Author: Sarah Robinson

Last Chance for LINGUIST List Fund Drive Premiums!


Have you got your custom LINGUIST List memorabilia?

Women’s Map T-shirt, available at the $150 tier

Did you know that the LINGUIST List offers custom items ranging from stickers to laptop cases? These items are special and limited time tokens of appreciation we offer as a “thank you” to our donors! Depending on donation amount, different tiers of premium are available. Donate $20, and you can snag yourself a stack of sweet LL Logo stickers for your personal items. Readers and Linguists who donate $100 or more can choose a t-shirt or a mousepad, with even cooler shirts and tote bags available to those who donate greater amounts—the solid white LL logo laptop case is available at the $250 tier.

tote bag, available at the $120 tier

These premiums are optional “thank you” tokens from us, not items for sale. It’s our way of letting you know how much we appreciate your support!

So that we can start packing up and sending out premiums to those who have donated so far, we’ve decided to close down premium options this Saturday, August 11. Now’s your last chance to get in on that sweet LL memorabilia—donate here, and select a premium from the dropdown list, if you want to express your love of the global linguistics community with stickers, t-shirts, tote bags, or any of our other sharp-looking options!

White LL Logo Laptop Sleeve, available at the $250 tier

Thanks for all the years of support!

All the best,

–The LL Team

Linguistics and Pop Culture: Coco, A Quiet Place, and Language Representation in the Movies

Hey LINGUIST List readers and subscribers–

As part of our fund drive theme this year, the editors at LL have been thinking and writing a lot about how language and linguistics interact with culture and art on a metacognizant level–how to we as a culture think about and represent our own relationship with language? How do we express our relationship with language and linguistics through media, storytelling, and pop culture?

Over the last few months we’ve really enjoyed mulling over questions of linguistics in media and pop culture, and the last couple of years have given us a rich and abundant source, as movies and media become more conscious and even, one might say, introspective on questions surrounding the subject. We discussed media dealing directly with linguistics–like Arrival, the 2017 movie about a linguist hero saving the world through the power of science and compassion, and Manhunt: Unabomber, a Netflix series chronicling the search for the Unabomber and the surprising involvement of applied sociolinguistics, a field which blossomed into Forensic Linguistics. We talked about the history of fictional ConLangs and how the construction of fantasy or alien language captures our cultural and personal ideas about individual and societal relationships between language, humanity, and culture. And finally, we talked about media like the cult classic sci-fi tv show Firefly that includes language as part of the fictional world-building effort, trying to integrate realistic socio- and historical linguistics into the development of imagined worlds and futures.


Miguel, played by Anthony Gonzalez, is the adorable main character of Pixar’s most recent tear-jerker.

It’s in that thread that I want to mull over a couple of recent movies that involve representation of real language and linguistics, not as part of imagined worlds, but as expressions of the real world. I was inspired to write this piece because I recently watched Coco, a stunningly beautiful Pixar movie (but I repeat myself) about a little boy named Miguel, an aspiring musician in Mexico who’s strife with his family over the role of music in the family history leads him to be trapped in the Land of the Dead. The movie deals with traditions and practices surrounding Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It’s a fantastic movie and if you haven’t seen it, you should, but what really intrigued me about it was its handling of Spanish… which I’ll come back to shortly.

Thinking about Coco‘s handling of language representation got me thinking about other recent movies that involve representation of minority (in the US) languages, specifically, two movies dealing with American Sign Language: A Quiet Place and The Shape of Water. Because all these movies came out relatively close to each other, I thought it would be of interest to compare how each of them approaches the language that is either the direct or tangential subject of their gaze.

The Shape of Water is directed by Guillermo del Toro, himself bilingual and no stranger to directing multilingual media. Del Toro is a native speaker of Spanish, most famous in the US for his dark themes and horror-like material. (My favorite del Toro film is Pan’s Labyrinth, a Spanish-language movie about a little girl involved in a fairy-tale-like adventure in the middle of the Spanish Civil War.) The Shape of Water’s main character Elisa Esposito is unable to speak as a result of a childhood injury to her throat. (Incidentally this is a similar set-up to the main character of Mute, another 2017 movie dealing with a character who has lost their ability to speak as a result of damage to the vocal tract, but that’s pretty much where similarity ends.) Esposito, played by Sally Hawkins, is neither hard of hearing nor deaf, but due to her speech disorder, she requires the use of ASL for communication. Over the course of the film, she connects with, and falls in love with, a strange fish-like man reminiscent of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but brooding and sexy. They bond over their mutual status as outsiders to the social order who are isolated by their unequal access to information and communication.

Guillermo del Toro definitely has an eye for striking visuals.

I’m going to come right out and say I haven’t actually seen Shape of Water yet (even though I love Guillermo del Toro), but another former LINGUIST List editor has, and had some interesting comments to make about the representation of ASL. According to former LL editor Clare, (who says ‘hi,’ by the way,) the ASL shown in the film was constructed specifically for the purposes of the narrative. It’s designed to emulate period-appropriate ASL, as the film takes place in the 60s, and additionally designed to be a somewhat unique idiolect. Elisa does not have a deaf or ASL-using community with which she is connected, and only her friend and interpreter Zelda shares her language, so her idiolect is non-standard. Of interest is the fact that Sally Hawkins is not a native user of ASL, which, according to Clare, has stirred up some controversy, despite the film’s otherwise generally positive critical reception. Some viewers felt that the character should have been portrayed by a deaf actress who used ASL as a native language, in order to fairly represent the language on-screen. Additionally, although Elisa is not technically deaf herself, the role could have been a great opportunity for a deaf or hard-of-hearing actor for whom there are very few roles in big budget Hollywood movies.

Which brings me to the subject of our other ASL-dependent film, A Quiet Place. Directed by John Krasinski, the film deals with a world taken over by evil demagorgon-like aliens with terrifying mouth-heads full of teeth. The conceit is that these aliens hunt exclusively by sound and do not have eyes at all, meaning that survival in this world depends on one’s ability to remain as silent as possible. The characters devise elaborate measures to keep quiet, pouring sand down so their feet won’t make sound as they walk, creating a visual “alarm” system that they use to warn each other about the presence of monsters using only lights and no sound, and, of course, communicating exclusively via ASL. One thing John Krasinski considered “non-negotiable” was casting a deaf actress in the role of the one deaf character. What I really found interesting about Krasinksi’s comments is that, although he always intended to cast a deaf actress in the role, he was still surprised by the extensive effect that actress Millicent Simmonds had on the production. Her presence transformed the on-set atmosphere and deeply informed the film’s understanding of and interaction with ASL as a language. Krasinski, who seems to have a lot of respect for his child actors, has said in interviews (like this one) that Simmonds was able to speak to her own experiences as the only deaf member of a hearing family; it was important to have someone who could provide an authentic perspective. This perspective is also important to the film’s story, as her character faces enormous pressure as a deaf child in a hearing world–even in a silent hearing world. I’ll let Millicent Simmonds speak for herself on the subject of language representation and deaf representation in the movies–check out this interview.

Actress Millicent Simmonds portrays Regan Abbott, the film’s prominent deaf character. Now that I think about it, does the movie ever mention the characters’ names? I had to look up the names on Wikipedia and I loved this movie.

And that brings us back to Coco. Comparing these two film’s different and intriguing approaches to minority language representation–The Shape of Water, in which the minority language is used only by one character natively (but not informed by the actor’s own experiences), and A Quiet Place, in which the minority language has become the majority language by strange happenstance, the language of the in-universe world and the primary language of the film’s runtime, but this alteration in the world hasn’t erased the barriers faced by the only native speaker/user in a hearing world (and this informed by the main actor’s personal experience)–leads me naturally to another question: how does a movie like Coco, which takes place in a majority Spanish-speaking area, but is written in English, deal with the representation of majority/minority languages? It’s a time-tested Hollywood screen-writing practice to have actors recite their lines mainly in English, while the audience understands implicitly that the characters are really speaking another language. Take the Hunt for Red October as an example, in which most of the Russian characters are implicitly understood to be speaking Russian in-universe, but the “Russian” is mainly represented as English on-screen for the sake of an English-speaking audience. Otherwise, non-English is usually used somewhat sparingly and always subtitled.

Coco has a somewhat mixed approach. Much of the dialogue in the movie is recited in English, by Mexican characters, who presumably speak Spanish as a native language in-universe. But they also code-switch fluently, in speech and in song (it’s a musical,) and one of the major end-game musical set-pieces is entirely performed in Spanish. It was around the time of this musical piece, actually, that I suddenly noticed the movie’s most interesting choice when it came to the on-screen representation of Spanish–there were no subtitles. Most of the code-switching is relatively easy for a non-speaker like myself to follow along with, and I even passively learned a few Spanish words, but they don’t restrict themselves only to obvious bits of token Spanish that any English speaker will probably be familiar with, like ‘amigo,’ but flip back and forth incorporating Spanish into the dialogue as naturally as possible. The filmmakers rely on context clues and visuals to communicate the content of Spanish dialogue to the audience, and this doesn’t become striking to an non-speaker of Spanish until about halfway through that one big musical Spanish-monolingual piece, when I suddenly realized I did not understand what the singers were actually singing. To me this was especially fascinating. I grew up in Nevada, a de facto bilingual area where between 30 and 50% of the population speaks Spanish natively. For me, Spanish was part of my environment all the time, but as a native speaker of the more sociolinguistically dominant language, English, I never faced pressure to acquire Spanish. My Hispanic and Latino neighbors, however, faced (and still face) pressure to learn English. So it’s easy to imagine why representation of Spanish might be contentious when it comes to media and pop culture, and it’s also entirely possible that the presence of unsubtitled Spanish in the movie blew past me for 80% of the runtime because it was something I was passively accustomed to. (Or maybe I was just distracted by the animated skeleton characters having… skeleton lips. It’s a gorgeous film, and I can see why animating the mouths with lips was important to the humanization of the Land of the Dead characters… but bone-lips are a little odd.) What did you think? If you’ve seen Coco and are not a Spanish speaker, when did you notice the absence of subtitles? If you are a speaker of Spanish, what did you think of the representation of bilingualism? Apparently the film was popular with Mexican audiences, becoming the highest grossing movie in Mexican box office history, but I haven’t really heard a lot about its critical reception among Mexican or Mexican-American Spanish or bilingual speakers. Also, it’s fair to assume the Spanish dub is the version that aired in Mexican theaters! In that case, the odd code-switching into English will be what catches the viewer’s attention, rather than the other way around!

This movie is seriously so beautiful, you guys.

Importantly, Coco approaches the bilingual characters and setting as Krasinski did for A Quiet Place–by casting bilingual Spanish-English actors. Main character Miguel is portrayed magnificently by another great child actor, Anthony Gonzalez, and the actors’ experiences as bilingual Spanish-speakers cannot help but inform the naturalness of the movie’s portrayal of Spanish. I couldn’t find an accessible interview in which Gonzalez discusses his feelings about bilingualism in the movies… but you can check out this clip from the Spanish language version of the movie, including the lyrics of the bilingual song “The World es Mi Familia”–a song with an appropriately bilingual title and the line “this music is my language and the world es mi familia,” which captures both the fluid musical code-switching and the film’s treatment of language and art as closely connected cultural artifacts.

There’s a lot to be said about language representation, bilingualism, and the–at times somewhat contentious–history of language and Hollywood. We at the LINGUIST List are interested in hearing from our subscribers–what did you think of the past year’s movies and how they approach the subject of language, culture, and representation? Do you use ASL or Spanish as your L1 or L2?

We at the LINGUIST List are devoted to promoting and supporting the worldwide linguistics community, including engaging meaningfully and thoughtfully with the way our media, movies, and pop culture portray language and linguistics. Thanks to our donors and users, we have been able to continue supporting the mission of global linguistics and language research for over 28 years, and we hope to continue being able to do just that for years to come. Please consider donating here to help us do our part in maintaining and providing resources for academic linguists and in building a global discourse about language.

All the best,
–The LL Team

How Many Linguists Are Connected Through the LINGUIST List?

Dear LINGUIST List readers and subscribers,

Did you know we recently passed 70,000 followers on social media? Our social media accounts are part of how we circulate your ads and announcements for jobs, calls for papers, conference calls, and other resources for linguists. We circulate your announcements to our 30,000 email subscribers, and also post every announcement to facebook, twitter, and other social media platforms to increase the audience you can reach.

We love the linguistics community, and our followers benefit from our daily announcements by being able to stay connected with the community, find conferences and journals, and even post discussions and research queries! At our founding in 1990, we had only 60 subscribers–but that’s nothing to scoff at, considering how few websites and listservs were functioning in 1990. Did you know the LINGUIST List is one of the oldest sites on the web?

Please consider donating to the LINGUIST List fund drive (check it out here: to support the linguistics community across the world, and help keep us all connected.

Thanks again for being there with us all these years–from 1990 to 2018, from 60 readers to 70,000.
–The LL Team

We’ve Passed the Three-Quarter Mark!

Dear LINGUIST List readers and subscribers,

The LL fund drive is currently ongoing. The past few months we’ve had a blast working with our fund drive theme, linguistics and pop culture, and exploring all the ways that our culture, society, and media engages with language and linguistics as communicative, sociological, emotional, and artistic parts of the human life and human world, and finding new ways to engage with language as a part of society, art, and media.

Although the fund drive theme is good fun, it has also been academically enriching to join together and think about all the ways in which linguistics is inextricably bound up with our identities and conceptions of the world and the ways in which we construct ourselves as societies and individuals. This experience has only reinforced, to us, the crucial importance of the study of linguistics and the important role that you, our readers and subscribers, play in expanding the circumference of human knowledge. The LINGUIST List exists to support and serve the global linguistics community–in other words, to support and serve you! Supporting the LINGUIST List is supporting the mission of global linguistics.

We’re excited to announce that we are now over 76% of our total fund drive goal for 2018, meaning we’re over three quarters of the way to our goal. Please consider donating (here: to support the LINGUIST List so we can continue supporting you. We’re so grateful for all of our supporters over the last 28 years!

All the best,
–The LL Team

LINGUIST List 독자님들께

안녕하세요? 한국말로는 처음 인사드립니다!

독자님들께서 아시는 것처럼 현재 LINGUIST List (LL)에서 Fund Drive를 진행하고 있습니다. LL은 1990년 겨울, 아직 “인터넷 웹사이트”라는 개념이 많이 알려지지 않았을 때에 시작되어, 지난 28년 동안 언어학 관련 뉴스와 제보들을 모두 무료로 공유해 왔습니다. 하지만 이 서비스들이 무료로 운영되지는 않습니다.

LL Editor들은 모두 LL의 호스트 학교인 인디애나 대학 (Indiana University) 언어학과 대학원생들입니다. 강의를 듣고 과제 및 개인 연구 등의 바쁜 일정에도 언어학 커뮤니티를 위해 주 20시간씩 투자하여 독자님들께서 읽게 되시는 모든 제보들을 점검하고 포스팅하고 있습니다. 학생 Editor들의 학비와 생활비 지원 뿐만 아니라 사이트를 호스트 하는 서버, 데이터 베이스, 그리고 각종 장비들과 소프트웨어 등, 모두 독자님들의 후원을 의지하여 지속되고 있습니다. 지난 28년 동안 그랬듯이 앞으로도 LL의 서비스는 무료로 제공될 예정입니다. 그러기 위해 독자분들의 후원과 따뜻한 관심이 필요합니다. 후원하실 분들은 funddrive.linguistlist.org를 통해 후원해 주시길 부탁드립니다.


The LINGUIST List Team

We’re Almost There!


Dear LINGUIST List subscribers and readers,

LL is nearing the Fund Drive Goal! This year we set our goal at $40,000. The fund drive is important for keeping LL afloat, staffed, and ready to support the global linguistics community. As of today, we are at just under 74% of our goal, leaving a little over $10,000 remaining. Th LINGUIST List serves a total subscriber base of over 30,000 readers from all over the world. If everyone donated just $5, we’d hit our goal by the end of the day!

When you support the LINGUIST List, you support the global linguistics community. LL provides access to important academic resources to researchers and linguistics the world over–support LINGUIST List so LINGUIST List can continue supporting you!

Thanks for being with us over the last 29 years.

Best wishes,
–The LL Team

Have you heard of LINGUIST List’s Geoling Service?

GeoLing is a map service that displays on a global map all linguistics information posted to LINGUIST List  — from jobs, to conferences, to internships. The LINGUIST List posts to the mailing list only events of global relevance, but if you want to inform the community about any local events in your area, GeoLing is the tool you want to use. When you submit events to GeoLing, they are not only displayed on the GeoLing map, but also forwarded to all LINGUIST List pages on social media. They will be also made accessible via Amazon Alexa.


Find events in your area using Geoling’s global map!

Any information that contains geo-coordinates or addresses – when  posted on LINGUIST List (using the structured submission interface on its website: is instantly mapped on GeoLing and does not need to be separately posted on GeoLing


If you want to make public information about:

  • Talks and meetings at your local departments
  • Colloquium presentations
  • Workgroup meetings
  • The office address of your institution, department, program
  • Book presentations
  • Language resources, data sets, tools
  • And other information of local and regional interest

submit the announcements to GeoLing!


GeoLing runs on all major browsers and on mobile devices.


To learn how to submit a local event, please visit:


To add a local event, please visit:


The LINGUIST List team will release the entire code of the GeoLing app on GitHub in the next days! Stay tuned and watch for updates at:


We will continue to put our full efforts into GeoLing and expand its capabilities and features. You are welcome to join us and help us by forking the GitHub repo.

Lastly, we ask that you all please consider making a donation to Fund Drive 2018. To keep our services, such as the cool, exciting and most of all FREE GeoLing, and all of our other features up and running  we need your help. Please consider supporting The LINGUIST List in our 2018 Fund Drive by making a donation at




Support like yours is vital to our ongoing efforts to upgrade and develop services like GeoLing. We hope you will continue to support us so we can better support you!



The LINGUIST List Team

Syntax is leading in the Subfield Challenge!


Hello again linguists and supporters! Check out our most recent challenge rankings to find out where your university or subfield stands!

In the Subfield Challenge:
Syntax dominates with a total of $4847 in donations!
Computational Linguistics comes up second with $3600.
Sociolinguistics comes in third with a total of $2649.

In the University Challenge:
University of Washington looks to win for a second year in a row with a total of $2745 from 39 donors.
Indiana University, our proud host institution, comes in second with $2275 from 24 donors.
Stanford University still holds third with $1370 from 20 donors.

Region Challenge:
North American leads with 287 total donors.
Europe maintains a strong second place with 144 donors.
Asia retains third with 27 donors.

Country Challenge:
The US continues in the lead with 259 donors.
Germany comes in second with 42 donors.
Canada hold third with 28 donors.

We’re grateful for your support and participation. Three cheers to our donors, who’ve been behind us for nearly three decades.
–The LL Team

Challenges Update–May the best University Win?

Hello again linguists and supporters! Check out our most recent challenge rankings to find out where your university or subfield stands!

In the Subfield Challenge:
Syntax is in the lead–for now!–with $4775 total in donations. Go Syntax!
In second place, Computational Linguistics follows with $3600 even.
In third Sociolinguistics comes up with $2089 total.

In the University Challenge:
University of Washington maintains a lead with $2745 from a total of 39 donors.
But look out, because Indiana University is not far behind, with $2275 from a total of 24 donors.
Finally, Stanford University retains third for now, with a total of $1370 from 20 donors.

Region Challenge:
North America currently holds the lead with 272 donors in all.
Europe comes in second with 131 donors–can they close the gap?
And finally Asia comes in third with 36 donors.

Country Challenge:
The USA holds the first place with a total of 247 donors.
Germany comes in a distant second with 36 total donors.
And Canada holds its hard-earned spot in third with a total of 25 donors, looking, perhaps, to upset Germany soon!

We’re grateful for your support and participation. Three cheers to our donors, who’ve been behind us for nearly three decades. Check out the full rankings at!
–The LL Team

Fund Drive Challenges Update: Where does your subfield stand?

Challenges Update: Where is Your Subfield?

Hello Linguists and supporters!
Here’s your regular fund drive challenges update–check out the complete list at to see where your subfield or university is ranked!

Subfield Challenge:
Syntax holds the lead for now, with a total of $4745–can anyone take the top spot from the Syntacticians?
Computational Linguistics, an early-game front-runner, is currently in second with $3600 total.
Sociolinguistics comes in third with 2510.

University Challenge:
University of Washington is still leading, with a total of $2745 from 39 donors. Will they take the top place for a second year in a row? Or will another institution surprise them?
Indiana University comes in second with $2275 from 24 donors–we’re proud of you, IU!
And Stanford University, last year’s second place winner if memory serves, comes in third with #1370 from 20 donors.

Region Challenge:
North America still holds the lead with 271 total donors.
Europe comes in second with 128 donors.
And Asia holds third with 25 total donors.

Country Challenge:
The US remains in front with 246 donors hailing from the states.
Germany comes in second with 35 donors.
And Canada, which had been locked out of the top spots by Austrua in the early weeks of the fund drive, comes in third with 25 total donors. A close contest, it seems, and Germany many find themselves soon upstaged by Canada! Only time will tell.

Once again, a big thank you from us to all participants for your support! It means the world to us!
-The LL Team