a lot from them, too.

Professor Honeybone auctioning books for conference funds at the Manchester Phonology Meeting

Some visionary colleagues set up the Manchester Phonology Meeting just before I was beginning to awake to the marvels of phonology, and that has become a wonderful part of my life. I attended the conference in awe early on during my PhD and I was enthused to see what exciting discussions can take place at a linguistic conference (and how much fun can be had at them). I was excited that these colleagues allowed me to take over the running of the mfm in 2002 (when I was at Edge Hill, which while not in Manchester, was at least in the North-West of England). I have had the privilege to run the mfm (together with a large roster of colleagues from around the world) ever since, and I am constantly grateful that so many interesting people want to come and talk with us about phonology. I seem to run a lot of conferences, which might be a foolish thing to do, but I think that meeting to discuss ideas is crucial, and I like to think that getting the right atmosphere in an event (being open and welcoming, but also offering the chance for the serious discussion of ideas) is quite important. The series of Symposiums on Historical Phonology that we have set up at Edinburgh has also become a great aspect of my life, and I feel lucky that colleagues are interested enough to come to Edinburgh to talk about the many aspects of historical phonology that we all bring together (including: phonological theory, phonetics, sociolinguistics, dialectology, philology, reconstruction and acquisition).

I’ve been lucky that I have been trusted to edit a range of interesting things (like the Handbook of Historical Phonology, English Language and Linguistics, and Papers in Historical Phonology), and I’m lucky that I think (I hope!) that some colleagues have forgiven me if I have not delivered everything that I have promised when I took on too much. Most importantly, I’ve been lucky to have a fantastic family, who support me in all kinds of ways and who work things out so that I can go away for the kinds of trips that academics need to take (and who never cease to remind me that there is a lot to life outside of linguistics).

Professor Honeybone’s poster at the Edinburgh Symposium on Historical Phonology

So: yes – I think I’ve been very lucky. But I also think that you make your own luck. There have to be opportunities available to take, but you also have to figure out what the opportunities are and then how to grab them. And you also have to work out what might work as a new opportunity and then figure out how to implement it – that can be a lot of fun. Finally, I think that we are all very lucky that there is the LINGUIST List. I really don’t think that I could have done everything that I’ve done without it (it’s crucial to publicise conferences, for example, and I make a lot of use of the EasyAbs abstract management system). We are lucky that it’s a fundamentally free and entirely open access way of communicating with all colleagues who are interested in linguistics, anywhere in the world. We should all give what we can in this Fund Drive to keep the LINGUIST List going!

Saving Endangered Languages with Prescriptivism

Re-Printed from the Speculative Grammarian

Neil de Veratte
Director of Fieldwork Studies
Winter Academy of Language

All over the world, languages are being lost at an alarming rate. Field linguists do their best to preserve these languages, but find their speaker communities apathetic. “Why should I learn WotʃaKorlitt?” they ask, “It’s Spanish I need to get a job.” We need to look at successful languages, whose speakers are engaged with their language, to see what endangered languages can learn from them. When we do, we inevitably find that the most successful languages are those which possess a tradition of prescriptivist grammar. English has an army of armchair pedants who tell us all to never split an infinitive, that the passive should be avoided, and that prepositions must not be used to end a sentence with. French has the Academie Française to pronounce arbitrary bans on loanwords, and Spanish the Real Academia Española, which aims to ensure everybody talks like Cervantes. The Chinese are taught from an early age to regard all Sinitic languages as dialects of Mandarin.

…with prescriptivism?

All these languages were originally documented by their own speakers, who made up arbitrary rules to show off their own cleverness. The results are invigorating. Such rules are endlessly debated, denounced, defended and defied, and as a result, the speakers care about their language.

Contrast the situation with endangered languages. These are documented by outsiders, schooled in the descriptivist method, and content to simply record what they find. Their work may result in a Bible translation, but that is as close to arbitrary commandments as they’re likely to get.

A new approach is necessary. Fieldworkers should no longer passively describe a language. They must set out to create new rules for the language, so as to stimulate the debate that keeps a language alive. As such rules must be internally unmotivated, the researcher needs to think carefully about where to obtain them. A good strategy is to copy rules from a language that the speaker community considers prestigious, as English pedants do with Latin. In South America, Spanish or Portuguese would be the first choice, although it may be wise to base rules on the European form of the language rather than the local one. This approach has two advantagesthose who accept the new rule will see it as conferring the prestige of the dominant language on their own, whereas those who reject it will see the dominant language as tainted by association with the hated rule.

Other researchers may prefer to manufacture rules based on theoretical considerations. This raises the question of which framework to use for the purpose. On one level, it makes little difference, as they will all be equally incomprehensible to the speaker community, but I would recommend Metasyntactic Heuristics, since it is now understood only by two aging academics in remote English universities, and they haven’t spoken to each other for 25 years.

Our fieldworkers are now reporting back from the first trials of this method. We are still analysing their findings, but one has reported spectacular results from convincing an Amazonian tribe that they are not allowed to discuss abstract concepts.



This article was originally printed in SpecGram Vol. CLXXII, No. 4

Thanks for reading this special LINGUIST List announcement of this important April 1st news article re-printed with permission from the Speculative Grammarian. Check out SpecGram at

In seriousness, the LINGUIST List devotes countless hours to helping out the global linguistics community by managing thousands of announcements for journals, tables of contents, new book publications, reviews, jobs, internships, calls for papers, and conferences. We are managed by a small group of graduate students who work hard to provide these services. We rely on your donations to keep ourselves afloat! At this time we are at only 17% of our goal. If you use the LINGUIST List’s numerous services, please consider donating!

Syntax takes the lead in the Subfields Challenge!


Hello Linguists and Subscribers! Looks like its time for a challenges update!


Syntax shoots to the top with $1375.00

By Aaron Rotenberg – Own work, Public Domain,

Language Acquisition takes second with $795.00
Pragmatics, former leader, comes in third with $700.00

University of South Carolina climbs to the top with an awesome group effort and $600.00 (6 donors)
Southern Illinois University Carbondale falls to second but maintains a good lead–for now!– with $500.00 (1 donor)
Arizona State University arrives in third with $300.00 (1 donor)

North America expands its lead with 45 donors
Europe comes second with 30 donors and no memes
Asia follows up in third with 4 donors

United States of America (USA) 42 donors
Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom make a three-way tie for second with 5 donors each!
Belgium takes third with 3 donors

As always, we appreciate all the support of our readers and donors. Thanks for three decades of being awesome and helping us serve the global linguistics community!
-The LL Team

Featured Linguist: Jason Rothman

We are pleased to feature this week’s linguist, Professor Jason Rothman! Read his linguistics journey below!

Like many linguists (certainly like many of us at LL) Rothman was passionate about language long before he knew what “linguistics” really entails

I have always loved language.  I wanted to be a linguist before I really knew what linguistics was. Like many, I originally thought that being a linguist meant a perpetual life of learning language after language.  So dedicated was I to that romantic notion as a teenager that I forged parental consent at the age of 17 to get a tattoo on my inner right ankle. Supposedly it said “linguistics” in Mandarin characters. I have since found out that what is actually there is, well, close enough!  It is a good thing that becoming a linguist has worked out, since tattoos are permanent. In many ways, I was utterly naïve about what a linguist studies. Of course, there are many types of linguists and many complimentary questions related to language worthy of scientific investigation. But, in hindsight, I was not really aware then of even the essential elements that transcend paradigms and, we would agree (I hope) make us linguists.   I suppose the path that brought me in my youth to dedicate myself to linguistics is not terribly different from many: a deep fascination with language coupled with a nerdy desire to understand the dynamic, essential characteristic of this mundane property that defines us as humans, yet is mostly taken for granted.

My real linguistic journey began in earnest in my late teens, when I moved from a suburb of New York City to the remote lands of farm-country New York state.  5 hours from my people-packed home environment, in what appeared to me to be the middle of nowhere, stood a shining and ‘gorges’ beacon of scholarship and architectural beauty (Ithaca is famous for its gorges and, thus, the saying Ithaca is gorges instead of gorgeous).  My first proper linguistics course was, Introduction to Linguistics taught by Professor Wayne Harbert.  He was so passionate and such a good teacher, but it is, nevertheless, fair to say that my romantic notion of what linguistics is was shattered.  It was hard. It was serious. It was a science! I began to think that maybe this tattoo was going to need a cover-up. I am not sure that laser technology to remove tattoos existed in the mid 1990s, so I was even more determined to keep at it.  After the initial shocks of phonetics and phonology—the first part of the course as I recall—my introduction to syntax assured me I was on the right path. I stopped designing the cover-up tattoo somewhere around Halloween of that first semester.  At Cornell, I was able to study linguistics but also Romance languages in all their glory. While I had wonderful professors in cultural studies and literature as well, these courses further hammered home that my love of language would best be served with a linguistic perspective.

In 1999, I moved to Los Angeles to start a MA/PHD at UCLA.  During the MA portion, I studied most closely with the late Professor Claudia Parodi and Prof. Carlos Quicoli. Although we were focused on Romance languages, particularly Spanish and Portuguese, we were taught to use them as tools to understand language in general.  Accurate description of these languages was important, but not enough. Somewhat differently from my undergraduate degree training, sophisticated description was not the end goal. Professors Parodi and Quicoli taught me what I know of formal syntactic theory and in doing so they instilled in me the importance of approaching language in a truly scientific manner.  Today I would describe myself as a formal psycholinguist passionately interested in, if not obsessed with, how the mind represents and processes language(s). But at this time, I had not yet discovered the full joys of language acquisition and processing. The formative years of my MA studies, however, paved the way. I recall thinking: How could these complex systems possibly come to be acquired?  If language was as complex as I was studying, how does the child get (much of) this in her head even before she fully develops domain-general cognition and is able to do other demanding cognitive tasks like math? How do bilingual children do this for multiple languages? How do adults do this and why—at what levels—are they different in acquiring these systems?

Professor Nina Hyams

In 2001, I took my first bona-fide course on general acquisition theory with Professor Nina Hyams. I could not have imagined then how a single course would change the path of my career trajectory and thinking.  I found it. I loved syntactic theory. I was seemingly good at it. However, it was not completely satisfying for me devoid of experimentation probing the development of these complex systems. At the time, experimental syntax as we know it in recent years largely did not exist.  I had been working on null arguments in Spanish and Portuguese at the time. I recall learning in Nina’s class about the well-known Delay in Principle B effect in child language—when children of certain languages until late (age 5 or so) can violate Principle B of the Binding Theory.  At the time, one proposal regarding why this is seen in some languages and not others related to whether the language syntactically licensed null arguments (subjects). It was fascinating.  I was hooked. I wrote my first paper related to how studying Brazilian Portuguese, a language believed to be in a diachronic shift from a null subject to a non-null subject language, children could help adjudicate between theoretical proposals. I found a way to combine my love for language in general and my skills in and penchant for the precision of formal linguistic theory to a domain where theories can be tested directly.  I never looked back.

The next year, also in a course Nina teaches on bilingualism and second language acquisition, I was first introduced to two other amazing role models that would forever change my thinking.  By this time, I had already decided that I would do my PhD work in acquisition but I was still unsure in what populations. Nina is not a specialist in bilingualism. And so, although skype did not exist at the time, she supplemented this course with lectures via video-conferencing and/or live performances. One such lecture was by Professor Bonnie Schwartz who talked to us about her then new model related to child L2 acquisition.  Another was by Professor Maria (Masha) Polinsky on heritage language bilingualism. Both are now dear friends and colleagues. I am not sure they will even recall the questions I asked in those lectures, having given that specific lecture or, if so, that I was even there, but their talks left such an impression on me. By the end of this term, I knew that I would work on bilingualism. That was not necessarily a wise idea or an easy path because UCLA does not have an emphasis on this, at least from a formal linguistic perspective, but I was determined.  And Nina was very inspirational, motivating and supportive. Between her and Carlos Quicoli and very generous people in the field who helped along the way, I was able to put together a decent dissertation project and learn so much.

I was very fortunate to get a job immediately after graduating—this was 2005 when such things were more possible.  My first one was at the University of Iowa where, among many other great friends and colleagues, I was very fortunate to fall under the wing of a proverbial giant who seemed to believe in me more I did myself.  If you know me now, you might not believe it but I was then a (more) quiet person who was not so confident in his abilities. Professor Roumyana Slabakova was the most supportive mentor any new assistant professor could ask for.  She forced me, in ways she knows and for things she did consciously and in ways she does not know because it was simply her presence and her excellence, to believe in myself and that together we could train a proverbial army to ask and answer important questions.  Together we started the journal Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism (this year finishing its 10th year in production), built the first lab I (co)-directed and mentored many wonderful PhD students who are now leading changes in our field.  In 2010, I moved to the University of Florida where I was able to mentor another cohort of truly exceptional students and grow in my research base.  It was there that my bug for psycholinguistic methods first took hold, not the least due to my wonderful colleagues working with online measures. It was also there that my concern for incorporating input quality in formal linguistic theories related to the development and ultimate attainment of bilingualism, especially heritage language bilingualism, was solidified.

Professor Roumyana Slabakova, Rothman’s colleague and mentor at University of Iowa

In 2013, I took a full professorship in the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, in the UK.  At the time, the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM) was being formed and I was one of the new hires for the center. Reading has been very formative, not the least due to being in a Psychology department.  I made a conscious effort to learn about, expand into and invest in online processing methodologies and the connections between language and cognition (especially in bilingualism) more generally. I was able to found the University of Reading Psycho-and Neurolinguistics lab, co-directing it with Dr. Ian Cunnings. Using behavioral experimentation, eye-tracking, EEG/ERP and even (f)MRI we have been able to inject formal linguistic insights into studying how the mind and brain adapt to bilingualism as well as combine formal linguistic theory questions into modern psycholinguistics where this has been rarely done for heritage language bilingualism and adult additive multilingualism.

As I write this, I am in the process of moving full time to UiT The Arctic University of Norway, where since 2014 I have been in a 20% Adjunct Professor position in the Language Acquisition, Variation and Attrition (LAVA) research group and the NTNU/UiT joint Acquisition, Variation and Attrition (AcqVA) group.  At UiT, we will inaugurate the Pyscholinguistics of Language Representation (PoLaR) lab which will bring EEG/ERP to language research above the Arctic Circle. In September, I will begin a 4-year research project funded by the Tromsø Forskiningsstiftelse (TFS) entitled Heritage Language Proficiency in their Native Grammar (HeLPiNG).  This roughly 3-million-Euro grant will employ several post-doctoral scholars as well as fractional professorships through 2023. While I will miss my Reading family terribly, I am very excited to join full-time what is one of the best epicenters of linguistics anywhere in the world, not only the incredible cluster of linguists in LAVA and AcqVA but across several other world-leading research groups in various domains of linguistics housed at UiT, Center of Advanced Studies in Theoretical Linguistics (CASTL) and Cognitive Linguistics: Empirical Approaches Russian (CLEAR) .

As is likely true of most, many accidents, a lot of luck, passion and endurance has brought me to where I am today.  I have been fortunate to work with the most talented group of young scholars over the past 14 years. My students and postdocs have inspired and challenged me more than anyone else and remind me that while I am a professor, I am also a student at the same time.  This year marks 20 years since I began graduate school and while there have been many ups and downs, I feel privileged to have done so much more than I ever thought possible when I first moved to Los Angeles from Ithaca. So many people have supported me along the way, whatever I have accomplished is a testament to all that you have contributed.  You know who you are, so thank you. A quarter century has passed since I got that linguistics tattoo. While it’s a little faded on the surface its longevity and symbolism are real, inspiring and enduring.

2019 Challenges Have Begun!

Hello Linguists and Subscribers! It’s that time again, and we’re excited to announce this year’s Fund Drive challenges are off to an awesome start!


Pragmatics has claimed an early lead with $650.00

Pragmatics takes a solid lead in the subfield challenge!

Syntax comes in second with $470.00
Last year Philosophy of Language never reached the top three, but this year they’re starting off the Fund Drive in third play with $323.00


Southern Illinois University Carbondale has started off this year’s challenges with a narrow lead of $500.00 (1 donor)
University of South Carolina follows closely behind with $450.00 (3 donors)
University of Michigan takes third with $200.00 (1 donor)

North America only JUST leads with a total of 14 North American donors
Europe also started out strong with a total of 12 donors
The Middle East comes in third with 1 donor

United States of America (USA) represents the lead (for now!) with 14 donors
Spain and the United Kingdom are tied for second with 3 donors each–who will come out on top?
In third place Germany comes in with 2 donors!

As always, we appreciate all the support of our readers and donors. Thanks for three decades of being awesome and helping us serve the global linguistics community!
-The LL Team

Staff Letter: Sarah Robinson

Dear LINGUIST List readers,

My name is Sarah, and I’m on the Pubs Team–I manage journals, journal calls for papers, TOCs, summer schools, academic papers, and dissertations. We may have met through email, or you may have read some of my blog posts about nerd stuff on the LL blog. You may even recognize that introduction from my letter last year (sorry, I still have the same job.) I’m also cross-trained in jobs and conferences and can jump on those editorial areas if other editors are out for the day.

This is my (joyless as usual) face. Guest-starring: Lir the cat!

I’ve worked at the LINGUIST List (henceforth: LL) for a couple years now, and it’s been an awesome opportunity. LL has been instrumental to my academic career in the form of funding–I came to my graduate program unfunded and tripled my student debt in less than a year. I got a graduate assistantship from LL in my second year and it basically saved me from having to drop out because of sheer financial pressure. What I mean to say is that LL is providing opportunities to graduate students like me who might otherwise have no way to participate in academia, and has been doing so for years.

I earned my MA last year in General Linguistics from Indiana University, Bloomington, LL’s host institution, and am now a member of the PhD program in the Linguistics Department at IU, as well as doubling in the Germanic Studies Department. Since starting my graduate program, I’ve been able to study Old Norse, Icelandic, Old High German, Old English, German, Gothic, ancient Germanic literature and philology, (can you tell I have a bit of a thing for historical linguistics and dead Germanic languages?), as well as branching out into Cognitive Science, in particular the intersections between cognitive linguistics, discourse analysis, and sociolinguistics. It’s a pretty broad range of topics, but the overlaps in subjects have made it possible for me to specialize in a really particular niche as well as building a strong background in a range of linguistic studies.

It is pronounced /li:ɹ/. He enjoys sleeping in unusual places.

LL provides a specific and indispensable opportunity to its editors–since we interact with scholars all over the world in a huge range of specializations, and since our job involves functionally acting as a middle man for the fire-hose of academic literature and publications, we get a birds-eye-view of the trends in current linguistics in a wide range of specializations and subfields.

LL handles thousands of submissions and a gigantic amount of data day-to-day, and there’s only a handful of graduate students working diligently to keep our 30,000 subscribers up-to-date on linguistic publications, job opportunities, conferences where they can submit their research, and much more, as well as doing the hairy work of filtering predatory publishers and conferences that are likely to hurt academic careers more than help them. And it’s not just editors who work so hard to support the global linguistics community around here–keep an eye out for our WebDev team’s “fun facts” series on Tuesdays to learn more about all the services LL provides.

You might be wondering: “is she trying to solicit support for an awesome non-profit? Or just looking for an opportunity to show us her cat?” but he is a very good cat, okay? Please donate.

When you support the LINGUIST List, you support the mission the LINGUIST List stands for–the cause of creating a global linguistics community, a place to share knowledge and find resources–but you also support students like me, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to be part of it.

Thanks for donating!
Best regards,

Featured Linguist: Ghil‘ad Zuckermann

Ghil‘ad Zuckermann:

I was born in Tel Aviv and grew up Eilat, the southernmost city of Israel. My father was an Italian Jew who survived the Second World War in Italy and then arrived in Israel as a teenager in 1945. My own first memory is being rushed to the shelter during the Yom Kippur War (October 1973). As a child growing up in Eilat I experienced ‘Othering’ (defining oneself vis-à-vis the other) every day, looking at the spectacular, albeit inaccessible, unreachable, mountains of Aqaba, Jordan.

Ghil’ad Zuckermann before the “Prof. Dr.” titles!

In 1987, I hosted Yitzhak Rabin (then Israel’s Defence Minister) in Eilat. He arrived there on the Day of Youth in Power, when I served as elected mayor.

During that year, in 1987 I left Eilat for the international boarding school United World College of the Adriatic (Collegio del Mondo Unito dell’Adriatico) in Duino, Trieste, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy. It was my first time overseas and since then I never stopped travelling all over the globe; the college has changed my life.

I returned to Israel in 1989 and served in the Israeli army, followed by studies at Tel Aviv University’s Inter-Disciplinary Programme for Outstanding Students.

A wheelbarrow-full of books at Oxford!

Dr. Zuckermann in a Bookshop in China, travelling the world as always

My dream to look at Eilat from the OTHER side of the bay was fulfilled in 1995 – after Jordan (Hussein) and Israel (Rabin) signed the peace accord. Rabin was assassinated in November 1995, and I left Israel for a doctorate at the University of Oxford in 1996.

From Oxford I moved to Cambridge but in 2001 I fell in love at first sight with Australia, when I was invited to deliver a public lecture on what I call the Israeli language (the result of the Hebrew revival) at the University of Sydney. At the time, I was a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore, while on sabbatical from the University of Cambridge. I returned to Singapore and Cambridge, but decided to look for an academic position in Australia. When I arrived in Melbourne in 2004, I asked myself how I might contribute to Australian society that was hosting me so graciously.


I identified two pressing in situ issues:

  1. the exasperating bureaucracy (there are democracies, and then there are aristocracies; some people might define our Israel as an adhocracy; modern Australia was founded as a bureaucracy, and today is a professionalized one); and
  2. the suffering of the Aboriginal people.

I said to myself: How could an Israeli professor assist in reducing Australian bureaucracy?!? I decided to invest my efforts in the Aboriginal issue.

Had I been a dentist, I would have tried pro bono to improve dental health among the Aboriginal people. I once offered a toothpick to an Aboriginal friend of mine after I shouted her a tender angus steak, to which she replied: “What is this?” “It is a toothpick”, I said. “I don’t have any teeth”, she retorted. (I had not noticed that she had chewed the steak with her gums.)

Had I been a psychologist, I would have tried to assist some Aboriginal people break their addiction to alcohol or smoking. But I am a linguist specializing in the revival of Hebrew and the emergence of the Israeli language, a hybrid language based on Hebrew, Yiddish and other languages spoken by revivalists.

So, I found a fascinating and multifaceted niche, in a totally virgin soil: applying lessons from the Hebrew revival to the reclamation and empowerment of Aboriginal languages and cultures. I decided to act in three fronts: macro, micro and “MOOCro”:

In the macro: since 2004: establishing “revivalistics”, a global, trans-disciplinary field of enquiry surrounding language reclamation (no native speakers, for example Hebrew, and the Barngarla Aboriginal language of South Australia), revitalization (severely endangered, for example Shanghainese, and Adnyamathanha of the Flinders Ranges, South Australia) and reinvigoration (endangered, for example Welsh, and Te Reo Māori in Aotearoa, i.e. New Zealand).

In the micro: since 2011: reclaiming the Barngarla Aboriginal language of Eyre Peninsula (e.g. Galinyala = Port Lincoln; Goordnada = Port Augusta; Waiala = Whyalla; all in South Australia). This is not a laboratorial enterprise. In 2011 I asked the Barngarla community if they were interested and they told me that they had been waiting for me for 50 years. How do I – a Jewish Israeli, son of a Holocaust survivor – help Aboriginal people undo what I call “linguicide” (language killing) done by English colonizers and reclaim the Barngarla language? By means of a dictionary written in 1844 by a Lutheran Christian German, Clamor Wilhelm Schürmann! This is, then, a patently cosmopolitan enterprise.

In the MOOCro, so to speak: since 2015: creating and convening a free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) entitled Language Revival: Securing the Future of Endangered Languages. So far I have had 12,000 learners from 190 countries (including Syria and Afghanistan).

I have detected three types of benefits of language revival:

Urak Lawoi is a language in Thailand undergoing revitalization efforts. Above, Prof. Dr. Zuckermann in Thailand during his involvement in the project–

The first benefit is ethical: what is right: Aboriginal languages are worthy of reviving, out of a desire for historic social justice. They deserve to be reclaimed in order to right the wrong of the past. These languages were wiped out in a process of linguicide. I personally know dozens of Aboriginal people who were “stolen” from their parents when they were kids. I believe in what I call “Native Tongue Title”, which would be an extension of “Native Title” (compensation for the loss of land). I propose that the Australian government grant financial compensation for the loss of languages – to cover efforts to resuscitate a lost language or empower an endangered one. In my view, language is more important than land. Loss of language leads not only to loss of cultural autonomy, intellectual sovereignty, spirituality and heritage, but also to the loss of the “soul”, metaphorically speaking.

South African Language Revitalization

The second benefit for Aboriginal language revival is aesthetic: what is beautiful: Diversity is beautiful, aesthetically pleasing. Just as it is fun to embrace koalas (in the hope that they have had their nails cut short) or to photograph baby rhinos and elephants, so, too, it is fun to listen to a plethora of languages and to learn odd and unique words. For example, I love the word mamihlapinatapai, in the Yaghan language, spoken in Chile’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago. The word is very precise and to the point in its meaning. Any attempt to translate it cannot be performed in fewer words than the following: “a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will offer something that they both desire but are unwilling to suggest or offer themselves”. Despite the fact that any word in a language is translatable, there is a difference, at least aesthetically, between saying mamihlapinatapai and saying “a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will offer something that they both desire but are unwilling to suggest or offer themselves.” As Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.

Language Revival efforts are underway in Namibia

The third benefit for Aboriginal language revival is utilitarian: what is economically viable: Language reclamation empowers individuals who have lost their sense of pride and at times even the reason to live. This wellbeing empowerment can save the Australian government millions of dollars that would otherwise need to be invested in mental health and incarceration. Not to mention the various cognitive and health benefits of bilingualism. For example, native bilinguals are cleverer than themselves as monolinguals; native bilingualism delays dementia by more than 4 years.


Professor Ghil‘ad Zuckermann’s forthcoming book, Revivalistics, Cross-Fertilization and Wellbeing: Awakening Hebrew and Other Sleeping Beauty Languages, is in print with Oxford University Press.

Professor Zuckermann’s brief bio:

Professor Ghil‘ad Zuckermann (D.Phil. Oxford; Ph.D. Cambridge, titular; M.A. Tel Aviv, summa cum laude) is Chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages at the University of Adelaide, Australia. He is a chief investigator in a large research project assessing language revival and mental health, funded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

He is the author of the seminal bestseller Israelit Safa Yafa (Israeli – A Beautiful Language; Am Oved, 2008), Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), three chapters of the Israeli Tingo (Keren, 2011), Engaging – A Guide to Interacting Respectfully and Reciprocally with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, and their Arts Practices and Intellectual Property (2015), the first online Dictionary of the Barngarla Aboriginal Language (2017), and Barngarla Alphabet Book (2019). He is the editor of Burning Issues in Afro-Asiatic Linguistics (2012), Jewish Language Contact (2014), a special issue of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language, and the co-editor of Endangered Words, Signs of Revival (2014).

He is the founder of Revivalistics, a new trans-disciplinary field of enquiry surrounding language reclamation, revitalization and reinvigoration. In 2011 he launched, with the Barngarla Aboriginal communities of Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, the reclamation of the Barngarla language.

Professor Zuckermann is elected member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and the Foundation for Endangered Languages (FEL). He is President of the Australian Association for Jewish Studies (AAJS) and was President of AustraLex in 2013-2015, Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Fellow in 2007–2011, and Gulbenkian Research Fellow at Churchill College Cambridge in 2000-2004.

Prof. Dr. Zuckermann with Stephen Fry in Israel

He has been Consultant and Expert Witness in (corpus) lexicography and (forensic) linguistics, in court cases all over the globe, e.g. the Philippines, Singapore, USA and Australia.

He has been Distinguished Visiting Professor at Shanghai International Studies University and taught at the University of Cambridge, University of Queensland, National University of Singapore, Middlebury College (Vermont, USA), Shanghai Jiao Tong University, East China Normal University, Shanghai International Studies University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, University of Haifa, and Miami University (Florida).

He has been Research Fellow at the Weizmann Institute of Science; Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center, Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio, Italy; Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin; Israel Institute for Advanced Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Institute for Advanced Study, La Trobe University; Mahidol University (Bangkok); Tel Aviv University; Institute of Linguistics, Shanghai International Studies University; and Kokuritsu Kokugo Kenkyūjo, National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics, Tokyo. He has been Denise Skinner Scholar at St Hugh’s College Oxford, Scatcherd European Scholar at the University of Oxford, and scholar at the United World College of the Adriatic (Italy).

His MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Language Revival: Securing the Future of Endangered Languages, has attracted 12,000 learners from 190 countries (speakers of hundreds of distinct languages):

Fund Drive 2019

Dear Linguists,

A year has passed since the beginning of the last year fund drive and we ask you again: support the LINGUIST List. If we want to stay a relevant source of information, we need to keep re-inventing ourselves and invest in the re-development and update of the elements of the site and services that have served us for years. We strive to remain a source of relevant information for all of you and make your interaction with LINGUIST easy and pleasant. This year we have re-designed the submission forms and while we are still testing, we listen to your feedback and hope to have soon a simple and pretty interface. Apart from the back-end renovations, we have a new LINGUIST List web site – which contains all the same information but is easier to navigate and visually more pleasing. In the spirit of renovations and renewals, the theme of this year’s fund drive will be language documentation and revitalization. Please visit our site – to find out how to donate, to check how your university,
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